I think it’s normal for the newness of an experience to wear off after a while, and it’s easy to fall into a predictable pattern of learning and planning, so I’ve taken intentional steps to keep our learning experiences fresh and engaging.
It’s my goal to create a classroom environment- our own gaming world- that makes our gamified blended learning sustainable. Community, story narrative, and engaging content are key aspects to consider when worldbuilding.
CommunityOnline learning is not synonymous with isolated learning. The community aspect of a classroom should transcend the actual location of learning- whether that is online or face-to-face. Regardless of where and how students are learning, they should have opportunities to interact with the content and their learning community.
Building a positive community within a competitive gaming situation is critical. Friendly competition is great, but what’s even better is a collective community that is genuinely interested in the learning of everyone involved. One way that we build our community is through collaborative battles within our game. Boss battles are formative review challenges within Classcraft where my class work together to defeat a fictional character. When the class is counting on every student to work hard and be prepared, students are motivated to invest in their peers. It’s powerful stuff!
My student groups also compete throughout the day for extra XP. The red team created a goal without any prompting from me, showing me that they are interested in building up our community too. Classcraft also has random events that can award students points, deal damage, or provide a silly way to have fun together. Whatever the outcome, whether good or bad, we are in it together, and it reinforces our community.
NarrativeEach quest within our game includes a fictional story. This narrative follows us from one adventure to another. An interesting story goes a long way toward keeping students interested in completing online tasks. I realized that my struggling readers were sometimes missing the narrative of our game because it was difficult for them to understand.
For that reason, I started creating short “quest trailers” that help students jump right into the story and understand the objective for the quest. It was a big hit with students, and after I started using these videos, my class as a whole was more interested in the story behind our game.
Since the quest trailers are a bit time consuming to create, I’ve also been using Blabberize to help students get excited about quests. It’s a quick and silly way to engage my learners, and they are excited to start making their own blabs in the near future.
Secret missions are also a bit hit for my students. I let them know that I’ve “hidden” an extra task in our quest with a large reward. They can unlock the secret mission when they complete a certain task, but they don’t know what that task is, so they are extra motivated to complete their work.
Engaging ContentLet’s be honest. Boring content is boring content. If I want my students engaged, then I need to find and create resources that they are interested in. Our online lessons include a lot of various media- articles, infographics, visual charts, pictures, Youtube videos, book read alouds, songs, and teaching videos I’ve created.
Here are a few of my favorite tools and sites for finding and creating engaging content. I'd love to hear your favorites too- add a comment below!
- Playposit allows me to make any online video interactive for my students.
- Flipgrid is a great way to allow students to interact in online discussion or demonstrate their understanding for an assessment.
- Wonderopolis is a fantastic site that provides students with interactive images and videos on a variety of topics. It’s a great way to encourage students to explore a topic.
- Thinglink allows you to make any image interactive. There are lots of different pricing plans, but the basic version is enough for me.
- Kidsdiscover has some great infographics for download.
- TheKidShouldSeeThis has short educational videos that are perfect for my learners.
Every Game Needs a GamemasterIn this journey into gamification, I’ve realized that my students take their cues from me. While my role is to prepare content, give feedback, and provide instruction so each student moves toward mastery, I also have the important role of Gamemaster.
It’s important that I show my excitement and willingness to be silly and play with my students while we learn. I’m both the teacher and the Gamemaster. I set the tone for a positive community and a positive game experience, which means my students need to know that I’m all in!