Saturday, 7 November 2015

Mid term review of ClassCraft in Maths Class

I have started exploring gamification in my year 8 (12-13yo) maths classroom. It has taken some set up and maintenance time, but has been very rewarding.

My initial feedback has included parents thanking me for motivating students to complete the optional extension work (to gain XP), and a young student asking me what the "educational objectives" of the game are. Perhaps most interesting is one of the less engaged students pleading that we don't end the game after the end of year test, when I told her we will keep playing until the end of the year. Her response was, "but it will still stop at the end of the year". I didn't have the heart to point out that she was wishing away her summer holidays wanting to do maths. I just smiled at her.

The foundation of my gamification has been through ClassCraft, which has allowed me to build on the concept and fostered interest in further research. I have referred to ClassCraft in a previous post, I am essentially using it as a student engagement game which is layered on top of our regular class work.

Black Magic
To build on the point system, I applied a few topics we were covering with the maths curriculum. First we were covering probability, which works well in the game.

I set up 3 "magic spells" each by a different magical character. Each spell essentially is a multi-step probability tree. I gave the students some time to explore the probability of each option. The students produced a table of outcomes (included no impact) with the probablity of outcome for each spell. Armed with that information they discussed and argued in their preset team as to what risk they were willing to apply.

This is the presentation they received:

I asked each team to confirm which they would choose. Most teams picked the most dangerous option, willing to forego health for the possibility to win big on XP!

Then I brought out a 6 sided dice, a 4 sided dice and a coin to show the class.

The students were on the edge of their seats as one team choose the Warlock, and rolled a "one" on the first roll... to lose 10 health points...
The next team choose Warlock also, they sheepishly got past the first roll, but then flipped the coin to also lose 10hp...
The remaining teams became less confident of their choice...
was the dice rigged?
was the probability wrong?

As more teams played, the classroom discussion turned to "luck" and the impact of only getting one chance...what is the difference between theoretical and empirical probability?

After some debate (and a lot of important learning) I agreed that we will do another round of spells later in the game (probably in the last week)

Sphinx Coin
After probability, the curriculum moves into consumer mathematics (discounts, mark ups, interest, profit and loss, etc). Again in their teams, I introduced a game for them to work through for XP. This time they could choose a coin... silver, ruby or gold.

Each coin could be surrendered at different times,
-The Silver Sphinx Coin was immediate for 2000XP,
-The Ruby Sphinx Coin was less XP, but generated simple interest over 1 week, and
-The Gold Sphinx Coin was less XP again but generated compound interest over 2 weeks.

The students had to calculate each option, discuss in teams and select a coin...

I had described compound interest in class, but not how to calculate it. Being engaged and interested in the topic (because there was XP at stake) the students worked together to calculate each week's interest and cumulative balance. The points were good, but seeing students checking each other's working and defending their own was brilliant!

Interestingly all teams in all classes choose to wait for the highest return of the gold coin. Perhaps the interest was set too high, but reviewing the results all teams had settled on the correct answer!

Overall progress so far
I am truly enjoying teaching the 2 lower secondary mathematics classes which I am using ClassCraft on, however it is not without its drawbacks, principally two drawbacks.

First is time consumed with preparation and maintenance. It was quite easy to set up ClassCraft, and the introduction presentation took a little time and effort, however this was quite fun and I hope to use it again in the future. ClassCraft has been well designed to allow quick and easy point allocation, however it still can take some time to allocate points and dish out penalties. For example I have been giving points for doing extension assignments, and subtracting health for missing compulsory homework, but both of these can take some time to complete. Not a big issue, but time consumption should be a consideration for anyone looking to take this on.

Second is point focused students. It is a fine line to tread, I want the students to value the XP and health points, however I do not want students to ignore the value of the learning and always badger me for those points. I have tried to manage this by requiring all requests for XP to be submitted through the game's messaging service. This has removed the hands up for XP, but still I see some students only attempting questions for the XP. It is better to attempt than not to, but I try to foster an intrinsic value of learning, which can be overshadowed by the love of leveling up.

I don't see either the time nor the competing motivation as game over (pun intended) for gamification, which I think is very valuable for student engagement. They are consideration for teachers, and perhaps something need to find solutions (or strategies) for.

Player Types in Gamified Education

Having started down the exciting paradigm of gamification in education, I did a little research into some gaming theories...which I have set apart from gamers' theories (which can be NSFW)

One of the interesting theories, which comes from Richard Bartle, coined the Bartle's Player Type. This  concept is based on 4 player types (or eight depending on sources) which are split across 2 variables being:
between acting on or interacting with, and
being in respect to other players or the game's world.

The four types are shown below:

Each of these player types is based on what their objective is, and how this impacts on how they play games. There is a surprising amount of further research and discussion of this concept, most of it directed at game developers. There are papers looking at how the proportion of one player type impacts on engagement of other player types, and how the mechanics, design, management of the game influences the break down of these player types, and the optimal proportion for different game genres.  

My focus of research on this concept was looking at how these 4 types exist in a classroom.

Achievers have been the general winners of traditional classroom. They want the grades and want to attain all of the content.
Socialites enjoy the topics based on discussion and interaction, typically humanities subjects. They enjoy classrooms based on group work, however can be disruptive when individual work is required.
Explorers often seem to be the gifted students that are happy to do independent study into a specific area of the content. This can be good, however can become too disruptive when they need to complete the assigned tasks.
Killers commonly miss out in classrooms. They seem willing to fail, so long as others are failing more, and care more about their rank than truly understanding the content. They may not sound like the optimal student, but they still have a place to contribute and learn in classrooms.

Accomodation of player types
Using badges and accumulated points which are typical of most gamified classrooms, appeal to the Achievers. These need to include short, medium and long term achievements to maintain the interest.
Included list of activities which allow everyone to see the activities and successes of others students, and perhaps with either likes/upvotes/+1's or even short comments encourages socialites to celebrate the success of others.
Providing ability to unlock esoteric aspect of the content can help engage Explorers. As achievements are complete, perhaps an offshoot activity is available to explore something optional that most ignore. Killer
Setting up competitions, particularly ones with stakes will interest the killers. Can they gain some points by out scoring someone in an activity. These need to be carefully managed to avoid upsetting the Socialites.

I am still trying to develop games to activate all of these learners, but would appreciate any thoughts and advice either in the below comments or on twitter at @jarradstrain