Friday, February 28, 2014

Gamification Series Part 1: An Introduction

In September of 2013, I gamified my World History course.

Let’s unpack that a bit.  About a month earlier, I conducted a Flipped Learning presentation and workshop at the Games in Education Symposium in Malta, NY.  Before presenting, I had the opportunity to attend RPI professor Lee Sheldon’s morning session.  After hearing about his incredible journey (from Hollywood writer & game designer to academia) and how he successfully morphed his college courses into live-action multiplayer games, my mind was made up.   I had to try this.  World History at PHS would be gamified. 

The thought had crossed my mind several times over the past few years.  I actually remember one conversation with a student in detail.  It was in the spring of 2012 and we had just transitioned completely from “Flipped 101” to a “Flipped-Mastery” environment.  As the class worked their way through our World War II unit, one student mentioned that the learning objectives grid resembled levels in a game.  He also suggested that I reward fellow students who progress through these learning objectives the quickest.  Although intrigued, I did not pursue this concept until the Games in Education conference gave me the inspiration and guidance necessary to take the initial steps towards gamification.

I spent the next few weeks combing through any gamification resource that I could find, from Sheldon’s The Multiplayer Classroom, to McGonigal’s Reality is Broken, to the countless websites, blogs, and Twitter chats about gamification and game-based learning.  I even came across some solid research about gamification conducted by Columbia University

I then spent the run-up to the 2013-2014 school year adding game elements to my course.  My colleague Brian Germain, who was already flipping his US History classes, decided to go all in as well.  We were both about to LEVEL UP! 

The purpose of this post is to provide context for the gamification series to come.  I decided not to write about our experiences until we had a full semester of gamification behind us.  This allowed time to reflect and wrap my head around all of the incredible changes going on in our class. 

I also wanted to share my experiences in a more complete and concise way.  I am therefore writing the following series of thematic posts that will hopefully prove a useful resource for those interested into venturing into the gamification realm.  

My goal is to publish an article each friday over the next 14 weeks. Here is a outline of the upcoming posts. 

What is Gamification?
Why Gamify?
Our Quest
Student Viewpoints on Gamification
Badges & Achievements
Points Through Attrition XP
Guilds & Team Missions
Narrative & Avatars
Managing Gamification
The Next Level

I am wrapping up this initial post with a question that all teachers should consider when thinking about gamification and it’s role in education: 

How can educators leverage the motivational power of games to create environments that engage students and enhance learning?

This series is my sincere attempt to answer this question.  I hope you can learn from our journey at PHS and help take gamification to the next level!

Next Post: What is Gamification?

Complete Gamification Series

Part 1: Introduction
Part 15: The Next Level