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Monday, September 16, 2013

Adding Game Elements to a course

A few people were asking about this topic, so I thought I would explain it in a blog post.

In the last few years, I have been reading quite a bit about Gamification in Education, in all its many variations.  It made me want to try and add some video-game type game elements to some of my courses. I haven't really gamified the course with a true game mechanic per se, rather I have just started to use the language of video games, with which most teens are very familiar of course, to name and explain things in my courses.

I started with a introductory Computer Science course which involves programming, and elements on hardware, software, operating systems, etc. I have always had different ‘sets’ of programming problems that involved writing several programs for each set that had similar concepts, and they built up in complexity. There was a set on controlling and formatting output, a set on variables, one on loops, one on selection (with if statements), graphics, etc.

Now I have rearranged these sets and created 6 Tiers of problems.  In each Tier, each problem is labeled as a Mission, and has a certain amount of XP (experience points) associated with it, based on difficulty. Each Mission presents a problem related to the central concept of the Tier.  Students gather XP as they complete each Mission.  Accumulating XP will allow them to Level up to a new Code Class.

I use Edmodo in all of my classes, so leveling up to each new Code Class gains them a new badge.  I give the students the Class Names and the XP required, but they do not see what the badge looks like until they (or someone in the class) levels up and earns the next badge.

For these 6 Tiers, the total available XP for the Tier is 100.  The XP values for each Mission vary, depending on the difficulty but they all total to 100. In each Tier there are also 1 or 2 Extended Missions, which are more difficult, sort of an extension of the core concepts.  So the students who work fast, and are ahead of the class can try these Extended Missions and earn extra XP (beyond the 100).  The only way to get to the Supreme Code Wizard class is to complete quite a few of these.  This helps me to keep the class mostly together as a group as we move through the Tiers.  Some may only earn 60 or 80 XP, most will get to the 100 XP, and some may earn 120 or 130 (with the Extended Missions) before we move as a class to the next Tier.

I recommend to the students that they move to the next Tier when I give it out, even if they have not completed all Missions, so that they are paying attention to all the concepts we are discussing each day in class.  But they can always go back and complete any older missing Missions when they have time, and gain the XP.

If a student completes all the Missions in the Tier they would level up at the end of the Tier, but if they didn't get a Mission done, they would still be able to level up once they earned the XP in the next Tier. So, students would see some level progression as they moved through the Tiers, even if they did not complete all the missions in the Tier. Those who completed all the Missions were able to reach a higher level in the class badges by the end. It seems to work well this way, rather than tying the badge to the completion of the Tier in its entirety, in which case some students would never earn the badge.

Also, I have some other projects that I do to cover other areas of the curriculum from the course.  These are often group projects in pairs or threes.  I have turned these into ‘Side Quests’.  They occur alongside the Tiers (one at a time though), and they decide how to best tackle the Side Quests, just as in a video game. Some go off on the Side Quest, complete the whole thing, and then come back to the main Tiers, some work on them off and on.  Either way these must done in collaboration with the other class member(s), not solo as the Tier Missions are. These Side Quests earn XP, as well as some Gold Coins.

I let them save up their Gold Coins to a pre-set value and they can then use the coins to help 'buff' up a low mark. I have not fully explored this concept yet, but I think I will fine-tune this the next time around.

Also, I am still working on a project that will become a ‘Boss Raid’, where the whole class must work together on something in order to complete it, but I haven’t really got that sorted out just yet.

Well, that’s it I guess, let me know if you have any thoughts, suggestions, or questions.
I have also done this with my Tech. Design course, so next post I will explain how it works there.

Below is an image of all the Code Classes they can work towards. I send this out to the students.

The image below shows all the images for each Code Class.  I have made each image into an Edmodo badge and I assign students the badges through Edmodo. The students do not see these images until they or someone else in the class earns the badge.

Thought or questions, leave them in the comments below. Thanks.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012


Just starting to look into Blogging.  Exploring and testing out this Google blog tool.  I would like to start blogging some of my experiences, in life, in teaching, etc.  Just wondering where bloggers find the time.  It must be a regiment thing - carving out some time to sit and write.  Can it be done sporadically?

Well, I guess I have at least started.  A single post to get me rolling perhaps.
I am off to read http://www.problogger.net/archives/2005/12/30/tens-tips-for-writing-a-blog-post/   
See if any of these tips help me.