Tag Archives: Games

Gamification Lessons from Jumanji & Ready Player One

Two of the most popular movies these past six months have been the reboot of Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle(2017) and Steven Spielberg’s adaptation of Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One(2018). Both movies are about gaming and teachers interested in gamification can borrow some elements from these movies to boost their game-infused classroom. In this post I am not going to review or critique these movies, both have merits and criticism. Rather, I want to identify the gaming elements that can be models and mentors for our own gamified classroom whether you are an expert player or noob.

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle Game Conventions:

3 Lives – Each of the main characters in the movie has three lives. Some characters risk these lives in order to level up, challenge, or help one another. What if students had “three lives” or three tries to complete a task to quest? How would this impact their effort and abilities to succeed in the classroom game?

“NPC” or a “cut scene” – Once the four main characters arrive in Jumanji, they meet Nigel, an NPC (Non-Player Character), and as such is only programed with certain responses for certain questions. The characters even audibly freak out when a “cut-scene” comes onscreen, before Spencer (Johnson’s character) explains that many games have them to explain backstory. What is the backstory to your game? The more backstory your students know or learn, they are more invested in the game.

How to Win the Game – The only way to escape the game and survive is to complete the task, so the four students try to survive the jungle of Jumanji with various threats bearing down on them. The key here is that the players had to work together in order to finish their quest and win the game to get back home. Team work is essential and similarly, team work can be the key to success with quest based learning.

Reading Player One Game Conventions:

Similar to Jumanji, Team Work is essential in Ready Player One. The protagonist, Wade Watts actually wins the Oasis with the help of his friends. If students are given missions and tasks where they have to work together, are able to crack codes, uncover the treasure, and battle the bosses by putting their heads together.

Easter Eggs – An Easter egg is an intentional inside joke, hidden message or image, or secret feature. Some websites state that there are more than 120 Easter eggs in Spielberg’s Ready Player One adaptation. Most of the Easter eggs in Ready Player One happen to be allusions to retro video games and movies from the 1980s like RoboCop, The Flash, Freddy Kreuger, The Iron Giant, to name a few. For a complete list check out this blog post from ScreenRant. The idea with Easter eggs is to provide another layer of challenge or hidden message to the game. In fact, before the movie was released, there were Easter eggs dropped all over Twitter to promote the movie (See below). What if you were to plant a few Easter eggs in your homework assignments, Google Classroom, or dare I say worksheet. Imagine the fun students might have cracking the secret message or to uncover a new side quest or mission.

Borrowing elements from 80s video games. Each level that Wade must reach references an 80s video games. We can look to games of over times for elements to use with our students from Dance Battles to scavenger hunts.

Whether you use all of these elements or just a few, adding a few gaming touches helps to draw in your players and students into the game of school or the game narratives you have created for your classroom.

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To Gamify or Not to Gamify a Holocaust Unit of Study

BreakoutEDU does not accept or recommend creating games on topics such as slavery and the Holocaust. In fact, on the website it states, “Not all topics are suitable for a Breakout EDU game. For example, topics like slavery and the Holocaust are better suited for a classroom discussion or reflective essay and should not be gamified.”

With a sensitive topic like the Holocaust, I am reflecting on whether or not to gamify an 8th grade Holocaust and WWII unit of study.

There are a few games related to the Holocaust currently on the market like Secret Hitler which “is a social deduction game for 5-10 people about finding and stopping the Secret Hitler. Players are secretly divided into two teams: the liberals, who have a majority, and the fascists, who are hidden to everyone but each other. If the liberals can learn to trust each other, they have enough votes to control the elections and save the day. But the fascists will say whatever it takes to get elected, advance their agenda, and win the game.”

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I came across a game in development titled Rosenstrasse by Moyra Turkington and Jessica Hammer last summer at the Games for Change Conference. Rosenstrasse is “a tabletop freeform scenario with a strongly defined historical story weaving the lives of four pairs of men and women bound by love under the tightening chokehold of Nazi Germany. Players work through two characters to deeply explore two of these relationships as the clock ticks towards WWII and the Final Solution. Ideologies will be challenged, marriages tested, personal losses will be grave, and they will have to hold tightly together to see it through. The stories of these eight people will converge in a historic moment of terrifying civic defiance.”

stronghold_metadata_image Additionally, Call of Duty WWII depicts the Holocaust where “the player controls an American soldier fighting in the European theater. In addition to shooting Nazi soldiers, players will also be exposed to racism towards Jews and African-Americans within their platoon.”

I have thought about giving students passports or avatars, similar to those guests received upon entering the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC. Students go on a mission to uncover the events and actions that led up to Holocaust, collecting evidence on both allied powers and axis powers for their roles during WWII. Furthermore, students examine primary documents to address the refugee crisis, decision to use atomic weapons, and the trial of Nazi War Criminals to explore the complexities of this time period. What are the choices and decisions that were made and how did it impact masses of people.

I am still thinking this through and developing lessons. The one burning questions at this time is when a game is created to address a sensitive topic what is lost and or gained building students’ understanding and empathy?

Please share your thoughts in the comments section on this blog.

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Working Your Way Towards Argumentative Writing with Gameboards

Last spring I came across an amazing Revision Gameboard created by Lisa Guardino, a middle school teacher and blogger in California. I was immediately inspired and in awe. 

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My students are currently writing an argumentative investigative journalism piece and they started their research and have just finished creating an Annotated Bibliography for the evidence they collected. But how do I help them get from their Annotated Bibliography, to write their Lede, to expanding their writing into an entire essay? That is when Lisa’s game board popped into my mind.

Her game board focuses on revision and is has a Monopoly layout. I imagined more of a Snakes and Ladder’s template to help students move across and around the board to write, elaborate, incubate, and revise their work. Based on Lisa’s work here is what I came up with. Click on the image to link to the actual document.

Revision Gameboards

My intentions are to help my students think through their writing and build their ideas into a well developed investigative journalism article that utilizes ethos, pathos, and logos. I have used Lisa’s Revision Game Board for steps 6-11 when students are revising and editing their work before submission. Hopefully, this will help my students put together an essay that is packed with evidence, elaboration, and utilizes elements of rhetoric.

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Building An Escape Room Activity for the ELA Classroom

Ever since I participated in the Escape the Bus at ISTE 2017, I have been thinking how I can create an escape room experience for my students the first week of school. Already armed with Breakout EDU kits, I have been deconstructing the box to make the puzzles, ciphers, and locks bigger and more complex. Scouring blog posts and Pinterest for ideas and inspiration, I have created five puzzles for our Escape Game (based on seventh grade ELA material) to introduce the storyline of our year long game in eighth grade English.

First, students will view the iMovie trailer I created to set the story for the year. The future and the safety of the entire world hangs on students ability to unlock mysterious BOOKS and secrets they contain. Books are a guide where students, if they can, uncover and discover the secrets in a world where people can’t read.

Then, students will receive a puzzle piece to match them up to a specific group. Students will have to put their puzzle pieces together to find their group members. Students will be competing against each other and the top three teams with the highest score will gain XP.

One puzzle is based on a tic tac toe cipher or the pigpen cipher. Using the cipher, students will decode a list of books that I have read this summer, search the books along the book wall, and find the next clue hidden within one of the books.

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Sample Cipher Clue:Screen Shot 2017-08-09 at 8.57.39 AM

Within one of the book titles will be three numbers that will open a small lock box. Inside the small lock box are two more puzzles to solve about Plot & Climax. Students will have to match the correct elements of plot along the plot pyramid to open a number lock. This idea was inspired by Taylor Teaches 7th on Teachers Pay Teachers who has 8 different ELA based Escape Room Resources on TpT.

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Another puzzle includes using QR Codes to view different movie clips and for students to identify types of conflict presented in the movies. The order of the types of conflict help to open a directional lock using the key below.

Lock Paper Scissors has great ideas and resources for building an Escape Game. The Lego Puzzle box shared on the website caught my attention and I am commissioning my son to create two of these to use with the Escape Game. I will hide a book title or famous quote inside the Lego Puzzle Box for students to uncover another clue.

Another puzzle includes matching popular book titles with the correct plot summaries. Once students complete and match the correct titles and summaries, students will receive an envelope with a secret message written in invisible ink.

I still have three more puzzles to create. I am thinking about something related to punctuation, grammar, and prefixes and suffixes. Additionally, I might use a reading passage that has parts of it blacked out for students to answer questions. Adding music to set the tone is important. The key is that throughout this experience students are working collaboratively. Additionally, this gives me some insight to what my students already know and where to begin within my curriculum to meet learning targets.

Have you created an Escape Game for your classroom? I would love to know more. Share your insights and knowledge in the comment section of this blog.

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Double Whammy: Games for Change Conference & Games in Education Summit

This week was the golden opportunity for gamers, gamification, and game developers. Both Games for Change Festival and Games in Education Summit took place in New York the the first week of August.

Games for Change addresses how “how games can impact education, healthcare, research, civics, and social issues. The first two days of the Festival showcases the best and brightest game creators and changemakers with panels and keynotes, demos, networking events, and an expo. On the third day of the Festival, VR for Change Summit explores the positive power of virtual technologies in storytelling, science, and social justice.” The fact that this conference is not just focused on education, broadens one’s understanding of the impact of games across fields and highlights game designers who have created innovative and impacting games. Listening to Jesse Schell from Schell Games and jennifer Javornik of Filament Games discuss what is on the horizon with gaming and virtual reality is inspiring.

Additional gems shared at #G4C17 include ArtsEdge Games presenting a Romeo & Juliet LARP (Live Action Role Play). Students participate in creating a scene from Shakespeare’s play with the aim to “embody characters and explore the choices of several characters and learn what drives each one.” In the Larp, students talk to one another and behave as they think their characters would (students are given role cards with a list of tasks they must achieve during the role play). All the details and directions are available on the ArtsEdge website.

Jessica Hammer, Assistant Professor at Carnegie Mellon University and Shoshana Kessocks of Phoenix Outlaw Productions presented games they created about the Holocaust and WWII. Jessica Hammer with Moyra Turkington have a tabletop game in development called Rosenstrasse that require players to make difficult ethical decisions about standing up and defying the Third Reich. Shoshana Kessock’s WarBirds Anthology is a collection of LARPs based on women during World War II. Available through Unruly Designs, these games are valuable for grade 8 and up studying WWII and the Holocaust.

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Tracking Ida is a unique “homebrewed” game similar to a BreakoutEdu. “Tracking Ida is an educational alternate reality game (ARG) inspired by the pioneering investigative journalism of Ida B. Wells in the 1890s. Players uncover Ida B. Wells’ crusade against lynching and use her strategies to investigate police and vigilante killings today. Along the way, they solve puzzles, decode messages through a phonograph, role-play as investigative journalists, interview members of their community, and harness social media to spread awareness. Players explore a trunk sent by Ida B. Wells. The trunk contains the salvaged evidence of Wells’ investigation into Memphis lynchings–what she managed to preserve after her newspaper office was burned down by a lynch mob in 1892. To keep these documents out of her persecutors’ hands, Wells secured them in locked compartments. Players solve puzzles to unlock each compartment in the trunk as they search for the map to her investigative tactics.” This history based game allows students to be explorers and detectives to uncover and interact with American History past. More information is available on the Tracking Ida website.

The learning did not just stop at #G4C17, at the end of the week the 11th Annual Games in Education Symposium (#GiE17) took place at University of Albany. This two day summit was for game developers and educators to learn from each other. Dr. Chris Haskell’s keynote presentation “To Boldly Go: Technology, Captain Kirk, and the Future of Education” took us on a trip into space as members of the Star Trek Crew to realize that “fiction is the playground of possibility” and the impact that science fiction, Star Trek especially, has had on our current technology. He encouraged participants to make their classrooms their own StarShip and take students on a mission to seek out new ideas, work together, work ethically, and reach beyond the stars.

#GiE17 had both presentations and hands on workshops on Makey Makey, Game Design, Raspberry Pi, Boxels, and Minecraft. Presentations from the amazing teacher Peggy Sheehy, shared how she turned her class into a game, Excalibur: Explore, Create, Analyze, Learn, Iterate, Break, Understand, Reflect. John Morelock and Joshua Garcia Sheridan both students at Virginia Tech shared how the Board Game Pandemic is used to teach teamwork in the Engineering School at VT.

The key lesson for teachers at both #G4C17 and #GiE17 was that gamification and gaming is not some fad. Gaming is not the future, it is now. Our students are engrossed in the gaming culture and it is changing the way they think and see learning, teamwork, and the world. Teachers need to meet students where they are at and use gaming as a tool for learning and collaboration. There infinite benefits to gaming. And if Jeopardy is your idea of gaming in the classroom, it’s time to renew your own participation in the current wold of gaming: table top games, video games, role playing games, digital games. Would you rather be an XG or N00b? If your not sure what I am talking about, look it up. Your mission begins here.

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Power Play Lessons: Popular Television Game Structures & Gameplay

Looking to design a game or remodel a classroom activity into a game. Here are four (4) popular television game shows and their structure play by plays to help plan an adventurous class lesson and activity. Since many of these games include physical challenges and mental challenges think of the activities and content information that you can use to challenge your students, make learning fun and engaging, plus review  and or learn new content information These different game structures can be used as models for classroom game design.

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1. Amazing Race Play By Play

The Race features eleven teams composed of two people.

At the beginning of each leg of the race, each team receives their first clue.

Clue envelopes may mark the place where the teams must go in order to complete tasks. When teams complete certain tasks or arrive at a specific destination, they normally receive a letter-sized tear-away envelope that contains their next clue inside a vertical-fold folder.

Route Information clues instruct the teams where to go next. Such a clue usually provides only the name of the team’s next destination; it is up to the teams to figure out how to get there.

Detour

A Detour presents the team with a decision between two tasks, “each with its own pros and cons.”

Typically, one task is less physically demanding than the other but is tedious or requires some amount of time or thinking to complete, while the other is usually a more physically demanding or frightening option that, depending on the team’s ability, may take less time to complete. The decision about which task to attempt lies solely with the team. Once a team has completed one of the tasks, they are given the clue to their next location. If a team does not complete a Detour, they will get a penalty.

A Roadblock is a task that only one team member may perform. The Roadblock task is performed only by the selected racer while his or her partner waits in a designated area, although the partner is usually able to supply words of encouragement and advice.

A Fast Forward is a task that, once completed, allows the team that completes it to bypass all remaining tasks in the leg and proceed directly to the Pit Stop. The Fast Forward clue is given with another task clue (usually a Roadblock or Detour) and is a separate task from the others. Only one team may complete a Fast Forward in any given leg, and a team may only complete one Fast Forward in the entire Race.

Besides clues, teams may encounter the following that may or may not affect their placements or possibly slow them down:

The Intersection requires each team to pair up with one other team and perform all tasks and make decisions together until further notice.

The Hazard  is a penalty applied to the team who came in last at the starting line task.

http://amazingrace.wikifoundry.com/page/THE+RACE%3A+Rules,+Clues,+and+Structure

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2. Legends of the Hidden Temple Game Show Structure

Legends of the Hidden Temple has been described as “a combination of Jeopardy and Raiders of the Lost Ark.” In each episode, six teams of two contestants began a three-round competition to determine which team earned the right to enter the temple. Each team was identified with a color and an animal, indicated on their uniform shirts: the Red Jaguars, Blue Barracudas, Green Monkeys, Orange Iguanas, Purple Parrots, and Silver Snakes.

Round 1: The Moat (Physical Challenge)

In the first round of the show, the six teams attempted to cross a narrow swimming pool known as “the moat.” All six teams attempted to get both members across according to the rules and push a button on a pedestal to ring a gong. The first four teams to cross the moat and ring their gongs advanced to the second round.

Round 2: The Steps of Knowledge (Mental Challenge)

The four remaining teams stood on the topmost of the four levels of the Steps of Knowledge. “Olmec” began the round by telling the teams the episode’s legend of the featured artifact, which became the theme for the remainder of the episode. The legend centered on an artifact which the winning team searched for in the final round. After finishing, he asked the teams a series of questions to test their memory. Each multiple-choice question had three possible answers. A team attempting to answer signaled by stomping on their step. A team who answered correctly moved down to the next level. The first two teams to answer three questions correctly and reach the bottom level advanced to the next round.

Round 3: The Temple Games (Physical Challenge)

The temple games featured the two remaining teams competing in three physical challenges to earn Pendants of Life which the winning team used in the final round. The team that earned the most number of pendants by the end of three temple games won the right to enter the temple.

Final Round: The Temple Run (Physical Challenge)

In the final round, the winning team took the Pendants of Life the contestants earned into the temple, and attempted to retrieve the episode’s artifact and bring it back out of the temple within a three-minute time limit.

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3. Are you Smarter than a 5th grader game play

In each game, the contestant is asked a series of eleven questions, spanning ten subjects (such as Gym, Spelling or Art) taken from textbooks for first through fifth grade students. Each question is associated with a grade level; there are two questions per grade, from first to fifth. The player can answer the questions in any order, and each correct answer raises their cumulative amount of winnings to the next level. If the player correctly answers the first ten questions, they are given the opportunity to answer a fifth-grade bonus question.

Five fifth graders appear on each show and play along on stage.  The player chooses one to be their “classmate,”who stands at the adjacent podium and is called upon for assistance in choosing a subject; the other four sit at desks off to the side. Each child acts as the classmate for at most two questions (done consecutively), after which another child is picked from those who have not yet played in that game.

Answer-Assistance Options

Contestants have three forms of answer-assistance options (two cheats and a save), each available for use once per game:

  • Peek: The player is shown their classmate’s answer and may choose whether to go along with it or not.
  • Copy: The player is locked into using their classmate’s answer, without being able to see it first. 
  • Save: If the player answers incorrectly but their classmate is correct, they are credited with a correct answer. The save cannot be invoked by the contestant; it is used automatically on the contestant’s first incorrect response.

If the contestant gets an answer wrong, they flunk out, and lose all of their winnings. In addition, they may choose to drop out at any point during the initial 10 questions, which entitles them to leave the game with any winnings they have accumulated to that point.

http://gameshows.wikia.com/wiki/Are_You_Smarter_Than_a_5th_Grader%3F?action=edit&section=2

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4. Survivor Game Play

During both pre- and post-merge parts of the game, the castaways compete in a series of challenges. Tribes are alerted to these upcoming challenges by a message, often in rhyme, delivered to camp by the production team at a basket or box on a nearby tree.

Tribes compete against each other in challenges. These most often are multi-segment obstacle courses that include both physical and mental elements with the tribe that finishes first declared the winner; commonly, these start with tribe members collecting puzzles pieces that are then used to solve a puzzle by other tribe members.

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Good Game Reads: 8 YA Books for MetaGames & Gamers

Video games are their own literary genre driven by narrative and story. As my colleague and friend Katie Egan Cunningham states, “Stories surround us, support us, and sustain us.” Whether you are gamer in search of a good story or books to hook your gamer -students, here are 8 young adult books worth reading that tap into gaming, puzzles, ciphers, quests, and LARPs.

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It’s All Fun and Games by Dave Barrett (Nerdist, 2016) is about two friends who get caught in a LARP (Live Action Role Play) gone wrong. Not long after the adventure begins, the friends find themselves transported from Earth to a world filled with both magic and danger. Suddenly, what Alison expected to be a weekend being geeky turns into a fight for survival against brigands, kobolds, and other nasty characters as the group tries to finish their mission or at least get back home.

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In Click Here to Start by Denis Markell (Delacorte Press, 2016) twelve-year-old Ted Gerson has spent most of his summer playing video games. So when his great-uncle dies and bequeaths him the all so-called treasure in his overstuffed junk shop of an apartment, Ted explores it like it’s another level to beat. And to his shock, he finds that eccentric Great-Uncle Ted actually has set the place up like a real-life escape-the-room game.

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Ready Player One by Ernest Cline (Random House, 2012) has popped up on many high school summer reading lists and my students would tell you this book does not disappoint. Set in the year 2044, where reality is an ugly place, teenage Wade Watts really feels alive is when he’s in the virtual utopia known as the OASIS. Wade’s devoted his life to studying the puzzles hidden within this world’s digital confines–puzzles that are based on their creator’s obsession with the pop culture of decades past and that promise massive power and fortune to whoever can unlock them. When Wade stumbles upon the first clue, he finds himself beset by players willing to kill to take this ultimate prize. The race is on, and if Wade’s going to survive, he’ll have to win–and confront the real world he’s always been so desperate to escape.

Steven Spielberg is directing a film version of this book that has a release date of March 2018.

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Laura Ruby’s book new series York: Book One the Shadow Cipher (Walden Pond Press, 2017) takes readers on an exciting treasure hunt through a city’s past to save the future. The protagonists, two twin siblings and their neighbor journey around New York and into the city’s past, both real and fantastical, as they encounter a henchman, delve into the bowels of the Old York Cipherist Society (a group of either learned scholars or paranoid cranks), and try to decide whom they can trust. Along the way, there’s action and peril, including a scene involving a giant mechanical insect that eats dirt and sometimes people; but at key junctures, it’s each child’s individual talents that lead him or her to solve a particular element of the puzzle.

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Looking for more adventure and games? Caraval by Stephanie Garber (Flatiron Books, 2017) mentions the game of life and love throughout this story about a dark carnival organized by the notorious Legend. Protagonist Scarlet and her sister sneak away from their father and their home to attend and play at the Caraval. Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. Nevertheless she becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak, and magic. And whether Caraval is real or not, Scarlett must find her sister Tella before the five nights of the game are over or a dangerous domino effect of consequences will be set off, and her beloved sister will disappear forever.

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The Reader: Sea of Ink and Gold by Traci Chee (Penguin Random House, 2016), my FAVORITE book this year, is exploding with puzzles and adventure. After Sefia’s father is brutally murdered, she flees into the wilderness with her aunt Nin, who teaches her to hunt, track, and steal. But when Nin is kidnapped, leaving Sefia completely alone, none of her survival skills can help her discover where Nin’s been taken, or if she’s even alive. The only clue to both her aunt’s disappearance and her father’s murder is the odd rectangular object her father left behind, an object she comes to realize is a book—a marvelous item unheard of in her otherwise illiterate society. With the help of this book, and the aid of a mysterious stranger with dark secrets of his own, Sefia sets out to rescue her aunt and find out what really happened the day her father was killed—and punish the people responsible. This November the next installment is out, The Speaker: Book Two of Sea of Ink and Gold — I cannot wait!!

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Tetris: The Games People Play by Box Brown (First Second Books, 2016) is a graphic novel that explores the history of Tetris and unravels the complex history to dive into the role games play in art, culture, and commerce.

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Another graphic novel, Level Up (First Second Books,2016) by Gene Luen Yang presents a coming of age story of the dilemma of personal goals verses parental approval. More specifically, video games vs. medical school!

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Legends of Learning #ISTE17 Rally for Educators

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The following is the speech I presented to the attendees of edgames startup Legends of Learning rally for educators at ISTE.

Thank you to Legends of Learning for hosting the ISTE Rally for Educators and their mission to help teachers make classrooms fun and productive learning environments through research driven curriculum-based games. I am honored to speak with you tonight and to be included among amazing educators, Jahana Hayes and Dallas Dance, and with all of you here at this rally. Tonight is about celebrating teachers and inspiring heroes in all of us.

Too many of our students question what is the purpose of school today? Ask why do I have learn this and how is this going to help me after school and beyond? In a time when students can jump on the internet and Google answers to the questions they have, we, as teachers, need to show young people the relevancy of school and inspire students to help make the world a better place. You are the educational heroes, the teachers who inspire our students to love learning in our content areas, share our passions for science, math, English, history, art, music, technology, and more. And it is not only about disseminating information. Teachers must build relationships with students,  instill compassion and kindness all in a matter of 40 minute periods each day.

If we look closer into our students’ lives, we can learn so much more that can inform our teaching and methods. According to Nielsen, the average U.S. gamer age 13 or older spends 6.3 hours a week playing video games. Now, the Center for Public Education reports that, “students receive 1,000 hours of instructional time per year, depending on the grade level.”  That calculates to 3.3 hours of instructional time a week for ONE subject.The math is obvious, our students are getting twice as much game time as they are learning time. Most of the learning time that students are receiving is traditional in the sense that teachers are teaching at students. Students are the receivers of information whereas in a game, a player is immersed in the game world using problem solving, critical thinking, collaboration, and quick thinking to win the game and level up.

So, what if we harness our students’ strengths as gamers and game players to help teach our content area and tap into the elements of gamification to help develop problem solvers, readers, and critical thinkers? This can be an Epic Win for both teachers and students.  

Four years ago I was introduced to gamification as a classroom methodology while attending a local Edcamp. I admit that I am a Scrabble nerd, enjoy Jeopardy from time to time. I cannot resist a game of Pac Man and I love playing Dance Revolution with my daughter. Video gaming was not my strength or passion years prior. But the heart of gaming, the theory of gaming elements, and my interests are piqued.  

Gamification is an approach to learning that connects meaningful gaming with content objectives to re-engage students and boost learning.  Gamification is about transforming the classroom environment and literacy instruction into a game. It requires creativity, collaboration, and play. There are numerous ways to bring games and game playing into the classroom to promote learning and deepen student understanding. Whether teachers are looking to bring in some aspect of gaming into their class or use a game platform across the curriculum, you can bring in elements of gamification to enhance learning and student engagement, tap into the Common Core and meet ISTE Standards.

When my students are playing video games, they are using many skills – facts and information are tools to solve problems in context. Failure is a source of feedback and learning, collaboration is necessary, and learning and assessment are tightly integrated.  Gamification is not worksheets for points. Effective games are customized to different learners and students are encouraged to take risks and seek alternative solutions. In classrooms today, it’s not only about learning content material, students must experience and build the necessary skills to be creators, innovators, and problem solvers in order to develop critical thinking and improve academic achievement.

In my own classroom, gamification has helped me to engage many of my students, build collaboration and teamwork, and boost their literacy skills.  All year long, my students must uncover the mysteries and powers in the Books we read. Students might earn badges for completing different tasks or collect points during an adventure quest to show their learning and thinking about a text. The goal is for students to LOOK CLOSER and CRITICALLY at their world and the information that we are bombarded with visually and in print. There are puzzles, quests, and challenges with each unit. Students must unlock the secrets hidden in text and go on scavenger hunts and Amazing Races to show their understanding and knowledge. There are side quests to differentiate learning, boss battles, badges, and mysteries that help unlock the legends, themes, and pertinent information.  The game is always evolving in my class with treasure, experience points (XP), and gold points to be amassed. 10,000 experience points offers “Enhanced Vision,” a power and privilege that allows students who have leveled up to 10,000 XP or more to preview the final exam before the actual exam. In the past two years a dozen students have achieved this feat and their names top our leaderboard as reminders to new players that this win is achievable.

Ava, a student in my classroom this past school year told me that gaming in our 8th grade English class was a fun learning alternative which has made her a stronger English student. She went on to tell me striving for game points throughout the school year strengthened her work ethic and improved her writing and reading skills, which overall improved her grade. As a teacher, gamification has allowed me to coach students to be successful readers, writers, and critical thinkers. My students learn by doing, collaboration, and quest based adventures. Gamification fits across all content areas, not my classroom alone.

If we are going to energize our students, we need to embrace technology with teaching methods that inspire and encourage our students to be motivated to learn, collaborate, and face obstacles in a positive way. Approaching learning as a quest or a mission can inspire adventure, collaboration, and results in a better learning experience and learning environment. This is because gamification and game based learning

  • Captures (and retains) learners’ attention.
  • Challenges them.
  • Engages and entertains them.
  • Teaches them.

Let’s think of Mario, Princess Zelda, and Monopoly as mentor texts to help us, as teachers and educators,  design interactive lessons that immerse students in meaningful learning experiences.

Teachers are game designers who build experiences that allows students to foster meaningful teamwork, take ownership of their learning, and persevere when faced with obstacles. Epic Wins, that is what we want for ALL of our students. Success in school as well as outside of school. By meeting students where they are at, tapping into their gaming strengths and skill sets we can enhance the schooling experience across all content areas and promote Epic Wins for learning and life.

About Legends of Learning

Legends of Learning helps educators make their classrooms fun, engaging, and productive learning environments through research-driven, curriculum-based games. Legends of Learning uses ongoing original research to create an edgame platform filled with an epic range of lessons for stronger subject mastery and classroom engagement. All games are based on state curriculum standards. Don your masks with Legends of Learning.

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Tech & Learning Live Boston 2017

Tech & Learning is one of the leading resources for education technology professionals. It’s website and magazine, Tech & Learning provide an inside look at issues, trends, products, and strategies pertinent to the role of all educators –including state-level education decision makers, superintendents, principals, technology coordinators, and lead teachers.

I will be presenting all things Gamification and Game Based Learning on Friday, May 12th at Tech & Learning Live (formerly called Tech Forum), a high-powered, one-day event that provides K-12 decision makers with thought-provoking content on the hottest topics of the day in education technology.

Rather than present in a traditional way with a powerpoint, we will be playing a game (of course)! Check out the Gamification Bingo game board that I created for participants to get into the action, ask and answer provocative questions, and engage in meaningful discussions on the possibilities gaming can offer teachers and students.

Want to play, BINGO wins are equivalent to completing the entire Bingo board.

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10 Project Ideas to Highlight Genius Hour & Passion Projects

There are many ways that students can present their Genius Project Learning. I am a teacher who tends to shy away from traditional Powerpoint presentations and often give students a choice of different projects and products to share their learning. Below are some of the recent project choices.

Sketch Note It – Show us visually what you did for your genius hour project in a visually appealing way.   Your sketchnote should be in-depth and visually appealing.

Teach Us – Be the teacher and present a mini-lesson with active engagement for students to try something out and learn about your project. To help you plan for this presentation, think how your best teachers present information and help you to learn best. Your mini-lesson should be between 10-15 minutes and encompass a hook, minilesson, active engagement, and end with some closure/reflection.

Turn It Into a Breakout EDU – Complete a Breakout EDU Game Design Template Worksheet to combine your Genius topic and gaming. You can use as many or few of the Breakout EDU components to challenge your classmates and help them think deeply about your genius hour project.

RadioLab Style Podcast – RadioLab is a show on NPR that presents topics through engaging conversations, media clips, and investigative journalism. Create your own RadioLab style podcast and share the audio file to publish a collection of Genius Hour podcasts online.

Video TED Talk TED is a group devoted to spreading ideas. Their national conferences and regional TEDx events are famous for offering short, powerful talks and posting them online. Present your own TED style talk about your genius hour topic.  Video it, and share it with your teacher to post on our Genius Hour YouTube channel. The TED Talk should be informative, engaging, and inspiring. 

Feature Article – Write a feature article for our school newspaper and school website with the intention of getting it published. Share your genius process and final product with the world.

Whiteboard Animation Video– Tell your story and genius process through a whiteboard animation video. 

Prezi Screencast– Create a prezi presentation and then screencast an audio presentation talking through the major points of your Genius Hour project. Use free screencasting sites like Screencast-o-Matic and Screenr.

Blog About It  – Create a blog that details your weekly process and progress with your passion project. Add videos, links, and photos to help your followers understand your genius quest.

Genius Hour Fair – Design a visual presentation of your genius project to share with the entire school and community – Yes, school administrators and parents are invited. Design a display board or go digital by setting up laptop, include QR codes with links to resources and additional information. Be sure to include pictures of your week work and successes and bullet point the lessons you learned throughout the project.

Exit Reflection  – This can be completed as an independent reflection assignment or as a final blog reflection. Students reflection on their learning and what they gleaned from the entire Genius Hour process. Students might address the following questions:

  1. What did you take away from your genius hour experiences?
  2. What were the positive experiences and the challenges you faced?
  3. Why did you work on this project, what is the personal connection or cause that led you to this passion?
  4. What are you going to do as a result of your research and project? Will you continue to work on it after you leave our class?
  5. Why should genius hour be offered to all students at our school? Explain your response.

 

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