Jan 02

Gamified Classroom?

World of ScienceCraft!

World of ScienceCraft!

Not so much actually. I started the year all hopeful to gamify my classes. After reading Lee Sheldon’s book, The Multiplayer Classroom this past summer I was all ready to jump in with all my classes. I had badges all prepared for my students to place on their blogs as they showed evidence of understanding the standards we were working on this year. I started using some gaming vocabulary, teams were called guilds, assignments and labs were called quests, and independent work was called solo questing. The one major thing I left out was points. I thought I could gamify my classes while still being free of points.

So looking back at the first trimester of the year, I don’t think my classes are gamified at all. I did not get the effect I was after. I expected students to be more engaged in their work because they were questing. I thought the whole gaming idea would magically make Science interesting for those not normally interested in Science. Instead of increased engagement this year seems very much like past years. Some kids love Science so they’re having a great time and do their work. Some kids do most of their work and enjoy some of the things we do while other activities are more like work, which they do anyway (sometimes with a little prodding from me). Some kids do little of the work but still enjoy some of what we do, especially the hands-on parts.

Is it because I didn’t use points? I know competition is motivating but I didn’t want to turn a collaborative classroom into a competitive one. I’m just not sure if I should add points. At least I’m sure I’m not going to add points for a grade, I’m still standards-based, but maybe for leveling up. I just know that when points are involved it all becomes about the points and the topic(s) become less important. That’s why I got rid of points in the first place! Maybe I’ll just use points for leveling up. Leveling up would just shows how much someone knows so he or she can tell which badges to get.

Badges didn’t quite work as well as I thought either. There’s no excitement over putting badges on blogs. Maybe it’s too technical. Some kids put their badges on their blogs when it’s time but there’s no excitement. There’s no talk about who has what badges (well, not none just not a lot and not with the excitement I expected). Some kids don’t even get around to putting their badges on their blogs! So after the first trimester there are still a lot of kids with no badges on their blogs and they don’t seem concerned. For the parents who attended the first round of conferences I shared with them that the more badges their child had on his or her blog the more standards they were showing evidence that they were understanding. I expected badges to be more fun.

I do hear kids using some of the gaming vocabulary I started but not much. Teams are called guilds by most kids. What I don’t hear is kids using the word quest though. Maybe it’s me. Maybe I’m not making the environment game-like. Maybe I’m not using the vocabulary enough. Maybe I’m not telling a story. I don’t know. I need ideas before I start changing things. It might be easier to do with a project. I can offer points to level up to each part of the project. Students would need to get a certain number of points before earning each badge or they would need to earn a certain number of points before moving on to the next part of the project. I don’t know. Sounds too complicated. I’m just wondering if points might make badges more attractive than they are now.

I just want the gaming motivation without playing games. Not that I’m opposed to playing games in class, if it helps kids learn Science. I’ll keep tweaking. Are any of you gamifying your classes? What I am missing? What’s working for you?

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  1. Hi, Al 🙂 I’ve been applying some gaming principles to my 7th/8th grade language arts classes this year and would love to talk with you more about this re-framing of instruction. It’s been an interesting year so far, and I’m doing lots of reflecting and tweaking based on a semester’s worth of successes and mistakes. Here are a few thoughts (I’m a 7-year WoW veteran, so I pull some examples from that experience):

    Competition (PVP): I’ve been using 3D GameLab to manage my class game, and I, too, thought that students would be interested in comparing player cards and competing for XP and badges. Not so much. What does seem to work, however, is short-term competition. A quick battleground may be much more satisfying to a middle schooler than a weeks- or months-long campaign, so competition in my classroom usually comes in the form of mini-games.

    Collaboration (Guilds and Raids): This is an area where I’m still definitely working out the kinks. My students created guilds at the beginning of the school year, and, to be honest, I did very little to help them develop their identities or even to use them to any significant extent. A guild should be more than a long-term pick-up group, but I think it might actually help to start with just pick-up groups at the beginning of the year (when we’re getting to know our kids and the overall class dynamic), and develop guilds as the year progresses. Additionally, an area I struggled with in developing my quest chains led me to a question: Are they grinding or raiding? It might be necessary, from time to time, to knock out some quilboars or to farm tradeskill materials, but if that doesn’t lead up rather quickly to my killing a dragon with a few rowdy friends (and here I mean that both the dragon and I have rowdy friends), then I’m going to tire of the grind real fast.

    Rewards: Here, too, I’m trying to pull from my own gaming experience to make improvements. When I play World of Warcraft, I’m typically either a mage or a paladin. Most of the time, when I turn in a quest, I get one or more of the following: XP, rep, new gear, currency (money or various tokens). That turn-in means that I can do my job better, whether that job is melting faces or keeping the tank alive so my group doesn’t wipe. My character is going to be stronger in some way because of it. Badges are nice, but the fact is that they don’t *do* much of anything. So I think it’s important to design rewards that translate into a very tangible “I’m better at this than I was before.”

    Okay, that was a lot. Please know that all of this should’ve been prefaced with “This is what I’m thinking, but I’m a LONG way from having it all worked out.” I look forward to reading more about your progress 🙂

  2. Hey Laren, it’s nice to know I’m not alone! I haven’t played WoW in a couple of years but I was way into it. WoW type games, Dungeons n Dragons, NeverWinter Nights, Diablo, are my favorites.

    I haven’t figured out what parts of my curriculum to make PVP. Unless I find a game kids can play, I haven’t looked into any mini-game type activities. I do think that would be highly motivating though.

    Your ideas about guilds vs raids are spot on! My mistake was making their guilds long term pick up groups. I was part of a couple of long term guilds where I would solo most of the time unless the guild was getting something together or someone was asking for help when I was online. I also have students grinding most of the time. I haven’t developed any real quests. As for raids, I do have some long-term projects that I can call a raid but I need to work it out so that students feel they are making progress on the bosses. That will require some work.

    The rewards part is the one that is most difficult for me. You are right that the rewards are very important and didn’t even think of making so that students feel like they’re turning in quests to get improvements! That’s brilliant! I just don’t know how I can do that. At least I have the idea in mind so I’ll start thinking about ways to do that.

    Thanks so much for your ideas! I’m totally subscribing to your blog to keep up with your work as well! 🙂

    • stanichium on May 30, 2013 at 11:34 am

    I teach the General Chemistry sequence to university freshmen and use online
    homework called ALEKS. I have been bugging them to gamify their system,
    but they have not yet done it. My software engineer partner and I plan to gamify
    student achievement on ALEKS using downloaded gradebooks over the summer to have it ready for the fall. I just wanted to say thank you for posting about your experience. You were my first online search hit as I begin planning. I just sent the request for Lee Sheldon’s book to the library, I should get it next week! Just some extra info: I plan to base my gamification on The Kingdom of Loathing. It’s snarky and punny, just the type of humor that chemists enjoy. 😉

    • buggs_moran on July 29, 2013 at 2:21 pm

    I use ALEKS in class too and have been thinking about gamifying it for some time. I suggested gamifying it to the company as well, but that’s not what they’re into. Good luck to you!

    • Joseph on August 5, 2013 at 4:14 am

    I’m using gamification heavily in my 7th grade science classroom. I’m constantly swapping up how things work to make them run smoothly, but you can check in with us at http://rawlinsscience.com and follow our ScienceQuest page! I plan on releasing ScienceQuest 3.0 rules and suggestions soon.

    • Joseph on August 5, 2013 at 4:38 am

    Here’s what I do for rewards: go to some home decor store (Home Goods works great) and find a Treasure Chest. We call it the Loot Box. Print up rewards on slips of paper (I do mine 8 to a page) and let students draw when they accomplish something (academic, behavioral, etc.).

    I change the availability of loot, so that you have a 50% chance of pulling 1 “Rawlins Dollar”, 5 XP, or a Bathroom Pass, but only a 7% chance of pulling 5 “Rawlins Dollars, 25 XP for the Guild, or a Free Fast Food Lunch.

    I also print them in a unique font, and use a stamp to help prevent counterfeiting.

    It works AMAZINGLY. Let know if you try it out this school year!

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