A Journey Through Technology

Week 11 Reflection

This week we shared our initial ideas for our gamification plans. I received some excellent feedback and will use that as I work on fine-tuning my plan. I am getting so excited about trying this with my students, and hope that I can be successful with a yearlong game next school year. I am going to try this with one of my units in the spring as a test run, and see if I can collect some data to guide my final planning over the summer.

I read through Sara L, Ali, and Matt’s gamification plans this week. Sara is planning on using Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children as the theme for her game, and students will choose peculiarities with different abilities. Ali is going to use XP for the assignments in her class, and students will be able to earn different amounts of XP for different types of assignments, as long as they earn 80% or higher. I like the idea of having a score requirement to earn XP instead of varying amounts, which is what I was planning. Matt is going to try gamifying his chemistry class after Thanksgiving, and I like his idea of cracking a code to move on. I’m interested in learning more about this code because it is similar to what I was going to have my students do in each of the units of my gamification plan.

This has been such an amazing class. I have started thinking so much about how I teach, and the methods that are best for my students. I want to learn so much more about differentiation and gamification, as I feel these both go hand-in-hand. I’m excited to work on my full plan over the summer, and I’m looking forward to next year even more because of the gamification. I hope I can get some useful data from my students this spring to help guide my work, and I hope my students love this as much as I’m loving planning it!

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Week 11: What is the game you are thinking of writing up for your classroom?

My gamification plan is for a high school chemistry class. My theme has been evolving over the last few days, and I think I’m going to call it “Battlestar Chemistry”, after the TV show Battlestar Galactica. The story will have students traveling to the far reaches of the universe to try and reach a new planet for colonization. Every unit of the class will take place on a different planet, starting with Earth. As student solve problems, they will learn the skills and solve the clues they need to find their way to the next step in their journey.

My students will all start out as cadets. As students complete quests and side quests, they will earn experience points (XP) and level up. Their progress with be tracked on a leaderboard that will be shared in our Google Classroom so students can always know how they are doing. The leaderboard will rank individual students within a class period, and also through all the classes. Students will be grouped into battalions in each class period, and XP for these will also be on the leaderboard. Finally, each class, or Battleship, will be ranked on the leaderboard. One thing I am think about with this is to keep student identities hidden so no one is singled out.

Students will also have opportunities to earn badges. Badges will be earned when students complete a unit, when they level up, and for other behaviors and successes in class. Badges will be worth XP amounts that are unknown to the students, which will give me some wiggle room with the leaderboards.

My goal is that eventually students will also be able to earn and even purchase items that they can give them advantages throughout the game. This is still in the beginning stages, so I will probably not start with items when I do start my game.

Each unit of study, or planet, will center around a problem that the Battleships need to solve in order to move on. On some planets, they will need to solve clues, and on others they will need to solve a problem to be able to move on. My goal is to turn each unit into project-based learning to get students engaged and make the classroom more student centered. This will take time, but I hope to do at least one unit per year.

There will be battles throughout our journey, and at this point the main enemy is going to be Cylons, just like Battlestar Galactica. At different points, Cylons will attack the Battleship, and students will need to work together to defeat them. The content of these battles is still a work in progress, but students will be able to earn XP based on their performances, both individual and as a group, against the Cylons.

I’m really excited about working on this and hammering out the fine details, and I can’t wait to see how the students like it!

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Week 10 Reflection

This week we compared the final project rubric with current resources on gamification and our own gamification plans to see how effective the rubric would be. I enjoyed reading through the rubric and comparing it with my own plan, because it helped me to see the weaknesses I have at this point and some things on which I need to spend some more time focusing. I also liked getting to connect the rubric to the readings and research we have done this semester because it really helps me connect everything together and see that what we are working on can actually work and be very effective. I’m looking forward to writing out my whole plan and filling in my weak areas, not just to meet the rubric, but also to make sure I have a gamification plan that I successfully use in my classroom, hopefully soon!

This week I read Theresa’s blog and Gerald’s blog. Theresa shared some excellent research on how playing games releases chemicals in our brains that help in the learning process, and also how playing online games can positively affect how we see people in other countries. It made me think about how I could add an international connection to may game, which would be awesome because my school is an International Baccalaureate (IB) school, and that fits perfectly into the IB philosophy.

Gerald’s blog was about the lack of need of a story in a game. The example he gave that I really connected with was Minecraft. I have played Minecraft a few times, and very much enjoy the open-ended aspect, but I think the main reason I don’t continue playing is the lack of story and lack of overall objective. It’s fun to be creative and make new things, but don’t find myself continuing on in that game because I tend to get bored doing the same things without a real purpose. I have played quite a few video games, and typically like the ones where the story is entertaining. There are a few that I’ve played where the story can be overly complex, however, so I can see how story could hinder the gaming process. I would say I’m kind of 50/50 with Gerald. There are some games that are very successful without a story, and others that have too much story to be usefuly, but I think games should have some level of storyline to them to keep the player engaged.

This week really gave me things to think about as I start to put everything together for my final project. I will be using the rubric as I write my final gamification plan, and I am looking forward to seeing how it turns out. I cannot wait to start my gamification of my classroom, and I’m hoping I can get organized enough to try a bit out in the spring semester.

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Week 10:How would you change the rubric for the final project to better reflect what is important in games?

The main focus of this class has been on what gamification is, and how we can utilize it in our classrooms. The final project for this course consists of making a gamification plan for our classrooms, and this week we are looking at the rubric for that project. To help us along our journey, we have been reading Michael Matera’s book, Explore Like a Pirate (2015), in which he talks the reader through the how and why of gamifying the classroom. I think to make sure our rubric reflects what is important in games, we should look at the key points that make gamification effective in the classroom. “Gamification has the power to transform the way we teach and the way we learn.” (Matera, 2015, Kindle location 229) This quote sends a powerful message about the purpose of gamification. By choosing to gamify our classrooms, we are purposefully transforming the way we are teaching our students, and in turn the way our students are learning.

The first component of our rubric is purpose. “Clear purpose that correlates with multiple learning objectives standards pertaining to coursework”. This is a crucial factor in any classroom, whether it is gamified or not. If students don’t know why they are doing something, they don’t tend to buy in to the activity or assignment. Leila Meyer (2016) wrote an article titled 12 Tips for Gamifying a Course, and the first tip she gives is to have clear goals and objectives. Teachers should know what they want their students to know, before they start teaching it to them. My gamification plan will be centered on the learning objectives for chemistry that I currently use in each of the units I teach. Those objectives will be slightly modified to fit the theme and setting of the gamification, but those, for the most part, are already established. The criteria for each level of this standard are concise and straightforward.

The second part of the rubric is about the story. “The details of your story make a huge difference in your students’ engagement and excitement.” (Matera, 2015, Kindle location 1064) One of the goals of gamification is to get students more engaged, and even excited about learning. If the story of the gamification isn’t on point, then student buy-in will be hard to come by. My storyline that I have so far deals with the students being part of a team that has left Earth in search of a new home. To reach their new safe haven, they will have to navigate the depths of space, running into different issues along the way. I hope that with some fine-tuning, I can make this story engaging and exciting for most, if not all, of my students so chemistry can become a more exciting class. For this part of the rubric, I think the criteria are well defined and would be demonstrable in the gamification plan.

The third aspect of the rubric “Well-organized, risk oriented problem solving”, is something I don’t feel as confident about. The title of this section makes sense to me, and it is important for the gamification to include problem solving, but I feel like this will be hard to demonstrate at this beginning of planning level, especially the risk-oriented aspect. At this point, I am planning on each unit of my game to revolve around students solving a problem, but I’m not sure I can demonstrate the criterion well at this point. One key to successful gamification is that this should be something that builds from year to year. The second tip that Meyer (2016) shares for gamifying a course is to not build everything at once. I feel like once I actually implement my gamification, I will get a better feel for what will work, what will need to be changed, and also what new things I can add. I know this is something that I will probably always be adjusting, even from one unit to the next. I think the criterion in this section could be reexamined and perhaps re-worded to be of more use for this section.

The fourth part of the rubric focuses on engaging and motivating the students. I really think that by turning chemistry into a mission for human survival, I will be able to engage a large majority, perhaps even all, of my students in class on a more regular basis. I hope to offer a variety of options for students to complete quests, and have enough side quests, badges, and even hidden content (Easter eggs) to keep students playing the game, even outside of the classroom. Choice is going to be a key for keeping all of my students engaged, and that is something that will probably evolve over time. The criterion for this element of the rubric are very straightforward do not need to be changed.

The fifth component of the rubric is about student collaboration. “A healthy gamified classroom must include a variety of elements that build upon one another and create opportunities for effect communication and collaboration among students.” (Matera, 2015, Kindle location 378) In my game, certain quests will require students to work together within the same class (lab experiments or presentations), but based on the readings on gamification, I also want to have opportunities for students to work with those from other class periods. My game design has each class period aboard a different space ship, but their goals are all the same. It is possible students from different ships (classes) could work together to solve a problem (side-quest). These activities would most likely be optional, but would allow students to go beyond the minimum learning objectives. Again, the criterion for this section of the rubric is very succinct and requires no modification.

Component six of the rubric deals with scaffolding and mastery. I believe with my gamification plan, this aspect is straightforward and easily demonstrable. John McCarthy (2016), in his article Gamifying Your Class to Meet the Needs of All Learners talks about the opportunity that gamification provides for differentiation of learning. Students are able to pick the assignments that work best for them, and in doing so become more engaged in learning. In each unit of my game, students will be able to pick and choose the assignments that appeal to them. Students can choose a more challenging assignment if they feel ready, or they will be able to select something with more support if they aren’t quite ready for the hard stuff yet. Most units will build on previous units, but all will rely somewhat on prior knowledge. I feel that the criterion for this section are well written and do not need any changes.

The last two sections of the rubric are Encouragement and Feedback, and Utility. I plan on giving students feedback multiple times per week, and hopefully daily, as they work on and complete their quests. As students complete quests and side-quests, they will earn badges and experience points, which will hopefully encourage, motivate, and engage students. The utility aspect of the rubric is simple for me in terms of ease and understanding, but at this point I don’t know what types of user modification will be possible for students. This is something I will need to consider as I work on finalizing my plan. The criterion for both of these sections of the rubric are straightforward and don’t need any adjustment.

After going through each part of the rubric, I can see that my main focus for this final plan is figuring out more details in the problem-solving area. I know that problem solving needs to be a large part of my gamification plan, but now I need to look at how I can make the problems more risk-oriented and focused on critical thinking skills.

References

Matera, M. (2015). Explore Like a Pirate: Engage, enrich, and elevate your learners with gamification and game-inspired course design [Kindle Edition].

McCarthy, J. (2016, October 20) Gamifying Your Class to Meet the Needs of All Learners. Retrieved November 10, 2016 from https://www.edutopia.org/article/gamifying-your-class-john-mccarthy

Meyer, L. (2016, June 1) 12 Tips for Gamifying a Course. Retrieved November 10, 2016 from https://campustechnology.com/articles/2016/06/01/12-tips-for-gamifying-a-course.aspx

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Week 9 Reflection

This week was about how we use play in our classes. I have used games in my classes since my first year of teaching and I enjoy using them in my classes right now. My favorite game I play with my students is Go Fish for an Ion, but we also play element bingo occasionally, and Jeopardy and Kahoot! are my favorite review games. Each week I feel a bit more at ease about gamifying my classroom, and the reading this week helped with that as well. There are so many possibilities of types of games to use, and a variety of ways within the gamified classroom to use them. I’m looking forward to putting my plan together with more focus next week, and I’m getting so excited about trying this out in my classes!

This week I read Genevieve and Heather’s blogs. Genevieve shared some of the games she already uses with her kindergarten and 1st grade students. She also uses bingo, but has some other games that help her students, like matching capital and lowercase letters. Heather shared that she plays Pictionary with her students for vocab review, and I think that would be a great game to try in my classroom. That might have to be added to my arsenal for my gamification plan.

Each week adds one more thing for me to think about for my gamification plan, but it also is getting me more excited for what my final plan is going to look like. Can’t wait for next week!

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Week 9: How do you currently infuse play into your class? How might you change this as a result of some of the ideas you have encountered?

Throughout this semester, we have looked at the benefits to gamification in the classroom. Games tend to be more engaging for students, and if we use gamification correctly, students can not only become more engaged, but perhaps even learn more. I found an interesting article that discusses gaming in the classroom, and the first part of the article really emphasized what we’ve been working on. “We may think we’re pretty smart, but in fact we have very little notion of how humans learn. Kids know: They play games. Until, that is, they go to school. That’s when the games stop. And often, so does the learning.” (MacKay, 2013) In an article for the New York Times, David Kohn talks about lack of play in education as being part of the reason that the United States is behind so many other countries in academic performance. (Kohn, 2015)

One of the favorite units I teach in Chemistry is the unit on Ions and Compounds, and the main reason is the game my students get to play, Go Fish For An Ion. When I have my students play a game in class, the engagement level always increases. Students are competitive and most of them really get into the game. In Go Fish, students need to understand how ions come together to form compounds so they can make a match, or an ionic compound formula. Once they get the hang of it, the class can get very loud as students’ excitement increases. We usually play for about an hour, and by the time we are finished, students usually have a pretty solid understanding of ionic compound formulas, plus they are all trying to see who gets the bragging rights for having the highest score. Some years, we even play Go Fish on a second day because students enjoyed it so much the first time. It also serves as a great review before the test.

In planning the gamification of my classroom, I am trying to think of other types of games I can infuse into my classroom. As my students work on the activities I usually use for the units, I am trying to come up with ways to make them more like a game. This year I have started using Kahoot! as both a review tool, but also an instructional tool. I have never seen my students so excited to review for a test! The class can get very boisterous at times, but the feedback I get from students is that they want to keep playing.

Matera mentions mini-games as a way of using play in the classroom the “are fun but don’t really fit the overall story.” (Matera, 2015, Kindle location 2506) This is very helpful for me in planning games because I would have probably tried to make all of the games fit the story of my gamification, probably causing myself a lot of frustration and headache. Knowing that games don’t have to follow my story will help me try different games with my students.

Another way of adding play to the classroom is in the form of “Playful Assessment.” Matera states that these assessments “are both a challenging and creatively different way to find out what”students know. (Matera, 2015, Kindle location 3023) I would have never thought of using games for actual assessment, but some of the ideas that Matera shares, like Dominoes or Odd One Out, could easily be adapted for my Chemistry classes.

The process of gamifying my classroom has introduced me to many ideas I would have never used before. I think that introducing play in assessment would be interesting to try out, and I look forward to seeing how that works in my classroom.

References

Kohn, D. (2015, May 16). Let the Kids Learn Through Play. Retrieved November 03, 2016, from http://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/17/opinion/sunday/let-the-kids-learn-through-play.html?_r=0

MacKay, R. F. (2013, March 1). Playing to learn: Can gaming transform education? Retrieved November 03, 2016, from https://ed.stanford.edu/news/playing-learn-can-gaming-transform-education

Matera, M. (2015). Explore Like a Pirate: Engage, enrich, and elevate your learners with gamification and game-inspired course design [Kindle Edition].

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