Friday, May 24, 2013

Wrapping up gamification in Astronomy

Many of you have been following the implementation of Galaxy Fleet in my astronomy class. This experiment was conceived after the development of Mission Possible, it professional development model for technology PD. The process of applying gamification to my classroom had very distinct differences to applying it to our staff.

Most notibly, I was alone. In developing Mission Possible, I was fortunate in that I was surrounded with people who were excited about the idea. Leanne Wanger, our teacher-librarian was instrumental in the implementation of Mission Possible, and my principal Matt Degner's trust and leadership was essential. With Galaxy Fleet, I was alone in the development of the structure, the activities, the exams, and the back-end bookkeeping. 

Student Reaction:
In keeping updates on this blog, I was focused on the student reaction the process as we went along. I made adjustments on the fly if things were not going well, always kept upbeat about advancement through levels, and made Bead Ceremonies as public and special for everyone. It was nice to start a day by saying "Please join me in congratulating Joe Smith on earning his silver Ensign Rank!" The kid would come forward, be presented with the bauble, and shake my hand. The class liked the individual recognition of their peers.

Today I looked over the end survey for the class.
The comments spoke a very similar story. When asked if they enjoyed the gamifiaction model or they think I should throw it out, a vast majority said they would like to see it stay. Most of the comments revolved around it being fun, a great way to motivate students, and helped them learn the material. Many of them liked the testing procedure where they took several smaller tests instead of one large chapter exam. Even if I decide to not do Galaxy Fleet, I am going to give serious thought to keeping aspects of the testing procedure.

Some students mentioned how competition was a great motivator for them, and that this transition was easy because many of them play video games based on the same principles. They enjoyed trying to reach a level and gaining the recognition as they went.

That is not to say that every student bought into the idea. As you can see from the above graph, four of them were not interested in the game at all. In the comments, one wrote that if he/she wanted to be enlisted in ranking exercises, they would join the army, not take an astronomy class. One mentioned that there was a lot of things to remember in the labs, exams, and homework that was assigned. They had a hard time remembering to do all of it. They also felt frustrated in not reaching levels, wanting to drop the class because they felt they couldn't get anything right. These kind of comments concern me, and can not be fluffed off as outliers in the average.

Grade-wise, the students probably did better under this system, however, it is hard for me to attribute that to the game, or the fact that I took several more days to teach the material. I would say that the game motivated several kids in a way that I didn't have to personally keep them on task. However, if I took the same amount of time in my traditional learning cycle structure, I may have had similar results.

Overall, I am at the point in the process where I look at next year. Do I do this again? What changes would I make? I believe I have learned a lot about what motivates kids, how to tap into their competitive nature, and keep them focused. I am going to definitely keep some aspects of the game, if not the entire system.

I will keep you all updated.