Reassessing My Gamification Approach

RethinkingGamificationTitle1

I realize that it’s been some time since I last posted anything.  Well, in a surprising twist, last year my students threw me a curve I wasn’t expecting – they weren’t interested or motivated to compete or game any aspect of the curriculum.  Very few even liked to use technology in the classroom, no matter how I modified my approach. Not only did that put a pin in my enthusiasm and knock my passion down a few notches, it became increasingly stressful and somewhat depressing going back to using traditional teaching methods. Even without a gamified curriculum, my students scored at the top of their grade level in our district on the state’s year-end assessment.

Toward the end of the year however, a few students (that weren’t even in any of my classes) helped me to reconsider my approach to gamification in a way that was as equally surprising as the twist my students gave me at the beginning of the year…

It was the day of the annual faculty/student basketball and volleyball games.  Since it was a school-wide reward activity, only students who had not had any discipline issues during the last grading period could attend. Students who were banished from attending were known as No-Gos. I had attended all of the other school-wide reward activities and decided that I’d take the opportunity to stay back and have a few No-Gos assigned to my classroom during the two hour event.

A few boys were escorted to my room and they had work from their teachers to complete, most of which was work they hadn’t turned in yet.  After awhile, one of the boys asks me, “Mrs. Alvarez, why do you have Pokemon and Nintendo action and Ty figures around your room?” They were all amazed when I told them that I liked gaming, but they seemed to be even more shocked to find out that I had my own DSI and was on the last level of Pokemon Platinum. “You’re the coolest teacher at school!” one of them said. I told them about my gamified curriculum and how students would earn virtual tokens for completing assignments and that they could use the tokens to buy Homework Passes and Extension Passes.  “You mean a Homework Pass can be used instead of doing a Reading Log?” (a school-wide required assignment that most students found no value in completing). “An an Extension Pass could get you a extra day or two to turn in an assignment and not lose any points?” They were astonished to learn that only a handful of my students were participating in or even using the game elements at all. “I wish I had you for my teacher!”

As we continued to talk about gaming, I began to notice that they were actually working on their assignments as they talked! A science teacher even brought in another assignment for one of the boys and he actually completed the assignment in about 15 minutes – an assignment that he hadn’t been motivated to complete on time in class or at home.  Wow! Then it hit me – maybe I had been approaching the wrong audience with the gamification.  Instead of targeting the gifted and advanced kids, I should be targeting the lower achieving and less motivated students.  There are likely many low achieving students who would rather spend more time gaming than doing classwork and learning. Gamification might actually motivate them more and help them to achieve more academic success.

My administration has reassigned me to teach three sections of eighth grade language arts and two sections of sixth grade critical thinking during the upcoming 2014-2015 school year and I’m actually excited about it. I’m planning on modifying my existing Flipside website to support the new eighth grade curriculum.  I also plan on incorporating game elements into my Critical Thinking classes, but without an interactive website.

I’ll keep you posted on my progress!

About Michele Alvarez

I enjoy teaching Middle School Language Arts and Gifted classes and gamifying education has become my most recent obsession =]

Posted on August 7, 2014, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. I love your Flipside site! It’s awesome!

    I’m curious to see how it goes for you with your new classes. I actually had almost the exact same experience as you did, but with two of the three non-Algebra 8th grade classes (I had them for Science)! They took out all the highest scoring/achieving math kids and put them in 8th grade Algebra. I had the other two classes and I was so excited to use my gamified approach using 3D GameLab with them. I had the same problems you had with your classes and the same effect when talking to kids from the Algebra class who said how much they would have loved to be in my class! Luckily, I teach middle school and we’re a small school so I didn’t have any families try to get their kids out of my class. They did the next worst thing, they made okay for their kids to do no work in my class because it required the use of gaming metaphors and, “too much technology.” I still cringe when I think back.

    I also had all three of the 6th grade Science classes and although most of them liked or didn’t mind the gamified approach, I had way too many falling short of the winning condition! I was so deflated.

    This coming fall I’ll have all the 6th graders only so I’m excited to start over with them. I’ll try to sell it more or something to see if they take to it better. I also get to teach a quarter of the WoWinSchool curriculum to the 6th grader and I’m really excited about that. I’m expecting great learning from that course.

    • Thanks for sharing your common experience! It’s great to know that I’m not the only one struggling. Many parents (not kids) have used the “too much technology” line with me too. Gamification makes so much sense to me but it’ll take more thoughtful front loading for parents and admin to get on board with the concepts.

  2. I teach a intervention course for 8th grade “struggling” readers, and I’ve noticed the same thing you did: the students who are not typically motivated in school are motivated by the superimposing of game mechanics on top of my existing curriculum. I’d be interested in talking more with you about how you do this and how it’s working out with your students if you’re game.

  3. So how’s it been this year? More motivation and buy-in?

  4. Thank you very much for sharing your thoughts on this. I started gamifying back in 2014 as well and quickly came to the same conclusion, that it doesn’t work for everyone. I found that the student group that was most interested were 9th grade boys. Students who are already experiencing success in school, don’t often need the reframing that gamification offers. They have already bought into the measurements of success that schools traditionally offer.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

From the desk of Mr. Walters

How I've Created My "Game" Sites & Prepare My Classes For Their "inStructural" Transformation = Altering the Structure of Instruction

ZaidLearn

How I've Created My "Game" Sites & Prepare My Classes For Their "inStructural" Transformation = Altering the Structure of Instruction

WIRED

How I've Created My "Game" Sites & Prepare My Classes For Their "inStructural" Transformation = Altering the Structure of Instruction

How I've Created My "Game" Sites & Prepare My Classes For Their "inStructural" Transformation = Altering the Structure of Instruction

How I've Created My "Game" Sites & Prepare My Classes For Their "inStructural" Transformation = Altering the Structure of Instruction

Educational Gaming Commons

How I've Created My "Game" Sites & Prepare My Classes For Their "inStructural" Transformation = Altering the Structure of Instruction

How I've Created My "Game" Sites & Prepare My Classes For Their "inStructural" Transformation = Altering the Structure of Instruction

First the Classroom, Then the World

How I've Created My "Game" Sites & Prepare My Classes For Their "inStructural" Transformation = Altering the Structure of Instruction

%d bloggers like this: