Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Classroom Gamification Update

I realize that it has been a while since I have posted an update on the Galaxy Fleet game I am running in my class. I have few excuses except to say that keeping up with the game is very time consuming. Choosing to do this from scratch, with little back end support in place has proven to eat time quicker than a Sarlacc eats a bounty hunter. 

I have found that in order for the game to run smoothly, the students need to feel success periodically. This means that I need to be up to date on grading and awarding of points. The thing would not work if they did a lab activity and it took me three days to grade it, this forcing them to wait that time for their commendations, and therefore slow down the frequency of bar exams. I have to keep things graded everyday. Who knew this game would force me to be a better teacher! 

So where are we now? Of the 25 students in the class three of them have not reached Ensign status. That means that most of the class has passed the cadet bar exams with no less than a 70%. Granted, they could retake exams, but in my normal tests, there was no way 22/25 would have gotten a C or better. 

Of those who reached Ensign status, I have about half who have silver (extra work) status and one that got gold. This one girl who made gold passed all three of the exams on her first attempt and did the extension activity. I can tell already that there are a lot of Ensigns who want a gold bead when they hit their commander status. Since they can all get a gold bead, they truly are not competing against each other, only against themselves. They see her with her shiny gold bead and want that recognition. The game is putting wind in the higher achieving student's sails. 

What about the lower three who have not gotten there? I had a serious talk with them yesterday about their grades and the importance of putting in effort in class. Their stalled movement through the game has given me an avenue to breach the topic of not handing in work. Before this system, I found myself waiting until the summative exam before finding out they were not going to turn work in. Then they coming in after the fact to finish their labs. They failed exams because they didn't do the labs, then did the labs late for credit, turning them into busywork instead of their intended purpose. The game system forces those activities to be in before the exams which keeps them as a learning tool instead of empty points. 

After going through about half of the game, I am still on the fence as to whether it is a good idea or not. I truly believe the students enjoy the game and are more engaged. It is hard to tell if they are retaining the material as they are able to retake the exams, which they were not able to do before. A post-game survey of the class will probably reveal a lot. 

I will try to keep you updated better than I have.