Eureka!! Gamification of My Social Studies Lessons

As I mentioned in my previous post, my main objective of gamifying my lessons was to intrinsically motivate my students to learn and enjoy learning. However, I had to consider many barriers that I have at school when designing my project. First, I am overloaded with teaching many classes which might affect the following up of the game, if it is not well-planned. Second, students (and their parents particularly) take time to get used to any new platform so I need to consider using an old platform that they know or a new simple one. Third, I should not take the risk of changing the type of assignments that students are used to, especially at the beginning of the project.

With all of this on mind, I researched into the possible methods of applying gamification in education. I got inspired by the presentations and writings of Dr. Fady Marcos in which he illustrated simple footsteps to follow. Mr. Sherif Osman’s experience of gamifying his syllabus and his reflection on it afterwards was also very helpful in planning for my project. Presentations and game frameworks made by the game experts Karl Kapp and Yu-kai Chou were important guides as well for choosing the game mechanics and dynamics that could be used.

So, here is my project … I decided to choose one of the ancient civilizations that I teach in grade 5 to gamify. So, I chose the ancient Chinese civilization; one of the richest and oldest civilizations in the world. At the beginning of the course, students are shown an interactive map of China (most probably will be done on prezi or flash) that illustrates the number of challenges (milestones) that they have to go through to reach the final stage. Completing one challenge unlocks the following challenge and so on. Students act as the archeologists that go through challenges and decipher codes to find the hidden treasure at the end of the game.

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In each challenge, students collect points and reward cards which could be exchanged for points in the final stages or help them in case of losing in any task. A number of tasks (assignments) are assigned in each challenge which vary according to their objectives and place in the challenge. Some tasks are assigned as warm- ups before the session to introduce the lesson and should be completed individually such as reading the lesson, watching a video or figuring out the names of Chinese artifacts then answering follow-up questions on Juno (a platform that is used by the school to post assignments on). I tried to give students the freedom to choose the assignments they would like and also give a chance for achievers to do as many tasks as they want. Individual points are also given on the students’ participation and behavior during the sessions as well as for completing assignments on Juno after the session which will allow students to answer questions to ensure their understanding of the lesson and give them instant feedback.

To promote their teamwork skills and create a collaborative environment in the class, students are divided into groups and assigned some classwork to do together. Every member of the group wins points when the task is achieved. I also planned that each member of the group will have a job during the task according to their scores in the individual work assigned before.

For every task students finish, individually or collaboratively, they win a code written in the Chinese language which should be collected in the last stage. Then, they should solve a riddle to find the location of the answer key of these codes (might be with a teacher or somewhere in the school). One member of the group is chosen to go to the location and answer one question asked by the teacher before taking the answer key.

In the final stage, students should work together to decipher the codes then use an online currency convertor to change the number of points they won into the Chinese Yuan. The converted points (money) and the deciphered codes are, then, used by the students in a smart board game to unlock the mystery box that has a picture of one part of the hidden treasure and the golden prize (most probably will be related to the lesson quiz) that could be extra 10 minutes, a bonus question or postponing the quiz (as inspired by Dr. Fady Marcos). The game is simply to unlock Shi Huangdi’s tomb by putting enough money on a scale that moves terracotta soldiers away. This task will allow students to use their higher thinking skills to use the information they learnt or got and apply it in a new context.

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The points collected in all of the challenges are recorded on the Jupitergrades website (another platform that the school uses to share the students’ grades with parents and students).

To maintain the flow of the game, some game dynamics and mechanics are used as follows:

  • In the first three tasks, students collect as many points as possible to compete individually for jobs assigned during group work. In the last two assignments, they add up their individual points together and work on gaining more  collaboratively to compete with the other groups.
  • I tried to put the difficulty element basically in the last tasks which are completed collaboratively in class to accommodate socializers’ needs. The reason behind that is not to lose students’ interest because of unattainable tasks done individually without external support. Moreover, the bonus tasks are also designed to address higher thinking skills.
  • The warm-up tasks will be designed to increase students’ curiosity and prepare them well for the lesson. Moreover, the individual assignments will be designed to be engaging and variable to motivate students to finish them.
  • The group that will finish the challenge with the highest scores, will be able to unlock the golden mystery box that has the biggest golden prize. The following groups unlock the rest of the mystery boxes (which differs in the prizes) according to their rank as illustrated in the picture below. So, all students’ efforts are recognized but in a different level.

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  • There will be deadlines for the tasks because they basically depend on each other. Students who will fail to complete their tasks on time will affect the group work in the following levels. Consequently, students learn to encourage each other (tried this in another activity and worked out pretty well).
  • To avoid having demotivated students with setbacks or no codes, second chances or helping cards are given but only at the cost of giving up a reward, bonus points, or time from the competition …. etc.
  • Included is a surprise box with random (virtual and real) rewards to reward students for their work and behavior along the way and keep them motivated.
  • Barometers are used during classwork so groups could visually see their progress in achieving the task. Students may also have the choice to choose the name, logo and avatar of their group.
  • I will use bonus boosters to give a chance to students (explorers and achievers) to improve their scores during the challenge by completing extra tasks.

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  • Badges are given out after completing each challenge to be collected for the final treasure.
  • The project should be evaluated through the trimester grades, students’ feedback, the percentage of assignments completed as compared with the previous years.

One thing I am planning to work on while designing my project is to adjust the language used in the project as it was discussed in HASTACT2015 conference. I would like to find more attractive and age- relevant names for the challenges, tasks, rewards and others.

Finally, I am excited to try a simplified prototype of my project during my session tomorrow. I will also be reflecting on this experience…. soon!

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3 thoughts on “Eureka!! Gamification of My Social Studies Lessons

  1. Sally this sounds awesome and really well-thought out. I want to make time to read it again It’s probably too late for feedback so I’ll read your next post) – for the moment, I have some strange feedback. As a blogpost for readers not in your own classroom, it might help if you link to Fady Morcos’s work (I personally know it, of course, but readers in future won’t – I am thinking of assigning your article as a reading for my students next semester so I thought it would be an indirect way to get them to read Fady’s work). Also might be useful to clarify how each activity helps certain types of game-players as you mention them. Again, it’s obvious to someone very familiar (and they might be your target audience)… just something to consider. It’s also making me think about how I blog and if I should do the same…

  2. Great idea Ms.Maha. I can post the proposal and the game details when I finish them Insha’Allah. It should include the links of different resources including Dr. Fady’ work.

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