Thursday, August 19, 2010

Gamification of the classroom

I've decided to turn my grade 7 and 8 classes into a game. A serious, all-out, fun-for-all, multi-leveled game. There's three precursors to this decision.

First, I'm a games person. I always have been. If it's a competition I will give it my all. That's why I've used games as tools for classroom management. They don't always work (no classroom management technique is 100%).

Secondly, I was recently listening to Jesse Schell being interviewed on Spark, a CBC show about technology. Schell, a game designer, made some interesting points about the prevalence of games in our and the elements of a successful game. Shell's book The Art of Game Design inspired me to create a game that captures my students.

Thirdly, WoW. If you don't know WoW, also known as World of Warcraft, is an incredibly popular online game. Don't get me wrong, I am not a heavy gamer. In fact, WoW has been out for years and I've never considered playing it. Last year, I discovered that many of my students were playing this game for hours each day. I decided to give the free trial a try to understand what was intriguing them so much about this game. After playing the game for two weeks, I understood. The tasks themselves were rather boring but the rewards were addictive. Thus, I'm modeling my classroom management strategy after WoW.

When you think of it, the classroom is already a game. Bad behavior results in negative reinforcement by isolation, parental contact, etc. Academic performance is measured using the, often arbitrary, grading system. In the words of my students, "this game sucks." There's no tangible rewards, the grading system is bogged down with negative sentiments of the past and the negative reinforcement of bad behavior has lost nearly all effectiveness by grade 7. It's time to reinvent the game.

Like most current multiplayer online games, my class will have two reward systems. The first will be a chance box and the other a currency/auction system. There will be three ways to earn a reward: positive behavior, hired tasks, and good academic performance. I could go into detail but that might take forever.

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