Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Gamification with Students: Galaxy Fleet

Alright, this is a bit out there, so try to read through the whole thing before passing judgement. I will tell you that this is only an idea, still in the "It may be cool if I try this someday" stage. It may be something great or may fail miserably. Hard to crystal ball that kind of thing.

If you read my previous post on Gamification, you were introduced to using game dynamics in a non-game setting. I have done this for staff PD and it has been very successful. This is my first attempt at planning something for students. After talking with our Physical Science teacher Breelyn McMahon, I tried to develop a unit based on a game. She encouraged me to include some standards based grading, which I think was a great addition to the concept.

Here is the premise for a physical science unit on Electromagnetic Radiation. The students start out as Cadets training for Galaxy Fleet- a futuristic military academy. (I am trying to give this a Star Trek feel.) They begin by being trained to become Communications Analysts (Ensigns). In order to gain this recognition (which I plan on doing with virtual metals) they need to pass their bar exams. These exams would consist of three quizzes, one conceptual, one multiple choice, and one mathematical (or performance). I basically broke the unit exam into three parts. They have to pass at least two parts with 75% or they have to retake them. After becoming an Ensign, they strive to pass on to Commander, and then Captain of the ship.

In order to even take the Ensign exam, they have to earn "commendations." These are earned by passing standard classroom activities. If a student finishes a lab, they earn a commendation...  if they finish their homework, they earn another, etc. Once they have 3 commendations, they can take their bars. If they fail one or more aspect of the bar, they lose a commendation, which must be then earned back before they can retake the exam. This could be done with a remedial lesson or worksheet to review what they need to know to pass that part of the exam.

The lessons are all based on the Learning Cycle approach. Students will earn a commendation for their exploratory activity, their concept development activity, application activity, homework and such. The lesson would be planned and executed with sound science teaching methods of discovery and inquiry.

Here is the basic outline of how they could become an ensign.

  1. Pass the "Lost in Space" exploratory lab to learn types of ways in which we can communicate (what a wave is) 
  2. Pass the "Keeping Time with Pendulums" lab to learn vocabulary (amplitude, wavelength, frequency, etc)
  3. Do some homework associated with the previous
  4. Pass the "Wonderful, Wonderful Toy" lab with Slinky springs to understand the types of waves out there as well as reinforce vocab.
  5. Earn 3 commendations and take their bars. If they pass 2 out of 3 of the formative quizzes they reach Ensign and they do the application activity "It Sounds Good, But What Does it Mean" lab with standing waves. 
  6. If they fail a part of the bar, they do some remedial worksheets to earn back the commendation to take the bar until they pass. As these students are doing this, the ones who passed will be working on the application. 
  7. To get them all at the same level, we added an extension activity for the ones who passed to do while the others are doing remedial work and retaking the bar exams. 

Those set of activities would cover one standard in the unit. As a Com Analyst they will be exploring more about electromagnetic waves until they take their exams to become a Security Specialist (another standard in the unit). After that they will be applying what they know the to lasers on the ship, reflection, and refraction of materials to protect the vessel (a last standard in waves). If they pass out of that they can take their overall exam to reach Captain status.

Here is a link to a website I began to make for this. I included some preliminary lab activities and a description of the game. Note the feel of the writing. I may expect them to call me "Sir" as their commander and ask them to stand at attention when I enter a room, etc. Maybe I will wear a ribbon or jacket or something. It may be fun (at least for me). I envision having ceremonies at the beginning of class when someone earns their new rank, maybe having a website with kid's profiles/rank/commendations/etc to allow them to showcase their accomplishments.

This would cover maybe three or so weeks of class (on a full block each day), with exams at the end of each week. Some of the activities take 10 minutes while others may take a full day. The quizzes would be designed to last about 15 minutes each with the Captain's exam (the comprehensive one) being a full exam at the end of the unit. They can't progress unless they show they have met earlier standards on the formative quizzes though.  

The idea would be that the next unit in the class could be based on a different theme. I think students would get tired of Star Trek for 9 or 18 weeks. Perhaps we do a medieval theme, or spies depending on what the unit is. A unit on chemistry would be great for a detective/forensic angle, and a unit on motion could be done with designing roller coasters.

That's it!

Any thoughts would help in doing this. Do you think students would like it or hate it? Any ideas for adding to the game? If I didn't explain it well enough, please comment and I can try again.

As I plan to do a lot in this blog, I am just throwing out ideas. If you like it, run with it and let me know how it goes. I am still on the fence on this one as it will take a lot of time to put this into use.