Setting Up the Game and Our Story So Far


Setting up the game:

1.) We’ve established levels of mastery for each LT, here they are:

POSTER - Level Zero POSTER - Level One POSTER - Level Two POSTER - Level Three


The way I’ll track the levels is through Socratic Brain. If you haven’t heard me talk about SB before, it’s the sbg system I use. Basically, I input my LTs and it lets me set a level for each kid on each one. It’s awesome, and I’ll definitely do a post on all the details later. For now, here’s a sneak peek at the interface:


sb levels sample
2.) Our Story So Far:

It starts on Frogstar World A. Arthur and Trillian have landed and are confronted with a problem at the spaceport. We’re not sure if its a riddle just to unlock the computer or a legit problem. I’m purposefully keeping the story vague right now so that I have options for where to take it later. Here’s the activity:


3.) Maps!

I would really like to get the ARG going this quarter, and I think my activity maps are going to be a great platform to make this happen. So far, they’re just a way to present the activities to the students, so that they can move ahead or get help when they need it if I’m not available. Click here to check out the map for 1.1: Write a rule to describe a pattern.


Not established yet:

Badges! I want to use badges as a way to acknowledge excellent work, different perspectives, growth mindset awesomeness, etc. My plan is to print them on stickers and have students put them on their binders. But with such limited planning time (I’ve to cover classes the last 3 days in a row), I haven’t got the stickers printed out. Anyway, the first badge will look like this (everyone gets this one):

BADGE - Don't Panic

[Gamification] Game Element #4: Coopetition


So, I feel like I just need to write something today because I haven’t written in a while.  And this is a game element that I am very interested in using in my class-as-a-game, so here goes.

Coopetition = cooperation + competition

On the cooperation side: I already work on finding or developing good group work tasks.  I look for tasks that have a low entry point, a well defined goal, and an “Open Middle”.  This way, I can get lots of buy in on the front end because it’s easy to get started, and I also get lots of different strategies for reaching the goal.  So the group work part comes easily. I have students who used different strategies share with each other and/or the whole class through short presentations.  What I need to improve is the collection of these strategies and presentations.  I want the students to bring everything together in a wiki or something, the same way gamers do when they share walkthroughs and tips.

On the competition side:  I really don’t do this at all yet.  I’ve never been good at creating a fun, competitive atmosphere, but I know it can be useful for motivation so I want it.  My first thought on competition is usually head-to-head games.  Like a “Quiz-up” competition, or a physics card game.  We played “Heads-up” with the iPads a few weeks ago and it went really well.  The kids love playing this game!  So I put some simple physics questions in and they played with just as much enthusiasm as they showed when playing the pop culture or celebrity categories.  This says to me that it’s the game play and the competition element that they are into, not necessarily the content.  If you haven’t seen your kids playing Heads Up, check out the game play here.

I also think this may be where my XP/Leaderboard system will be useful, as I will need to track completion of the “coopetition” activities.  With a good XP system set up, I can have different categories for leveling or prizes, and hopefully encourage the cooperation and competition aspects of the game.  For instance:

“Your team must attain 500XP to reach level 3 on this topic”

For this one, students would be relying on their teammates to acquire at least part of the XP needed to move to the next level.  So, if I can get students to want that next level, they’ll need to work together to get there.  And as long as I give XP for a variety of tasks, I can maintain the “choose your own adventure” feel to the class, while still leading students through a progression of topics.

“To receive this badge, you must complete 5 entries in the class wiki”

This is an example of an individual accomplishment, but one that requires a product that’s all about collaboration. Hopefully, students would want to complete the activity for a variety of reasons.  They might want the XP to move up the leaderboard, they might want their name to appear on the class wiki the most, they might want the badge to display on their binder, or they might want to “save the lost spaceship” before anyone else.  But whatever their reason for wanting to clear the obstacle, they’ll need to collaborate to make it happen.


[Gamification] Game Element #2: Avatars


I’m really glad I’ve started this process of examining the usefulness of various game elements for my class.  Because I think the first one (health meter) has already been scratched from the list.  The health meter was going to be used as a way to track when a student failed to complete an assignment, etc.  But after thinking more about my new rubric/grading scheme, I don’t think it will be necessary at all.  When a student completes a task of some sort, they get 1 bar filled in for that learning target.  If they do not complete the task, they don’t get the bar.  So taking away “health” seems like it might be a redundancy.  Next up, Avatars:


I feel like I HAVE TO HAVE avatars, right? I mean c’mon, everyone loves ’em!  But do they really serve a purpose for my particular class game?  Right now I’m thinking yes, they do.  First, I want the students to have as much choice as possible.  So letting them pick an avatar, having that choice right up front (maybe even mission #1 like some other class-gamers I’ve seen) seems like a no brainer.  Then, I also think the avatar is a great way to let them personalize the space.  This should feel like their game, not mine.  If I want them to take control of the learning, they’ve got to feel in control of the game.

As always, please push back if you disagree!  Have you tried this before?  How’d it go?

[Gamification] Must-Have Game Element #1


So, I’ve decided to look at the different game elements I want to bring to my class one at a time, in order to assess the strengths and weaknesses and decide which ones will best benefit the learning process. I’ve already put a few into the “must-have” category, so I might as well start with those.

First up is the health meter.


These are used in games to indicate the health or life force of a character. When the character is hit by something, the meter goes down (or loses a heart). What makes the health meter different from points or gold is that it starts out full and goes down when something bad happens. And if your health reaches zero, you die. 😦

What need does the health meter fill?

Practice assignments need to get done, whether they’re done at home or at school. If a student is not practicing their skills, they run the risk of being ill prepared for the more important task of completing quests/missions. So I want to track progress of practice assignment completion, but I also want it separate from any sort of proficiency measure (just because you did the practice doesn’t mean you understood it). So, I plan to use the health meter for this.

Miss a practice assignment, lose a heart. Simple. Want to get that heart back? Drink this potion. Do the practice and show it to me. If you lose all your hearts, come in after school so we can talk. Why have you not been practicing? What can I do to help? Do we need to bring your parents into this?

I think this also may help with the “I was absent” excuse. It doesn’t matter one bit why you missed the practice, you missed it so you lose a heart. Do the practice, get it back.

And I can give rewards for keeping full health, like extra XP or gold or something tangible that they want and doesn’t cost a lot.

Please let me know any thoughts you have on this one! I know I haven’t looked at this from all angles yet, so I need some help.

#MTBoS as a game: a n00b’s perspective


I have enjoyed “lurking” around the conversation about what the mathtwitterblogosphere is, where it could go, and how it can be more welcoming to newcomers. I really liked Sam’s post because he talks about how it’s different for everyone and you get out of it what you want or need. He’s great at welcoming newcomers and making them feel comfortable contributing.  I joined his new blogger initiation and that’s what moved me from lurker to contributor.  I also really liked Kate’s post on the culture of the MTBoS.  Her comparisons are spot on and very interesting, you should definitely check that one out if you haven’t already.  

Like most things I write here, I feel like someone (or lots of someones) already thought of this and wrote their own similar posts.  But then I write it anyways.  Because this is my blog and I write what helps me.  If I stopped every time I felt like my idea was unoriginal, I wouldn’t have written ANY posts this year.  So here goes:

I think the #MTBoS is like a game.

Ok, so I just got back from ISTE13 and one of the keynotes was by Jane McGonigal.  And I just started reading her book Reality is Broken.  Fifty pages in and it already blew my mind.  So that’s where the idea comes from obviously (or not obviously if you’ve never heard of her), but I think it’s a good comparison.  Here’s why:

1.) You tend to get out of it what you put in.  You can lurk around (like everyone does at first), but then you’re gonna stay at level one.  If you want to “level up” you’ve got to participate.  Joined a conversation: achievement unlocked! You earn two follows and one sweet lesson idea.  Wrote a good blog post: achievement unlocked! You earn two more follows and a worksheet on factoring.

2.) Participation is voluntary.  Why do we put in the extra time here?  To become better teachers?  I would think that would be the most common answer if I gave a survey, but does it really answer the question?  Why are we trying to become better teachers in this specific way?  Especially since…

3.) It can be really hard work.  I put in a lot of time (as I’m sure you do too if you’re reading my little blog) on Twitter and Feedly, trying to get everything I can out of them.  I am constantly checking my feeds on my phone, my iPad, and my computer, at home and at school.  Why so obsessive?  Well, I think it has to do with this:

“Strangers tell me at conferences how much the blogosphere has meant to their practice and their happiness.”  Dan Meyer said that earlier today in a comment on his blog.  That’s it!  Their practice AND their happiness.  Just like gamers wouldn’t keep challenging themselves if it didn’t make them happy, I think members of the MTBoS are putting in the extra hours because it makes them happy too!  Hence…

4.) Intrinsic rewards.  From Reality is Broken: “The scientific term for this kind of self-motivated, self-rewarding activity is autotelic (from the Greek words for “self” auto and “goal” telos“)”.

First, that quote made me think of this clip (a student talking about why he likes to play Minecraft) (Side note: that clip is from this video  by Douglas Kiang which is a wonderful breakdown on what gamer mindsets can teach us about education.)

Second, it made me think about what keeps me putting in the extra hours to keep up with the MTBoS.  Jane McGonigal describes the four intrinsic rewards that are most “essential to our happiness”.  I’ll just direct quote those bad boys here (emphasis hers):

“First and foremost, we crave satisfying work, every single day.  The exact nature of this “satisfying work” is different from person to person, but for everyone it means being immersed in clearly defined, demanding activities that allow us to see the direct impact of our efforts.”

“Second, we crave the experience, or at least the hope, of being successful.  We want to feel powerful in our own lives and show off to others what we’re good at.  We want to be optimistic about our own chances for success, to aspire to something, and to feel like like we’re getting better over time.”

“Third, we crave social connection.  Humans are extremely social creatures, and even the most introverted among us derive a large percentage of our happiness from spending time with the people we care about.  We want to share experiences and build bonds, and we most often accomplish that by doing things that matter together.”

“Fourth, and finally, we crave meaning, or the chance to be a part of something larger than ourselves.  We want to feel curiosity, awe, and wonder about things that unfold on epic scales.  And most importantly, we want to belong to and contribute to something that has lasting significance beyond our own individual lives.”

So, there she was describing what makes us happy, not exactly what about games makes us happy, just in general.  You might read that and think “Yes! And that’s why I am a teacher!!”  So where is the connection between games and the MTBoS?  I think it’s here, where she makes the connection between games and happiness:

“[Games] actively engage us in satisfying work that we have the chance to be successful at.  They give us a highly structured way to spend time and build bonds with people we like.  And if we play a game long enough, with a big enough network of players, we feel a part of something bigger than ourselves – part of an epic story, an important project, or a global community.  Good games help us experience the four things we crave most – and they do it safely, cheaply, and reliably.”

There it is!  Just replace gaming with “math nerd internet time” and she makes a great case for how the MTBoS makes me happy and keeps me coming back for more.