This week as our school year ended, I gave out prizes, celebrated winners and thanked my amazing kids for being a part of The PERK, my class game. It was my first year creating and running a year-long gamified class. I did it for all of my classes (I teach both 6th and 7th-grade science). It did take extra work, planning (perhaps I should say scheming) and tracking, it didn’t always go as well as I would have liked it too and there were times, especially in winter where it really lagged, but looking back on it as a whole I can definitely say it was worth it.
I asked my students for feedback throughout the year on how I could improve the game, what they liked and what they think should be changed. Some students gave ideas, some volunteered to serve on a game council to provide more intense feedback on a regular basis, and some just happily played along. In the midst of all of this, there were also some that just didn’t want to join in. This last group would participate in the whole class activities but didn’t engage on an individual basis. The different approaches taught me a gamified class is just like any other class filled with a complete collection of unique personalities.
With the end of the year rapidly approaching, I asked my kids once more for feedback. There were two specific questions that I was most interested in.
- What 3 words would you used to describe this class
- What should I add to the game next year that will make it more engaging while providing opportunities for learning?
The responses were encouraging, surprising and empowering.
Some of the most repeated words:
Challenging, Amazing, Fun, Creative and Awesome. My favorite response from my 6th graders: “Creative Learning Zone” and my favorite from my 7th graders: “Unlike All Others”. These two put together say what I was trying to create all year, a “Creative Learning Zone that was not like all the others. I think I did that.
There were some great suggestions as well. Some I had already considered, and some that I had not. Surprisingly I had many requests for more side quests including one suggestion was that I roll them out each week or two. This really surprised me as not that many kids went on it my side quests (they were 100% optional), yet this request came up repeatedly. Perhaps if they were rolled out more often more people would participate. Something to consider. There were also suggestions that I have more power-ups, more levels, more Easter Eggs and easier to earn XP. One of my favorites: “Give really good curses for XP”. It was interesting to read the comments not only for the information, but it was easy to see the different player types in the comments.
I have collected the comments and suggestions in one document and put it with the feedback I gathered throughout the year. I have come to appreciate and celebrate that a class game is always in Beta, changing from one iteration to the next to better meet the needs of the kids. So before I close I think I want to share some of the things I have learned and some things I want to change:
I have learned:
- FIRST: I couldn’t do this alone. My #XPLAP, #XPLAPcamp, and #Games4Ed PLN have been invaluable in making a difference for me. All of these communities are filled not only with amazing educators, but also people that want to share their knowledge and expertise so that others can make a difference for the kids in their classes.
- I need to keep the game and narrative rolling and alive throughout the year
- Not all my side quests have to be as elaborate as I was making them. Some just need to be a way for kids to feel successful and be celebrated
- Gamification can provide ways to review content and a regular basis helping kids learn and retain important information (many of my kids caught on to this and suggested that we have more quizzes, battles and such to help them remember). It provides enough motivation to do your best, a safe place to fail and try again, and allows the kids to learn what they still don’t know so they can go back and learn it. #Formativeassessmentwin #retrivalpractice
- Gamification requires more thought in planning than my teaching did before, but I and the kids enjoy the class more.
- Gamification gave me a way to interact with my kids in a way that I haven’t been able to in the past. (This was huge as I am an introvert by nature.)
- More kids enjoyed it than I realized.
Things I want to improve/change
- A stronger narrative that I can keep up throughout the year.
- More Easter Eggs (I want to do some that have multiple parts you have to collect)
- Side quests of different levels of challenge that roll out on a regular basis.
- Find a way to keep the progress of the game where the players can easily see it. (On a website doesn’t seem to be enough).
- More unique badges
- Find a way to drop a bigger variety of power-ups but not all at once, kind of a rolling rollout throughout the year.
I am confident there is more that needs to be tweaked, but it is a good place to start. In my final evaluation, my principal asked if I would be gamifying my class next year. I told her I don’t think I can go back to not gamifiying. It has been a wild ride at times, but I am so glad I got on.
I would love to hear from others what they are going to change or keep next year, even if it has nothing to with gamification. We are all better when we share and grow together.