Do you remember old school video games? When I was growing up, we had an Atari and arcades were loaded up with Pac-Man, Frogger, and Asteroids. Later, we graduated to a Nintendo and Super Mario Brothers.
Besides the fact that I LOVED those games, what I remember about them is that the game was the game. Period. In our current age, we are able to give feedback to game creators and, potentially, shape the development of the game. I don’t mean reporting bugs that need to be fixed but rather sharing -through reviews or emails/social media- our explicit thoughts on what does and does’t work and even offering up suggestions for making the game better.
And game developers listen. They use the feedback players give to shape the game and make revisions or use it to inform a new, but related, game.
What this means is that if you are going to gamify your classroom then you cannot ignore the roll that feedback plays in terms of making improvements – and I’m not talking about making improvements the next time you teach the class. I’m talking about potentially making improvements as quickly as it makes sense to do so.
Now, a caveat. I’m not saying that every suggestion needs to be implemented. Game developers definitely don’t do everything their players want and for a number of reasons. As the instructor, you have a big picture perspective that it’s impossible for your students to obtain. You have to look at the feedback you get and place it inside that perspective to see if it works. Sometimes it does in ways that you can do right away. Other times it’s more complicated and it really doesn’t make sense to do it until you teach the class again (we’ll call it Version 2.0).
How I Got Here: An Example
I was meeting with one of my masters courses for the first time. I have this great quest (of course I think it’s great; i put it together!) that utilizes twitter – at least in part. The overall purpose of the quest is to get the students (K-12 teachers) to think about developing a social media presence. We use the book What Connected Educators Do Differently. In the book, the authors ask readers to find five new people to follow at the end of each chapter. I took this idea and worked it into a regular part of what they do each week.
If teachers follow five new people each week, they earn 4,000 XP
If they follow 6-10, they earn an additional 2,000
If they follow 11+, they earn an additional 3,000
The whole thing lasts for 12 weeks. On the surface, it seemed nice and clean to me. I thought I was encouraging people to get on twitter and follow people. I did this last year and found it easy to stay on top of. No one reported any issues (bugs) or gave me any feedback. Until now.
All it took was one person who basically asked a very simple question. It was along the lines of, “What if I want to follow a bunch of people starting right now?” As soon as the question was presented to me I realized something – huge light bulb moment – I had just set up a completely inauthentic twitter experience. I was too hung up on quantity.
Think about it. This is not how you use twitter. I might follow people here and there, then follow a whole bunch at once, and then follow hardly anyone new for a week or two. And it’s not a big deal because I’m still engaged with twitter. Yes, following people are important to twitter but my idea was that, ultimately, I wanted my students to be engaged with twitter. And what did I do? I got myself – and potentially them – hung up on numbers.
Let’s Change It
My initial response to the student was something along the lines of I got the point but to go ahead as planned and just trust me that it would all magically work out. I couldn’t just change it on the spot. This was not a quick fix. When I realized almost immediately what I had done, I also needed time to think about the issue and what to do.
So, let’s change it.
Rather than having numbers and counting I’m going to ask my students to do the following:
A critical part of twitter is about engagement. It’s about following people, interacting with their tweets, and giving information to your followers as well. Over the course of the semester, you should aim to do such things as:
- follow people you are interested in that can help you build your professional network
- engage with the tweets your followers share through retweeting, liking, or even leaving a comment behind
- share information of your own that is of interest to you but that you also think would be of interest to your followers (or people who would follow you once they found you)
- search relevant # to build up people you follow and those who follow you; this will also help you better understand how to tag your tweets to create greater involvement
It may be helpful to use the previous guidelines in considering how many people you should follow. Over the course of the semester, aim to follow 70 people/organizations that are relevant to your professional network and what you do or hope to do. Rather than award XP based on the number of people you follow each week, XP will now be awarded in the following manner:
- Are you engaged in building your network and interacting with it? Articulate how well you think you are doing at developing your network and your plans going forward. You can articulate this anytime you wish, and you have two opportunities to do so. The first time will be the week of 10/10-10/16. The second time you have a choice. You can do the same thing again OR you can curate a Top 10 list from information you found on twitter that has enhanced your learning as it relates to this class. Due date is the week of 11/28-12/5.
- XP at each time point is 54,000
- Due Dates: I will only accept submissions for the first time point between 10/10 (starting at 5:00 PM) – 10/18 (ending at 5:00 PM); No late submissions; The second time point can be submitted anytime from 11/28 (starting at 5:00 PM) and ending on 12/5 at 5:00 PM. No late submissions.