Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Mission Possible: Playing Games with Professional Development

A few posts ago, I talked a bit about Gamification in education. I then went on to discuss an idea I had to apply this to my classroom with Galaxy Fleet. After presenting at last weekend's Iowa Edcamp, I am inclined to give you some specifics of the Professional Development model I created that uses these principles.

Mission Possible is our district's model for professional development with regards to technology in our 1:1. In creating this process, I was looking for something that was highly engaging (or as engaging as any PD can me) as well as individualized and fun. Teachers were coming into our 1:1 initiative at many levels. We had those who could not wait to get their hands on their iPads, and those that never planned to take them out of the box. I needed a system that would challenge the high flyers while bringing those indifferent to the technology into the fold.

I see learning technology to be three fold. First there has to be a time where you simply get comfortable using the device or programs. In the game, this is where teachers begin. Level 1 teachers are given the title "Noob", a distinction that they no doubt want to shed as soon as humanly possible. Upon reaching level 3 in the game, they are considered "Users". I see users as teachers who are not afraid to turn on a computer or device and use it, but may not know exactly what to do with it. They want to play with different apps, find already developed programs to use, and master them. User levels (3-6) are where most of our teachers currently sit after about a year into the program. Upon reaching level 7, we start referring to teachers as "Tech Geeks". These people are comfortable finding apps and using them. They don't need any more in-service on what is out there or how to find it. Their levels shift to how they are going to implement these strategies into their classes. They collaborate with other Tech Geeks to infuse the technology or they share their expertise with others by leading sessions on in-service days.

Those are the three Tiers of the game. The mechanics follow real basic gamification principles. To gain a level, teachers do "Missions." Missions are set to take about 15 minutes each. A level 1 mission earns the teacher 1 "Paw Point" (we are the bulldogs). Once they reach 10 paw points, they lose the noob status and become a level 2 novice, on their way to being a User. Level 2 missions are worth 2 paw points each, level 3 worth 3 and so on. Teachers are not allowed to do missions above their level, but can "farm" lower level missions for small amounts of paw points.

Here is the website for the Game. 

You will not be able to see the leaderboard, which we do post so everyone knows where they stand. At the onset of the game I made a couple of things very clear with both the teachers and the administration. First, this is NON-EVALUATIVE. At no time will an administrator come to them and ask why they are only 5th level. I am a firm believer you get from Professional Development what you put into it. The only requirement that teachers have in the game is that whenever they are given time to do missions, that they put forth their best effort. Second, the game is really on the honor system. No one is going to be standing over their shoulder watching them do missions. Again, you get out what you put in.

I can tell you that this posting of the leaderboard is a key to the game aspect of it. It engages teachers' competitive nature just like Call of Duty does with my eldest son. The guy at the top will not let others ahead of him, even though they try. Some don't want to be at the top, but they always want to be ahead of that person right above them. The level of interest has dwarfed my expectations.

As teachers move through the game they can pick up other titles along the way for completing sets or "chains" of missions. If a teacher does a set of 5 missions on twitter, we give them the title "Twenius" on the leaderboard. This allows others to see who are experts on programs they might be interested in. They can seek them out instead of the tech department.

I encourage you to develop your own game based on this model. I am not selling the idea, I am giving it. Use it, make it yours. In doing so, I can give some advice. Keep it light; keep it fun. Name the missions with cute names like "Mickey Mouse is Pissed" for copy write, or "How do I put my face on Jennifer Lopez's body" for paint programs. Put effort into selling it to admin before the teachers. Time is always the biggest issue. Some teachers will do missions at night while sitting in bed, but most will only have time to do them when given it by admin. Be sure you have their support before selling it to the teachers. Celebrate successes. We always tweet out when someone raises a level. We have given prizes like earbuds to everyone who hits 5th level, or stylus's to the first 5 who hit 7th level.

Crowdsource the making of the missions to your teachers. Upon reaching level 7, teachers are beginning to help in making the actual missions, or ratifying earlier missions to make them better. I do not have the time or expertise to make missions for apps in all the different disciplines in my school. I let others do the work for me. I can post more on this later, but it is a big part of what makes Mission Possible actually possible.

As for the back end to this, I did it in Google forms and spreadsheets. Why? They were free and I kind of knew how to use them. If a programmer reads this and wants to write a database that keeps better track of these things, please do and share it with me. If you are interested in seeing the data side of this, please let me know and I can post something on that later.

That is an overall look at the game. I have presented this at a couple of conferences and can tell you that the idea is spreading like the clap at Woodstock. Grant Wood AEA is trying to develop something, I have had talks with the Des Moines School District, as well as Dubuque AEA and several smaller districts.

Let me know if there is any way I can help in these or other endeavors with this idea.

Chris
@christopherlike