Updates and Feelings for Gamification– Both As a Player and as a Game Master.

Hello once again!

I’ve now been able to experience gamification in my graduate class and class badges in my own classroom for several weeks.  I see a running theme here that has become quite worrisome and leaves me with several questions and wonders.

As you know I started the semester out on 100– super excited and motivated. As soon as quests were posted I began completing them. I checked for secret messages every time I logged into my computer.  I made sure that I was at the top of the leaderboard each week… and I was, at least until the slump hit.

The game started when I was tracked out.  I was working at a reading camp, but it was pretty low key and not extremely time consuming.  I started back to school (week 3 for students) the same week that the semester officially started. Tracking back in was slow, which left time for (my) school work, but as things picked up at work, I began to skip or put off quests, and for the first time I wasn’t on the top of the leaderboard. I knew, before I checked, that I hadn’t earned any points for the week.  I also knew that my classmates were posting things left and right so they were without a doubt catching up.  I prepared myself for the let down.

But when I checked the leaderboard I had no reaction.

Let me say that again– NO reaction.  None.

The more I went about my week (the second one of doing nothing) I kept coming back to the fact that I didn’t care about others passing me.  The not caring, the “unfeeling” I had really demotivated me.  I had no inner voice telling me to get busy, nothing whispering, “You got this! Let’s win!” There was absolutely no competitive feeling left in me.  I didn’t even feel like competing against myself, and if you know anything about me then you know that this is very, very uncharacteristic.

I had a twinge of panic when I first realized being passed didn’t cause a reaction.  I immediately thought of my students and the Camp Badges that I had been busting my hump to get out.

Leigh, my professor, gave me the best gamification advice that I’ve heard/read when she told me that it’s all about instant gratification.  That is the aspect that got me hooked right away in our game in class and I wasn’t providing it for my students.  At first I was waiting to give out badges until everyone had turned in their work.  I did this in hopes of encouraging students to turn their things in on time and to use some positive peer pressure, but I saw the error of my ways once Leigh helped open my eyes.

I began grading everything right away.  I wouldn’t let myself “wait until tomorrow night”.  I would create and print badges immediately and post them on each student’s pennate first thing after grading them.  Students were racking up on badges.  They were excited.  Their little third grade faces lit up every time they saw be get out the glue roller. The hallway display looked pretty awesome and I took pride in it when others asked me what “that means” while pointing at our banner.

When my sudden loss of motivation hit it caused me to take a closer look at the badge pennants.  Yes, most students had multiple badges.  Two students had every badge possible– which I thought was great considering some of them (badges) were very hard to get… but there were a few students (too many for my taste) who still had zero badges. Now, I know that gamification, or competitive learning isn’t everyone’s forte, but I had hoped that everyone would have at least one badge on their pennant.

This caused me to do even more digging.  I wanted to figure out which type of students were benefiting from the badges.  Of course it was my top students.  The ones who were good at school.  The ones who would complete (and complete correctly) any assignment or challenge that I gave them.  They already followed directions before I implemented “the cool badge thing”.  Of course they were the ones excelling.

[Connection:  I’m a good student– of course I’d do any assignment my professors post.]

I did hear some of my “bubble” kids admire their badges in the hallways and say, “Man, I want that one!” which made me smile. But the kids I wanted to reach, the ones who were so unmotivated are still that– unmotivated.

So with all of this back story, I’m here to voice my concerns and ask some pretty serious questions about gamification, both as a player/student, and as a teacher:

  1. Who truly benefits from the game aspect of the classroom set up/learning/teaching style? Is it just motivating the already motivated?
  2. Is this strategy of teaching/learning just a fad? Do players typically get tired of/grow out of the game?
  3. Can my excitement be rekindled?/Was I just unmotivated because I was very busy at work and this is just me being totally dramatic?
  4. How can I keep badges exciting for my students?
    1. Do I need to implement another game-like aspect to our classroom?
    2. Should I make a badge that is even easier than my previous easiest badge to ensure that everyone gets one?
    3. Is the game aspect big enough in my classroom for students to notice?
    4. Are my students mature enough to handle intrinsic motivation only? Do they need points to spend? Things (other than pretty badges on the wall) to win?

I truly hope that my attitude/reaction/concerns for my gamified class is fleeting.  I mean, when really playing a game it’s typical to spend more time playing when you have the time to play.  Then you put it away while you’re busy and pick it back up again when you can.  If this is the case, then what a wonderful gift I’ve been given.  If not– what now? Will I procrastinate until time runs out and then that becomes my final motivator?

I gotta psych myself up again.  Not to win the game (which I totally could– if I wanted to), but because I know I can do better.

Have a great week.  Let’s hope I get the urge to totally crush it.. in which case: You’re going DOWN!


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