Gamification and a Cat Named Boo



It is in my nature to gamify learning experiences in both my personal and professional life. As an educational leader with almost three decades of experience in K-12 education, I have a few tricks up my sleeve to ensure that learning is engaging and memorable.

In my family, everyone calls me “The Boss” because I am the go-to person who makes things happen. I arrange rainy day arts and crafts activities, organize game nights, plan and implement birthday party activities, set-up photo booth stations filled with crazy props and everything else in between. My family and friends can always count on me to create an electric atmosphere where every single person from the youngest baby to our most senior elder is happily engaged.

Over the years as a K-12 Assistant Principal and educator, I applied the same authentic approach to teaching skills, knowledge and concepts to the thousands of students I have had the pleasure to work with in my classrooms in the United States and Middle East. As a Teach-Now Graduate School of Education Online Instructor, I am gamifying learning experiences in my virtual classes for my candidates from all over the world in the Teacher Certificate and Master’s Degree in Educational Leadership Programs.

Forced during a Crisis to create a New Norm

Life as we know it changed when Covid-19 took the world by storm. With each passing day, the news grows increasingly shocking. Cities, states, countries and continents are facing health, socio-emotional, educational and economic dilemmas they have never faced before.

Transition has its challenges. However, when the background noise subsided, glimmers of hope arose to the forefront. People are taking to social media to share their gifts and talents to create a new norm. Artists are posting free art lessons, educators are hosting webinars and sharing resources, medical professionals are providing information from reliable sources, personal trainers are leading workout sessions, poets are presenting lessons, singers are collaborating to create songs, comedians are filling our screens with laughter, online businesses are reducing or waiving subscription fees and many others are gifting the world with their kindness.

Going Back to the Basics and Giving Back

The new norm crashed down upon us. Airports shut down, hospitals were inundated with patients, state, country and continent borders closed, businesses and schools re-invented approaches to working and learning, grocery store shelves emptied, social distancing was mandated and partial to full curfews were enforced.

From the chaos, families, friends and complete strangers united.  Although physically apart, they are emotionally connected striving to get through this together. During conversations with my family and friends, they share how they are spending quality time at home by going back to the basic like in the “good ole days”. As a family, they are cooking and eating meals, playing games, exercising, doing homework, hiking, having long conversations, gardening and checking on one another.


Small World, Big Impact

As soon as schools around the world announced that students must stay home and start online learning, I visualized and put into motion my way to give back to families. Operation gamification was underway.  I recruited my furbaby, Boo to assist me in creating educational games to bring joy to families’ lives.


I was confident that the combination of games and animals would create the perfect distraction of what is happening in the news and set the tone for learning to take place.

Over the past few weeks from our apartment in Cairo, Egypt, Boo and I created several games to promote language development, hone skills related to mathematics, emphasize the importance of collaboration through social interaction, activate visual discrimination skills and strengthen short-term memory.

When the games were posted on my social media platforms, the learning objectives were not highlighted.  The main goal was for the games to bring joy to families. It worked like magic.


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Boo became an overnight social media star. He was referred to as the “Best Cat Teacher” ever. Shortly after posting the simple games that were created using items found around the house, I received requests to create and share more and was asked permission if the games could be used in online learning for other students. So far, Boo’s games have been played and treasured in Egypt, Jordan, Spain, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, Mexico and several states in the USA (New York, Oklahoma and Texas).

From the Flames rises the Phoenix

Although these are turbulent, unstable times we are facing, caring people are doing extraordinary things with their gifts and talents to bring joy to others. United, we stand. In classical mythology, the phoenix rose from the ashes of the flames in the Arabian desert with renewed youth ready to face a new day.  We, as humanity will do the same once we conquer Covid-19. We will rise. Together, we are stronger.

-Dr. Sandy Abu-Arja, TEACH-NOW Graduate School of Education Instructor

To learn more about the programs Teach-Now Graduate School of Education offers, check out our TEACHER CERTIFICATION, MASTER’S DEGREES, and PD pages.

To hear from a TEACH-NOW team member about how our programs can help you be a resource-rich problem solver like Boo, register to participate in a free INFO SESSION with our admissions staff.

Learn more about our teacher certification program and master’s in education programs.

Sandy Abu-Arja, Ed.D


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