Gamification…. How to organize it

I’ve spent the past hour or so reading posts and watching videos by @AliceKeeler — my tech and Google Guru. She has a great series of posts on gamification in the classroom for which I, as a gamer, absolutely go nuts.

The premise is simple: make learning fun by reminding students that, with enough effort, every task is ‘winnable.’ I have spent some time putting this into a beta version of my own — conceptually. I see this working if some tasks in my room are required of everyone, and are created at a level that guarantees success. Other tasks could leave room for extension and exploration. Still others might only work well for certain kids. In a sense, I could create location quests (appropriate for everyone and based on where we are right now as a class on this map), class-quests (hard for mages, easy for paladins), and boss quests (these would take every skill you’ve got, and a team of collaborative partners to help). Instead of grades, students could earn levels, and would be driven by a collaborative sense of competition within the room. They could earn badges and temporary buffs, and could acquire Loot and Gear throughout. They would WANT to level-up! Woot! Epic win!

But how?

I write a lot of my own novel studies for grade 7/8. Last year I created one for the novel ‘Z for Zachariah’ with multiple options for each question. I told my class ‘all of you can do the first one with a little effort. The second option takes it a little deeper, and the third attacks the same question from a broader context. You pick which one to answer.’

I thought I was doing a great job of offering choice, and my hope was the illusion of choice would get all kids trying at least one of the questions. In that sense it worked because every student finished the tasks….

But what I found was that some kids completely missed the point and did all three questions for each task – seemingly unaware that they were tripling their workload unnecessarily. Others chose the first option throughout, when they could have tackled the tougher ones. And while I began the whole project with gamification in mind, when it came to assessment I fell back on rubrics and grades, leaving the metaphor behind. I completely abandoned the context that might have made the learning more meaningful.

Phooey.

So I decided that I needed more contact with gaming to get more inspiration, and went back to playing World of Warcraft (purely for academic purposes, I assure you…it had nothing to do with really wanting to have a cute little Gnome-Mage with a blue mechanical ostrich and the ability to turn bad guys into sheep.)

Ahem.

Regardless…I think I have rediscovered why I love World of Warcraft…er… gamification in education. It’s about the pride in levelling up, it’s logging in and seeing your level-24 hunter on the screen. It’s celebrating how far you have come and where you are at the same time. And that’s the piece I missed with my class. I completely forgot to acknowledge that each of my students began this task with others already completed which had paved the way in terms of skills. Of course I new that these tasks were a natural evolution, but it wasn’t transparent to my students. They didn’t see that everything was winnable.

Ding! level 41

Next quest: re-sequence my assessment tasks in Language as Quests, identify significant pieces of writing or research as Level Bosses, and figure out how to reframe collaborative tasks as Raids.

But first, I still have two days of Christmas break left and I really want my mechanical ostrich.

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