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Dupalized Gamification

October 29, 2012 by Josh Caldwell


I’m now well into the third run of my gamified Computer Tech elective, (have I really never posted about that? Bad blogger!) and I’ve reached the point where I really can’t continue without some a system to automate many of the more time-consuming administrative tasks. By design, my class allows for a wide variety of student choice in regards to both what they want to learn and how they want to demonstrate their learning. In one semester I cover everything from computer hardware to multimedia design to programming and game design, and with such a broad range of topics, we can’t delve terribly deeply as a whole class. In this system there are certain core lessons and assignments that are mandatory for everyone to ensure all students have a basic understanding, but when it comes to the in-depth learning, I want each student to choose what they want to learn within the scope of a given area of study. This requires that I have prepared a wide variety of materials, lessons, and assignments. More importantly, it requires that I have some sane and efficient method of presenting all of that stuff to each individual student as they progress through their chosen path. Oh, and somehow I have to equitably assess all of that variety and make it fit into a standard gradebook.

Currently I set up a separate Edmodo small group for each different quest choice and then manually assign students to their chosen quest. This creates the first bottleneck for the students, as they need me to assign them to a group before they can get work done. After students are in a quest group, there’s a further bottleneck as I sequentially provide assignments. I’ve attempted preloading all of the assignments for a given quest, but that creates confusion as the students try and figure out what order to do them in, and whether they must complete all assignments in a quest path. Simply put, this system is a kludge at best, and it’s preventing me from providing the kind of open learning experience I want. Beyond the issues with my choose-your-own-adventure style of learning, I’ve found it impossible to use badges and achievements consistently and meaningfully when they must be given manually. Here’s what I need a classroom gamification system to do for me:

  • Pre-load many assignments/quests for students to choose from
  • Sort XP into different categories (either for gradebook weighting, or by skills/standards)
  • Ensure mastery of basic topics before allowing progression onto advanced topics
  • Automate progression through quests wherever possible
  • Allow for teacher intervention before progress can be made
  • Automate XP, badges, and achievements wherever possible
  • Allow for teacher assignment or revocation of XP, badges, and achievements
  • Hide or reveal quest paths at will
  • Organize students by class
  • Highly customizable reports (essential for grading)

Having looked in to the few existing educational gamification systems out there, the only one I’ve found that meets most of my requirements is 3D Game Lab. While 3D Game Lab looks great, it’s not yet openly available, and even if I got in on the beta, I would be limited to 60 students. I need something that I can use with all of my students, and I need it yesterday! Enter Drupal.

Drupal is essentially a website building engine, a Content Management System. While it’s not specifically designed for education, it is built to be almost infinitely extensible, which has led to a plethora of educational modules. Between the existing modules available, and my experience building custom Drupal sites for clients, I figure that this has got to be the way to go. I’m currently in the building and testing phase, using several modules to achieve my goals:

  • Course module for individual quest paths. By creating my quests as mini courses, I should be able to manage student progress through their quests, allowing for both automated and teacher-initiated progression, as necessary. Signups can be either closely managed with codes, or left open.
  • Organic Groups module for classes. This should allow me to create an manage class groups easily. I could also use Organic Groups for smaller quests or individual projects, when a Course might be overkill.
  • User Points and its related modules for XP. Highly configurable and automatable, with User Points I can hopefully finally set up an XP system that works without excessive teacher involvement. User Points XP will correlate to student grade, and will be used to Level Up, unlocking new challenges, badges, and achievements.
  • Certify or Certificate modules for major Achievements. One of these will provide students with Achievement certificates upon major quest completion. I like the progress tracking element of Certify, but I’m struggling to get pdftk set up on my shared server.
  • Badges module for… badges.
  • Rules module for automation.
  • Views module for grading reports (among other views-tastic uses). To be honest, I haven’t really fleshed this one out too much. I think it will take a bit of use to figure out just what I need out of reporting, but I’m sure between Views and ” Panels, I can get it done.

I’ve got a lot of work ahead of me, but I hope that I’ll come out with something that will both ease my administrative burden while allowing for an even greater amount of student choice and independence within my classes. I’m eager to see where this takes me, and if any of you out there are interested (either on the education or the Drupal side) please contact me. I’d love for this work to make an impact beyond my own little classroom.

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  1. Robert says:

    Your links are all screwed up in chrome. You might want to check your source code and make sure all of your html tags are closed.

  2. Josh Caldwell says:

    Yikes, looks like one of my plugins chewed up the links. Thanks for the heads-up.

  3. Josh Caldwell says:

    I have, and it looks promising, but I’ve got two problems with it:
    1) It’s Drupal 7 only, and I’m stuck on 6 because of many of my required modules (though I’d prefer to be on 7 if I could make it work)
    2) The process to create achievements is too involved and not very user friendly. Hopefully that’s something they change in the future, but it’s a deal-breaker for me at this point.

  4. Josh Caldwell says:

    Well, I may be able to take back the D7 problem – I’m currently running instances of both D6 and D7 to compare a few different approaches. I’m still put off by the complicated nature of the Achievements modules, and I really don’t see it working unless I can create achievements in browser. If anyone else out there is using this module, I’d love to bounce a few questions off you to see if there might be any hope.

  5. [...] 13, 2012 by Josh Caldwell One of the core elements of my in-progress DIY classroom gamification suiteĀ is Badges (or Achievements, depending on your chosen terminology). Lately badges have been gaining [...]

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