This past weekend I had dinner with a friend who is a pilot with the national carrier here in the UAE. He also is a trainer who tests captains to be on an aircraft simulator. He is currently training to become a trainer for the world’s largest aircraft – the A380. His job in a nutshell is to run an insanely intricate video game.
What I find interesting about this situation of gamified learning is that the knowledge is expressed in the simulator, hours and hours of studying is brought to a few hours of simulated flight time, the gamified experience is the summative activity. I have not tried this model of summatively showcasing learning in a game but I have allowed my students to engage in levelling up their knowledge of HTML using Code Academy.
Code Academy ticks a lot of of the necessary boxes for student engagement.
1. It allows you to use an avatar of your choice
2. It allows you to post your learning or levelling up on social media
3. If you login as part of a class it publishes how far along you are in a ranked table.
4. Content get progressively more difficult but builds upon already formed knowledge and skills
5. There are hints – and everyone gets the same hint at that given point! This is a huge one for me as a teacher! I really love this.
My students are building their own webpages and have been working through code academy to gain understanding of basic tags, the skeleton of HTML, and some basic CSS. Oh did I mention I have been doing the exact same thing.
Yes – this is me tweeting about my progress – I was proud and I wanted others to know!
I just unlocked the 25 Exercises badge on @codecademy! Gotta Learn something every day!
— Mr. McGrady (@Mr_McGrady) September 3, 2014
Currently students are working through Code Academy in conjunction with Google Docs that another teacher and I have created. These documents are additional questions or activities that allow students to showcase what they are learning as they progress through code academy. These are also ways for us as teachers to check to see that our students are on the right path. Invariably they are, but as I have learned with HTML – the details are what matter!!!
Some things I have noticed about gamified learning in my classroom
Students gobble skills and love to see their name at the top of the list of accomplished tasks. They love being able to tick complete on a module and they love to…..oh wait….just wait a minute…..ticking complete on a module I know I had seen this somewhere – don’t tell me you don’t like seeing the green check marks just as much as I do.
Back to my classroom – As I was saying students gobble knowledge and skills and move through modules at the speed of light some times. The google docs we created were a means to allow students to stop and think and show (know I know what you are thinking – how are they different than a worksheet?). The answer is I am not sure yet. I don’t know if they are needed nor if they are a good idea, but what I am seeing is students fly through content. Which is exciting for me as it shows they enjoy the medium through which they are learning. Loving it far more than that student who commented “Mr. McGrady talks too much” on his/her end of year student survey.
I have always been one for doing and learning and I can honestly say my students are actively engaged for a larger portion of the time in that class than in many other that I teach. There is no doubt that they are doing and learning. Likewise students have told me they like the way the class is taught better than any other class they have taken or are taking.
Going back to the Course 4 image above – yes I realize I am jumping around a lot here. The green check marks make me feel good. I like seeing them and know that I have compartmentalized that knowledge and explored it enough, connected to it enough, to give it the green mark of completion. Or perhaps it is merely a green check mark place holder? I am no master.
At the end of the day I think gamifying a classroom experience is something educators have been doing for a long time. I remember being part of a Tribe, I have had a pizza party when we all did our homework for a month, and I can definitely remember playing french verb bingo!
For anyone interested in resources on using codeacademy in their classroom.