How to Use Gamification to Engage & Motivate Your Students with Patty Sarkady

Patty Sarkady - Veteran CTE Teacher & Gamer



In this episode of The Prep Period Podcast, Patty Sarkady, a veteran high school CTE teacher, discusses how using gamification helps improve student engagement and motivation in class. Patty will highlight specific practices to help in your classroom as well.


ANNOUNCER: You’re listening to Prep Period, the only podcast for teachers that’s focused on quick wins and actionable tips that can be implemented in your classroom tomorrow. Prep Period starts in three, two, one.

BRIAN: Welcome to the Prep Period podcast. My name is Brian Bean. I’m your host as usual. Uh, today we’re going to discuss motivating students through gamification. And my guest today is Patty Sarkady from Riverside Brookfield High School. Welcome, Patty. First things first, let’s let our listeners become a little bit more familiar with you Patty. So, Patty Sarcati has been a career and technical educator for over 20 years at Riverside Brookfield High School in Illinois. She has been a gamer most of her life and has researched best practices to incorporate gaming into her curriculum. She currently teaches consumer economics, accounting, marketing, digital design, and game design. Before we get into the questions for our interview topic. It’s not too many times that I meet a teacher who says she has been a gamer most of her life. What does that mean? Are we talking like Chess and Parcheesi? Are we talking like World of Warcraft and Call of Duty?

PATTY: Somewhere in between all of it all of it. You know, I started on an Atari. For those of you that aren’t familiar with it, it came out in the 70s. And so I’ve been not-I wasn’t you know allowed to use Atari all the time. Like, many of the young children now are able to access the technology instantaneously. I started on Atari and I worked my way all the way up through the ps systems. I have not yet gamed on a PC but board games, card games, I love it all.

BRIAN: Do you have a-Do you have a favorite? If you could right now yeah for the rest of your life…

PATTY: If I could play a game for the rest of my life Zelda Breath of the Wild, Legends of Zelda. I like it. I like it.

BRIAN: So would you say that’s the top franchise of all time?

PATTY: Oh I would say so. And well honestly you know Pokemon is another amazing franchise with so many different facets of gameplay. Whether it’s a card game-I don’t know.

BRIAN: Yeah I grew up-I grew up on Metroid. And so we might have to fight. So uh okay so back to topics that teachers probably want to hear about instead of just the two of us. Uh so now if you’re familiar at all with my background and my teaching model I can be, we’ll say on the fence when it comes to the idea of gamifying education. I see pros, I see cons etc. Uh, so for you though uh what is your favorite you know thing about gamifying education? What’s the biggest benefit that comes from it?

PATTY: Well, I think the biggest benefit that comes out of gamifying your curriculum or your whole entire year or semester is the engagement that you have with the students. We are in a place right now where we haven’t had… Students are different from 10 years ago. Right now, in this epidemic the students are different from last year. So we have to find ways to engage and motivate our students to not only know do the work that we’re asking them to do but to think about what it is they’re doing and why we’re asking them to do certain things. Here in this day and age as educators, we’re, to me, I believe we are more as facilitators of information. As you know the students have everything they want to possibly know at their fingertips. They can type in any question and get any answer. And so we as educators really need to understand how their mind works. How we can motivate them and facilitate their learning. So they are finding the information they need and getting what it is that they need to get out of the content that we are teaching.

BRIAN: So how does gaming do that?

PATTY: Um, great question. So gaming is a way where you can speak the language of your student so- there are so many statistics out there that show how many students play video games. Obviously the most um age group 18 and younger are the most people that do play video games. By the age of 21 uh, the average 21 year old has played at least 10,000 hours of games.


PATTY: And looking at the 8 to 12 year old age range right now, video game play is like 13 hours a week average. Yeah, so these students are playing and you know some people that don’t really understand games may think that these students are lazy, not motivated, maybe disconnected. But, in reality they are problem solvers and they’re adventurous and they are connected because some of these people are playing online and having conversations online. Yeah the complexity of gaming is huge. Not only in an entertainment aspect of it but gamification is sweeping across businesses, across industries. The healthcare industry is utilizing gamification with apps for their clients or their patients with um-businesses are using it to see if they are going to employ a particular person. After they play the game they do personality tests with whatever decision they make with the games. So it’s not just entertainment. And so thinking about gaming especially as adults and as educators, you know it’s not it’s not anymore students sitting in the basement playing all through the night. It is now serious careers. There are at least 11 different careers in game design, story design. I mean there are so many different aspects of game design. A lot of people think of it as coding and graphics but in actuality it’s the story and it’s a theme and it’s the character development. So, there’s so many underlying aspects of games that we don’t really know about or think about when we talk about game design. And getting back to the student, being adaptive, perceptive of these students have been gaming so they’re multitasking. I know some people say that multitasking isn’t a good um aspect of our learning. But sometimes because of gaming that’s what they of course our brain has been designed to do. Um so decision making is another strong aspect of gaming and putting a student in a game situation while learning content first of all forces them to be active. And also you know they want to they want to get it right. They want to achieve that goal for whatever goal it is that you set in your game.

BRIAN: Yeah you know it’s so interesting listening to you talk. I think about so I’m going to divulge my secret nerdy side here and everybody listening can judge me all i want i don’t really care uh but like uh there is one video game that i’ve played recently that i really really liked and it was a ps uh the spider-man game and just listening to you talk i think about all the different components of that game that you described that you’re right goes beyond just graphic design and coding there you know story character art character development all these different kind of things there is a lot of problem-solving decision making that you’ve got to do with these kinds of things and you know uh you mentioned the students interacting with each other online while they’re playing games things like that and it made me think about how you know just because someone’s doing something differently doesn’t mean that they’re not doing it adequately or you know what i mean like i’m afraid that sometimes my generation uh looks at kids “you kids nowadays…” you know you’re not interacting you’re not having that connection with people but that might not necessarily be the case it just might be being done differently so i think it’s good to uh validate and connect with your students speaking their language i like the way you put that so that’s good

BRIAN: thank you very much patty for coming on to our show uh one last thought for the day as she was talking i could not help but think of a ted talk by mark rober youtube genius gentleman he did a ted talk about the mario effect and how to trick your brain into learning it’s fantastic it’s about 15 minutes long highly suggest that you check that out in addition to that she uh had recommended a few things uh one the book explore like a pirate um as well as the the twitter channel thread for the teachers that have read it uh is the hashtag x p l a p explore like pirate and then the other book reality is broken so for those of you who would like to get into gamification but you’re not quite sure how to get started those would be some great resources to check out and like always if you or anyone you know you think would be interested in being a guest on our on our show have them reach out to me at [email protected] – that’s brian with an “i” bean just like the vegetable so with that thank you very much.

Speaker: Patty Sarkady - Veteran CTE Teacher & Gamer


Patty Sarkady has been a Career and Technical Educator for 20+ years at Riverside Brookfield High School in Illinois. She has been a gamer most of her life and has researched best practices to incorporate gaming into her curriculum. She currently teaches Consumer Economics, Accounting, Marketing, Digital Design and Game Design.