Gamification: 60 days in (plus like 12)

posted Oct 23, 2015, 1:40 PM by Kevin Roughton   [ updated Oct 24, 2015, 7:24 AM ]
Fair warning, disorganized rambling ahead. I am trying to figure all this out as I go and my thoughts will likely reflect that. You can find more of the game files and info at www.fracturecrisis.com

I've passed a few more milestones in my gamification journey.  I've updated the overall scores poster for the first time (in Sharpie no less!), kids have started using their skill cards, and I made my first major adjustment in XP based on changes in my schedule.

And the world has not collapsed on itself yet, so I've got that going for me.

I've found plenty of problems in my setup, most of which I anticipated, some of which I did not. The main problem, as expected, is that students just aren't "seeing" the game enough. Given that they have 6 classes a day and only mine runs this way it is proving impossible to overcome the "what grade is this?" mentality when I pass back work with an XP amount but not a grade or percentage. To me, that is the most important reason for gamifying is to help build a growth mindset in kids. Is a game that I only reference a few times a week that happens only once a day going to do that for my students? Not in the way I am currently implementing it at least. It is going to need more. I'm just not sure what that is yet.

The part that is working is a part I was already doing that has been enhanced by the Fracture Crisis narrative on top of it: The Bonus Round.

Each week (well, most weeks schedule permitting) my students get to play a short bonus game using the points they've earned that week in class. The points are rewarded for various classroom activities and good behavior. This week, for example, they could earn up to 100 extra points for their "squad" from a review game we played and lost 50 points a day for any mess left on the floor. The first class to reach 1000 points wins a class reward. That reward, honestly, is irrelevant - The cake might as well be a lie to paraphrase a famous video game - they just love playing the game.

The game is really simple. There are 6 doors they can open with each costing 10 points. Whatever is behind the door they get. It can be bonus points or an attack on another class' points. Seriously, it is that simple but they absolutely love it. They beg to play and never let me forget when we run out of time. Here's a screenshot:


Last year it looked similar but the 6 doors were just cards that flipped. I added the futuristic doors to fit the Fracture Crisis narrative a bit more. The idea is that is a game the squads are competing with one another (like Quidditch, only with less flying) by earning these points. 

I hesitated to add a game like this to my class for  years. A colleague of mine tested it and kept talking about how great it was. It just seemed like unnecessary extra work for me. My kids were always pretty well behaved so I didn't see a need for a management system. What I didn't realize was how much fun and engagement it added to everything else going on in my class. This piece made the class start to feel more like a game and, if you're looking to just dip your toe in the gamification waters that's where I'd start.

Unfortunately, this piece doesn't really do anything to help with the growth mindset building but it helps the class feel more like a game. For the 5-10 minutes it takes each week it is well worth it in that regard. The question I'm left with is if I took the Bonus Round away would the Fracture Crisis even exist at this point? I honestly don't know if the kids would even care. It is, at this point, the most tangible part of the game. Despite the fact that every assignment they do and point they earn factors into their skills and level ups it is this tiny little piece (that already existed!) that involves them most in the game. 

As I look ahead to second semester and the launch of version 2.0 of Fracture Crisis I'm left trying to figure out how to make the day to day goings of the game more tangible. I feel pretty good about the mechanics of the game as those haven't really had to change in the last month. As a small step I've started changing my instruction sheets to better reflect the narrative. They often are now accompanied by an introduction from someone from the Department of Timeline Security. I think that will go a long way towards putting the game in their face on a more regular basis.

It isn't there yet but the Fracture Crisis goes on!
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