Gamification Year 2 Part 1

posted May 28, 2017, 11:56 AM by Kevin Roughton   [ updated May 28, 2017, 12:22 PM ]
After two years of running my gamified classroom The Fracture Crisis, I feel really ready to talk about the process of gamifying your classroom. I plan to do so over a series of entries here alongside posting all my materials on the Fracture Crisis site.

First, two notes.

1) You do not need to buy anything to run a gamified classroom. I've spent a bit of money paying artists to do voice work for my game videos but that's it. I'm tired of seeing teachers selling pieces of their games like power-up cards and tracking sheets. If you want to sell a book, whatever, go ahead, but then you had better include the pieces needed with it. Most don't. Everything is my game is free and there's tons more out there free as well. Don't spend - share.

2) I don't think gamifying my classroom has made any measurable difference in student engagement. That's a hard thing to admit given the work I've put into it, but it's the truth. I never had an issue with engagement though. Some kids have really enjoyed the game layer and I'll happily continue it but it hasn't led to any noticeable shifts in my classroom feel. "Playful learning" has always been a part of my room, even if it wasn't fully a game.

So that said, let's dive in part 1!

Part 1: Tracking

The absolute toughest nut to crack with gamification is tracking player progress in the game. There are website options such as ClassDojo and Classcraft but if you're like me you're required to use a certain grade program already. I was not interested in recording all my information twice so using a 3rd party site was a no go for me. 

Year 1 to keep things easy I just had a 1:1 connection between points earned in the gradebook and XP levels in the class game. That worked fine but really didn't contribute to the game feel. No matter how hard I tried I just could not break the hold of "points" and "grades" in the minds of my students. That is a functional method but not an elegant one.

Year I wanted to do more so I created a spreadsheet to track XP that could be gained from a variety of sources. 

The sheet went through multiple revisions and it still isn't quite where I want it. Despite my deep knowledge of PowerPoint I know very little about Spreadsheets so I'm learning as I go. The last thing I really want to do is make it easy to change the XP required per level without updating the entire sheet - but that's what Summers are for.

As it stands it is pretty simple. Column R (Mission XP) is the amount of points currently in the gradebook for each student. My gradebook program has an export to spreadsheet option which gives me a nice column in an Excel sheet that I can simply copy and paste into this one. I don't have to manually input each score (which is what I did in Year 1.)  Column S (Bonus XP) is done by hand when students complete optional sidequests or just do something awesome.  Those two columns are automatically summed up in Column B giving their total current XP. Then, the boxes change colors when each XP threshold in Row 3 is met. This allows students to very quickly see their growth and progress over the course of the game and see where they stand in relation to the other players. 

This visual format was still not clear enough for some of my students. Next year I will explain how the chart works to them in detail. I think part of the reason why many players did not engage with the level up system is that the never quite understood how it worked. I assumed given their experience with games on their phones at the very least they'd get it. My fault for assuming anything with 7th graders I suppose.

Still, after all my fiddling this is, by far, the fastest and clearest way I've devised to track the XP in the class.

Here's what it looks like in use:

This version I have all the columns visible for reference but when I post it to our student page I turn columns R and S white so they disappear. No student knows where the other students' XP has come from. This helps maintain privacy if anyone is concerned about such things (and optional code names helps too.)

Once students have leveled up I had to find a way to track their use of power ups. Some teachers give each student a baseball card holder sheet and print out card-sized power-ups. I think this is a fine idea it just seemed like a lot of work for me when I was really just trying to get my game actually going. I may work on this over the Summer but what I went for instead was something small that students could keep in their ID holders on their lanyards.  I started with Subway-style punch cards. That was a mistake. They were way too easily lost and didn't have enough pop.  So, I ended up making little skill cards that would fit in the holders (half way to the card sized ones!)

Here's a sample:

I laminated each sheet and had then in a container on my desk. When a student leveled up it was his or her responsibility to come to me and pick up their skill cards. I then marked "completed" on the tracking sheet and they could use it whenever they chose. While the system worked great for me and for the players who actually engaged with it  I still want a better way. It just wasn't in their face enough to interest the fence-sitters. 

Next time I'll discuss the rewards I used and how I think I can adjust that part of the game to interest more players. Until then, I highly recommend playing around with the score sheet above. Even if it doesn't meet your needs it should give you an idea how to build one of your own without spending unnecessary money to do so (save that for the rewards!)