I have been researching what makes video games compelling/addicting for students (not that I would ever spend precious time with those dastardly, mind-altering life leechers). Ultimately, I want to integrate these aspects into the classroom.

The following attributes all, to one degree or another, contribute to making games fun:

Interactivity, choice, variation, engages the senses, power-ups/privleges, rewards (which lead to similar, yet bigger rewards), resource management, compelling story, graphics/production values, leveling-up/gaining ranks. (If you think of any more, could you let me know?)

I've already integrated many of these features into my cirriculum, but "rewards leading to rewards" seemed elusive. How do you get students to want to learn so that they can unlock more learning? Is it even possible? Will students push themselves to learn so they can learn?

As I considered this, I thought about which educational approaches might mesh best with game theory. Then the heavens opened up and a light shone upon Benjamin Bloom's Mastery approach. I know there are reasons why educators do not use his method (namely time constraints and standard proliferation), but it fits rather well.

I've attached my outline, please give me feedback as I want to refine this before I implement it.


Tags: games, gaming, innovation, integration, mastery

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Kate said, "the end in sight... that makes them want to try and reach it."

I think you are absolutely right! I think it's interesting that games are inherantly frustrating things. In Super Mario Bros.you die often (falling in holes, merely touching a little turtle thing) and have to start over the level. In The Legend of Zelda you're off on some ridiculous quest to find a chicken so you can trade it for a jug of virtual milk, etc. In Tetris you can make one small mistake that causes imperfect lines to build up fast.

This is fun? Why? It's partly the experiences you have along the way (and teachers should still try to make their subjects as compelling as possible), but it's also the end. The triumph of beating the level/game/high score/etc. And as Kate said, it's knowing that once you've beat it you don't have to go back, you can now focus on something new.

When I've explained World History Adventure (WHA) to colleagues and administrators, I always start with how content will be delivered. It's funny because everyone always (almost without exception) asks me about motivation. Why will kids work harder under this system? (I can understand this, if it doesn't improve student involvement and learning, then why even bother.)

Their motivation is reaching the goal, but the goal must be worth it. And that is where the psychological hooks come in.

Incidently, (just like kids) even my principal got excited when I started talking about power-ups and level-up parties.
My principal likes MathLand. I think she'd like everybody to do something like it. My colleagues think it's neat, and one did a version of it for one unit in her class, but otherwise it hasn't really caught on.

The other day it came up that no one was failing math because they'd all finished at least Level D. My coworker asked how I could get away with that. I mean, to her it looks like they've finished 1 of 5 assignments. Because the major content is in the first levels, a sound academic argument could be made that a person who has passed Level D has done the bare minimum to get a passing grade for the quarter.

But the ultimate point is that it's a nonissue. Students don't just stop at D. They move at break neck speed. Students who are absent don't move through the levels as quickly because they aren't there, but even my chronic absentees work like crazy when they are there.
I actually had an instance on one student ( who turned in no work for anyone) getting so excited about the leveled projects that his parents would come in and say "He's saying, Mom I have to work on my project so that I can get a C." and "I have to get this done so I can show Kristina." The grade he was going home and talking about upgraded with each level. He was writing poetry, reading articles and stories, participating, trying on tests. He had been failing student until then. It really changed his entire motivation for learning and how he felt about himself. Not only that, on the end of year district post test, he scored Proficient for the first time. I don't think he believed me. I told him I was calling his mother to tell her and then he badgered her for a week to check the message. That was very exciting to see.
That's a great story. And it's not unlike things I've experienced. I have kids asking for homework so they can earn stickers. In between every class the discussion the hallway is about which level everyone is on.

The grading system is easy to understand (no complicated weighted averages) and easy to talk about.

It's nice to hear a story that has concrete, data based success.
I just wanted to thank you for your ideas. I think I've found a way to implement avatars and a form of personal progess (like your dots) tracking. Again, thanks for sharing as your input has helped me a great deal in formulating ideas.

By the way I created power-up cards for students who get 100% on a quiz or who "level-up" their avatars (in your case if they get a certain number of dots). I think it'll work out well.
If you don't mind, please post and let me know how it's going with a regular ed class. I'd like to know how you're keeping track of their progress and avatars and how it works with that number of kids. It would also be helpful for when people ask me if it would work in regular ed. I'd like to be able to tell them that I know of someone who is using it with regular ed and tell them how it is adaptable.
Hi all,

I'm new to this site but would like to add something that I do that could fit with Game Theory. First of all, I work with Chris... great guy, teacher, colleague, and way cooler than me. But that said, when discussing his theory of the effectiveness of integrating things in video games into the classroom, I found that I was already doing this but was completely unaware.

I use the Qwizdom “clicker” answering devices in my room on a regular basis. Upon completing a lesson, the students are presented with a 3 to 5 question quiz. Periodically, I display the results, a grid of green checks for correct and red x’s for mistakes. The students are highly motivated to get their “green check”, constantly asking me to “put up the answers”. When, in the past, I gave them a straight up quiz with answers displayed on an overhead, the students behaved as normal… disappointed that they were to take a quiz. This instant feedback with graphical display, gets a completely different response.

Game Theory? You decide.
One more resource--I don't think I read this when I started this thread a couple of pages ago--is Marc Prensky's book, "Don't Bother Mom, I'm Learning." Aimed at parents and educators, it contains lots of support and ideas for gaming in education. Along with Shaffer and Gee, he is a must read in the education field.
This discussion has been great to see--we used to call it simulations in education, but you have certainly built your sites and ideas based on the technology that engages kids the most in this century--video gaming.
Thanks for the boost, and the info!
What I think will be key to this working long term is recognizing this isn't necessarily an argument for using games AS education (which is a road that has been traveled repeatedly in the last 15 years with mostly limited success at best) but instead about using the principles that make games so engrossing IN education.

Being a history teacher I constantly run into people saying the only way to make history work for kids is to find the stories that are relevant to their lives by looking for people in history who looked like them, talked like them or, at the very least, lived like them. I think that is simply a misunderstanding of relevance. I can't relate to jumping on flying turtles but that doesn't stop me from playing Mario Bros.

Making classrooms function like games makes the whole experience relevant, regardless of content. Not every subject is going to find "socially interesting" stories to drive them and not every subject is going to have an endless supply of puzzles to drive them, but I do believe every class can function in such a way as to make the whole experience familiar and relevant - game theory does that (or at least, someday it will!)
Kev said: "Making classrooms function like games makes the whole experience relevant..." and I couldn't agree more. While many people in society want to villianize games, they fail to realize just how basic they are to being human. Most critics look at video games as a 20-year-old media, but they actually belong to a much older category: games. The Egyptians, the Mayans... every human society has games. There must be something inate to us that demands goals, competition, strategy, etc.

When I was researching gaming in education, I constantly saw things like: teachers using games to illustrate points, teachers assigning games as homework, companies designing games to teach a point, etc. It was like games and education are two separate, unrelated things. And while that's fine, I think it can (and due to our changing society possibly ought to) go much further than that.

The more I research and prepare for the launch of World History Adventure, the more I believe that games and education are a natural fit. (like peanut butter and chocolate) :)
I think the aspect of "play" in gaming and learning is so imperative. I just think of the "games" my three year old cousin invents and how he learns, very excitedly, from them. If you think about learning it IS play up until a certain age. It is a drive to know what is behind that door, how the watch works, what the next level is, what your buddy who says he is Super Rockman says is going to happen next. Kids go out in the woods to play war, catch a turtle and watch it to see what it does, while dubbing it a prisoner from the enemy territory. It amazes me how imaginatively a kid can learn when left to their own devices. It seems that somewhere the methodology changes and you start to lose learners. The playfulness that makes it safe, fun, and stress free is missing.

Watch a kitten or a puppy sometime. The kitten chases its littermate, pounces and attacks, while having a blast. Its learning how to hunt and the social boundaries of its family. It is discovering all kinds of things imperative to its survival, but its clearly fun and voluntary. Its not to say that people are kittens, but I think we can learn from the way they do.
I was impressed by your website and how you conceived it. You might want to consider PBL (Problem based learning) as well. It has many of the same features you have mentioned: Interactivity, choice, variation, engages the senses, resource management, compelling story, and graphics/production values. I am just starting my reading in this area and found your site helpful. You or Kate might find Moodle helpful in your leveling up You can set quizzes so that they will scramble questions and students can take them as many times as needed to pass. Just a thought



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