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The “Flipside” game site is currently undergoing some changes and is Under Construction. To better meet the changing needs of my students from year to year, the following changes are being made and are slowly unfolding:
1) The Quest areas are now just know as Areas and there are five instead of four.
2) Each Area supports one of the five Common Core ELA strands (for Middle School) and Missions within each Area will support the clusters and standards of that particular strand.
3) An additional room, designated the Teachers’ Resource Room, has been added and can be accessed in the Elevator Lobby of the main mushroom building.
4) Many character images will be changing as my teenage digital artist daughter helps create new, unique images.
My new school year is about to start and I’m hoping to also redesign my instructional approach to gamifying my course and better encourage engagement from underachieving students. I’ll be sure to keep you posted!
You can access Flipside at the following web address:
Recently, Florida made a jump to their version of the controversial Common Core Standards for education. This significant and abrupt shift has caused school districts to spend millions of dollars purchasing new textbooks to support these new standards, new standardized assessments to measure student achievement of these standards, and a new teacher evaluation system to measure how effective teachers are teaching the new standards. Most veteran teachers see this as another example of the education pendulum swinging back the other way again. When the winds change again in five or ten years, it’ll swing back again. Personally, the winds also seem to coincide with times when I find myself changing grade levels and/or subject areas.
If you’ve seen my game sites you’ll know that I’ve put a lot of work into creating them. I don’t want them to float off into cyberspace just because they no longer fit the new curriculum and standards shifts. I know my passion for gamified curriculum is still supported in the new visions for meaningful, motivating and engaging researched-based education around the world. The question for me has become, how can I continue to develop and use a gamified instructional model with interactive website components that will support any curriculum? Here are my current thoughts:
• Redesign the interactive website so that each area focuses on general language skills and/or use Common Core exemplars rather than curriculum units
• By completing an area, students will use the new knowledge to decipher a password needed to unlock the next area
• Each area can be accessed at any time if they can decipher the password
• Areas can be completed in any order
• Areas can have multiple levels built-in to better scaffold skill acquisition as needed and create more of an individualized experience for the “player”
• A site map will provide a general guide to the skills covered in each area.
• Teachers will be able to contact me for access to additional game and skill resources (possibly for a nominal fee)
Those are just my current ideas. Check back for more information as I begin developing the new site. And wish me luck!!
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!