After considering the research, I pursued turning my class into a game because I realized that it wouldn't be too difficult. Classes already deal with points and numbers. Classes already collect and track data about students. Turning your class into a game then is just shifting how you use and label all the information you already have. For example, a simple assignment where students create a five slide deck about themselves becomes a task in the game when instead of it being worth 100 points, it is worth 100 XP points. I also made most of these assignments also a way to earn a digital badge. If students completed the assignment and earned 90 points or higher, then they earned a digital badge for that assignment.
1. Tracking System
My biggest challenge was finding a way to keep track of my students points, and to track their progress through the levels. I looked into premade systems like Classcraft and Class Dojo, however none of them had the total customization that I wanted. I began to build my own system using Google sheets. I relied on some instruction from Alice Keeler (alicekeeler.com) but then stumbled upon Michael Matera's website, www.explorelikeapirate.com He has already created a POWERFUL spreadsheet that includes FULL customization while allowing you to record students points and keep track of their progress through the levels of your game. It is worth every penny that I spent and I highly recommend it to anyone wanting to gamify their classroom.
2. Game Theme
All engaging games tell some kind of story and yours should too. Some games are modeled after popular movies or books, for example a Harry Potter themed game where students level up to become wizards like Harry, or Star Wars themes where students achieve the level of Jedi. I recommend that when you pick your theme, you stick with something you enjoy. My game this year is built around a space theme as I have always enjoyed learning about the Apollo program. My students are working towards becoming astronauts.
3. Level Up
Once you've identified your theme, you need to consider the name for each of your levels. You also need to determine how many XP points it takes to achieve each of these levels. This is where the spreadsheet created by Michael Matera really came in handy! I simply had to feed the names of each of my levels into his pre-made spreadsheet. I could also adjust the number of XP it takes to move from one level to the next. The basic levels in my game are: Candidate Traniee Pilot Commander Astronaut Astronaut Commander Astronaut Deep Space Explorer
Students earn their XP (experience points) by completing assignments. It is simply a matter of turning the points they earn on assignments into experience points. An assignment where they create a slide presentation is now worth 100 experience points, instead of 100 points. Your grade book, and your XP tracker become one and the same thing. This motivates students to put their best effort into their work because they want to earn the most XP possible and level up.
5. Special Quests
Students not only earn XP by completing their regular classroom assignments, but they can earn bonus points both individually and collectively through special quests. This can involve the integration of some standard school best practices - for example your school wide behavior policies. Students at our school can earn platinum eagles for excellent behavior in the hallways, and in our game earning five of these as a class results in a special badge. We also have hidden special painted rocks on our campus, called Clean Up Rocks. Students who find them are tasked with cleaning up a specific number of trash, and then when they turn the rock into the office they receive special recognition. Now, students can also earn a special school pride badge in our game when they complete this task, earning some bonus XP.
Students earn badges as they complete quests and assignments. Most of my badges were initially digital and were attached to each assignment. For example, completing a slide presentation introducing your self would also earn you the Introduction Badge. I made small books with squares for stickers for each of these badges. One of the favorite badges for my students this year has been the Designer Badge. Students designed a badge in the 3d program, Tinkercad, and the top fifteen were selected to be printed out on our 3D printers. Students who level up to the astronaut level can choose one of these fifteen badges for their prize for reaching this level.
Students were thrilled to see their own designs printed out in 3D and to be able to earn one of their very own. Our 3D printer is always busy!
7. Run Time
You can choose to gamify just one unit or one lesson, or jump in and gamify your entire class experience. I chose to gamifiy my entire class, and half-way through the school year we are still going strong. Students rush in to see if they have leveled up on our class website. They know that I update all lists and scores each weekend and can't wait to see if they have leveled up.