Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Gamified classroom - a year in review

About a year ago I set out to offer my students a complete gamified experience in my classroom (Setting up a Gamified Classroom). With quests, leaderboard  and student buy in we set out to train dragons, and overall it was a positive experience for both myself and the students.

My gamified classroom was set up so that the different units (quests) would unlock a power-up.  This meant that power-ups could not be accessed until we reached that unit.  This worked well for the students that wanted that power-up, and having all power-ups unlocked became a status symbol. The goal of having students revisit work (even if it was done months before) was achieved. In fact, a student that did not join us until the second semester took it upon herself to complete the previous units just so she could also unlock the powers.

On the flip side, I also had students that did not care about a particular power-up. Yes, the assignments were completed (as they would go in the gradebook), but my vision of having them revisit old work in order to earn the power-up did not materialize. However, this is not a failure  of the gamification experience, but rather missed opportunity on my part to find a way to encourage these students to refine work.

The "training the dragon" aspect was a different matter. The dragon training was tied to a weekly blog writing assignment and its end goal was to not have to do the assignment at all (blog immunity). Although only ten of the 140 students that I had this year reached the goal, most of them came close enough that they could taste it. I had students come up to me a couple of weeks before school ended asking, "If I write two blogs this week and score well, will they count towards blog immunity?" The logic of writing one post a week for the final two weeks vs. writing two posts in one week so they would not have to write a post the final week escaped them!

From the mechanics aspect, I will be honest and tell you that as much as I love my leaderboard, keeping up with it was not easy. A big part of the gamified experience for students is immediate feedback. In the real gaming world, students can immediately see if they have reached a goal or unlocked a power-up. In my classroom, they not only had to wait for the assignment to be graded and put into the leaderboard, but in the case of revisions, they also had to wait for me to be done with all other grading before I could even tackle revisions. Now, the students know and respect the fact that I do read through all of their work, and have a rather quick turn-around for grades. However, grouping the power-ups with the unit assignments meant that I was in fact keeping two gradebooks, sometimes with different scoring criteria. This is something that I will definitely be revisiting.

All that being said, I will continue on the gamification path. Wish me luck!