I believe that, whatever the experience we create or design as teachers, students have to be a participatory player whose actions have impact upon the process when it comes to planning and mapping the learning. Gamification, in this case, provided opportunities for students to manipulate, differentiate, and hack the process in 2 distinct ways - namely, in terms of the project's structure and in terms of its content:
Karl Kapp, in his article "Two Types of #Gamification," defines the two above categories as follows:
Structural Gamification is the application of game-elements to propel a learner through content with no alteration or changes to the content itself. The content does not become game-like, only the structure around the content. The primary focus behind this type of gamification is to motivate the learner to go through the content and to engage them in the process of learning through rewards.
Content Gamification is the application of game elements and game thinking to alter content to make it more game-like. For example, adding story elements to a compliance course or starting a course with a challenge instead of a list of objectives are both methods of content gamification.
In previous posts, I've sung the praises of structurally gamifying one's course (go here and here), but what really gets me excited lately is what Content Gamification can add to a student's learning experience. Students live in an action-based world that is full of opportunities to manipulate its contents, and I believe Content Gamification can be a way to invite students into the worldhood of what they're being asked to study, such that they interact with, alter, and manipulate the curricular material in question. (A big shout out to Gary Nied at Cistercian for getting me to think about this; he does similar work with his students at Cistercian.)
So this is where I started when designing the Hard Times game I called "Adventures in Coketown" (yes, the students snickered when they heard the game title...). Just like I've done in the past, I structurally gamified the unit, which could be summed up by game's following rules:
- Grading will be different: You do not start with 100% average; instead, everyone begins with ZERO XP points.
- There are no due dates for particular assignments; instead, you have 6 weeks to earn as many XP points as you can.
- There are 5 levels, and you have access to level one. Earn XP points to level up and beat the game.
- Each assignment is worth a certain amount of XP points. To earn the points, you must master the assignment (no mistakes); there is no partial credit. You may try to master an assignment as many times as it takes. Failure simply means try again.
- There is no 1 way to earn an A; one simply needs to earn enough XP points at the end of the 6 week unit.
- There are smaller, "grind" assignments that you may complete anytime to earn more points
- Each level also has certain required assignments that must be completed to make it to the next level.
- Level Zero: Introducing Dickens, Industrial Revolution, and other key concepts; Practicing research & documentation
- Level One: Chapters 1-9 of Book 1st; Practicing character and theme analysis; Body paragraph composition; Expanding vocabulary
- Level Two: Chapters 10-16 of Book 1st; Practicing character and theme analysis; Body paragraph composition; Expanding vocabulary
- Level Three: Chapters 1-6 of Book 2nd; Practicing character and theme analysis; Thesis statement composition; Expanding vocabulary
- Level Four: Chapters 7-12 of Book 2nd; Practicing style analysis; Defining and learning literary terms & devices
- Level Five: All chapters of Book 3rd; Practicing style analysis; Constructing argument (logos, pathos, ethos); Practicing empathy; Evaluating theme and character
You are a French sociologist who recently graduated from the École Polytechnique where you studied under the famous Positivist, August Comte. Your career's research thus far focused on one important question: What is the secret to human happiness? And you've been researching societies in the northern region of France where there has been a tremendous amount of social change due to the developments of the Industrial Revolution. However, you soon find out that your former professor has mysteriously disappeared, and you suspect that it has something to do with the secret war that's been spreading across Europe, battling for the hearts and minds of all citizens, namely the war between the Friends of Fancy and the Philosophes of Fact. Finally, the conflict arrives at your front doorstep in Nancy, France when you receive a cryptic telegram asking you to travel to Coketown in northern England to help "a friend in need." Of course, you agree to go as it will afford you the chance to study England's industrial transformation as well as opportunities to meet the likes of Friedrich Engels and John Stuart Mill. Thus begins your journey called "Adventures in Coketown."
I was afraid that high schoolers would find the idea to be a bit hokey, but instead, they totally bought in. Students only had to reach 300XP to make an A+, but many of them went way beyond that threshold, just so they could see how the story ends. Making them a character and having them interact with personalities and events in the novel directly improved students' creative and critical thinking skills when performing literary analysis. Of course, the structural elements contributed to this as well because grading was affirmation-based, making failure something that no longer needed to be feared. Students had a significant amount of choice as well both in terms of the game narrative and in terms of setting deadlines and selecting assignments. It was a huge success!
In a few days, I'll be publishing the 2nd part of this post as I'd like to share more details about the actual unit and provide some essential questions for anyone who might want to design a similar gamified module. In the meantime, I've provided some links below for those who'd like to explore "Adventures in Coketown" in more detail:
Adventures in Coketown - Spring 2017
Gamification: The Basics (a resource)
Gamification Google Slide Show from ATLIS 2017
Here's a link to resources for a Gamified Macbeth Unit
Previous Post on Gamification
Another Previous Post on Gamification
Galloway, Alexander. Gaming: Essays on Algorithmic Culture. University of Minnesota, 2006.
Kapp, Karl. "Two Types of #Gamification." http://karlkapp.com/two-types-of-gamification/
Kirby, Alan. Digimodernism: How New Technologies Dismantle the Postmodern and Reconfigure Our Culture. Continuum, 2009.
Lang, James M. "The Distracted Classroom." The Chronicle of Higher Education. 13 March 2017. http://www.chronicle.com/article/The-Distracted-Classroom/239446
Nealon, Jeffrey T. Post-postmodernism, Or, the Cultural Logic of Just-In-Time Capitalism. Stanford University, 2012.