Friday, March 21, 2014

Gamification Series Part 4: Our Quest (Flipped 101 - Flipped Mastery - Gamified Flip)

Gamification of our courses did not happen overnight.  In general, venturing into the flipped classroom approach opened up the door for innovation.  Then, moving towards Flipped Mastery established a solid foundation in mastery learning, something that I believe is a central component of gamified learning environments. Fall of 2013 is when we officially applied gamification principles to our Flipped Mastery courses.  Below is a brief outline of the stages in this journey. 

FLIPPED 101 (FALL 2011)

- Shifted direct instruction (lectures) online via screencasting.
- Videos assigned for homework.  Homework now completed in class. 

- More time to work individually with students and build relationships.
- Direct instruction permanently archived for remediation & review.
- Student learning with a medium they are comfortable with (ex. YouTube)
-  Minimized distractions in class (lectures removed from group space).

- Video Quality & Tech Access (Ex. YouTube blocked).
- Some students refusing to view videos at home. 


- Videos utilized as resources to help students demonstrate proficiency.
- Strategies employed to help build metacognitive skills (goal setting, progress monitoring, reflecting)
- More student choice of topics, activities, assessments.

- Encourages student responsibility & self-regulated learning.
- Increased student to student interactions.
- Improved ability to differentiate instruction and personalize learning.
- Students empowered with more choice and control of learning.

- Managing mastery learning in a traditional school setting.
- Keeping students motivated and on-task in “open” learning environment.


- Flipped Mastery foundation.
- Game design principles and mechanics applied to mastery units.
    Ex.) Leveling, XP, badges, challenges, narrative. 

-  Student engagement is way up!
- Positive peer pressure to participate, compete, and succeed.
- Students are more likely to help each other. 

- Initial student “buy-in.”
- Managing gamification (ex. pacing)

Now that the stage is set, the rest of this series will focus upon specific game mechanics and how they were leveraged and implemented in our course.  How better to kick this off than hearing from the students themselves...

Friday, March 14, 2014

Gamification Series Part 3: Why Gamify?

Gamification attempts to harness the motivational power of games and apply it to real-world problems.  Lee & Hammer 2011

I firmly believe that one of the most persistent and widespread problems in schools today is lack of student motivation & engagement.  I have witnessed it first-hand as a public school teacher in two different districts.  

What confuses me, however, is that some people (including very smart and esteemed educators) underestimate the role that motivation has in the learning process.  For instance, I have actually heard a teacher tell students something along the lines of “I know this is boring, but we have to cover it, so just pay attention and learn it quickly so we can get through it.”  This teacher probably thinks that students can still learn something effectively even though the way that it is taught bores them to tears.      

This brings us to a simple fact: it is more difficult to learn anything if you are not motivated and engaged in the process. 

This is where gamification comes into play. Why do people like to play games? 

In general, good games are engaging and fun.  They can motivate people to keep trying until they succeed.  They can engage participants in creative worlds with rich narratives.  They can foster collaboration among different communities in order to achieve a challenging goal.  

Why not channel this motivation and engagement in the classroom? 

It is true that games and gamification will not motivate ALL students, but that is not a reason to dismiss the entire concept.  Like any other teaching strategy, we must differentiate and personalize instruction based upon students interests, goals, and needs. Certain learning objectives and activities could always be “de-gamified” for particular individuals if necessary.

I will go into greater detail regarding the perceived benefits of gamification throughout the series, but for now here are a few that stand out.

1. Gamification empowers students in a learning environment that requires them to take on more responsibility for their own learning.  Students truly earn grades in this system. 

2.  Students fix mistakes and learn along the way before ultimately demonstrating mastery of particular skills.  No one simply fails and gets pushed along.   FAIL = First Attempt In Learning

3.  Challenge activities help students build the skills and confidence needed in an unpredictable and fast-paced world.

4. Gamification can help spark the motivation and engagement necessary to learn most effectively. 

Next Post: Our Quest into Gamification

Complete Gamification Series

Part 1: Introduction
Part 15: The Next Level

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Online Flipped Learning Workshop

Over the past couple years, I have developed a companion course for my professional development workshops.  Since lecturing about Flipped Learning seems quite ironic, this course helps me "flip" the professional development experience.   

Up until now, this course was restricted to attendees of my workshop sessions or staff training.  In an effort to continue sharing resources with a PLN that has so graciously afforded me their time and expertise, I am opening up the online Flipped Learning Workshop free to the public.  

This workshop includes:
  • Flipped Learning Intro Presentation
  • Guide to Creating & Sharing Instructional Videos
  • Instructional Design Concepts & Strategies
  • Tour of Flipped Learning Throughout the Nation
  • Flipped Learning Resources
  • Archived Workshop Videos & Presentations
  • & More to Come (Updated with each new event)
If interested in joining the course, directions are included below. (Linked Here As Well)  Also feel free to share this course with anyone that you think is interested in Flipped Learning!

Joining the Flipped Learning Workshop Course

Uploaded by Awesome Screenshot Extension

2. Scroll down to “Flipped Learning Workshop,” and click “View Course.”

Uploaded by Awesome Screenshot Extension

3. Click “Take This Course.”

Uploaded by Awesome Screenshot Extension

4. Click “Are you a new student?

Uploaded by Awesome Screenshot Extension

5. Enter Information and click “Sign Up.”

Uploaded by Awesome Screenshot Extension

For future visits to the course:

2. Click “Login” button to the top right of the screen.

Uploaded by Awesome Screenshot Extension

3. Enter your login credentials.

Uploaded by Awesome Screenshot Extension

*** These screenshots were created with the new Awesome Screenshot Chrome App.   

Friday, March 7, 2014

Gamification Series Part 2: What is Gamification?

Gamification is the incorporation of game mechanics, dynamics, and frameworks to promote desired behaviors.
In other words, gamification is the process of creating game elements for non-game situations and environments.   In our case, this is the classroom (or blended) learning environment. 

To clarify, this does not imply that you have your class play an existing game.  There is nothing wrong with that as actual games can prove incredibly powerful and motivating learning tools.  Having students play a game on iCivics or engage in Minecraft worlds is not, however, gamification.  This would fall under the category of “Game-Based Learning,” another concept exploding with potential.   

Instead, gamification implies transforming your class INTO a game.  If you are not a “gamer” (which I myself am not, despite my “Millennial” designation), you may be wondering what game mechanics actually are?  

Here are a few of of the game elements typically leveraged in gamified learning environments.  

Key Elements to Gamification

Immediate Feedback & Reinforcers

Progress Tracking & Mastery  (XP, Badges, Leaderboards, Competition)

Increasing Difficulty (Leveling System)

Low Risk of Failure (Unlimited Retakes)

Storyline / Narrative  

Student Choice

All of these elements will be explored in greater detail in later posts.  I will also explain how each of these elements have been incorporated into our gamified world history course.  If interested in learning more about these in the meantime, check out Alice Keeler’s awesome post: Gamification in the Classroom - Getting Started

Next Post:  Why Gamify

Complete Gamification Series

Part 1: Introduction
Part 15: The Next Level

Thursday, March 6, 2014

New "Technology for Educators" Courses

I recently developed two (free) online courses titled Technology for Educators.  The goal of these courses is to help educators effectively leverage modern instructional technologies to improve student learning.  Although designed as a set of introductory courses, tips and strategies are also included for more experienced educators. 

Topics covered in Tech for Educators Part 1 include: 

- Course & Student Management 
- Sharing Resources
- Communicating with Students

Topics covered in Tech for Educators Part 2 include: 

- Creating Instructional Videos  (Quick Tips, Planning, Recording, Editing, & Publishing)
- Sharing Instructional Videos  (Hosting & Distributing)

Each course is relatively short and can be completed in just a few hours.  You can also use these courses as a resource to browse in any sequence of you choosing.  

For those of you that are very tech savvy, please consider sharing these introductory courses with teachers who are just dipping their toes into the educational technology waters.

Future courses will focus on various technologies, techniques, and practical strategies related to online assessments.  

Intro Video to the Tech for Educators Courses