Gamification: 30 Days In

posted Sep 11, 2015, 1:07 PM by Kevin Roughton   [ updated Sep 11, 2015, 1:34 PM ]
As I talked about over the Summer I'm trying out some serious gamification of my classroom this year. I felt I had done all of the necessary prep work ahead of time but honestly as August 12th neared I became increasingly anxious about the project.

Turns out I wasn't nearly anxious enough. I hit snags from literally day one. Here's what I've learned so far from the first 30 days of the game.

Lesson 1: I came out too strong, too fast.

My intro video is amazing. I'm not ashamed to say it. It's some of the best work (ok, remixing) I've done. After showing it on day one my kids looked like deers in headlights. I feel like they were way overwhelmed. I mean, I should have seen it coming. It was their first day of middle school after all. The video did not communicate the story of the game in enough depth to overcome their lack of focus that first day. It definitely had them interested but they didn't know in what.  Day 2 I did a more in-depth intro with the game story intro and showed off some of the skills and quest logs.
Quest logs and skill sheets

It was still too much, too soon. The truth is *I* wasn't even sure how all this stuff worked yet and I was hoping it would just be so cool to the kids that they would overlook that. They, like any good game player, did not. They wanted to know what the game required of them - not just what it offered.  Next year I will not introduce the game in the first week at all. I'll hint at it and maybe show the intro video but the story and mechanics will wait until the class has been a bit more established. 

Lesson 2: As feared, tracking this stuff is a nightmare.

I had hoped the game would be engaging enough that students would be eager to constantly track their own progress via our school's grade program. While I think they will get there in time for now it has fallen on me to update them on their progress. To be fair, games don't expect you to track your own progress. They go out of their way to constantly remind you how far you are from your next reward and make a huge deal when you do level up or achieve a goal. 

I needed to find a way to better track things so I came up (aka: stole an idea) with these cards.
Level Up Cards

My students keep these in their ID holders which they wear around their necks. When they level up and claim their reward I simply X off the level. That means I don't have to keep checking their level - they are literally wearing it. It has made the level up and skill reward process a bit easier. 

This still did not solve the problem of telling them when they had reached a new level. I first tried using the quest logs in the file above but that just isn't going to work. It requires way too much tracking on the part of the students. Asking them to record XP earned for each mission means not only do I have to return them in a timely fashion but they have to have their logs and record them. Then they had to add. It's just too much for them to do to stay interested in the process.

Thankfully, I've learned that my grade program can print out reports of points earned so far. So, I just print that out every couple weeks and post it on the wall. Students can then check and if they notice they are above the level threshold can come talk to me before or after class for their reward.  Once I've printed them out it is also very easy to make a top 10 leaderboard just by scanning down the list.
Leaderboards

Lesson 3: Despite failures, this is still working.

When I passed back their first quiz yesterday and a student who "failed" excitedly yelled "YES! I got 100 xp!" instead of carelessly throwing the paper aside I knew I had hit something. While I don't exactly want students elated over failing grades I do want them thinking about earning things and moving forward in their learning. That was the whole reason I took this project on and it's paying off.

There have been other examples of success. Today I had two situations of students hoping for better grades. In one case one of my AVID girls commented that she was frustrated having an 89% in her science class because she didn't know why she had it and what she needed to do to get an A. Very typical problem with percent-based grades. Later, in my class a student said "Mr. Roughton I have 430 XP so if I do the 100 XP booster I'll have 530. That means I'll be level 3 right?" 

Yep.

Just that simple. By making the amount of points needed for a given grade at a given point specific (level 3 currently equates to an A) the students know exactly what is expected of them. I no longer have the nebulus "well, you're x percent off so this many points will probably move you up." nonsense to do with. I, and they, know exactly what they have to do to reach their goals.

Additionally, kids have been very on top of claiming their level up rewards and are regularly asking what their XP totals are. They are excited to see the updated leaderboards every couple weeks. Overall students are much more engaged with this level (meta level, not game level) of the class than they ever have before. Sure, we always have those few students who care what their grade is every single day but most just assume grades magically appear from the sky every reporting period. Fracture Crisis is, so far at least, showing great signs of at least alleviating that problem.
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