We teachers build planes in the air sometime. Here’s a commercial that sums up my life.
Ever since school started, I’ve been working on a Gamification system based on the work of Chris Aviles, the “Teched-Up Teacher.” Basically, this system turns class activities and assignments into a sort of game, awarding points to students for completing schoolwork and “achievements” (like attending class or staying on task). There’s a leaderboard that lets them know how they’re doing without compromising their identities, and there’s also a way for them to compete not just individually but based on their “guild” (group) and class period.
The leaderboard has been great. Kids want to see it all the time and know where they stand in relation to each other, though usually, I just sort the data so that they mainly see their own class and how they rank in that.
The point system for rewards and deductions has also been great for class behavior. I’ve started developing a class culture/meme around perfect attendance for each class, basically because I wanted to have a moment of joy associated with everyone being present, so I started playing a YouTube clip of “Hail, Hail, the Gang’s All Here,” but it was kind of awkward and they were trying to figure out the video instead of just enjoying the song, so I ended up making a video that would hopefully get a chuckle out of everyone in the room:
You can even see me editing the clip there at the end in the Camtasia editing software. It doesn’t matter. it’s just a quick 30 seconds of joy. Once they get tired of it, I’ll probably find some new funny videos to stick in. But it works: I’ve already heard a couple of students start singing the refrain after noticing that everyone’s present that day. And that’s really all I want: Automatic happiness whenever I can get it.
Room for Revision
One thing that hasn’t been working so well yet is the guild/group system. When I first started implementing the gamification system, I had them come up with guilds that fit small groups, so that they would feel a certain sense of belonging to the group they were sitting with, when we needed to work in groups. That didn’t work at all. I had like 31 guilds or something. It should have been a major red flag when in the tutorial video that came with the leaderboard program, the designer (Chris) said, “I can’t imagine anyone needing more guilds than we have room for here,” and I was like “Oh crap I need more!” But nah I just emailed Chris himself and was like “Hey I don’t have room in this program for all the awesomeness that’s going on in MY sweet neck of the woods (sarcasm), and I had to actually share my Google Drive stuff with him so he could go into the program and fix it.
Anyway, the leaderboard program has a great feature where the kids can look at bar graphs to see how their guild is doing compared to the others, and yeah there were waaaaaay too many guilds for that graphic to mean anything to them, so I knew I had to pare down to something manageable.
But it’s all in how you tell the tale. For example, today, I rolled out 17 “mega guilds.” I decided that in the course of the first three weeks, the 31 guilds had done a good job making their presence known, but that only the strongest could survive to the next “real” stage. It was kind of like the strongest guilds “ate” the other guilds. And this stage I feel will be a lot more comfortable for the kids, because even though each guild has between 7-9 members, we’ll still have competition, but this time, they get to be part of a big team that really means something. And to heighten that even more, I got onto my Pixlr this afternoon and fiddled around with some graphics I found online, until I created team logos for each of the 17 remaining “mega-guilds.”
Now the stakes are higher: each student is part of an already-successful brand, and each student has peers expecting the best out of them so the group can win out. It’s all in the narrative.
4th Period’s 7 guilds did battle over the time, and in the end, four guilds remained: The Tacos, Blue Angels, Chum is Fum, and the Fantastic Four.
5th Period was a wasteland of three small, wandering tribes, until two strong guilds emerged: The Cool Kids and Scientific Devils.
6th Period was a struggle for survival of seven tribes in the wilderness. In the end, three remained: Bikini Bottom, DC Jaguars, and Gummy Bears.
7th Period was a similar fight for power amongst six guilds in the forgotten land of 2 o’clock in the afternoon, but 3 remained: Quiksilver, TECK, and Teletubbies.
Finally, at the edge of the school world, between 7th Period and the dismissal bell, sat the battleground of four warrior guilds in 8th period, until two nations remained: The Fluffy Unibunnies and Distinct Shamrock guild.
Again, I’m building the airplane as it flies across the sky. I have no idea what the next step for these logos is. But I do believe it just might help my students be willing to put forth a little more effort in science class. So…
I’m gonna go look for a color printer.