There be monsters, pt. 3

After yesterdays post I did a little more reading and research online into the developments in ‘gamification’ in education.  And there’s a lot more going on out there than I’d realised. While I do want to continue exploring the concepts of gaming in education, I also don’t want to be restating what’s already out there form my own perspective (ah, the joys of the collective consciousness!).

I continued this discussion on with some other DET teachers, and inspiration being what it is, I came up with the following strategies for ways of using game-based concepts of reward and narrative in the classroom.

Strategy 1: Accelerating the reward cycle with higher order thinking.

In a class that has reliable access to computers (year 9 English would be my first port of call) the teacher sets a task that requires some for of subjective assessment. Whether it be a short piece of creative writing, writing an introduction to an essay, etc.

All students post their first draft on their class blog or on a dedicated forum thread, etc. They are then responsible for reading other’s posts, providing feedback, and then accepting other people’s feedback as they prepare and post a second draft of their own work.

Rewards are offered for: posting a first draft. Posting feedback on the work of two or more other students (possibly throw in a criteria that the student has to somehow acknowledge that feedback – like buttons, etc, and possibly also throw in additional awards for more feedback up to, say, a maximum of 5), and then a further reward for posting their own second draft. A reward for the whole class might be offered in the event that every student in the class receives at least two pieces of feedback – get them thinking about whole-class involvement and not just commenting on their friends work (a forum would be a really good way to manage this as there’s an easy visual way to track how many replies a students post has).

This would be rewarding students for the process of drafting, evaluating and redrafting work – providing, of course, that they find any value in the reward being offered.

In order to earn the awards at the end of the lesson, students must write an email to the teacher explaining which rewards they are eligible for that lesson and explaining what they did to earn them – only a paragraph is needed, but there’s your higher order thinking coming in in the form of justification. It means that the teacher has a direct way to keep track of students achievement and involvement, as well as identifying those who are disengaged by their lack of participating in the process!

Strategy 2: Using a game-like narrative concept of the ‘bad guy’ to drive lesson activities.

You create a bad guy – stick a picture of the bad guy at the front of the room. Each student has to ‘beat’ the bad guy. How do they beat him? Options vary – they could roll a handful of dice and have to beat a certain number – you could use a magnetic darts set and they get a number of darts to throw, or any other number of strategies – the key would be that they get a number of chances or number of tools to use in beating the bad guy.

They earn those dice, darts or whatever by completing class tasks.

A big bag of dice can be purchased quite cheaply off of the internet. If your bad guy has a strength of 12, then students have to roll dice and get a number of 15 or greater to defeat the bad guy. The reward is that once they beat the bad guy, they can have free time, earn a merit point, whatever (i doubt that just defeating a fictional bad guy will be enough, but you never know) There are, say, 4 activities to complete in the lesson – each task completed earns one dice. Technically a student could defeat the bad guy with 2 dice, but unlikely. Students are therefore expected to complete 3 of 4 tasks and the 4th task is the extension work anyway.

The next question is, how many rolls do they get? At each level they get as many rolls of the dice as the tasks they have completed. I.e. at two tasks, they get two rolls with two dice, at three levels they get three rolls with three dice. Each step represents their increasing chances of defeating the final end of game bad guy (i.e. assessment task).

The thing I like about this idea is that it is not subject/content dependent, and builds a narrative into their learning processes.

For junior students, if you wanted to take the element of chance out of it, you could reward magic items instead. I.e. instead of having some numerical rating, the monster could have a big club, a tough hide, and foul breath. Therefore, to beat it, you will need a strong shield, a sharp sword, and a cloth mask. A fun way to mix up this approach could be to have a bag with cards representing each item – enough for all students to have one of each, but when they complete a task they get a random draw – meaning students have to negotiate/trade with each other to get the right items (social skills!) AND perhaps the trade could come at the expense of helping others with their work. I.e. the smarter students who get their tasks done first but ends up with three swords, could go and help others do their work in the hope of trading them for that spare shield when they draw it out of the bag.

Assessment tasks work on exactly the same principle – but you give a scaffold of steps to be taken to complete the assessment, and each one earns a dice, or item, or whatever, but the monster has a magic shield that can only be brought down by the handing in of the assessment task/project. By then students should be rolling a fistful of dice and have a good half dozen chances or more to defeat the monster!

I’m going to try out strategy 1 in the next couple of weeks and see how it goes…


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Filed under Gamification, Teaching strategies and resources, Technology in Education

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