Tag Archives: #gamification

The Book That Drives the Story and the Game

HELLO

IF YOU’RE READING THIS, THEN MAYBE YOU KNOW

YOU OUGHT TO READ EVERYTHING, AND MAYBE

YOU KNOW YOU OUGHT TO READ DEEPLY. BECAUSE THERE’S

WITCHERY IN THESE WORDS AND

SPELLWORK IN THE SPINE

AND ONCE YOU KNOW TO LOOK FOR SIGNALS IN THE SMOKE,

FOR SECRETS IN THE SEA, THEN YOU UNDERSTAND WHAT IT IS

TO READ. THIS IS A BOOK. YOU ARE THE READER. LOOK CLOSER,

THERE’S MAGIC HERE.

 

So begins Traci Chee’s amazing story of pirates, magic, and the power of a book in The Reader: Book One of Sea of Ink and Gold.

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This week my students and I will be discussing The Reader with author, Traci Chee for our upcoming monthly Twitter Book Club. There are so many great elements to the story that I had to reread the book again. Additionally, Traci Chee has embedded ten puzzles, ciphers, and clues throughout the story and I was on a hunt to uncover them all – in my second read I have identified 9 of the 10.

The Reader is filled with strong female characters throughout and weaves between three different story lines. Sefia, the protagonist’s story and quest is primary. Captain Reed’s adventures written in The Book Sefia reads and is marked in a different layout embedded throughout Sefia story. The third story is of Sefia’s parents which run parallel with Sefia’s chapters (until you realize who Lon and the Assassin really are in Chapter 29). Chee has crafted a compelling story that plays on words and begs her readers to ask questions about the power of words and books to control facts, truth, and history.

The main protagonists is 16 year old Sefia who has lost both her mother and father. As the readers, we are told and reminded that her parents were brutally murdered. Sefia is cared for by a family friend, Nin, until Nin is kidnapped one day by a “hooded woman” with a “sick stench of metal.” Sefia is left to fend for herself and seek revenge and resolution. In this world the people cannot read. “They had never developed alphabets or rules for spelling, never set their histories down in stone.” Stories and histories are passed around orally so they are not forgotten. Except a secret society of people trained to read and write from a “mysterious object called a book.” Sefia’s parents had the book hidden and now it is in Sefia’s hands as she uses it to find answers and understand her past.

So the puzzles embedded throughout The Reader.  .  . Some are there masterfully to reinforce ideas in the story like the fingerprints smudged throughout the book from Sefia’s paper cuts that bloodied her fingers reading and rereading the book in her hands. Another character, Tanin, carries around a crinkled, burned, and weathered paper that she reads and rereads trying to understand like a map that is presented on pages 416 -417 to help uncover just what really happened when Sefia is with Tanin and Rajar. If you look closely at burned page on page 417 Sefia’s parent’s names have been rubbed out and erased. Page 25 there are details blacked out about Sefia’s father that beg the question whether her parents are really dead. On page 211 there are words faded out to again asking the question, “What information is being held from us, the readers?” Again on page 307 specific words are bolded and enlarged when Sefia is reading about her father’s death in the book. “There was – no face left.” This hints that Sefia’s father can be alive and the body Sefia saw was planted as a distractor for his enemies. Did you catch the hidden message in the quote at the beginning of this blog post – LOOK CLOSER.

At the bottom of the page numbers there are words floating throughout. It is a poem. Oh, Traci Chee you are a clever author . . .

This is a book and a book is a world and words are the seeds in which meanings are curled pages of oceans and margins on land are civilizations you hold in the palm of your hand. But look at your world and your life seems to shrink to cities of paper and seas made of ink. Do you  know who you are or have you been mislead? Are you the reader or are you the read?

Unpacking the Book As a Theme for Gamification

In Explore Like  Pirate: Gamification and Game Inspired Course Design (2015), Michael Matera suggests that successful gamification needs a story with a theme, setting, and characters to drive the game and motivate the players into action. The Reader is my inspiration and guide for my ELA classroom. In a world where students who love reading is few and far between, and paper or tangible books might been a thing of the past, my students and players will be the chosen to uncover the mysteries and powers of the book. The goal is for students to LOOK CLOSER at their world and the information that we are bombarded with visually and in print. In books, and digitally. What is true? Do books contain magic? What can we learn from the adventures described in books and the histories that have been recorded? Can we use our knowledge and understanding to see that “everything is huge and connected. . . But the book[s] are the key, and if [we] can figure out how to use it, [we’d] be able to open the door, uncover the magic that lay, ripping and shifting unseen currents, beyond the world [we’d] experience” (Chee, 41).

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Badges for Public Speaking Mastery: Part II

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Why a badge driven curriculum?

Students are able to monitor their own learning and take responsibility for their work and understanding. Students are aware of the learning expectations and the work they need to master in order to successfully pass the course. Students know the end goal and are awarded badges for completing  specific learning targets and challenging and extraordinary tasks.

I have transformed my speech and debate elective class for middle school students this semester into a module based independent study where students complete different tasks to show mastery and earn badges.

The first ten weeks of the semester students are to complete three different badges for students to work towards and show their understanding and knowledge of public speaking. The second half of the semester students will focus on debating skills and participate in different types of debate.

The three different badges for Speech and Debate include:

Great Speakers Are Made, Not Born Badge

Read about the Great Speakers Are Made, Not Born Badge expectations here.

Words Are Powerful Badge

This badge is designed to help students utilize public speaking and writing skills by crafting a non fiction speech. Throughout this bade students are working on structure, word choice, and literary devices in their own writing.

Presentation Guru Badge

Once students earn the Words are Powerful Badge they can work on the Presentation Guru Badge. This badge requires students to put together all that they have learned about the qualities of great speakers and writing strong speeches. The final part of this badge is for students to write and present a TED style talk.

Here are some of the specific learning targets and extraordinary tasks students will set out to complete this semester.

Words Are Powerful Badge Expectations

Choose One Podcast Assignment:

StorySLAM (True Stories Told) – Choose a personal story you are willing to share with others. First write your story that you will then tell via podcast for others to listen to.  Here are some examples: https://themoth.org/education/resources (scroll to the bottom)

#1 The Model & Mentor Assignment

  1. Listen to 2-3 of the sample stories at https://themoth.org/education/resources
  2. Write a Reflection that answers the following (answers don’t have to be long, but please put some thought into them and not just one word answers):
  • Write the title of the story AND give the episode a “new” creative title.  
  • Write 3 things you learned about the speaker telling the story.
  • Write 3 new questions you have you want to ask the storyteller, and WHY you want to know the answers to these questions.
  • How did the speakers make you feel?  Engage You In the Topic? Encourage You to Continue Listening?
  • What were some of the rhetorical moves the speakers  utilized to successfully present the information in the podcast?
  • What other things did you notice about the podcast that are worth mentioning and pointing out to other listeners?

#2:Write Your Story Script – Write a story experience about yourself you are willing to share with others in a 3-5 Minute Personal Story that leaves a lasting impression. Share your story script with three classmates to get feedback and suggestions. Then, share your story script with your teacher before you begin your podcast for editing purposes. Remember:

  • Stories have a change. The main character (you!) has to change in some way from beginning to end.
  • Stories have stakes. Why did this moment matter to you?
  • Know where your story is heading. Steer clear of meandering endings!
  • Be YOURSELF. This is not a monologue, a standup routine, or a rant.  

#3: Podcast Your Story –  Record on a Podcast your story for others to hear*. Turn in your audio podcast on Google Classroom.

* Almost everyone needs to practice reading aloud their story to make it exciting and interesting in terms of the words as well as one’s vocal presentation. Your voice needs to be loud, clear, and authentic.

OR

RadioLab Style Podcast – RadioLab is a show on NPR that presents topics related to science through engaging conversations, media clips, and investigative journalism. Check out http://radiolab.org for more information and to listen to a few podcasts before you get started.

#1: The Model & Mentor Assignment

  1. Choose a ONE HOUR episode of Radiolab on http://radiolab.org. Download or listen online to the ENTIRE episode.
  2. Write a Reflection that answers the following (answers don’t have to be long, but please put some thought into them and not just one word answers):
  • Write the title of the episode AND give the episode a “new” creative title.  
  • Write 3 things you learned about the topic in the podcast.
  • Write 3 new questions you now have about the topic, and WHY you want to know the answers to these questions.
  • How did the speakers make you feel?  Engage You In the Topic? Encourage You to Continue Listening?
  • What were some of the rhetorical moves the speakers/hosts utilized to successfully present the information in the podcast?
  • What other things did you notice about the podcast that are worth mentioning and pointing out to other listeners?

#2: Create Your Own Radio Lab Podcast

  1. Select and Research a topic of your choice (most RadioLab Episodes are science related).
  2. Write a script for a 3-5 Minute Mini-Radiolab Episode sharing insight, research, and findings.

Words are Powerful Badge Reflection

You will also turn in a short, 1-2 page reflective paper AFTER delivering your podcast; the reflection paper should describe the process that went into developing your project and your thoughts about the performance.

 

Presentation Guru Badge Expectations

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, video it, and post online. The TED Talk should be informative, engaging, and inspiring. For more information check out http://www.ted.org

Part 1 – TED Talk Models & Mentors Reflection

Complete the Data Collection Worksheet* For each TED Talk you view. You are to view 3 or more Talks.

Part 2 – Your TED Style Talk must:

  • be 7-10 minutes in length
  • incorporate a slideshow that enhances the discussion with compelling images (and text, when appropriate)
  • 3 or other such “take away”
  • be supported with research, with all borrowed material properly cited within the presentation
  • include a storytelling component at some point (doesn’t necessarily have to be YOUR story)
  • be “memorized” (no notes)
  • be delivered in an engaging manner to a live audience that will then  be recorded) offer a clearly defined argument, new perspective,
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Badges For Mastery in Speech & Debate: Part I

publicspeaking

This semester I am teaching a section of Speech and Debate for 8th graders and I wanted to  create a self guided course that requires students to research, write, speak, and reflect continuously throughout the course. There are three key modules for students to show their mastery of public speaking utilizing a badge system.

Think about what the Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts have been doing all along, recognizing mastery and achievement with badges. Teachers can do the same by recognizing student accomplishments and mastery with badges. Badges go beyond grades because they are given out at the teacher’s discretion for more than just academic achievement. Students work toward completing different badges to show mastery of a concept, standard or skill.

In the public speaking elective I designed, students have a great deal of choice – to choose topics and projects using a badging system. This approach gives students both freedom and responsibility as they will be required to manage their time wisely and work independently (in community) toward their personal course goals.

I have organized the first ten weeks of the course into three badges (modules):

Great Speakers Are Made, Not Born Badge

Words Are Powerful Badge

Presentation Guru Badge

Students choose the grade they would like to earn the class and complete badges accordingly. Earning more badges means students will receive a higher grade. Students may submit a badge application as many times as needed to earn the badge as long as they meet all deadlines on the badging pathway. The Badge Grading System will work as follows:

● To earn an A in the course, you must earn three (3) project badges

● To earn a B in the course, you must earn two (2) project badges

● To earn a C in the course, you must earn one (1) project badge

Great Speakers Are Made, Not Born Badge Expectations

 Students are required to complete a series of reflections for this requirement. For each post that has a video/website/book/ebook as media, include APA or other citation at the end of your reflection. Below are the expectations for the reflections:

#1: Speech and Debate Reflection Google Form

#2: Great Speakers in History

  1. Watch the videos of “I Have a Dream” by Martin Luther King Jr. and President John F. Kennedy’s Inaugural Speech

             Transcripts: MLK’s Speech and JFK’s Speech

  1. Write a reflection paper (2-3 pages) in which you address the following:
  • Summarize the key ideas presented in each speech and the rhetorical devices used in each speech to make these iconic speeches. Use direct textual evidence (3-4) to support your claims.
  • Write a paragraph about the speakers themselves. What strategies do MLK and JFK emulate in their public speaking? Identify four or more public speaking strategies using direct textual evidence to support your claims.
  • What makes MLK and JFK “Great Speakers?” Reflect on the elements of these speakers and their speeches that you hope to emulate this semester in Speech and Debate. Use specific details and examples. These will in turn be your personal speaking goals for the semester.

#3: Who is “great speaker” of our time?

  1. Identify a speaker today who you think emulates the qualities of great speakers you identified in JFK and MLK.
  2. Find a video that showcases this speaker and include the video link that highlights the elements of public speaking utilized by this person. Post this video on Google Classroom for all to view, reflect, and review.  (Select a video that is 3-10 minutes in length).
  3. Write an analysis (1-2 pages) describing the strategies and rhetorical devices presented by this speaker. Use direct textual evidence to support your claim. Include specific information describing the aspects of this speaker you aspire to when speaking in public.

#4: Public Speaking Content Curation

  • Using one of the following Content Curation/Social Bookmarking sites: Pinterest, ThingLink, or Symbaloo, find nine or more (9+) research and public speaking videos (3), research articles (3), and interviews with public speaking teachers or figures (3).
  • Annotate what can be found at each site and/or video and highlight one (or more), key quotes and a strategy for public speaking highlighted in the resource.
  • Describe in 2-3 sentences how this content can help you to be a better public speaker.

You can read about the expectations for the Words Are Powerful Badge and Presentation Guru Badge in this post.

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Legends of the Hidden Temple Classroom Activities & Interactive Game

Legends of the Hidden Temple was an “action and adventure” gameshow on Nickelodeon in the 1990s. The game show required teams  of two to compete in a series of physical and mental tasks: The Moat, The Steps of Knowledge, Temple Games. and the final Temple Run. Through a process of elimination, the last remaining team entered the Temple to retrieve the ancient artifact and have a chance to win a grand prize.

The temple consisted of twelve rooms, each with a specific theme (e.g., the Throne Room, the King’s Storeroom, the Observatory, the Shrine of the Silver Monkey). The rooms connected to adjacent rooms by doorways, although some doors were locked, blocking a contestant’s progress into the adjacent room; the pattern of locked and unlocked doors changed each episode depending both on the temple layout and the artifact’s location. The unlocked doors were closed at the start of the round, but they could be opened by completing a specific task or puzzle within each room. One room in the temple contained the themed artifact. Three other designated rooms held temple guards. A contestant who encountered a temple guard was forced to give up a full pendant in order to continue. The team had three minutes to retrieve the artifact and leave the temple with it. If either contestant grabbed the artifact, all remaining temple guards vanished and all locked doors in the temple instantly opened, allowing the contestant to escape unhindered.

Check out the video to watch a thrilling episode.

My co-teacher introduced me this show online and I couldn’t wait to adapt it for the classroom.

Students are reading about social justice and courage for an independent reading unit and I took on the theme of courage to create “Legends of Hidden Courage” action adventure. I revised a few of the games (the moat) and all teams competed against each other, there was no elimination. Each challenge was worth different experience points (XP). Some challenges awarded points and A Pendant of Life — to be used in the future as a free Notebook Check Pass or Free Assignment Pass.

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The game began with the Steps of Knowledge. Students had read and analyzed poetry the day before on themes of social justice so we started with a QuizletLive on poetic devices.

Then, came the first physical challenge: Students had to take a picture of all their team members making a positive difference in the school and post on Twitter.

A physical and mental challenge was third. Students had to match images of upstanders in history with the correct names.

The Inspiration Challenge required students to reflect and write about a person in history or present day who they inspires and they aspire to for their courage.

The last challenge was the Minefield physical challenge.

It was an action packed class period and there are many different ways that this game show can adapted based on the unit of study.

 

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5 WAYS TO GAMIFY YOUR CLASSROOM

The following post is a guest blog post I wrote for ISTE’s EdTekHub and was published on  1/5/2017

Many of our students are among the 155 million Americans playing video games regularly, and you might be, too. That’s a good thing. When my 11-year-old is playing video games, he’s using many skills – facts and information are tools to solve problems in context, and he gains actionable feedback he uses to win the game. When he fails to level up, he doesn’t give up, but continues playing until he progresses to the next level. He also seeks information online to help him find Easter eggs hidden throughout the game. He teaches his friends how to power up with each level of the game. Failure is a source of feedback and learning, collaboration is necessary, and learning and assessment are tightly integrated.

How can we use this pervasive and engaging gaming phenomenon to redesign and supercharge the learning experience?

Here are five ways to gamify your classroom to boost engagement, collaboration and learning:

  1. Adapt old-school games for classroom use. Scavenger hunts, bingo, dice games, Connect Four and Scrabble have been around for decades and can be adapted for classroom learning. Put vocabulary words on bingo cards and see if students can match the words after hearing the definitions. Working in groups, students can play Scrabble by spelling out answers to content-specific questions. Using the app Goose Chase, create digital scavenger hunts by sending students off to take pictures, create a video, or search for an answer online related to a specific topic.
  1. Play digital games. Students love playing Kahoot!Quizizz and Quizlet. These free platforms allow teachers to create multiple-choice questions that players answer on their own devices. Teachers can also choose from the thousands of quizzes already shared on these sites or create content-specific questions to use as pre-assessments, quizzes or exit tickets. Breakout EDU also has a collection of digital games, puzzles and ciphers that promote critical thinking.
  1. Create a quest. A quest is a mission with an objective. Every year my students participate in an adventure quest based on the weekly current events reading. Students who correctly answer a specific text-dependent question earn points. The student with the most points after six weeks wins a prize. I post additional questions on Remind and Twitter to allow students to earn extra points. Quests can also be independent projects or activities for the students who have finished their work.
  1. Battle it out with a boss battle. In gaming, a “boss” is a villain who the hero must defeat to save the day. Think of the monster at the end of each level in the original Super Marios Bros. who must be defeated before moving to the next level. On the gamification platform Classcraft, teachers can create their own boss battles using questions from any content area. Teachers can also create boss battles using Google Forms or Google Slides, creating their own unique fictional boss.
  1. Earn a badge for mastery. The Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts recognize mastery and achievement with badges. Teachers can do the same by rewarding student accomplishments and mastery with badges, which go beyond grades because they represent more than just academic achievement. Students work toward completing different badges to show mastery of a concept, standard or skill. Badges can be presented digitally using Classbadges or can be displayed for all to see once students have earned a specific badge.

Gamification is about transforming the classroom environment and regular activities into a game. It requires creativity, collaboration and play. There are numerous ways to bring games and game playing into the content area classroom to promote learning and deepen student understanding. Whether teachers are looking to bring some aspect of gaming into their class or use a game platform across the curriculum, they can use gamification elements to enhance learning and student engagement, tap into Common Core State Standards and address the 2016 ISTE Standards for Students.

 

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Gamification & Literacy at #NCTE16

Classrooms of the digital age are interactive spaces where literate lives are groomed through the analysis and synthesis of content. Perspectives formed during collaborative conversations give rise to innovative ideas but not every teacher is ready to be part of the digital change. How can classroom environments become havens of active learning and schools encourage students to make wise technology choices to become independent learners with authentic voices?

As part of a round table session at National Council of Teachers of English Annual Conference, I presented gamification ideas and strategies for engaged, active, student-centered classrooms where choice leads to increased voice.

Here are a few of the games and activities referenced in the slides that I have created for my students that correlate with units of study.

MidSummer Night’s Dream Symbolism Connect Four

Roll the Dice or Think Dots

Here is how this activity works, using a set of dice [or have task cards Think DOTs that have assignments on one side and colored dots that match a “dice” roll on the other side], students can “roll the dice” to see which activity or question they have to complete. You can use different cubes for different students depending on their readiness, interests and learning profiles. The example that I provided below is a for reading response questions for To Kill  Mockingbird. There are two sets that are differentiated based on students level of understanding.

And for a random Dice Challenge

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Dystopian Reading Quest Gamified

It begins with a thought that inspires and ignites a teaching concept. It could happen while I am reading a book or listening to NPR on my drive to and from work. It’s like the pull on your sweater that you tug at and it begins to unravel into something bigger than you first intended. This is what happens when I am teaching. I will often get a kernel of an idea in my mind about a unit of study or lesson and the more thinking and tinkering, a completely new concept emerges.

I just finished teaching a dystopian literature unit with my eighth grade students and I thought how can I make this unit more hands on, more self directed, and more engaging so that my students are successful readers, writers, and critical thinkers. At the same time, I want them to draw connections between the fictional dystopias and our world today.  What if I gamified it and my students become players in a dystopian environment I create in the classroom? How will it impact their learning, understanding, and thinking?

Welcome to the Dystopian Reading Quest:

The Backstory – We are going to adjust some of the ways our classroom community functions for our next unit. These changes will incorporate technologies we haven’t used in the classroom before that I think will improve communication amongst us. The changes should also ensure that all students are treated equally and are given roles in the classroom that reflect their strengths. We will explore new freedoms we haven’t explored before.

Rules:

  1. No one will be allowed to talk in class at all without my permission. In fact, talking will be very limited from now on.
  1. You will instead communicate with one another via online chat in Google Classroom. I will have access to everything you say in your chats. No other form of communication will be allowed in class unless it is with me or is conducted with my permission.
  1. The class will be divided into 3 groups based on grades. Students with the highest grades will be in one group, those in the middle will be in another, and those with the lowest will make up the third group. There will be no communication allowed outside of these groups in class.
  1. We will no longer be discussing historical connections to our texts. We will be free from the burden of thinking about the past. We will concentrate on the here and now and the future of our classroom. History is not important.
  1. You may not discuss your family, interests, or cultural background. The culture of our classroom is more important. These other details distract from our task at hand. We are all equal. Our differences are not important.

* Other rules may be added depending on the current culture of the individual classroom.

Complete the following badges throughout this unit to earn privileges and unlock powers.  The more badges you complete towards mastery, and complete correctly, the more privileges you will gain and unlock the Oracle of Dystopian Knowledge. Not completing these tasks will result in punishments.  The badges are to be completed in sequential order. 

dystopian-reading-quest

 

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Students complete six badges while reading different dystopian texts independently to show their understanding and thinking. As a result, students are self directed and working at their own pace towards mastery. The expectations are clearly articulated and students must include evidence and links to their learning. The badges build on each other, it is not a menu board. Rubrics and checklists will be provided as guidelines for mastery learning.

I think these games are gonna be different.” — Haymitch Abernathy in Catching Fire (2013)

 

 

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Gamification to Boost Student Learning

This month I am presenting on Gamification at the The Connecticut Educators Computer Association Conference and then for my school’s district wide professional development day. I blog often about gamification and I think it is a useful teaching strategy to motivate students and allow for differentiation. Teachers can add elements of gaming in their classroom with activities like Bingo and board games and can introduce Live Action Role Plays (LARP) and utilize game platforms for management and avatars.

Below are the slides from my presentations and a few examples of activities that I have gamified for my students to earn XP (experience points) and unlock classroom opportunities that promote learning and success.

 

Here are three examples of activities that I created based on traditional games and game shows for my students to show their understanding of the texts we read in class.

Connect Four:

 

 

Quick Fire/Bingo Reading Review:

 

 

Reading Quest:

 

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Mise en place & School

Wikipedia defines Mise en place as (French pronunciation: [mi zɑ̃ ˈplas]) “a French culinary phrase which means “putting in place” or “everything in its place.” It refers to the set up required before cooking, and is often used in professional kitchens to refer to organizing and arranging the ingredients (e.g., cuts of meat,sauces, par cooked items, spices, freshly chopped vegetables, and other components) that a cook will require for the menu items that are expected to be prepared during a shift.

September is my time to put everything in place for my students to understand the requirements and routines of the classroom. I use the first month of school to set up our interactive notebooks, build classroom community and trust, introduce weekly Genius Hour and establish the gaming elements of my English classroom.

I have created a gamified Genius Hour activity to kick off the Classcraft teams, build team work, and begin thinking about possible genius projects. Add a little XP – experience points to all the tasks and the challenge begins. I am planning out how to gamify all of my Genius Hour time for my students with various tasks to help them play, tinker, research, and create.

I will have to share the results in a later post.

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Interview with Shawn Young, CEO Classcraft Games

During a week long trip with my family to Quebec this past week, I was able to meet up with Shawn Young, CEO and Co-Founder of Classcraft Games in Sherbrooke, Canada.

Shawn’s insight into gamification in education helps inform my classroom practices and use of games with my students. As I continue to plan for this upcoming school year, I share the the knowledge Shawn divulged about technology, building (life long) skills, and the future of gamification in education.

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Michele: What does gamification mean to you?

Shawn: Gamification has become a bit of an umbrella term in the last few years – people apply the term to anything where you can gain points or badges. Not surprisingly, seeing gamification  from this lens leads to experiences which can feel stale, boring or lack meaning.

For me, gamification is much more than that. In fact, I prefer the term ludicization : “To create a situation from which play can emerge”. In this sense, gamification becomes the art of crafting experiences in which many of the components of games can be applied (autonomy, competency, social relationships, randomness, feedback, etc.) to create a state of playfulness. Using these components leads to genuine fun (with a purpose) from which intrinsic motivations can stem. Simply put, good gamification is applying extrinsic motivators that will be internalized to produce intrinsic motivation.

Michele: As a former teacher, what do you see as the benefits of gamification for teachers and students?

Shawn: This depends on the approach, really. With Classcraft, we help teachers gamify the experience of coming to school, rather than gamifying content, like you would see with math or language games. From that perspective, the benefits on classroom culture are huge: students are taking ownership of the way the classroom is run and are significantly more engaged, even with the rote day-to-day tasks that occur naturally from class life. The game is very collaborative, so they gain a team that’s looking out for them and face challenges together. They also get much more positive reinforcement than they are used to, which has a big impact on their perception of self-worth. Obviously, this is great for teachers, who feel like they are working with students, not against them.

Michele: How did you first get involved in gaming for education? When and how did Classcraft come to fruition?

Shawn: Classcraft stemmed out of my own unique background as grade 11 physics teacher, web developer and gamer. I have been playing board games and video games since I was kid and that continued on into my adult life. As an educator, I was able to relate culturally with my students – indeed, we were playing the same games! I had a poor school experience growing up, often feeling like I was wasting my time, so my main focus as a teacher was making sure that coming to school was pertinent for students and that they felt that it was.

It dawned on me that the experience of coming to school would be much more satisfying if it was like an RPG, so I made a quick prototype and started playing with my students. I fine-tuned the game over the course of 3 years before making a little website to share with other teachers what I was doing. Overnight, the website attracted 150 000 visits – seems like a lot of other people were interested in doing the same! I then teamed up with my brother, Devin, who is a designer, and our father Lauren, who has 35 years experience in business and accounting, and Classcraft was born. Since then, the platform has evolved tremendously!

Michele: What are the elements from (classic) video games that can benefit teachers and students for gamification purposes?

Shawn: When thinking of this question, people tend to look for tropes – ”Should I use XP + levels?” “Do students need an avatar?” or “Should I lay this out on a map?” are typical questions that come up from these types of questions. At Classcraft, our focus is more on the fundamental psychology of self -determination theory and how it applies to video games. There is a reason gamers are willing to spend hours repeating the same boring task to complete an objective, but aren’t willing to spend 5 minutes doing math homework: games fulfill 7 fundamental motivational needs (autonomy, competency, relationships, discovery, surprise, feedback, storytelling). These are the elements we lifted from games to design a playful experience and they are outlined on our blog.  

 

Michele: What life skills and Common Core Standards does Classcraft and gamification address?

Shawn: Classcraft is very customizable: it can be used to develop any “soft”-skills by identifying behaviors that show mastery and giving points for that. For example, if you want to develop grit in your students, you’ll identify behaviors that are indicative of grit, like persevering in the face of adversity, and give students points for those behaviors, thus encouraging explicitly to internalize them. Because all of these behaviors are logged in the game, you’ll be able to assess development of these skills by looking at the per-student behavior analytics in the platform. That being said, Classcraft explicitly foster meaningful teamwork, ownership of learning, prosocial skills and perseverance. In terms of CCS, Classcraft doesn’t gamify curriculum, it gamifies the experience.

Michele: You have said that “when playing video games, kids feel a sense of empowerment.” Can you talk more about this. What do you mean?

Shawn: In a video game, the player inherently knows that they can succeed. Even in the face of the most difficult challenges, they can try as often as they like and develop their skill. Often times, they can tackle problems in several ways and make meaningful choices about their trajectory within the game. All of this leads to a sense that the player can shape their destiny and build mastery for success.

Compare this to the school experience: kids often have only one set way to complete their journey through a course and only get one chance to demonstrate mastery of given piece of content.  It doesn’t feel very empowering.

Michele: As the Gamemaster for Classcraft, what are you dreaming up and working on now for teachers to benefit from you gaming platform?

Shawn: We’ve got a lot of things coming 🙂 One thing we’re focused on is integrating with more platforms and partners. We’re already integrated with Google Classroom and Microsoft’s Office 365 and we want to create more opportunities for teachers to be able to gamify the entire student experience, no matter which platforms and tools they are using. We are also looking at building more game features, like self-correcting quizzes students can complete for XP and storylines they can play out throughout the year.

Michele: What has the best thing about creating Classcraft and sharing it with teachers all around the world?

Shawn: This may sound hokey, but it’s been really great for everyone on the team to see the profound positive impact we have had on teachers, students and parents. Every day, we receive videos, pictures and testimonials from people using Classcraft telling us how it has changed their lives for the better. From the shy fifth-grader who wrote us to tell she had finally been able to make friends because of Classcraft, to the burned out teacher who has found the love of teaching again, to the parent who is raving about how motivated their child is, all of these testimonials act as fuel to keep us imagining new ways to make the classroom a better place.

Michele: Since gaming and gamification is continuously evolving, where do you see it going? What do you see as the future of gamification for educational purposes in the next year, 5 years, and even 10 years from now?

Shawn: Who knows!? 🙂 It’s definitely an exciting time for the field. Tech is changing faster than we can anticipate and opportunities like VR and augmented reality will definitely have an impact on the field. I’m certain we’ll see it become much more prevalent than it is now, as educators see success stories and jump on board.

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