In my last post about game based learning I spoke to the power of rules in school and the need to create a rules system that supports and encourages learning and productive failure. Central to this issue is the dissonance between the goals of our rules (to create a safe and effective learning environment) and the student perception of those rules (punitive failure, demotivational grading). I see a similar disconnect of intent and outcome when it comes to feedback in instruction. Again, the goals of feedback are admirable and lofty – I tell my students what they did well and where they fell flat so that they may correct that behavior in the future, or better yet try again at the given assignment and demonstrate improvement, turn that C into a B or an A. Why is it then that students so often ignore my meticulously crafted feedback, or choose to live with the C instead of taking the opportunity to try again for the A? Why would that same student try over and over, often for hours on end, to get 3 stars on every Angry Birds level, when 1 star is all they need to progress? It turns out that the immediacy of the feedback in games makes all the difference. (more…)
Posts Tagged ‘Motivation’
April 25, 2013 by Josh Caldwell
March 2, 2013 by Josh Caldwell
I love getting the chance to chat with like-minded educators at conferences, and since I left NCCE last week I’ve been processing all of the great discussions and ideas. At the conference I presented about some of the classroom gaming I’ve been doing, but I also got so see a few other presentations on similar topics. It’s clear to me from the discussions I had after these sessions that the concept of gaming in education makes sense to a lot of educators, but often the parallels between gaming and learning are not immediately obvious, particularly when trying to make the argument for classroom gaming to school leadership. To help other educators understand and articulate the value of gaming in the classroom (both through gamification and playing games) I thought I’d write a few articles to focus on some specific benefits of gaming. My hope is that you can use these as discussion starters in your schools and districts to help get the gaming ball rolling. Given my track record of updates to this blog (read: I’m bad at updates), I don’t know how many of these I’ll do. Baby steps.
Rules Are Fun!
One of the prime reasons that we play and enjoy games is the constraints of their structured rules. It may seem counterintuitive to say that rules are fun, but rules provide players a framework within which they can strive for success. No rules means there’s nothing to challenge your progress. No challenge means no sense of achievement. In other words, we need rules and constraints for our successes to have any meaning. So why do the rules of a game produce an enjoyable and engaging experience that encourages progress, while the rules of school often produce a de-motivational experience that shuts down student progress? It all comes down to the perceived potential for success.
November 13, 2012 by Josh Caldwell
One of the core elements of my in-progress DIY classroom gamification suite is Badges (or Achievements, depending on your chosen terminology). Lately badges have gained wider acceptance as a tool not only to motivate learners, but also to display and acknowledge specific, validated skills. Instead of simply a letter grade to show some broad measure of success or achievement, badges provide students with a tangible record of their achievements – sort of like an educational resume.
While several e-learning sites have implemented badges (I just earned one from Codeschool.com for taking their Try Git course), most of those badges get stuck on the issuing site. My students use several such sites to learn various skills, and it does me no good if their badges are scattered across the internet, isolated from each other. If I’m going to use badges as evidence of learning and support for grades in my classes, then I need a them to live in a single comprehensive repository, somewhere that allows students to collect badges from a variety of sources and present them as a cohesive whole. In other words, I need digital sashes on which my students can sew their virtual merit badges. To that end, Mozilla has created the Open Badges Initiative. With support from the MacArthur Foundation, Mozilla is building a central badge backpack, where badges from a variety of issuers can be collected, verified, and displayed. Sites that are registered as badge issuers can then allow users to push any earned badges to their backpack, where it can be displayed along with other badges from other sites.
The Open Badges Initiative is still in beta, but I’m hopeful that in time sites like Edmodo, Code Academy, and Gamestar Mechanic will get on board. Recognition for informal and outside learning is a core element of my approach to gaming my classes, and the Open Badges Initiative might give me an easy and effective way to award students credit for the work they do inside and outside of school. My next step is figuring out how to get my Drupal Classroom Gaming project (man, I need a better name for that) tied in with Open Badges. My most recent hopeful find is the Open Badge-It sandbox module, but I’ve yet to get it working quite right.Badges for Lifelong Learning: An Open Conversation
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.
April 6, 2012 by Josh Caldwell
Ever since I first encountered the Inform7 interactive fiction engine at GLS7 last year, it’s been lurking in the back of my mind, looking for a way into the classroom. The idea of introducing my students to the text-based adventures that I loved as a kid excited me, but actually working it into my curriculum had to take a back seat to my revamped grading system, an entirely new computer technology course, and too many other focus-stealing priorities to list. I was about to give up on the idea until next year when Read Across America rolled in bringing both inspiration and opportunity.
My school has a fantastic community of readers, and as a staff we have dedicated Read Across America (March 2) to reading across all subjects. Every year I eagerly anticipate the day when students, dressed in their comfy cozies, carry around stacks of their favorite books. Teachers from every content area model a love of reading. Some classes allow students to read entirely independently, while others focus on content-specific reading, or readers theatre, or other literacy focused activities. All noble pursuits, but I needed something a bit different for my tech kiddos. Given that this was the first year for my computer tech class, I wanted something that the students would remember, something that would help them with their screen reading skills, but also something that would introduce them to kind of reading they likely hadn’t experienced. The time for Interactive Fiction had come! I was ecstatic, dreaming of a maze of twisty little passages all alike, but I just wasn’t sure if my students, the generation of realistic 3D graphics and visually astounding video games, would engage with a purely text-based game.
In fact, they LOVED it.
After a brief introduction to the genre and a basic list of key actions (N/S/E/W, Examine, Take, Ask, etc) I let the kids dive into Lost Pig, a short yet challenging IF game written in Inform. What followed was a period full of frustration and excitement, successes and failures, groans of agony and screams of elation.
I couldn’t believe how absolutely enamored my students were – eyes glued to their screens as they navigated dungeons, encountered trolls, and solved puzzles. As the challenges got harder, students scurried about the lab trying to bounce ideas off each other. They were playing a game, but it was a game without 3D graphics, or rumblepacks, or really anything beyond elaborately complex textual descriptions. They were defeating their enemies not with hyperrealistic weaponry, but with words and creativity. At the heart of it they were reading, writing, and thinking. And they were loving it.
In fact, they loved it so much that they begged me to teach them to program IF.
I haven’t gotten to the teaching portion yet, though I am pouring over the resources at Gaming the Past in preparation. I have, however, programmed my own game in Inform to get acquainted with the language. Not just a game, but an assessment tool as well, a quest that forces my students to apply their knowledge of computer hardware and networking to successfully escape in tact. It definitely needs some work and revision (comments/criticisms encouraged), but I hope you’ll try your hand at my first text-based game/assessment – Escaping the Gnome’s Cave.
June 17, 2011 by Josh Caldwell
The first day of GLS7 brought with it plenty of spirited debate and intense arguments, as you are likely to have with any diverse group of passionate professionals, but none so hotly contested as the validity of gamification as an educational tool. Commonly associated with social media marketing, gamification seeks to engage consumers by incorporating game mechanics (most commonly achievements or badges) into otherwise boring or unexciting activities, such as filling out surveys – in essence, it’s the Madison Ave version of hiding your dog’s pill in a block of cheese. This arguably crass, commercial interpretation of gamification has tarnished the concept of using game mechanics in education for feedback or recognition. As a telling tone-setter in his Wednesday keynote speech, Eric Zimmerman characterized educational gamification as the beginning of an “unholy alliance” between marketers and learning researchers; certainly a reasonable call to be careful and cautious about with whom and for what reasons we share student information, but is that really reason enough to eschew gamification outright. Is gamefication so tied up in commercialism that we can’t have a successful discussion about it in education without adopting new terminology? (more…)
May 9, 2011 by Josh Caldwell
Given my love of gaming and my interest in the motivational value of video games, I’m surprised (baffled, really) that I’ve only recently heard of gamification. It’s not that the concept is unfamiliar to me, far from it, but this new (to me) terminology has opened the door to a whole world of people attempting to gamify education. Empowered by my new $5 word, I went on a marathon search bender to find out how people are gamifying their classrooms.
May 5, 2011 by Josh Caldwell
Thanks to my PLN, I scan through a ton of education articles every day, parsing much more information than I could hope to encounter on my own. Sometimes, though, the best finds come when pursuing my other interests. Sometimes I just can’t help but view everything in my life through my teacher-glasses.
Case in point, Shaun Inman’s post about video game level design.
Good level design coaxes a player into first discovering then utilizing their abilities in a variety of situations. It requires balancing revelation and repetition.
Mentally I replace “level” with “course” and “player” with “student” – all of the sudden I’m back to thinking about my students (how do they get into my head like that???).
Shaun goes on to discuss the process of introducing and reinforcing basic skills and game parameters before presenting the player with tasks that require more sophisticated interactions. So, by gradually introducing new obstacles, players (students) are allowed to experience successful mastery of a skill before moving on to another. Then, just as players master the core skills, they’ve got to discover how those skills interact with other game elements. All of these building blocks have to be mastered and reinforced before a player can beat the game. You fail to master a skill, you don’t move on, you don’t win. The game doesn’t keep going without you, instead it ask you to practice until you’re reading to progress – at your own pace.
What does this approach reveal about the learning aspect of games? Game design necessitates a balance of success and challenge; games that are near-impossible to succeed are no fun (except to the die-hards) and games that are too easy provide no engaging challenge. You can’t think about the final goal without deeply considering how to build in the frequent, achievable-yet-challenging goals that take you there.
The message to educators – we need to spend more time on the level design. We need to teach players to run, jump, and shoot before we toss them at the final boss. We need to allow players to discover the parameters, reinforce skills, and make their own way through the levels. We can’t force a student a student onto level 2 when they haven’t mastered the skills to beat level 1.
The article ends with some questions that will be very familiar to educators.
How long should each level be? With what frequency do I introduce new concepts and threats? At what stage do single threat introductory screens become patronizing rather than educational? Repetition is necessary for learning but at what point does the lesson become too repetitive?
I have a feeling that trial and error is the name of the game from this point on and a hope that experience will eventually start answering those questions before the handwringing sets in.
April 14, 2011 by Josh Caldwell
Differentiated instruction, intrinsic motivation, meaningful rewards, achievable challenges, corrective feedback – sounds like a laundry list of traits associated with Good Teaching. It also sounds a whole lot like video games. Neurologist Judy Willis makes that case that video games can be not only powerful learning tools, but also a model for classroom instruction.
Video games with levels of play allow the player to progress quickly through early levels if the gamer already has the skill needed. Gamers reportedly make errors 80% of the time, but the most compelling games give hints, cues, and other feedback so players’ brains have enough expectation of dopamine reward to persevere.
Try, fail, learn through feedback, succeed, achieve reward. So why are kids willing to persevere through a challenging game, but not through a challenging school assignment?
Good games give players opportunities for experiencing intrinsic reward at frequent intervals, when they apply the effort and practice the specific skills they need to get to the next level. The games do not require mastery of all tasks and the completion of the whole game before giving the brain the feedback for dopamine boosts of satisfaction.
Who has the time to provide the kind of constant, and automated, feedback and reward we get from video games? Willis suggests individual goal setting based on incremental level progression.
Free bar graphs downloaded from the Internet can be filled in by students as they record and see evidence of their incremental goal progress. In contrast to the system of recognition delayed until a final product is completed, graphing reveals the incremental progress evidence throughout the learning process.
Forget gold stars, I think I’ll start providing Xbox Live style Achievements…
April 5, 2011 by Josh Caldwell
One of the great promises of educational technology is to “expand learning beyond the classroom walls.” Now, that can mean a lot of things, but I’ve long thought of it as a way to transform my paltry 55 minutes a day into a 24/7, full access, virtual learning extravaganza (okay, that may be a bit of a naïve exaggeration).
To that end, I’ve tried all manner of tools to serve as my digital extension of my classroom, anything from full-fledged VLEs like Moodle, to wikis, blogs, and forums before finally discovering Edmodo. All have been successful to some extent, but nothing has come as close to my ideal of a true boundless learning environment as Edmodo; I’m regularly astonished by how much of their free-time my students are willing to spend on there! (more…)