Tuesday, August 13, 2013

How Gamification Changed Everything

At the end of last year I was blessed with an opportunity to change teaching positions from Earth Science to Technology. As Technology is one of my great passions I gladly took this leap. I often feel like I am one of the luckiest teachers because of the support that I have from my adminstration. Gamification is something that I am very passionate about and had some luck with last year. We dipped our toes in the water, using elements from ClassRealm and Class Dojo but I wanted to DIVE in!

We were able to purchase accounts for 3D Game Lab. Over the summer I participated in webinars, hangouts, and quests, all while building my courses for this fall. While my courses are not 100% complete, the work that I have done of ther summer has made a tremendous difference. In my 5 years as a teacher, this has been the smoothest start to a year (computer logins aside).

So what exactly is all this... Gamification? In a traditional setting students receive instruction from a teacher on a very strict timeline (typically lectures). X assignment is due at Y time. Or else. These "or elses" such as docking points and letter grades can inadvertantly harm a student, who is able to show mastery of a concept, but didn't have it done on time for a variety of reasons, some valid some not. In games, such as video games and even board games, players will persevere to overcome their obsticals, often at great time commitments. They do not simply give up because they did not succeed. This concept is applied to the classroom with Gamification. Gamification incorporates aspects of gaming such as badges, awards, achievements and levels.

We all know that students learn in different ways, so why are we still teaching them all in the same way? QBL (Quest Based Learning) allows students to have choice. With QBL facilitated through 3D Game Lab, students are able to choose what they learn and how they show mastery of a concept. After the first week the students realized that I wasn't going to tell them which quest to do next, that decision was up to them.They may all take different paths but will receive the education that is right for them. Just like a game, there isn't one way to "win" but many.

So what does this look like?

Thanks to a grant, we were able to create an all new 1:1 Go On Learning Lab. This lab is used for technology classes at our middle school. Students created gamer tags and avatars to use while they quest through the course. Over the summer I spent countless hours creating my road map, one that wasn't linear, but afforded students choice. Students work at their own pace, with partners, groups, and even sometimes as a whole class to complete quests. As students complete quests, they earn XP. Xp helps them "level up" in the course.

As they level up, they earn rewards, such as choosing where they sit, or listening to their music while they work. Because I spent so much time developing a reward system that would appeal to this age group, we've had a great start of the year. The first Saturday after the first week of school, I had students emailing me asking for more quests!

QBL allows me to give all of my students the attention that they need, from those that need enrichment and advancement, to those that need extra help and guidance. I feel like for the first time, like my classroom management and learning management have finally coalesced into something truly meaningful. I will keep you all updated on how the year goes!

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