Get Ready, Get Set, GO GAMIFY!

If you have been following this blog over the past couple of months, then you know that I have been taking the step towards gamifying my calculus classes this school year.  I am really excited about this, but also really nervous.  One of the biggest reasons for my excitement is that I will be introducing mastery learning as part of my class structure this year.  I discovered mastery learning when I first flipped my classroom and although I thought it was a great idea, I was not sure how it would work for me.  For those of you unfamiliar with the term mastery learning – this is a model where students do not move on until they master a learning objective.  There will be some potential difficulties: what if some students do not test when others do, or what if students are in different units, or what about the student that is really struggling with a particular test/quiz/assessment.  I have tried to be very detailed in my set up for class to accommodate all of the possible ways that students could go in my room.  The flip side of this is that my classroom will become totally differentiated! I had the opportunity to attend the ISTE2014 conference (if you haven’t been, you MUST GO) and in one of the very last session I participated in, the light bulb (it was more like a super nova, but that is a minor detail) flickered on.  Philip Vinogradov (read his Google Doc Here) did an excellent job of breaking down some of the mental difficulties that I was having and opened the floodgates to creating what I hope will be the most exciting classroom experience in the state!  If you are interested in what Philip has to say about gamification you can follow him on Twitter here:  @pvinogradov.  I also did some looking and digging and reading and finding on my own.  So much looking and digging and finding that I created a Pinterest board about some of the best things I found.  There are also several pages saved into my Pocket account for future reference should I encounter an unforeseen situation. After taking some time to absorb everything, I started working up a master google doc, a place where I could organize all of my thoughts and get feedback.  If you would like to have commenting access to that document, email me, and I will give you those rights.  I tried to dump all of the ideas I had into this document and I mapped out all of the calculus that I would cover in one school year.  Having taught regular calculus for several years, I have a really good idea of what needed to be covered and by what date.  This made the process easier for me to manage and plan out the path I am trying to follow. Here is what I have done so far…

  • Came up with a list of ways that students could earn “credits” to be used in the market.  This took some time to try and develop – I had an idea of the items that students could buy, but wanted an economy that was fair.  Powerful items need to take time to save up and earn, smaller items could be bought more quickly.  The one thing that I am worried about is that the students earn enough to buy the big things too quickly…
  • Developed a leveling system that gives the students choice about how they want to participate in class.  As the students move through the curriculum, they earn points.  When the student has enough points and badges, they can level up by following one of three different paths.
  • Created a wiki where students can post artifacts showing what they have learned and what they are going to teach others about calculus.
  • Over the past two years I have flipped my classroom, posting videos on YouTube and Knowmia.  By utilizing a flipped classroom model, I am better able to meet each student exactly where they need the most help.  This will also allow students to review as needed and have the opportunity replay problems that are challenging.  The great thing about this, is that each student will struggle in different areas and they can get that specific help.
  • Created a Google Form that will tie all of the students credits together in one location to make it easier to keep track of how many credits students have.
  • Using Edmodo as a Learning Management System, I will have a place to link all the information that students will need access to.  I will also us the badge system inside of Edmodo to create rewards for the students as they level up.

As for the grading part, just like in a game it will be a running total of points accumulated over the semester.  There will be certain items that all students will be required to do: problems from each section, quizzes, and assessments.  With mastery, students cannot move on until they achieve 80% on these items.  As students go through the semester there will be opportunities for them to do other optional explorations.  Students that do these items will get graded for them, students who choose not to do them will not get a grade.  For my calculus class ALL students will need to complete differentiation (calculus vocabulary for derivatives) by the end of the first semester, but its possible that I could have students that are not quite ready to move on yet and some that have zoomed ahead.  I have some ideas about how to handle this, but this situation will be dealt with on a student by student basis.  The goal is learning calculus and some students may just take a little longer.  Also my district has a policy of a semester final counting as 20% of the overall grade, so I will have to create a separate category grade for this one. I am excited to put this into play and cannot wait to see what happens.  As always if you have any ideas, suggestions, hints, or feedback please share it!

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