A Student’s Reflections on Grading

Today I bring you a guest post from a recent student. In this post, the student reflects on what it’s like to be in a class that uses gamification and XP as a form of grading. I’m thrilled to be able to share this with you because it’s always helpful to get a perspective on how our students experience the process.

In reading this post, you will first see what the student has written. Periodically, you will see my thoughts on what the student said written in italics. I thought this would be a great way to see the student’s perspective but also delve into why I did what I did. Please enjoy!

Reflections on Experience

I’ll be honest.  Initially, I felt very lost in this class.  Navigating XP was difficult for me because I’ve never taken a class with a similar grading system.  Over the course of the semester, however, I’ve grown to understand it and even appreciate it.  Since we’re nearing the end of the year, I decided to outline pros and cons I’ve noticed about this unconventional system.

  • PRO: There are seemingly endless opportunities.
    • In other classes, I’ve had professors base a grade off of maybe three or four assessments total.  While this can be a plus in terms of workload, I really think this just causes more stress. One bad day can tank your grade, which is unfortunate if you truly understand the material.  With XP, it’s always been a relief to know that if I’ve missed something, I will likely have a chance to make it up.
      • YES! This is the idea. I think students should have many opportunities to demonstrate not just their learning but also their thinking as it relates to a course. Even if you totally skip out on a week during the semester there are generally ways to self-correct and keep going.
  • CON: It is not procrastinator-friendly. 
    • Granted, I know that no grading system should be procrastinator-friendly.  But with conventional letter grades, it’s possible to cram and still make a good grade.  No matter how many teachers urge students not to do this, a brave (or lazy) few always will.  XP ,in contrast, is structured to incentivize early planning.  I blog in another class, one that abides by traditional grades. The professor told us that as long as we have 10 posts by the end of the semester, we will receive full credit for the activity.  She allows us to post twice a week, so even someone who waits until the last 5 weeks can secure a great grade.  In this class, however, skipping that many weeks of blogging would annihilate your grade.  To maximize XP, it’s best to start any quest as early as possible. I am the last person allowed to give that advice, and I’m probably the worst example of prior planning.  For what it’s worth, though, I do think that this class has kept me on my toes much more than other courses because XP builds on itself.
      • Ha ha. Most definitely. My design definitely does not allow for procrastination. You will outright fail if you do so. I want students to be regularly engaged with the content during the semester. If you wait until the end to cram it all end, then you haven’t (I assume) been regularly engaged with the content. Since I have talked a lot about the act of blogging as a course assignment, I have to say I think there’s a real danger in telling students they can blog but at any point (even doing a lot at the end). In reality, this isn’t blogging. Blogging requires sustained engagement with creating new content. Once a week, or maybe every other week, works. Less than that and you’re really not blogging. So I’m really trying to accomplish two things here: (a) keep students engaged with the content and (b) teach them what it means to be a blogger.
  • PRO: Your grade is entirely in your hands.
    • Because you know exactly what you need to do upfront, getting a good grade is just a matter of following through.  I’m not very good at that, but I do appreciate this class for helping me learn how to improve there.  I actually had to sit down at one point and add up the numbers, trying to plan ahead for the next few weeks.  Usually, in other classes, I avoid planning for even the next few days.
  • CON: Your grade is entirely in your hands.
    • I don’t trust my hands!! As I said before, this unique grading system has kept me on my toes. I’m not even kidding when I say that there have been nights when I’m about to fall asleep and then realize, “Oh man, I forgot to do my tweets!”
      • YES! Your grade is entirely in your hands. And I do agree that, for students, it is both a pro and a con. On the first day of class I tell students to make a plan for how they want to achieve their grade. My guess is few people do it, but it’s worth the time to do so. Not only is the grade in their hands, but they have options for how they can meet their goals.
  • CON: The reward system in general can have its flaws.
    • There are downsides to any reward system: traditional grades, XP, junk food, etc.  I work with an autistic individual, and I have to practice a form of ABA.  It’s a system based on operant conditioning, so like XP, it uses points. I award points to encourage good behaviors (e.g. starting a conversation, being polite to someone,) and I’m required to take away points when he exhibits less-than-ideal behavior (e.g. says something hurtful, yells in public.)   I’ve undoubtedly noticed progress. He has flourished in many areas and achieved goals that seemed so far away before.  One problem, though, is the lingering question, “Is he being genuine?” For instance, sometimes he will do something positive and then say, “I was nice to someone!” while looking directly at the point card.  In this class, sometimes I question my own motives.  I’ve wondered before when Tweeting how much I truly care about the substance of the tweet vs. the XP I know I will earn from it.  This uneasy feeling can happen in any class, though.
      • There’s a slight difference here and that is your XP is yours. Once you earn it, you can never lose it. Of course I don’t really know what all students learn from certain activities (like tweeting in or outside class), and I’m sure there will always be students who do something for the grade and could care less about the content. I can’t control that. What I can do is try to provide students with a multitude of opportunities to widen their lens. What they do with those opportunities is ultimately up to them.
  • PRO: The “X” part is very beneficial.  
    • I remember earlier on, Professor Hall said that XP stands for Experience Points.  I enjoy the X part and learning hands-on, like when we’ve had the opportunities to hear speakers and educators in the field.  I’ll admit that I probably would not have attended a talk if it weren’t for the XP incentive.  In the end, the X has definitely mattered far more than the P.
      • I like this a lot. I’m glad this student got more out the experience aspect of the course. I would prefer that anyways. During the semester, I gave bonus XP to students if they attended on campus talks that were related to the course. And I gave A LOT of XP (and I think there were three they could attend).  I offered XP for being present, XP for live tweeting, and bonus XP for writing a blog post about the event. Do as much or as little as you want. Yes, you could rack up some serious points here, but I really wanted to encourage my classes to get out and here different perspective. 

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Teacher as Designer

I’ve just finished reading Reality is Broken: Why Games Matter and How They Can Change the World by Jane McGonigal. I was inspired to read it to further my thinking on gamification in teaching. It’s not about gamification in education specifically – although there is a bit on it in the book – but rather what games get right that hook people, bring them together as a community, and get them to work on problems that range from the simple to the complex. McGonigal examines how we can harness the characteristics found in games and use them in our lives.

At one point, McGonigal discusses how video games often have stories. While we don’t need stories to enjoy video games, those that have them can help us experience a sense of power. She goes on to explain:

It’s the power to act with meaning: to do something that matters in a bigger picture. The story is the bigger picture; the player’s actions are what matters. As Polack explains, “Story sets the stage for meaning. It frames the player’s actions. We, as designers, are not telling, we’re not showing, we’re informing the doing – the actions the players engage in and the feats they undergo.”

Immediately I found myself thinking that as teachers we are also designers. We set up and design the experiences students can go through. What we choose for our course to look like – through readings, assignments, and in-class activities – provides a frame for the students’ actions. We definitely inform the doing or the potential for doing. I say potential because students can opt out of anything or minimize their actions. Students always have a say in how they will respond within the framework of the design we created.

The quote also reminded me about the role story can play in our courses. I talked awhile ago about creating a story line for my syllabus. Granted my story doesn’t have any exciting plot twists, but it does move my students through big ideas in the course. My courses always had bid ideas in them. Each week there would be a big idea, usually with a question we would focus on within that idea, that would set the tone for the week. But I have found that writing out my ideas in a story format forces me to think about their interconnectedness. I can’t just dash off a list of big ideas, order them, and go from there. Writing out the story forces me to look deeper into what I really want students to experience.

Once the story has been created, I then have to think how I want my students to move through it. What opportunities do I want to offer them that allow them to deepen their understandings or question pre-existing beliefs? To me, this is very different from planning. This is designing, and there is a distinct different.

Planning vs. Designing

Traditionally, planning (either a syllabus or a lesson) is centered around a set of learning objectives. Games certainly have objectives too. There could be one grand objective – which, when you finish it, means the game is over – and many smaller objectives that help you to achieve the grand one. But these objectives are problems that must be solved. Learning objectives presented in classroom instruction are given as what you can expect to learn when you have completed the course or a given aspect of it. They are typically not presented as a set of complex challenges and problems that you must solve.

So when we plan in the traditional sense we back up to what we want students to learn and go out from there. Telling a story, creating complex problems, etc…are not even necessarily part of the picture. As the instructor, all I have to do is think about what I want you to learn and what tasks should help get you there. And while I have technically designed something for you to experience, I don’t see designing the same way I see planning.

Planning, to me, follows a rigid formula with objectives and outcomes. I see designing as setting the stage for students to engage in challenges intended to solve a complex problem – or at least getting them closer to solving it.

What if we stopped asking ourselves, and each other, what our objectives were for a course or given time frame? Instead, what if we started asking what the complex problem was we hoped students would solve or contribute to as a result of the course? How might our instruction, our design of a class, and students’ experiences look? I think it’s worth exploring.

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And Now Classes Start….

This is the week that classes get underway. It’s a little strange (I think) how my university does it. Classes start on Tuesday. I have one class that meets on Tuesday, but the other meets on Monday. So this week – no Monday class. My Monday class will meet a week from today and then have Labor Day off. By the time my Tuesday class has had three sessions my Monday class will have had one. I don’t get it, but it’s out of my control.

So – what are you looking forward to in your classes this semester? Do you have any specific goals for your teaching? Last year I had a lot going on what with applying principles of gamification and then working on how to use twitter effectively. Just one of those was enough in and of itself.

This year I don’t have any large scale grand overhauls in my teaching like I did last year. This year is looking like it will be all about refinement. And that’s fine. We don’t need to be doing complete overhauls of our teaching every single year. There are moments where we need to slow down and just tweak. I think that’s my jam for this year. Here’s a brief look at what I’m refining this semester:

Twitter Use

In some ways, twitter use will look very much the same as it did in the spring. I’m still using classroom tweeters. Tweeting during and between classes is optional (for the most part – more on that in a second). I’ve left sign up slots for parts of class, and people can sign up and commit to tweet during a specific segment of class when we meet F2F (because both my fall classes are hybrid). I’ll take a look at what people did and award XP. Pretty straight forward and easy to do.

I have added an option to tweet during class but without signing up for a slot. Doing so this twitteroption requires students to create a Storify and post it to the class wiki within a specified time frame.

I do allow for anyone to tweet between sessions – again, totally optional but it does earn you XP. I’m realizing now that I set this up so I have to go in and count tweets. Dang it. I told everyone to tweet 3-5 times a day for most days. Can we say dang it again? I’m not big into counting. I’m going to leave it in place as I’ve sent the syllabus out. I could change it. Class hasn’t started yet. But I’ll leave it. I’m changing this in the future.

One of my classes has to engage in an extended twitter chat. We do this during our online meeting weeks (see here and here). While I do want students thinking about quantity and quality – and I do give guidelines about this – I’m ultimately not counting tweets. I’ve got a new system for awarding XP in twitter chats which asks students to think about what they got out of the experience. I’m interested in seeing how this goes.


Blogging is a requirement in one of my classes and optional in the other. However, I’ve made the decision to shift off of individual blogs and use a class authored one. I’m hoping this gives us a better way to bring in and grow readership. The downside, of course, is that this blog will only be used during the fall semester (much like the Politics of Reading blog only generates new content in the spring). It limits our audience I think because we are not regularly generating new content.

However, after a year the Politics of Reading blog seems to have generated good readership, and it continues to grow. Even in the off months, stats are showing that we consistently have more viewers each month in Year 2 than we did in Year 1. We have about 800 more views in August of Year 2 than we did for the entire Year 1. While it would be nice to generate steady content for the majority of the year – at least in the fall and spring semesters – the consistent uptick in views leads me to believe that people are interested and finding some value in what has been written.


I’ve refined the gamification principles a ton. A ton. I’ve written a lot about gamification, and you can see the posts (and how I evolved in my thinking and application) here. I’ve focused on thinking about how I can use gamification for creating options for my students. Not everything is optional (or at least not without consequences!), but gamification has allowed me to open up my teaching. Could I do the same thing without it? Yes, probably. But the concept is what got me here.

In particular, the application of gamification principles helped me think about class participation. I had gotten rid of grading in class participation long ago because it was far to subjective for my taste. But with thinking about pop-up quests in class, I could start to see how XP could be awarded and used in a way that was much more objective when it came to scoring participation in class. Pop-up quests are here to stay. At least for awhile.

It’s easy to think about gamification in terms of points. When you view class through the lens of a video game it all becomes about points. And yes, I do allow for XP to be awarded throughout any given class. Opportunities are constant.

XPBut, as the instructor, you can’t get hung up on the points. You have to think about the experience you want your students to have and then work backwards into the points. Consider what you are asking them to do – in terms of length of time and complexity – and then consider what the XP could be worth. Sometimes I offer a range of XP for a single in class quest based on decisions students want to make about how to engage with it.

And that’s it. That’s my starting point for the academic year. I’ve got some new quests I’m trying out, and I’m looking forward to seeing how they go and sharing that with y’all.

In the meantime, I will note that I have planted an Easter Egg in the syllabi for both my classes. It is the exact same egg for both. It does require students to do some work in advance of the first day of class, but it is minimal and ends up benefiting them as the semester progresses. To my knowledge, only one person has found it. Or maybe multiple people have ignored it. Who can say? I’ll update on that soon once the deadline for it has passed.

Have a great semester!

One Year Ago

Two Years Ago

Featured Teacher: Eddie Kim

Today, I would like to welcome you to a new segment that I plan to take up: Featured Teacher. There are a lot of great educators out there across all levels, and I am constantly using them to refine and inspire my own teaching. While today’s featured teacher is appearing in my regular Monday post slot, moving forward I plan to do this on Thursdays. I’ll be starting with once a month and then moving onward from there.

If Eddie’s name sounds familiar, it’s because I recently wrote a post based on his work around video game theater. His work was so inspiring that I wanted to learn more about him as an educator and thus this section was born. I was curious to know his thinking behind video game theater, the challenges with implementing it, and his thoughts on what people like myself could do to help others develop the kinds of skills and thinking needed to do similar work.

Note: In the following sections what you will read are predominately Eddie’s words with very minor editing.

About Eddie

I graduated with a degree in Theater from Amherst College in 2000. Then I taught English in Koshigaya City, Japan, for two years after that. I’ve been teaching theater at the Pierrepont School in Westport, CT, since 2004.

What Kinds of Support Did You Have in Developing Video Game Theater?

Pierrepont has provided me with a great amount of support. Since 2007, I have been creating pieces and performing with students from the school. Rehearsals take place at the school. Many projects including the 2012’s Japanese ghost stories and 2013’s stories from Livy started as live-action theater pieces performed in my more traditional theater classes. My talented colleagues have provided original translations of works for me, assisted with press releases, and even designed postcards for my shows. In addition, this past year, the school has taken upon the expenses of my many workshops in area schools.

What Do You Think Teacher Educators Can Do to Support Teachers in Ways that Would Contribute to the Kinds of Innovative Work You Do?

Educators need to keep an open mind about the use of technology in the classroom. In my experience, students have been able to engage with text more deeply through the use of video games. My students become experts on the stories once they create a piece out of them.

Also, I just returned from creating a performance with a group of high school students in Tainan City, Taiwan. My team worked closely with this group of students for 5 days and created an amazing piece based on a section from Journey to the West that was performed in Chinese. Early on, these Taiwanese students admitted to me their nervousness about performing in a large auditorium. The technology allowed them to perform before a large audience without stepping onto the stage in a traditional way.

What Has Been the Most Challenging Aspect of Implementing Video Game Theater?

Some of Eddie’s students at work.

Technology can be fickle. Computers update and games are patched presenting compatibility issues; hardware breaks; batteries run out. Once we had a subscription run out in the middle of a performance at the Brick Theater in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. In our workshops at schools, we’ve also had problems accessing video games as they often are blocked by the schools’ firewalls.

What Has Been the Most Rewarding Aspect of Implementing Video Game Theater?

The audience at my professional performances often sees my work as being quite technical and out-of-reach. Kotaku.com said of one of my pieces, “The basic concept is simple: breathing life into classic literature via video games. Yet the execution is anything but.” This has not been my experience at our school workshops. It is wonderful when students see my performances, see the potential in them, and are inspired to create their own work. This is evident when they contribute their own ideas for how they would choreograph different scenes or ask me how they might incorporate one of their own games.


Do you know an interesting educator who should be featured? Email me at leighahall39@gmail.com

One Year Ago Today

Two Years Ago Today

Scoring Twitter Chats

Last year, I had a goal to improve how I used twitter in my instruction (read about it here, here, and here). My biggest struggle with using twitter has always been how to score it. How many points do I assign someone? How do I know if someone participated enough in terms of quantity and quality? How would I even begin to keep up with it all?

Well, maybe I don’t try to keep up with it all. Maybe I just let the whole idea of quantification go, and instead have the students demonstrate what they did and experienced.

twitter mingleIn the fall, one of my masters classes will be participating in an extended twitter chat seven times. Last year, I had this class participate in a synchronous twitter chat that met when we would normally meet face to face. I’m getting rid of that because I think we can have better discussions if we make the discussion ongoing throughout the week. However, I’m not going to try to keep up with how many times a person tweeted. I will participate, but I’m done with counting.

What will I do? Well, first, let’s take a look at the directions:

Directions for the Extended Twitter Chat

1. I will release three questions during the week [when the chats occur]. They will be released on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays at 5:00 PM.
2. I will tag questions with the course hashtag.
3. Questions will be numbered Q1, Q2, and Q3.
4. You can respond to (or ignore) any question at any point during the week. Questions are used to help facilitate the discussion. However, they are also suggestions for what to discuss.
5. When you respond, start the tweet with A1 (if responding to Q1), A2 (if responding to Q2) and so on.
6. All responses/interactions must be posted under the course hashtag. You can use any other # that you wish, but YOU MUST use the course hashtag to get credit.

A few notes here:

  • I’m inserting questions into the conversation just to help keep moving things along. I am not requiring students to answer them.
  • Remember that tweets can be automated using Twuffer.
  • I do not tell students how often they should tweet, but you’ll see in a minute that I do give them some basic suggestions for how to think about it.

Awarding XP

I will award XP four times during the semester for the twitter chats. Here is how it will go down:

Earning XP is about participating in the chats, but it is also about how your participation in the chats shapes you as a XPteacher [remember that I teach teachers] and a learner. To earn XP, you will need to demonstrate the following:

  • Articulate how well you participated in the twitter chats. This is done at two time points. The first time point happens from 10/11-10/18. The second time point happens from 11/28-12/6. At each time point, you should examine and reflect on both the quantity and the quality of your participation. You are free to articulate your insights in any manner you wish and submit them however you wish. Consider the following:
    • During a chat week, do you participate with three or more tweets for at least four days?
    • Are you engaged in sustained and interaction participation for four or more days? Sustained and interactive participation means you do more than posts links or make statements. While you can, and should do these things, it also means that you talk to others who are participating and actively engage them and engage with them in some fashion.
    • XP for first time point = 8000; XP for second time point = 20,000
    • Due Dates: I will only accept submissions for the first time point between 10/11 (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 12/6 at 5:00 PM. No late submissions.


  • Curate a top 10 list (from the twitter chat) of resources that people other than you provided. These resources should inform your teaching about how to enhance students’ disciplinary literacy abilities. They may or may not have to do with the use of graphic novels specifically. Lists can be shared however you wish to curate them. XP = 30,000. Can be submitted anytime starting 11/28 – 12/6


  • Demonstrate how your thinking has shifted as a result of your experience with the twitter chats. You can do this however you wish. XP = 70,000. Can be submitted anytime starting 11/28 – 12/6.

Some notes here:

  1. You will notice that the way students demonstrate what they are doing/learning is pretty loose. I did this intentionally. I am interested in seeing what I get.
  2. I am thinking about starting a Pinterest board to help with the top 10 list; that way students can collectively pin resources there. However, students could also just pin to their own boards whatever they find useful and then shift that into a top 10 list later.
  3. Having a top 10 list where students curate resources others shared requires them to post resources themselves. Otherwise, how will anyone complete the assignment?

Shifting off Quantification

You can see that I’ve shifted off of trying to keep up with how many tweets any one person does. Instead, I’m asking my students to think about their participation, reflect on it, and then demonstrate what they have learned. I do try to give them some guidelines for how to think about participation without being overly prescriptive.

I’m excited to try this out. In my experience, students tend to get anxious when things aren’t nailed down for them. I understand that. However, I also think that by being looser in my directions I am able to allow for students to be far more creative than if I tried to quantify every little detail. We’ll see how it goes!

Two Years Ago Today

One Year Ago Today


Let’s Get Rid of Classes

I was having a discussion recently with some folks, and the topic of gamification briefly came up. It was a side conversation – not really pertinent to what we were discussing – so we didn’t stay on it too long. But in that moment I had an idea about how we approach teacher education: It’s time to get rid of classes.

Here’s how I landed on this….

During our discussion of gamification, the idea of a peer reviewer badge came up. While peer review is not perfect (I have a horror story that could terrify any assistant professor), it is not without its merits. I made note of this idea and decided I would consider if and how I might work it into my fall classes (both are masters courses).

As I started to turn the idea of a peer reviewer badge around in my head, I began to land on some limitations. The biggest one being that I’m the only person in this particular program (probably in the entire School of Education) that games her classes. A peer reviewer badge is limited, I think, when it’s tied to just one course in a program.

And that got me thinking…..

What If We Got Rid of Classes?

I’m not suggesting we get rid of all classes in all programs. But I do think we could consider getting rid of them in our M.ED program – and I think it would be awesome. When I first started my job (11 years ago), I loved our M.ED program. There are still some great aspects to it. But mostly it’s gotten stale and dated. It needs an overhaul.

The program allows for practicing K-12 teachers to specialize in a particular areas – literacy, math, science, and so on…At the end of the program, teachers take an exam (if they wish) that is administered at the state level. Passing the exam means that they have a specialist license in their particular area in addition to having their masters degree from the university.

And a side note – the state’s exam of what teachers should know is pretty dated and bad. My classes will not prepare you for the state exam because the state exam is awful and filled with garbage (generally speaking). My point is, in rethinking all this there is no need to worry about how classes do/do not align with the state exam because if I ever aligned my classes with what the state tested then I would not be doing my job very well. I would certainly not be providing my students with the newest information.

In our program, all teachers (regardless of specialty area) take a set of core classes together. Then they take their specialty  classes. And what I’m saying is this: We have to get rid of every single one of these classes.

No Classes = What????

We are going to get rid of every single class. Instead of having classes, we are going to have competencies. An easy way to first think about it is to simply go through each class and develop a set of competencies. I am sure there would be some updating that would naturally happen along the way. It’s a starting point that I think would keep things manageable.

No classes means that we do not have official meeting times. Instead, we have to move the entire program online. And, since we have no classes, we have to foster an online community.

This means no individual courses locked into a LMS (learner management system). We need some type of LMS, yes, but I can’t have one for just me, and you can’t have one for just you. We all have to get dumped into the same sandbox. There are tools to make this happen. I’m not going to get into that part. I want to focus on the big idea here.

Now, we have our list of competencies. We can group those into categories that make sense. Whatever works. Students come into the program, and they have two years (because it’s a two year program) to complete X amount of competencies. There should be room for choice. For example, if a teacher who is interested in a science specialty wants to earn a competency that is related to fostering reading/writing in science, then that teacher should be able to earn that competency.

We can quantify things a bit. We can say that to be recommended for an M.ED., teachers have to complete X amount of competencies total. Then we can refine that total a bit. For example, of X total competencies, Y must be in your specialty area, Z must be out of the shared core area, and maybe W are free choice (which allows for teachers to dip into other specialty areas that are relevant to their jobs or earn extra competencies in their specialty or out of the core).

What Does This Mean for Faculty?

Faculty have to develop the competencies. But let’s keep it simple at first. Let’s start with existing courses and develop our competencies from there. Let’s use our base to get us launched. Faculty would be expected to develop the content that supports the competencies. We still create the assignments, post readings, hold online discussions, etc… This can be developed in any number of ways. What changes here is that I’m not showing up on Monday night at 5:00 to teach class. However, my responsibilities still need to be clear and bounded in some way.

For example, in the fall I teach a course called Explorations in Literacy. Under this model, I would develop/refine competencies for this course. I would be in charge of making sure students know what they need to do to earn those competencies. I would create whatever assignments/readings need to be connected to competencies. I would foster interactions online. I would also check off that students had completed these competencies.

At the same time, there’s another course going on in the fall that focuses on the teaching of writing. I don’t teach that course. While it is possible that I could choose to participate in some of the online discussions related to that course, I don’t develop the competencies. I don’t sign off on them and so on.

Faculty also have to be prepared for the more fluid nature of this kind of work. Now, some competencies could be prerequisites for others (fine). But that won’t be the case for all. This means that while my Explorations course is technically in the fall (under the traditional model), there could be students who do not finish certain competencies until February for any reason at all. We have to be prepared for this – or we have to bound competencies on a timeline – and we have to think about how our time gets used.

For example, what happens during the summer? In my example, working on competencies in the summer would likely be difficult. This is because I work with teachers and competencies would (I assume) be tied to work they do in classrooms. But are we going to allow for this work to continue over the summer? You can’t create an online community and then just hang up a closed for the summer sign on it. That’s not how these things work. So you can see that there’s a collision here between an online environment – and what works within it – and the traditional structures of offering classes at the university. It has to be contended with and addressed in this model. But I find that exciting.

What Happened to Gamification?

All of this could easily be gamified. I left that out of the discussion because just the competency part – and putting it online – is enough in and of itself. The gamification piece would flow out of doing all the work I outlined. You have to have the curriculum in place – the competencies – before you can gamify it. So gamification could happen. And that peer review badge I mentioned earlier? It could be called a badge or it could be developed into a core competency that is available for anyone in the program to adopt.

If you want to do this, give me a call. Let’s make it happen.

Two Years Ago Today

One Year Ago Today

Revising the Extended Twitter Chat

For the last year, I’ve been working on how to use twitter in my instruction. A couple of months ago, I tried doing an asynchronous twitter chat with one of my classes. It went ok – people participated (it wasn’t required), but I didn’t like I how I set it up. It ended up being too focused how quantity and less on quality. So I revised it, and it went much better.

The Directions

These are the exact directions I gave my students:

The Basics
1. Tweeting begins Monday, 2/29 at 8:00 am.
2. Tweeting ends on Monday, 3/7 at 8:00 am.
3. On 2/29, 3/2, and 3/5 I will release one question at 8:00 am. Questions will be numbered Q1, Q2, and Q3.
4. You can respond to (or ignore) any question during the week.
5. When you respond, start the tweet with A1 (if responding to Q1), A2 (if responding to Q2) and so on.
6. Hashtag will be #[course number]chat; all questions will be released under this tag,

How To Respond
1. Think of this as more of a chat and less of a posting of tweets. Chats are meant to be conversations around an issue.
2. You can, and should, tweet your thoughts and share relevant information.
3. You should also talk to each other. Remember to use @(person’s name) to ask them a question or make a statement that you want to direct their attention to. Some useful links that can help are here and here.

I will award XP based on overall participation:

  • Participate with three or more tweets for six or more days and receive a base of 1000 XP
  • Engage in sustained and interactive participation for six or more days and receive an additional 8000 XP
    • Sustained and interactive participation means you do more than posts links or make statements. While you can, and should do these things, it also means that you talk to others who are participating and actively engage them and engage with them in some fashion.
  • Do all of these things and receive a bonus 2000 XP

Points to Make

TwitterchatFirst, I only released three questions with this chat. I wanted some questions to guide our discussion, but I didn’t think it was necessary to have a new question every day (recall that you can schedule tweets with Twuffer which is free). I was hopeful that by having fewer questions we would be more focused on having a discussion.

Second, I did provide a baseline of tweets for participation. Three or more tweets for six days would get you a flat out 1000 XP. The point about sustained and interactive participation is a bigger one. I did not quantify this. I am not sure it can be quantified and, if it could, I’m not sure that it’s worth it. Do you want to try to count up whatever it means to be sustained and interactive in a twitter chat? I don’t, and I don’t want my students focusing on counting. They need to be mindful of their participation, yes, but they don’t need to be hyper-focused on counting.

Did It Work?

Yes. Overall, things improved and we experienced more of a discussion that a posting of tweets. About 50% of the students participated, and around 25% got the full points for being sustained and interactive. Again, this wasn’t required. Points earned did count towards their grade.

I did see students talking back and forth to each other in addition to sharing tweets and retweeting items (by their classmates and others outside of class). I was good with that.

I graded this in a very simplistic format. First, I listed off the days of the chat. Then I noted who participated on what days. I checked off first if they hit the three tweet mark. Then I skimmed to see if and how they participated beyond the three tweet minimum. I didn’t have any issues deciding if participation was sustained and interactive or not. It was pretty obvious. No one questioned their grade, and I do believe grading was fair.

What Next?

I’ve been stuck on quantifying things with twitter chats. These revised directions moved me away from that, but I think I could move further. I think my issue is that I am the one who, at the end of the day, is looking to make the case that students did/did not participate. In the future, I’m going to shift this back on to them. I’m going to be working on writing directions in such a way that they need to show they not only participated but learned something from the chats themselves. I’ll share those with you when they get developed and implemented.

Overall, I think having these week long chats now and then is a good thing. I would not have them every week because I think it would wear students down (and me too). But I could see doing them two-three times a semester. If you are doing them or plan to, let me know how it goes for you!

Two Years Ago Today

One Year Ago Today