Sunday, September 30, 2018

A Game United

The words "Gamified Classroom" can be a bit daunting to most. I know they were for me a couple of years ago. The elaborate themes, quests, missions, items, badges, etc all seemed so magical yet terrifying at the same time. My main concern at the time was the planning behind the magic. There was one question that seemed to haunt me....

"When will I have time to put this all together?"

I then found an amazing community of educators on Twitter called #XPLAP (Explore Like a Pirate). It was in a weekly chat that I expressed my concern for the planning stages of such a huge class  jump into this. The response that hit me was an interesting one.

"Let the game plan itself..."

There are some things that should be laid out for the students such as theme and storyline, yet there are so many of the game items that can be addressed as the game itself progresses.

This changed the game for me (pun intended.)

I then went head first into a year long game and allowed the game to take shape. It became so complex and intricate, beyond anything I would be able to plan out step by step.

Going into this year I knew that although I had a similar storyline and theme, this was going to be a very different game. So far, I  have already learned another very important lesson in the development of my gamified class. I learned just how important the investment of the players is in the game.
I turned a misunderstanding about an element in my classroom into a chance to discuss what twist and turn elements could be planted to create more suspense and interaction within the game.

I love how creative they are when it comes to game design! One student developed a curse called "The Poison Apple" that would secret drain power from you with a period of time. Students also decided that I should use my "Freezing Spell" from last year, which stops a team or an individual from gaining XP for the week. Another student developed a power called a "Battle Pass." This allows guilds to sneak onto another's turf and take 3 of their powers/items.

I also love how honest they are about things that aren't quite working. I had a couple students that were confused by the jumps and holes in my storyline. (I became so excited about using elements inspired by my favorite reality TV shows that I forgot that it needed to fit into my plot line.) I have designed a bridge in the storyline to help students make more sense of those plot gaps. I was just impressed that they were so honest with me and willing to help me improve OUR game.

I made a mention that our game is in beta and it is up to all of us to make it better and better each day. It is amazing to me that even if our guilds are divided against one another at times during the game, my players, my students, can pull themselves into the designer roles and become a game UNITED!

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Dear Teacher: A Note From a Kindergarten Mom

Dear Teacher:

Do you see that spunky little girl with the beautiful red hair?.... Well she is my whole world and I just want you to know a few things.

I am sure there will be times when she will test your patience. Please know that she has the sweetest smile in the world and if you get to see it, it will change any mood!

There might be moments where you want to vent about my little girl to your co-workers in the teacher's lounge or lunch area. Whether she is 5 or 18, please know this before you speak your first negative word. She beats herself up every time she disappoints someone and tells me she needs to do better. She seems to sense disappointment and never means to cause you pain or frustration.

Please keep in mind that this is all new for her and, as you know, change is not easy. Whether it is Kindergarten, Middle School or High School, change takes adjusting. Please hold yourself back from jumping to "These kids should know this already!" She was quick with most things, such as walking, yet was slower at some things, such as potty training and bike riding. What I have learned after having my son is that each child has their own timeline. I realize that it can be extremely difficult managing 20+ different timelines in your classroom, yet I have faith in your ability to approach each child with the love and compassion that they need to reach their potential.

On the hard days, I urge you to remember the reason you get up and do this job everyday. I have a hard time believing that it is simply for something to do or for a paycheck. I hope it is for the love you have for EVERY student that walks through your classroom door. I realize that some make loving them a difficult task, yet those are the ones who need it the most.

My daughter needs a team to help her though this stage and beyond. Her father and I may be crucial team members, yet she needs teachers like you in her corner who will love and guide her no matter what. I am not saying that it is going to be easy. There will be many moments you will feel like giving up on my little girl. I stress that you stay with her, smile and simply love her through it.

A Mother of One of your Kids.