Coding Moonshot – The Global Codeathon

cc licensed (BY SA) flickr photo by globalcodeathon

How exactly does a secondary Business and History teacher with little coding experience end up helping organize a Virtual Elementary Codeathon?

The Global Codeathon started with my wife Mindy getting into coding through her student’s inquiry into technology through the PYP Exhibition (her blogpost if interested) a little over a year ago. Since then she has been on a journey into coding where she has tried to find ways to naturally integrate it into her curriculum (polygons lesson,  compose music while practicing fractions and decimals), started an elementary coding club with her colleagues (other founders of  the Global Codeathon) and started presenting at conferences (Vietnam Tech Conference & EARCOS). Through this journey she realized coding is much more than STEM, visualizing one’s learning and computational thinking but also a creative outlet for students.

 “… students realized something many adults don’t, programming has limitless potential. It is much more then syntax to be memorized. It takes away the box and lets students create in new ways.”

At Vietnam Tech Conference she attended an unconference with with Justin Hardman and they discussed the idea of getting students together for a codeathon. This would be an opportunity for students to connect with other students interested in coding, push themselves and celebrate together. A codeathon would be very feasible in a place like Hong Kong where there are tons of schools but Mindy knew Hanoi was not Hong Kong and her elementary students wouldn’t be able to travel. The idea of a virtual codeathon was born.

Soon enough the team was set:

  • Mindy – Grade Level Leader PYP teacher and adviser for the coding club
  • Michelle Matias – Elementary Technology Coordinator and adviser for the coding club.
  • Heidi Kay Essiason – Grade Level Leader PYP teacher and adviser for the coding club
  • Myself – I was excited by the idea and told the team I would be happy to help any way I can

We then started working our PLN and promoting to see if there would be any interest

Note that this was just 2 months before the Global Codeathon.

YouTube Preview Image Lucky for us there was some interest  


 It wasn’t always this easy. Our website was still quite simple and we felt under the gun getting the website ready, getting schools to commit and planning the actual event. At first we weren’t sure if schools would make the commitment but in the end we had schools from 7 countries, 3 continents and students from at least 15 different schools attend (some host schools allowed students from other schools to attend).  All together we had a little over 200 students.

One of the biggest goals in the Global Codeathon was to get students to connect with other students and realize that it bigger than just their classroom. This is why we asked that schools to run the Codeathon simultaneously (unfortunately a couple schools couldn’t do this). To connect we used a Google Hangouts which we also used extensively in the planning stages when meeting with schools before the event. YouTube Preview Image We also organized a virtual beginner session led by Mindy and intermediate session led by Heidi. Initially we didn’t foresee that we would actually have to be teaching or guiding remotely but it was obvious there was a need and tried to figure out how this could best be done remotely. The sessions themselves went well but we did have some technical glitches as one would expect. All of our lesson materials had been shared on the website in case the Hangout went down but amazingly the Hangout stayed strong but unexpectedly we directed a DDOS attack on our own website when we had all the students access it.  This definitely increased the stress level but luckily everything was on Google Docs and the team troubleshooted and sent tiny url’s to the participating schools.

At the end of the sessions we had students upload their programs to the Beginner Scratch Studio and Intermediate Scratch Studio and had students check out each others work (we emphasized that work wasn’t expected to be a finished product). These studios reinforced the connection we had across the world with an authentic public audience, celebrate one’s work and offer constructive feedback. While the students were checking out the programs, we had teachers’s from each location find one student who would be willing to do a 2 minute demo slam of their program by screensharing on the Hangout. The demo slams were a lot of fun and a reminder that these students are elementary students. Some were quite scared to share but once they did they showed a lot of pride in what they had done. We also added a competitive side to the Global Codeathon with the Advanced Competition. We gave students 10 days before the event the theme of Super Heroes and they had to create a program based on that theme.  The programs submitted showed how one could really go any direction with their programs.  Here are a couple of examples:

“See inside” to find out how the student made multiple costumes to make the robot wheels move.  

“See inside” to see how complicated this program was to make.

Here are a few quotes from students who submitted:

“I felt proud of myself for making my FIRST game ever. I really love coding and messing around too create awesome things on it. This is one of the project i’m really proud about. Even if i don’t win, i still enjoy coding.”

“I enjoyed most on creating the sprites and different types of art to make it more realistic and interesting, and of course, also the coding, but some of the coding took some time to do, but it was very fun!”

“I really enjoyed doing this and finding out what everything does because I have never coded in my life! I really appreciated the experience that the Codeathon gave to me!”

“I enjoy scrolling through countless ideas of music themes and the satisfaction of choosing one. I had the same feeling when smoothing out bugs.”

“The best thing about creating my own program is that I could make something with nothing else than my computer and my imagination. Even if I wasn’t with my computer, I coded and picture the program that I’m working on so that I can start coding, right away. I was really obsessed with coding this period of time. I even forgot to sleep! I just love coding so much than before.”

I love that focus in on having fun, using one’s imagination and being creative. These students are not thinking about STEM or 21st century jobs. 

One last behind the scenes moment that put everything together was that we contacted Dong Nguyen the creator of Flappy Bird and he agreed to judge the advanced competition as well as send a letter of encouragement to the students and provide some t-shirts as prizes.

Dong's letterWe never expected our initial tweet to him would work but surprisingly received a message back. He even agreed to attend the Codeathon but soon realized May 17th he was going to be at his first big public appearance in New York City where he was going to announce what is happening next with Flappy Bird. To our amazement, not only did he judge games but he gave students direct feedback. Here is the feedback he gave to the winner of the Advanced Competition:

Dong's comments Here is the winning game itself from a grade 6 student (the oldest grade allowed) from Chadwick International School.

And here is his reaction when he found out he won:

This is something I would have never expected I would take part in but it ended up being an awesome ride. The team of Mindy, Michelle and Heidi were fantastic to work with and I learned a ton in the process. Everyone had their roles and I don’t think the event would have been as successful if it wasn’t for everyone.

We also had great support from UNIS Hanoi who when the ladies proposed the idea (I don’t work there) gave us the green light and said they would be willing to support us if needed. This willingness by the school to be risk takers and innovative is something we don’t take for granted. Also, big thanks to my PLN and those that re-tweeted, shared and generally supported us. Those re-tweets do make a big difference.

Lastly I want to thank all the schools who participated. Getting approval from your school, participating in Hangouts leading up the event and taking up a Saturday for both students and teachers is no easy task. Especially in an event led by teachers they may have never met before and opportunities for technology failure was high. The Global Codeathon couldn’t have happened without you.

It was a lot of hard work but seeing the student’s reaction in Hanoi and around the world definitely made it worth it.  We are now reflecting and thinking about what we can do next year.

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Just the Beginning

cc licensed (BY SA) flickr photo by katerha

cc licensed (BY SA) flickr photo by katerha

Wow! My COETAIL Course 5 Final project is finally turned in. In many ways this is the end of my COETAIL courses but I really do see it as just another step in my process as an educator. However, now I have a community of educators who together we will continue to push and learn from each other.

COETAIL has given that extra push for us to connect,  share with others, try new things and reflect. We have all grown so much and I share the same sentiments Kelsey shared before:

COETAIL has given me the confidence to do things I doubt I would have attempted otherwise:

  • Organized voluntary tech PD at my school (only PD last year that included both primary and secondary teachers).
  • Presented at the Vietnam Google Summit and Vietnam Tech Conference
  • Helping organize a virtual Global Codeathon for Elementary students grades 3-6 (14 schools signed up across 4 continents)
  • Blog – though we were required to for COETAIL, I already have drafts swirling in my head and hope to continue this great reflective practice.

Most importantly though I am more purposeful and reflective in my teaching, even if there is no tech involved. I strongly feel this has enhanced my students learning.

Here is my COETAIL Course 5 final project. I gamified a grade 9 IGCSE Marketing unit and please note we haven’t finished the unit yet. I envision I have a few more blog posts to write but will wait till the unit is done at the end of the month.

So far I would consider the unit a success but these next couple of weeks I will see if it truly comes together. However, I don’t see myself gamifying a complete syllabus but instead a unit here or there.

Here is how my students answered the question, “Should next year’s marketing unit be gamified?

Useful links if you want to dive deeper:

Blog posts:

YouTube Preview Image

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Please Try Again

As I continue my journey in gamifying a grade 9 Marketing unit, I continually question the pace at which we have our students work. Typically they are all expected to work within the same time constraints even though they have different abilities, interests and schedules.

One element in video games that is very different than a academic setting is if you don’t pass you repeat the level again. You may repeat again and again until you finally pass the level. This puts the focus on mastery instead of  continuing along at the same pace that everyone else is going, even if you have no idea what is going on.

In order to add this dimension to my game, I allowed students to choose when they take a quiz and require submitted work to be approved by me in order to receive a badge. For quizzes we have one for each level (a total of 6) and the students must get an 85% to pass the quiz. Though I am not a fan of multiple choice, I chose to create multiple versions of each quiz using Google Forms in order to make it manageable for myself.

Level 2 Quiz Image
I linked the quizzes to badges so students could also receive XP by completing them.

If the student doesn’t do well enough to be the Quiz King, they also still have:

  • Quiz Master: Awarded when student receives an 85% or greater by at least the second time they take a quiz on at least 5 quizzes (will be 6 quizzes total).
  • Quiz Champ: Awarded when student receives an 85% or greater on all 6 quizzes. Students may take quizzes as as many times as they want.
  •  Quiz Champions Badge: Awarded when entire team receives an 85% or greater on all 6 quizzes.

One contentious point with some students is the Quiz Champions badge which is worth 100 XP which makes it one of the most worthwhile badges to obtain. The thought behind this was that teams would have to work together and help those students struggling so they can reach a common goal. The difficulty in completing this badge is almost every team has at least one team member who is either struggling on the quizzes or just not even attempting them. So long as students are genuinely trying, teams seem very supportive even if their teammate doesn’t pass. However, the students not even attempting the quizzes are starting to be resented by their teammates and tensions are growing.

Other than the issues mentioned about teammates not even attempting quizzes, I really like allowing students to choose when they take a quiz and repeat if necessary. In any given day I can have 4 different level quizzes taken by a variety of students. The students seem to enjoy this and the one’s who have struggled gain a sense of accomplishment once they eventually pass the quiz. Also, teammates are happy to congratulate their team members when they succeed. I also have the opportunity to analyze my spreadsheets of answers and see what questions individual students or the class is struggling on.

I have also applied the same model to assignments by allowing students to submit when they want to but require approval in order to receive the badge. This means a student may submit and be told it doesn’t meet the standard and needs to improve/redo it in order to receive the badge. I don’t want students to take on too much additional work in order to complete their assignments. However, receiving and giving constructive comments from their classmates and teacher and actually doing something about it is powerful. The student can’t just nod their head and say “yes will do that next time” but instead they do it now and immediately learn from their past experience. Below is an example where a student submitted work but needed to make some minor adjustments in order to get his badge.

Going forward I do see a lot of merit in giving students freedom in the timing of their assessments. I want my students to become “masters” and giving them more opportunities to test their mastery is one piece of the puzzle.

There are issues with time management which I will blog about later, but that is a skill that needs to be developed instead of avoided. What makes it harder to justify is the logistical matters. How would this interrupt a typical class instead of a gamified one? I would would prefer not to give multiple choice quizzes but feel short answer/essay questions would be too time consuming for a teacher to mark.  For this particular class I may continue to offer the freedom to choose when to take quizzes or turn in assignments in our Finance unit which I had planned on flipping.

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Gamification Roller Coaster

I have had multiple blog posts running through my head but just haven’t had time to write them and now I find myself getting close to the end of my Course 5 project. I introduced the game previously and had high hopes for my gamified marketing unit. However, almost 2/3 of the way through I am still unclear whether I would classify it as a success. What do I even consider a success? In developing the unit originally I had the following goals in mind:

  • Students develop a deeper understanding of the learning objectives from the Cambridge syllabus
  • Students realize that they can be in control of their own learning
  • Students have the opportunity to work at their own pace
  • Students are given freedom and opportunities to be creative
  • Students gain confidence in their ability
  • Students develop collaborative and leadership skills

At this point I haven’t analyzed the unit enough to claim any of the above as a success or not but wanted to share a few of the ups and downs so far.

cc licensed (BY SA) flickr photo by

This is the first time I have seen students regularly give high fives or scream in joy when accomplishing a task. At the same time frustrations in team work has been bubbling over to the point where one student yelled out at a teammate, “I want to fire you.” It has been an up and down experience for all and though I am optimistic that the last few weeks will end with a sense of accomplishment, I could be wrong and instead end with the feeling of failure.

Below is some data I have collected through weekly surveys that gives a glimpse how the “game” is being received by my students. Note that the first survey was given before the game had started so I could gather a general feel of what the students thought about the class in order to compare. I also really wish I had taught two classes in order to compare results with a non gamified class.

The results don’t paint a pretty picture though I have recently seen student buy in accelerate as I feel my students finally “get it” and this may turn things around.

In subsequent posts I will discuss individual aspects of the game which may reflect the results below.

Not exactly the most positive trends.  I also ask students to make general comments and the most common comments were:

  • Managing time is so hard
  • Fun
  • Team members are lazy
  • I’m worried about my grade
  • So stressful

Lastly I also compared test scores throughout the year (only the last test was during the gamified unit) and see a potential positive correlation. The class as a whole had a slight upward movement but when I broke the class into two tiers, the bottom tier (students with lowest marks) significantly improved. This is not very scientific as it is based on one test (another one coming soon) but is something worth looking at.

There hasn’t been much real analysis yet and instead the above is raw data. I still need to do  interviews with my students and hopefully can get a better picture of how the gamified unit has gone.

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Google+ Communities – Where We Hope to Go and Why

In my last post I wrote about how I use Google+ Communities with my grade 9 & 12 business students. That post focused on how easy to use Google+ Communities are and the benefits of discussing with an audience. However, as the teacher and “owner” of the community, I hope my role gradually transitions to being a moderator who guides when needed. I want my student’s to understand that they can be in control of their own learning and also help others along the way.

“It’s not about technology; it’s about sharing knowledge and information, communicating efficiently, building learning communities and creating a culture of professionalism in schools.”

Marion Ginapolis, Public Schools Superintendent for Lake Orion, Michigan

Though Ms. Ginapolis is referring to teachers, I believe students need to develop these same skills. These are transferable skills that students will take with them beyond any classroom. Though the above skills don’t require technology, considering globalization and how technology has permeated our everyday life, the role technology plays still needs to be recognized.

As educators I believe for our own growth and to model for our students we should all find our own personal learning networks. We must utilize connectivism to further our learning and passions and guide our students to do the same. Here are some of the steps I have seen in my own journey using Twitter and Google+:

  • Consume – Find reliable resources and learn from them
  • Share – Using those reliable resources, share with my network
  • Interact – Ask questions to specific people or groups (#’s and communities) and usually get a response
  • Create – With confidence proudly share one’s work and others may find useful and even share with their network

I am trying to let go more in my class and let my students become curators and creators of their knowledge.

cc licensed (BY SA) flickr photo by Dan Slaughter

cc licensed (BY SA) flickr photo by Dan Slaughter

I could provide great videos and resources for them to learn from but I want them to develop these skills. I want to empower them. I want them to be awesome at searching. I want them to collaborate. I want them to fail and learn from their failures. I want them to realize that as their teacher I am just one part of their network and they need to figure out how to piece together their own unique puzzle. I want them to build a network they can learn from, not just consume from.

Though starting a network with only student’s from one’s school is a start, next year one of my goals is to add at least one other class from another school to our community. This would increase our audience of both lurkers and active members. Active members are extremely important as I have seen how a community can stall when only a few people are active.  A community needs active members so people want to continue to post and therefore reasons for lurkers to lurk. Without hitting the tipping point of posters, I believe any social network will gradually die.

Also, I am hoping to make a public community instead of a private community. I know there will be initial push back from my students but feel we can discuss the opportunities it will bring. The more difficult push back may be from my school and I understand their hesitation but believe the increased authenticity will also increase learning opportunities.

cc licensed ( BY SA ) flickr photo by Lindy Buckley

Social networks are how people share and Google+ Communities present a great opportunity to develop these transferable skills. This is not just in the classroom but also seen the business world as McKinsey Consulting recently reported, there is potential for Unlocking value and productivity through social technologies:

“But when companies use social media internally, messages become content; a searchable record of knowledge can reduce, by as much as 35 percent, the time employees spend searching for company information. Additional value can be realized through faster, more efficient, more effective collaboration, both within and between enterprises.”

cc licensed ( BY SA ) flickr photo by Atos

In my opinion connectivism is the future of learning. We need to empower our students so they take advantage of this and utilizing a real social network instead of a pseudo one makes the learning authentic. According to Paul Moss’ article, Why Learning Through Social Networks Is The Future:

Learning to create, manage and promote a professional learning network (PLN) will soon become, if it’s not already, one of the most necessary and sought after skills for a global citizen, and as such, must become a prominent feature of any school curriculum.

Though developing one’s PLN at school is a start, I want to encourage my students to follow their passions and learn beyond the school walls. Perhaps their school coding club doesn’t go to the next level so they can continue their passion and join the Android apps community. Maybe someone love’s basketball and instead of being consumer of basketball articles and YouTube highlights, they can become member of the Basketball Training community. We need to find ways to enable our students to get to their 10,000 hours.

cc licensed ( BY NC SA ) flickr photo by Dan Slaughter

This may sound concerning considering privacy and digital citizenship but I believe this is our responsibility and actually an opportunity. As educators we can’t shy away from the fact that social networks are a fabric of our students lives and they are navigating this ever-changing landscape. Mistakes will be made but with guidance and continuous discussion on digital citizenship and one’s digital footprint,  we can discuss how one learns from mistakes. Embracing social networks within the school shows that schools are embracing the real world that student’s live in. Instead we could keep them in a walled garden where they never have opportunities to make mistakes. All the while they continue to mess around on SnapChat as my student’s are already doing.

It all comes back down to the skills our students are developing. They need to be agile, embrace change and be willing to take ownership in their learning. As mentioned in a recent Forbes article Learn, Unlearn And Relearn

Traditional boundaries disappear and the global talent pool becomes more skilled and mobile, which presents a challenge for people in developed countries to adapt faster to simply stay competitive. Your ability to adapt to change and proactively make changes in your career is what will make a crucial difference to where you find yourself even just five years from now. To quote Mr  Darwin: ”It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.”

I know that my Google+ Communities are not the magic bullet but I see great opportunities to empower my students and help them develop as learners.

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Google+ Communities – Where I’m At

cc licensed ( BY NC SA ) flickr photo by Dan Slaughter

This last fall I had the opportunity to present at the Vietnam Google Summit. I presented on gClassFolders and Google+ Communities.  I have also blogged a reflection about Google+ Communities and just recently presented another workshop on them at the Vietnam Tech Conference. It is safe to say I am an advocate for Google products and a  fan of Communities. However, in this process of sharing my own practice and reflecting, I have seen how my use communities evolved. In one short year I see so much more opportunities for learning through these communities then I ever imagined when I first began. This will be a two part blog on how I am using Google+ Communities and where I hope it ends up.

As a base line, one should know that my school does not have an LMS (do have an outdated version of Moodle) or blog (been pushing for it but not yet there yet) and is not 1:1. This lack of a centralized hub (LMS) or place to publish and comment (blogging) has made our use of Communities much more transformative though I understand this may not be the same for others.

I started out this fall with my grade 9 and 12 business students as they met the 13+ age requirements. Now a good 6 months into it, I look forward to seeing it develop and will be using it with more classes next year. Our private community has become our class hub where everything we do revolves around it.

The key to me is the simplicity of Google+. It is easy to set up but also easy to share for both students and teachers. When posting, it is almost instantaneous and you will be notified if there is a new post. Students want instant gratification which is why my students had stopped using e-mail and SMS to ask each other questions and instead migrated to Facebook to discuss school. My goal has been to open the conversation beyond a friend or two but to the whole class.

With the community I now have an easy place to notify my students what is happening in class, share resources and receive feedback if one needs clarification.

cc licensed ( BY NC SA ) flickr photo by Dan Slaughter

cc licensed ( BY NC SA ) flickr photo by Dan Slaughter

My #1 rule to make a community work is that I no longer accept e-mails unless it is a personal issue. Instead all communication outside of class goes to the community. Questions from students become conversations and this is where the real learning happens. Communication has greatly improved in my class, especially for my ESL and shyer students.

“It makes me feel easy to ask questions more than asking in class.”

“Many people who don’t actually speak in class are very active on the community.”

I’m not substituting class conversations but in reality class conversations become much more meaningful. This is because the conversation has already begun before class starts. I am trying my best not to answer questions  (man do I sound lazy for not accepting e-mails and deferring questions) and instead try to wait it out and let other students reply. This conversation brings an audience to the conversation which can have great benefits according to the audience effect:

Yet studies have found that the effort of communicating to someone else forces you to pay more attention and learn more.

Going from an audience of zero to an audience of 10 is so big that it’s actually huger than going from 10 people to a million.

I know this is a simple concept but it also has become a fantastic formative assessment as I now have a better gauge where individual students and the class are. This directly adjusts my lessons and I know exactly who I can ask questions to. Whenever my shyer students adds constructive comments on the community I always ask them the next day in class to share and this builds up their confidence.

Some students still don’t participate in the community as I have made it optional but through class discussions I have figured out that instead they are lurkers. This is fine by me as I myself had been a lurker for a long time on Twitter and Google+ and have learned a ton. Eventually though I want them to be active participants in the community.

According to an edutopia article, Why Integrate Technology into the Curriculum?: The Reasons Are Many, four key components must be met for good technology integration:

  • active engagement
  • participation in groups
  • frequent interaction and feedback
  • connection to real-world experts

I believe my class Communities have helped achieve the first three and the fourth is one of my goals for the future. Google+ really lends itself to connecting with others and it will be fun to see who we can connect with.

Stay tuned for my next post as I will be sharing how am I trying to take the community from teacher driven to truly empowering my students. I will also be looking at the transformative skills I hope my students will be developing beyond the curriculum.

Also, if interested, below is a mash up of my presentation from Vietnam Tech Conference along with some basics on how to set up a community.

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Game On

cc licensed ( BY NC SA ) flickr photo by Dan Slaughter

Welcome to Slaughter Food Industries. Last week I introduced the gamified marketing unit to my grade 9 IGCSE Business class. The game consists of what I would consider a mashup of gamification and project based learning. Students had previewed the game earlier but now now that preview had become a reality.

The game consists of a variety of badges that can be earned as individuals and teams. Badges earned also earn the students XP points which will directly affect their grade as well as receiving rewards cards.

cc licensed ( BY NC SA ) flickr photo by Dan Slaughter

Badges consist of a variety of activities and projects. Most include being active on the class Google+ Community (asking questions, answering questions and providing resources) while others consist of creating materials that will help classmates learn (tutorial video, hexagon learning video, visualization) and also a variety of self assessments. In addition there are larger projects where students will be applying the knowledge and skills they have developed along the way. Below is their summative project – Market Analyzers:

cc licensed ( BY NC SA ) flickr photo by Dan Slaughter

To make this particular project more authentic, I am working on contacting either some marketing executives or managers from the actual companies the students will be analyzing.

Last week I explained the above and then went over the most important part of the game according to the students, announcing the teams. This was a very difficult decision as I know how important this is considering they will be working together for the next 11 weeks.

The teams first task was picking out the company they would be applying marketing theory to and the final selections were: Burger King, Sushi Dokoro, Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf and Quan an Ngon restaurant. I gave a variety of ideas but in the end let the teams pick out who they wanted to focus on.

To help guide them I have also created vocabulary sheets that they can work on but these are optional. In the vocabulary sheets are the learning objectives as stated in the IGCSE Business syllabus. I have also created fictitious news articles for each level to get students thinking about their business and how it applies to the learning objectives.

As my school is not 1:1 I have also included a small packet for each team to access in class. I do expect every team to have at least one computer per class but having these resources should come in handy.

cc licensed ( BY NC SA ) flickr photo by Dan Slaughter

In starting the game I haven’t given much for directions except the above. As a class we went over the badges and levels and I explained that for the next 11 weeks I will no longer be assigning homework. Instead the teams will need to manage themselves, push each other when needed and think strategically in their actions. I will be giving 5-10 minute mini lessons at the beginning of class but as time goes on, students will be working at their own pace so I will decide how useful these are. More important than my lessons is I hope to see students teaching each other and learning through the process of completing their projects.

I will be guiding teams and individuals but am trying to hold back at first to truly empower them. I will still be active with each team and individual but really do hope I let them figure out their own path for the game.

It should be noted that the ‘game’ will not be the student’s entire grade as when discussed in planning the unit, the students saw the value in the tests especially since they have complete control on how well they do. Therefore the ‘game’ will consist of 65% of the student’s grade and the remaining coming from two tests with questions that highly resemble what an actual IGCSE Business exam would have.

Here is the unit plan if interested:

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Still Working on Motivation

cc licensed ( BY NC ) flickr photo by alliecat1881

Looking back on my initial intrigue and trepidation on Gamification, it has been an enjoyable experience of diving deeper in and figuring out how the unit will turn out. I still don’t have that many more answers but believe I have been very purposeful in how I gamified the unit and am excited to see where it goes.

I am now one week into my game and before I started posting reflections, I figured I need to start with how I got here. How did I develop the unit which I considered to be gamified and address those nagging questions I had earlier.

cc licensed ( BY NC SA ) flickr photo by Andrew Langendorfer

In first creating this unit, the students I had in mind were the least motivated few who didn’t seem to care how well they did in my class. They came to class, went through the motions but never applied themselves. It could be due to a variety of reasons but I wanted to find a way to motivate them. I already knew there was an issue with how gamification may actually take away intrinsic motivation by instead offering a reward so I started getting deeper into the research which I mentioned in my previous post. This is especially pertinent to my game as I have tied XP points to 65% of the student’s grade which is a big carrot.

I will look at the big questions that were raised in the previous post in regards to motivation and how I tried my best to address them in my game design.

Studies Find Reward Often No Motivator by Alfie Kohn – Rewards decrease creativity.

  • When I first created my badges, I had layed out relatively explicit tasks of what I wanted the students to do. For example, I initially was going to have every student make a commercial. However, I realized for one this medium of advertisement may not best fit its purpose and I see the value in choice. Therefore I have tried to open up the major projects for students to have more choice.
  • I recently attended a workshop on e-portfolios with Hamish Clark and he is an evangelist for promoting creativity.  One point he made that I found surprising was that rubrics can actually stifle creativity. I understand his rational but I am not sure I agree with this 100%. I believe a well written rubric can be skills and concept based but I have decided I will be going rubric free for the unit.

Three Critical Elements to Sustain Motivation by Daisy Yuhas – Need to have autonomy, value and competence.

  • Autonomy – My student’s need to feel as though they are in charge and I think for some, this unit naturally fits. I no longer assign homework but instead as individuals and as a group they take responsibility for their own actions. One concern student’s had was control of their grade as they worry they will be held back by teammates. In order to give a greater sense of control to my top performers, I created a “Above & Beyond” badge where they can receive additional XP points for exemplary work. Also, students will be assessing themselves and their teammates in a reflection and if I see that a student carried their team, there is opportunity to receive additional points.
  • Value – Student’s need to see real value in what they are doing. One way to do this is to find an authentic audience and I currently working on finding that for my class. Also, reflecting on why the subject matter is important to the student’s own life has shown to improve performance so I have added a reflection question to the project planning and evaluation sheet.
  • Competence – People need to see that their hard work is paying off. One way I did this was by altering the way I did my Sporcle Challenge (example here). Originally I was only going to give the badge to the person who wins the actual challenge but then decided to make it so if one finishes within a certain time period, they then receive the badge. I can see how it would be demotivating to practice hard and never receive this badge.

Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivations: Classic Definitions and New Directionsby Richard M. Ryan and Edward L. Deci – The power of verbal informational feedback instead of verbally controlled feedback in intrinsic motivation.

  • I recognize that I really need to be purposeful in my feedback and will be more conscious of my actions. This can be just as motivating for some as receiving a badge.

Extrinsic relative to intrinsic goal pursuits and peer dynamics: Selection and influence processes among adolescents by Bart Duriez,  Matteo GilettaPeter Kuppensand Maarten Vansteenkiste – Positive motivation through belonging to a group but also potential for in-group threat.

  • This is the one I look forward to but also am most concerned about. I have great students who I think will be very supportive with each other which should increase motivation. However, being in the same group for 11 weeks can lead to points where a team is dysfunctional and how they handle these issues can make or break a team. I am trying to closely monitor this and make sure it doesn’t get to a point of no return.

In my planning process there are so many more things I pulled from in creating my game but the above were the real question marks I had. I didn’t address all concerns with gamification or even  completely answer the one’s above, but that may happen in another iteration of the game if I choose to continue.

Though I initially focussed on my least motivated students, I now see how a larger picture and believe my gamified unit has the potential to greatly help my traditionally best students. The autonomy and leadership positions have can empower these students to utilize transformative skills that can be applied outside the classroom. Some of these students are quite shy and this will put them out of their comfort zone. These students are becoming the teachers and though it won’t be an easy process but I now expect my greatest growth to come from them even though it won’t show up on a report card.

I know I’ve said it already but I’m looking forward to what happens next.

For a sneak peak of what the game looks like, check out the website I created. It is still a work in progress but gives an idea of how the game will work.

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Feedback & Analysis

cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo by Simon Cunningham

In implementing my Gamified Marketing unit, I want to make sure I can properly analyze the effectiveness of my Game Based Learning design. Instead of a generalized evaluation such as increased test scores and end of unit reflections, I want to be able to drill down into specific characteristics of the game. This will help me see if I need to make changes part way through and better evaluate the game as a whole.

To do this I plan on giving my students a weekly survey in order to reflect. I think I will have my students assign themselves a 4 digit number that only they know so I can not only evaluate the class as a whole but individual students as the unit goes along. Ideally this survey would take no longer than 5 minutes as I don’t want to use up too much class time.

cc licensed ( BY NC ND ) flickr photo by Ars Electronica

Before making survey questions, I analyzed motivational theory. I already knew this but the more I researched, the more difficult it seemed to utilize game based learning that is intrinsically motivating. My main sources and takeaways in looking at at motivation included:

I will do a follow up blog post analyzing the overall set up of my game within some of the theory mentioned above.

Here the categories I looked at in  making my survey questions:

  • Autonomy – Student perception on who is in charge of their learning.
  • Value – Student perception in the value of the learning and activities taking place
  • Competence – Student perception that if they devote more time then their skills wills improve.
  • Feedback – Student perception on feedback from team and teacher
  • Healthy competition – Students perception on the competitive dynamics of the game.
  • Creativity – Students perception of being able to utilize creative skills.
  • Transformative skills – Student perception that skills they are learning will apply outside of class.
  • Challenge – Students perception on whether activities are scaled appropriately between too easy and too difficult
  • Fun – Students perception on enjoyment of the class.

In creating my survey I hope I addressed ways to analyze some of the key points that I saw in the research.

Potential survey questions include:

  • Are you having fun in class?
  • Do you feel like you are in control of your learning?
  • Do you feel like you are in control of your grade?
  • As you are putting more effort in, do you see your skills improving?
  • Are you developing skills that you can use beyond the Business Class?
  • Do you enjoy working with your team?
  • Do you think your team values you?
  • Do the activities allow you to be creative?
  • Are you receiving constructive feedback from you team?
  • Are you receiving constructive feedback from your teacher?
  • Do you enjoy the competition?
  • Are you excited for next week’s business class?
  • Do you want your next unit to be gamified?

I will have these question on a Google form and use  a semantic differential scale instead of a likert scale as I believe it will allow more room for quantitative analysis. However, I am not a statistician and really am just going off a couple of quick Google searches so steer me in the right direction if you know better. I will also have “comments” field where student’s can free write any comments.

These are my ideas so far and I would appreciate any feedback people have before I begin the game.


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Introducing the Game

I have  teased that I will be Gamifying a unit to my IGCSE Business students but today was the first day we really discussed what it would look like. I openly told my students that it is a work in progress and any positive or negative feedback would greatly assist. For example, when I first introduced the idea of the game they were firmly against any type of public leader board, even if it was just for the top few people.

I first introduced badges and explained how these could be earned. Initially when I looked at creating badges I hoped to use Mozilla Open Badges but instead went with Class Badges. I saw a tweet from Kelsey about Class Badges and after playing with it I was sold as it is so simple.

cc licensed ( BY NC SA ) flickr photo by Dan Slaughter

Though my badges aren’t finalized, my thought process was to utilize project based learning in order to earn badges. I split my badges into individual badges and team badges. So far I have awarded more XP points to the team badges in order to promote team work and helping each other succeed vs competition. I am still trying to figure out the best ratio on team XP vs individual XP and will be discussing it more with my class. Here is a snapshot of some of the badges students can earn:

Individual Badges

cc licensed ( BY NC SA ) flickr photo by Dan Slaughter

Team Badges

cc licensed ( BY NC SA ) flickr photo by Dan Slaughter

Entire list of badges so far

cc licensed ( BY NC SA ) flickr photo by Dan Slaughter

A  theme of my badges is that most everything has to be shared on our Google+ Community.

cc licensed ( BY NC SA ) flickr photo by Dan Slaughter

I look at the community as a way to empower and take ownership in one’s own learning and by producing quality work, sharing it with classmates and hopefully have them learn from it; I believe their is potential for great satisfaction.

One hard part with the badges is that one can’t get half a badge. You either get it or you don’t. Therefore I informed my class that when they submit the necessary work to receive the badge, I will be the judge to confirm whether they earn the badge or not. If they have not met the requirements, I will give them constructive comments so they can re-submit.

My students naturally noticed that team badges are worth much more and grew concerned about this, especially my strongest students. One badge that especially concerned them was Quiz Champions. To earn this badge every student in the group will have to get at least 85% on every quiz of the game. There is no limit on the amount of times quizzes can be taken though they can’t be taken more than once a day. I asked them why I did this and an astute student replied, “so we help teach our teammates who are struggling.” Perfect.

So students don’t only try for the minimum to get a badge, I have also included two caveats:

  • Above and Beyond badge: Awarded to students and or teams who produce absolutely top notch work. An additional 10% maximum XP points will be earned.
  • For Hexagon Masters, Producers, Researchers and Market Analyzers (all major projects), teams will fill in a team member evaluation (including themselves). If a student stands out in this evaluation they will earn an additional 10% XP points

These last two caveats seemed to settle my high performers as they will still have opportunities to get additional XP points.

Next I introduced Reward Cards and the grading system.

cc licensed ( BY NC SA ) flickr photo by Dan Slaughter

This got my students the most excited and also the most freaked out.  They loved the reward cards but felt 3 minutes is not enough time on their phones. The grades worried some since I have decided XP points will actually contribute to their grade. A final number hasn’t been decided but I am thinking 65% with the remaining 35% coming from tests. I’m not a huge fan of tests but being an exam driven class, I do recognize their importance.

Admittedly the grades part freak me out too as I am still not sure how the numbers will work out. The numbers in the picture above are no where near final but I need to think carefully of my expectations in receiving badges and make sure the game isn’t too hard or too easy.

The last thing I explained is that every week students will have the opportunity to nominate another students good deed. This does not have to be someone on their own team. If I feel the good deed merits it, the nominated student will have get to draw one random “reward card.” I will also make additional reward cards to add a bit of surprise.

After all this and answering questions I saw a mixed reaction. The biggest concern was who will be on one’s team. Some students thought it sounded like a lot of fun while others felt they still didn’t quite get how it would work. No one had strong feelings against it.

We talked as a class and then I told them I would leave the room and let them discuss on their own. I explained that nothing I have shown is set in stone and their feedback would be greatly appreciated.

5 minutes later I came back and overall it looks they bought into it. The biggest concern was making the teams fair and I told them I will do my best to do this. One surprise was that the class decided they did want to have a top 5 leader board but with no names attached to it and I said that sounded great.

I have encouraged students to add more comments on the Google+ Community and will continually to seek out their advice as we play. One thought I had was giving a weekly survey about the game where they rank a variety of categories 1-10. I expect this unit to last approximately 10 weeks so I could have some interesting analysis to reflect on in the end.

Next up will be finalizing the game and building a site to put everything. I’m looking forward to how it will turn out.


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