Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Learning at Flipcon14 & ISTE

Next week I have the incredible opportunity to attend and present at #FlipCon14, the 7th annual Flipped Learning Conference hosted this year in Mars, PA.  Below is my "fixed" schedule, but I am just as (if not more) excited to engage with incredible educators from around the world throughout each day.  It will be exciting to meet so many of the colleagues and friends in my PLN in person for the first time.

Tuesday, 1:00 -2:00pm (Room 94) 
I'll be joining Tim Downing and Dan Harrold in this session to discuss our experiences with gamification and game-based learning in the classroom.  We will also hold a 20 minute panel discussion with both on-site and virtual attendees. 

FLIPPING 2.0 BOOK PANEL (Concurrent Session B)
Tuesday, 2:00 -3:00pm (Room 94) 
Following the Gamification Session,  I will be joining Jason Bretzmann and the Flipping 2.0 Panel to share our experiences and provide insight regarding the next levels of Flipped Learning.  

Wednesday, 11:00am -12:00pm (Room 94) 
I'll be joining a panel discussion with Jon Bergmann, Aaron Sams and the other contributing authors of Flipped Learning: Gateway to Student Engagement.    

If you are attending and would like to catch up at some point, please feel free to reach out so we can make it happen!

I am honored and excited to be joining the incredible team at the Highlander Institute for this year's ISTE conference.  Some members of this rockstar crew include Shawn Rubin, Dana Borrelli-Murray, Roshni Mirchandani, Eric Burash, Stephanie Castilla, and Cathy Sanford.

I will also have a chance to meet up with some awesome members of my PLN such as Karl Lindgren-Streicher (it's crazy that we have never met in-person), George Phillip, and Kate Baker.  I'll also get to catch up with the Kate Reilly and the team at E-Line Media (Historia Beta).

I was told that I should definitely attend student poster sessions and the "Bloggers' Cafe."  Therefore, if interested in catching up while at ISTE, you will probably find me in one of these spots!

Hope to see many of you in Atlanta!

Monday, June 16, 2014

20 Time Year in Review

This was the second year implementing 20 Time Projects here at PHS, and based upon some of the challenges we faced the first time around, many changes were made to this year's journey.  I credit incredible educators such as Karl Lindgren-Streicher, Kevin Brookhouser and Kate Petty for sharing great ideas and providing inspiration to keep pushing forward with this concept.

Here's a rundown of this year's 20 Time Project at PHS:

Introducing 20 Time  (September)

I introduced the project with this 20 Time Presentation that provides some background regarding creativity, motivation, and concept of "20 Time." This year I also provided students with 20 Time Guidelines to give them a better sense of the expectations and timeline for the project.

This year's project also had two basic requirements:

1.  Your project provides a solution to an existing problem.

2.  Your solution benefits a particular community or people.
*** In other words, your project will help/affect more than just yourself.

Brainstorming Sessions  (September - October)

Last year, students had a particularly difficult time getting started.  I therefore decided to help students think about different topics and interests with this Brainstorming form.  It not only helped them organize their thoughts, but also provided me with some insight regarding the direction that they were heading.

Maintaining Focus  (October - November)

Once most students had settled upon an idea and began working on their proposals, I realized that many were not making the most of class time.  To help them stay on task and monitor their progress, students began writing weekly reflections.  This simply asked students to record what they had accomplished that week as well as what steps needed to be taken before the next 20 Time day.

Project Proposals (December)

Before diving too deep into the projects, I had students develop an in-depth Project Proposal document.  This required students to discuss their passion, needs and opportunities, audience, timeline, final product, and equipment needs.

Students also had to develop a pitch video.  They started by completing this "1 Minute Pitch" video form.  Their responses were then written out into a brief script.  Before they recorded, I also showed students a few Kickstarter videos so that they would understand the concept of "pitching" an idea.

I feel that these two assignments helped students hone their ideas and create a road map for moving forward with the project. Creating the pitch videos also helped drive home the point that this project is not just about themselves, but some larger community of their choosing.

Connecting With Experts (January - February)

As part of the project, I urged students to reach out to experts in the field related to their topic.  In this Interview Proposal form, students had to indicate two people that they would like to interview. Students also had to include a brief description of how each person's experience, expertise, and insights would assist their project.  I then helped the students connect with each person via email, phone call, or GHO.

Inspirational Videos

Around this time of year, many students began to hit a wall.  Some were "stuck," some were losing interest in their project, and some were unsure of where their project would ultimately end up.  That's when I began starting each class with a quick, inspirational video.  I made a point to include some TED talks since that is how each group was going to present in June.  I searched for resources (such as this Pinterest board by Terri Eichholz) to curate videos that I thought were especially creative and inspirational.  Here is a screenshot of the videos that we viewed throughout the year.

Final Presentations  (May - June)

Although I tried to stay as "hands off" here as possible regarding the content and style of their final presentation, I did offer students this guide of questions to be addressed during their talk.  A few students also created this TED Talk Tips presentation based upon the book How to Deliver a TED Talk.  For students who could not deliver their presentation live to the class, they were given the option of either creating a video or presenting before or after school.

I was pleased with the variety of projects this year and how well many students followed-through with their plans.  Here is a sampling of what they created:
  • Product design for a device that monitors the vital signs of an unborn child and streams the information to the mother's Smartphone. 
  • Relay for Life community campaign to raise awareness for the cause and increase community participation. 
  • E-Book that provides inspirational stories for teens that are going through difficult times. 
  • How-to guide for tech-savvy students interested in creating their own "home server."
Overall, this year's 20 Time Project was much more successful.  As for future iterations, I'm looking forward to reading Kevin Brookhouser's upcoming book and implementing some new strategies to increase student buy-in from the start and provide more inspiration and targeted support throughout the project.  

Friday, June 13, 2014

Complete Gamification Series

Over the past few months, I have reflected upon my experiences with gamification and provided thoughts and implementation advice through a series of 15 thematic posts.  Below is a complete list of the Gamification Series.

Theses posts have also been compiled into one simple Google Document with a Table of Contents.

Click here to access this Google Doc version of the Gamication Series.

Complete Gamification Series

Share these posts (or document) with anyone that you think is interested in the possibilities and potential of gamification in education. And, as always, feel free to reach out and connect with me if you have questions or would like to collaborate in any way. LEVEL UP!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Compete in FlipQuest2014 at FlipCon!

Are you attending FlipCon14 on-site or virtually?  If so, you should compete in FlipQuest 2014!  We have gamified the conference by creating session-related quests in 3DGamelab and will provide prizes for winners in several categories. More information from the Flipped Learning Network below:

"A dedicated group of volunteers has "gamified" FlipCon14, putting together a series of quests that virtual and in person attendees can complete in advance of or during FlipCon14.  We're calling this FlipQuest2014, and we are extremely excited about it. 

The quests include reviewing the various sessionwork assignments, and providing some "evidence" regarding the assignments.  In addition to being a fun way to prepare for the conference, FLN has assembled a number of prizes that participants in the FlipQuest2014 can win.  

Go to https://bitly.com/FlipQuest2014 and follow the instructions there to register and start competing in FlipQuest2014. 

If you have any questions, please contact our FlipQuest2014 volunteers at Flipquest2014@scribelife.com."

Here is a video by Corey Papastathis (mastermind behind this concept) providing a more thorough overview FlipQuest14.  

If interested in FlipQuest2014, make sure to fill out this form to gain access to 3DGamelab and start competing!

See you in PA! 

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Gamification Series Part 15: The Next Level

In this final post of the series, I will provide some insights regarding where I think gamification and game-based learning may lead in the not-so-distant future...

Augment Reality Integration

Throughout the year, students asked how our gamifed course could become more active, immersive, and engaging.  They also did not want to progress through missions and levels in front of a computer for long stretches of time.  This is where I think that Augmented Reality (AR) can bring gamification to a whole new level.   First, videos and images are no longer tethered to the computer as they can be "tagged" to any physical location and accessed with a mobile device.  One mission that I never developed but would like to in the future is a type of AR scavenger hunt that would lead students to different locations based upon the decisions that they made throughout the mission.  

AR is already making its way into the gaming world.  At last summer's GIE symposium, I was introduced to the new Google project called Ingress.  The attempt here seems to be the development of a gaming environment that, like many of our courses, is blended between both the physical and online world.  The only different here is that at many locations, those two world converge via augmented reality.  

Gamified Learning Management Systems

I have already mentioned a few platforms (ClassBadges, 3DGameLab, ClassDojo, Classcraft) that are doing a great job developing online tools and environments to help, or developed specifically for, gamified courses. This is the tip of the iceberg.  As more educators recognize the potential for gamification and game-based learning, the demand for a robust, easy to use online platform will rise. It is also apparent that the companies mentioned above are working closely with educators in the field to create the best product possible for students in K-12 settings.  I'm looking forward to great things to come on this front! 

Game-Based Curriculum / Gamified Schools

Believe it or not, this actually already exists.  Quest to Learn is a public middle and high school in New York City that "uses the underlying design principles of games to create highly immersive, game-like learning experiences.” (Source)

I also believe that the rise in mastery learning and proficiency-based graduation competencies opens the door for this type of innovative approach.  If schools begin to move away from "seat time" requirements and instead focus on students' ability to demonstrate competency in specific skills, a self or flex-paced gamified curriculum could serve as an effective type of learning environment.   

*** That concludes the gamification series.  I hope that my reflections from this year at PHS will serve as guidance and/or inspiration for many of you interested in the promise and potential for gamification and game-based learning in the field of education. If you have any questions, comments, advice, or would simply like to connect and chat, please get in touch!  @Mr_Driscoll / thdriscoll@gmail.com 

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Gamification Series Part 14: Results

When reflecting upon whether gamification "worked" this year, I had to revisit the major reason why I ventured into this in the first place.  It all boils down to this brief explanation:

Problem =  Lack of Motivation & Engagement
Proposed Solution =  Gamification

Although this is admittedly oversimplified, it at least provides a frame of reference when evaluating this year's gamified course. 


How did I measure whether gamification improved motivation and engagement? Simple, I asked the students.  Here are some results from a Google Form survey the students recently completed:

67% were more motivated to learn in a gamified learning environment.

88% were more engaged in class on a daily basis. 

Beyond motivation and engagement, they also reported the following: 

70%  learned more effectively in a gamified course.

79%  enjoyed the competition associated with gamification.



Motivation & Engagement

As was evident in the survey, there was definitely improved motivation and classroom engagement for most students. This was typically the case for students who self-identified as "gamers," but many students who are not your traditional gamer enjoyed the course as well. These were typically students who were not as caught up in the narrative but instead with the competition and camaraderie that accompanied the gamified learning environment. 

Students Assume Role of Teachers / Coaches

I also recognized a new dynamic when it came to students working on group projects and assignments. The competition created a type of positive peer pressure to make sure others in the group succeeded. It also created opportunities for group leaders to assume the role of "teacher" as they often times coached their teammates through a particularly difficult part of the course. 



As described in the post on management, I did develop a system for managing the gamified learning environment by piecing together several different resources and strategies. This was, however, not ideal. In the future, I will consider adopting a more robust tool or platform to conduct the digital portion of the course. (Ex. 3DGamelab, Class Dojo)  

Narrative & Avatars

I also had a difficult time "selling" the idea of the narrative (storyline) and avatars. First, I do not think that I effectively wove the existing curriculum into the storyline effectively enough. I also did not make enough use of the avatars. Moving forward, I will make sure that each mission is tied more directly to the narrative, while creating differentiated tasks for students who are in different avatar classes. This will hopefully create more buy-in from those who were more reluctant to dive into this concept. 

More Games & Competitions

Many students enjoyed when we learned and competed with actual games throughout the course. For instance, we had a few competitions with Geoguessr to learn geography that were a big hit with students. Although this course applied "gamification" as opposed to "game-based learning," there can still be a place for leveraging existing games effectively. Back when I taught American Government, I thought that the iCivics games were great, and so did my students. I will certainly add in more games and competitions to each scenario for next year. 

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Gamification Series Part 13: Managing Gamification

For those of you interested in gamification yet unsure of how to actually implement it, here are some resources and ideas to help you actively manage a gamified course.


Gamification Spreadsheet

This incredible Google spreadsheet by Mr. Matera is what I have used throughout the year.  It enables you to enter and track XP along with the ability to display leaderboards for individuals, groups, and classes. It was also easy to embed different pages of the spreadsheet into our LMS.

I know of a few teachers who have used the 3D Gamelab platform as their classroom LMS with great success.  Designed specifically with gamification in mind, this LMS has every feature that you would need in this type of learning environment.


Class Badges gives educators the ability to customize and award badges to students based upon achievements, academic mastery, or even existing awards.  I am not familiar with how well this integrates into other online environments, but its' recent partnership with EdStart leads me to believe that this tool has incredible potential moving forward.

Many educators who use Edmodo have most likely noticed the badge feature.  If this is a platform that you currently use with your students, utilizing this makes sense since it is already built-in feature.


Even if you do not use an official badge app or LMS feature, you can of course develop your own badging system.  For instance, this year I simply created a list of achievements for each scenario with a "badge" that was compiled into a Google Presentation and shared with the class.


Class Dojo is a customizable tool that helps provide feedback and reinforcements for positive classroom behaviors.  There are also features to collect data and generate reports for parents and administrators.

As colleague (and awesome educator) Tim Downing states, "ClassCraft is like Class Dojo meets World of Warcraft."  What makes this stand out is its emphasis on the role-playing and risk/reward system that plays out in the classroom.

Swiping In

"Swiping In" is a technique that I developed with colleague Brian Germain to help students (and us educators) monitor their progress in a mastery learning environment.  Here is a post that describes the strategy in more detail as well as a quick video of student's demonstrating during class.

Mission Guides

These Google Documents help map out our gamified units. They include the type of mission, XP available, minimum XP to advance, assessments, and links to any resources and assignments needed.


Of course, pacing is entirely up to the educator and how they would like to design their course.  You can establish a more traditional, teacher-directed pace in which all students progress together, or you can completely open things up in an autonomous, self-paced learning environment.  I have tried to find a middle ground, outlined below:

  • Self-paced units, but we all start the next unit together. 
  • Each mission is graded, but those that students do not progress to ARE NOT given 0's.
  • 50% of grade is based upon scored missions, other 50% based upon progress. (Based upon XP Scale)

If you know of any other resources to help manage a gamified classroom, please share below!


Complete Gamification Series

Monday, June 2, 2014

NCAA March Madness-Style AP Review Game (2014 Edition)

As a former college basketball player as well as High School coach, it is no surprise that my favorite sporting event of the year is the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament - MARCH MADNESS.

Last year, I decided to turn my AP European History review into a March Madness style simulation.  The class worked together to narrow down the top 64 most influential figures/groups in modern European History.  Students ranked them from 1-16 based upon four different historical eras, then collaboratively created a 70 slide Google Presentation and presented to the class.  After this, they all filled out brackets to determine who they thought was the most influential.  Next, we had a game-by-game class vote to determine the "class bracket."  The student whose bracket was the closest match to the "class bracket" was the ultimate winner.  Here are the instructions that I provided the students for this assignment.  I also filmed each step of the process and created the following video depicting the game.


In March, Seth Watts (AP teacher from Southern California) stumbled upon the video above and asked a few questions regarding how to implement a similar game in his course.  I suggested that if both of our classes were going to do this, why not collaborate!   He was all in and away we went...

Creating the Field of 64

The first step was to select field of 64.  We created the following Google Presentation that would be collaboratively develop by students in both of our classes.  My students created the field for two eras, while Seth's students worked on the two others.  After a few days, we had a completed field of 64 influential figures.

Completing the Student Brackets

Students in both classes were then provided with a blank bracket with all 64 figures.  Each student filled out the bracket based upon their views of "historical significance."  This was a helpful review for many since they simply did not recognize some of the people.  It was also interesting that many students in Mr. Watts' course chose people that we did not discuss much (if at all) in the course.  This was great since it provided a different perspective on European History that they were not exposed to here at PHS.

Round-by-Round Voting
To manage the voting, Seth suggested that we use Poll Everywhere for each match-up and have each class vote for one round per day.  This worked out great as we were able to see exactly how all of the students in each class viewed the historical significance of each "player."  Similar to the experience students had when collaborating on the presentation, many were surprised with how the students in California voted.  This then led to great discussions about differing views on history from various angles (political, economic, social, religious, etc.)


I consider this year's game a greater success than last year's, primarily due to the collaboration with Seth's students in California.  The feedback from students was mostly positive, with the only real negative being that there should have been more time for this review game.  I agree, at times it seemed rushed and needed more than the 5-6 class days devoted to it.  As with everything else in teaching, I'll have to reflect and iterate on this concept for next year.  If you have any questions about the review game or would like to collaborate on one in the future, please reach out and let me know!