Monthly Archives: September 2013

New School Year, New Curriculum, New Game Ideas

Screen shot 2013-09-19 at 7.24.30 PM Wow! It’s mid-September already and I finally have time to blog again! The regular, every-day world of Middle School, plus the process of designing a new curriculum AND a new site to go with it has made it challenging to say the least, but I’m pleased to say that the new Flipside (HTML5) framework is complete and Quest 1 has begun!

Ever since taking the Coursera Gamification course last spring, I’ve been considering how to use more game-design elements to support students’ need to be able to go back and access resources from the past to help them better succeed as they move forward.  In video games, players can go back to other areas that they’ve mastered in order to gain more experience and therefore become more successful in new areas.  The same concept works in school too –> When students find new skills difficult, opportunities to go back and spend more time on supporting skills will make the “road ahead” less difficult to master. To accomplish this in Flipside I’ve added a new element I’m calling “Terminals”.

TERMINALS are areas where the student/player is presented with an area where they have three or more choices of direction. Clicking on the red shield takes them back to the very beginning of the Quest area (the beginning of the current curriculum unit).  By choosing the yellow shield, students/players are taken back to the previous Mission (Missions are parts of a Quest and coincides with each week of a curriculum unit).  Selecting to follow the green shield leads the student/player forward to the next Mission in sequence.

Screen shot 2013-09-19 at 7.39.38 PMThis is the image of Terminal 1, which is located in Quest 1.

LETS’ GO AHEAD AND ADDRESS COPYRIGHT

The images I use are mostly open-source, generally gained by searching for open-source images that fit a particular need (downloadable images from deviantart.com are also used occasionally). To support copyright laws, I’m in the process of correctly citing the owner and copyright date and link the images to their online source or provide the link at the bottom of the page in a “Credits” area. The image of the character of Link on this page, for example, was cropped from a concept version of the Nintendo game character posted at deviantart.com. There’s great information about this topic at HTML Goodies. This is a very extensive process for a site my size so far, but my idea is to begin correctly posting copyright information as I go along from now on. Since the site is designed to be used with and academically motivate my Middle School students as well as tying to my curriculum, I’m hoping to avoid any copyright issues until I can get it done properly.

NEW CHARACTERS AND NEW MAPS

Screen shot 2013-09-19 at 7.40.22 PM In addition to the Terminals, there is also a Terminal Map (pictured left). Considering that this “game” could get pretty complicated depending on the number of weeks/Missions in a given Unit/Quest.  The idea for the new curriculum is to have a total of four units, one per grading term.  If each grading term is nine weeks long and there are a total of four, that would create approximately 36+ different areas, not including Quest intro areas, terminals, hidden item/areas and resource areas such as the Training Room, Item Shop, and Arcade.

I was thinking about how students/players would get from the Home screen to their current place in Flipside when they’re in say Quest 4; Mission 5. Too much clicking unless they have access to a map for each Quest and/or a Terminal Map where they could travel from Terminal to Terminal via a virtual underground transportation system.  A further idea for the Terminal transportation is to use versions of familiar video game characters (like Link) – a different character in each quest or for each Terminal (I haven’t decided which yet). Either way, the map systems would offer students/players more choices for how and where to move around the accessible areas.

New characters are also being introduced to offer specific information about an area or give important directions for using different game elements.  I decided that the character of Katt (introduced on the Home screen of Quest 1 and also currently found in the Quest 1 Map area) would be someone who could help them with basic Quest navigation. The “Blue Fairy” is their general guide and the Flipside “Welcome” hostess also provides students (or anyone visiting the site  for the first time) with general information regarding how to gain access, mute music on the pages,  and to the “trailer” for the story behind Flipside.

CURRICULUM TIE-INS

Other ways I’m attempting to engage and motivate my students into having fun with the curriculum (whether they’re aware of it or not) is to directly reference skills and activities we’re using in the classroom.  For example, in the first Quest/Unit, my advanced Language Arts students are reading the novel The Lost Hero, by Rick Riordan and the theme is “a hero’s journey” through mythology.  I’ve chosen images and music for Quest 1 that reflect mythology, mystery, suspense, and even use images directly related to characters referenced in The Lost Hero. Icons located in each Mission area relate directly to the type of resource it is: Slideshare, Wattpad, Quizlet, etc. The icons will also be consistent throughout the “game” to help students find their way  around easier.

Screen shot 2013-09-19 at 8.48.35 PM

So, now I’m off to continue to build Flipside and work with my colleagues to design the curriculum.  The Leaderboard needs to be updated on the Google Spreadsheet and badges awarded on Edmodo.  Look for additional modifications and reflections about incorporating gamification into the new curriculum, with a new group of Middle-Schoolers in the next post…

From the desk of Mr. Walters

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