“Baldna” Game

Thanks to Mr.Sherif, last Monday we got the chance to know more about “Baladna” game. He brought it to class so we can learn more about the mechanics and dynamics of the game. It was a rewarding and inspiring experience that was extended into my classes afterwards, so I decided to write a blog post about it.

When I opened the game kit, my first impression was that the quality was very good ( a value that we sometimes miss in our country). Then came the organization of the game… The vivid attractive colors used on the map and the cards in addition to how they were organized was well-thought-of. It is age-relevant for kids and also interesting for adults to explore. The language used in the cards and the rules paper is simple and even slang!! Actually, what I like the most about the language used is that it is in Arabic which is so considerate of the culture and language that kids need to learn about. There were many cards … I wonder how many times a kid should play it to go through all of them!

After taking some time to explore the game, I was fond of the variety of activities that were designed for kids to enjoy while learning about the culture of different regions in Egypt. It was just fun reading it … Imagine kids playing with them; I can almost hear their voices laughing. I also liked how the designed learning environment is personalized so students feel that they are participating in the game and relating the information to their personal lives. Moreover, the action triggers act as catalysts to keep kids playing the game. Above all, the game was designed to promote creative thinking, imagination, problem solving and other skills that kids need to practice and teachers (or adults playing the game with the kids) need to develop for teaching the kids. I believe it is a good material that could be used by teachers to create engaging learning environment for their students.

This brought my attention back to the importance of acting, playing, drawing, and even using comedy in teaching. Something that I used to implement in my teaching before but lost it on the way because of the work stress. So, I decided to bring it back to my sessions. This week was a perfect time for doing that as it is a revision week. So in class, I started to “storify” the lessons and chose the characters of the story from my students. I also used the board to draw them as stickmen in a funny way which made them eager to be chosen as characters of the story. It brought fun to class, students were so interested in listening to the stories and even participating in some of its events. Some students even recalled the details of the story the following day because they/ their friends were part of it. The best part was that after I finished my stories, students jumped to the board to share their stories about other social studies lessons with their friends on the board using the same technique. They were learning while having fun!!

Thanks Ms.Maha Bali for sharing the game with us.You inspired me to add new fun elements in my teaching.

Thank you Mr.Sherif Osman for bringing life and hope back into our lives. You showed us vividly what an inspiring teacher is. Most of the times, you guided us by just pointing out the way with a question, a statement, a story, an experience, or even a feedback … yet, it was enough challenge for us to explore it. We are lucky to have you as our instructor.

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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!

Seeking Help with Gamification

I am working these days on a project about the gamification of my social studies curriculum. I have noticed that most of my students tend to spend their time in playing games which they give priority over their school’s learning. For them, the traditional way of learning is very boring especially if compared to games. So, I am interested in gamification to engage students more into learning. This week, I surveyed my students’ interests in playing games as well as their ideas about the gamification of learning. I also searched the topic on the internet and went through some examples of the gamification of different lessons or courses. However, there are some points that are challenging for me.

So, here is where I need your help the most about the best way to gamify my curriculum. Could you give me any suggestions on the following points:

  • Competition, Collaboration or both: If I give students points or badges for completing missions or tasks, they will want to complete as many of them as possible which might affect the quality of the work done. On the other hand, if I had a more collaborative environment, students with different abilities and academic levels could work together to complete the work assigned in the best way. Yet, is it possible that this affects their engagement level? What if I assigned a group (most probably boys) competing against another group (that will be girls)?
  • Students at the bottom of the leader board: Some students might lose their motivation and feeling of competition because they cannot win as many points as others. So, does gamification demotivate below-level students? Is there any way to avoid that?
  • Rewards: Should the rewards be virtual points and badges only that could be translated into grades? Or is it better to relate it to real-life rewards as well?
  • Time allocated: Should I put due dates to the missions that students are required to finish or design the curriculum as self-paced?
  • Learning and Grading Platform: With teaching many classes and a large number of students, I need an effective platform to help me in recording and following-up points or grades. Any suggestions?

I guess that’s it for now…. I appreciate your feedback.