Thursday, September 4, 2014

Update: Gamification and Outcomes-Based Grading in Teacher Education

In July, I wrote a post describing my efforts to gamify a course for this fall semester. I'm using quests, outcomes-based grading, badges, and XPs (experience points) to model a gamified learning experience for students in my course on emerging web and mobile technologies. As part of this approach, I designed a pre-assessment, which my students completed within the first few days of the semester. The pre-assessment was vital for this course, in particular, because students in this graduate-level course vary widely in their background and experiences with technology. This pre-assessment provided students an opportunity to show what they know and is allowing me to customize the learning experience for students.

Based on students' pre-assessment responses, I awarded students XPs that can be applied toward specific quests (modules) in the course. For instance, when a student demonstrated on the pre-assessment that she has a great deal of expertise in concepts related to digital literacy, I awarded her XPs to be applied toward the digital citizenship quest. Later in the semester, when this student begins working on the digital citizenship quest, she can choose how to apply her pre-assessment XPs. Applying XPs from previously learned concepts and experiences can keep students from completing assignments that are unnecessary.

Since each student enters our classrooms with a unique set of strengths and needs, it is important to recognize and celebrate what students know and can do. It is equally important to recognize what students do not yet know and cannot yet do. Based on pre-assessment results, I know the strengths and gaps in each student's understanding of course concepts. Perhaps even more importantly, after completing the pre-assessment, my students now have an understanding of their own skills and competencies in relation to course learning outcomes. After pre-assessment results were in, a few students messaged me to say that they were surprised at how much they either did or didn't know.

It is impossible to overstate the importance of this level of self-awareness. Without a pre-assessment or some other opportunity to activate students' prior knowledge in relation to course learning outcomes, my students and I would be moving blindly ahead, tackling each topic and task without regard for students' strengths and needs. In online courses, which many instructors design and construct in their entirety before the semester begins, it can be difficult to envision ways to customize learning for students. This approach has helped me strike a balance between the need to design the course in advance and the need to be responsive to the unique learners in my course.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Using Google Drive for Student Collaboration in Face-to-Face and Online Courses

I use Google Drive daily for creating, editing, organizing, and sharing documents for both personal and professional uses. Google Drive is a tremendous resource for me as an educator, and I use it often for lesson planning, brainstorming, and other teacher-centered activities. I find the most potential in Google Drive, however, in the ways I use it with students.

In both face-to-face and online classes, I use Google Drive for collaboration among students and with others outside the four walls of the classroom. Google docs and spreadsheets work beautifully with many common interactive learning experiences, such as Think-Pair-Share and peer feedback. In face-to-face courses, Google Drive can serve as a resource for documenting the talk and processes that occur as students collaborate. As an online instructor, I've found that Google Drive allows me to easily incorporate interactive and collaborative learning experiences with students who are separated by distance and time. For instance, I designed the spreadsheet below for an activity that tasked students with exploring new-to-them web tools, sharing their learning with their peers, and providing feedback on their classmates' thoughts. This interaction could take place synchronously (at the same time) or asynchronously (not at the same time) and could happen via any device.

The other examples included below represent uses of Google docs for collaboration that work in face-to-face, online synchronous, and online asynchronous settings.


Peer Feedback

Collaborative Brainstorming

Collaborative Note-taking

Since Docs and Sheets can be shared locally or globally, they also provide a way to bring outside experts and other students into those collaborative learning experiences. As students in my technology course explored trending ed tech topics, they were asked to reach out to other educators via Twitter, Google+, and other networks. The Google spreadsheet below allowed my students to record their own learning and also allowed other educators to add their thoughts, experiences, and resources.

There are countless possibilities for structuring Google docs and spreadsheets for collaboration in face-to-face and online courses. I would love to hear (and steal) your ideas, so please share by leaving a comment. Thanks!

Friday, July 11, 2014

Gamification and Outcomes-Based Grading in Teacher Education

In the fall semester, I will be teaching my first semester-long gamified course. Thankfully, I have a short summer session in which to experiment with some gamification techniques in order to make revisions for the fall semester. I'm sharing my ideas below in the hopes of getting feedback from you and possibly sparking an idea that could help transform teaching and learning in other classrooms. Below are items taken directly from my syllabus. Feel free to borrow and adapt these ideas for your own contexts.

This course was designed using a gamification approach, which refers to the use of game mechanics in non-game settings. Throughout the course, students will earn experience points (XPs) for completing tasks. As students earn XPs, these points will accumulate and enable students to earn badges to represent their learning. Upon completion of each quest, a badge will be awarded to each student. For each quest, three levels of badges are available: Explorer, Journeyman, and Master. These badges represent the amount of XPs earned by each student during a given quest. To earn a badge at a greater level of difficulty, students will have the opportunity to revise or repeat tasks.

Badges for Each Quest:

21-30 XPs = Master 
11-20 XPs = Journeyman 
0-10 XPs = Explorer 

Badge for Digital Citizenship Quest

Grading Scale for Determining Final Course Grade:

240-300 XPs = A 
180-239 XPs = B 
120-179 XPs = C 
60-119 XPs = D 
0-59 XPs = F

At the beginning of the semester, all students will complete a course pre-assessment. The purpose of the pre-assessment is to provide formative information to the students and the instructor regarding students’ previous learning experiences and areas of expertise. Experience points (XPs) may be earned through the pre-assessment, as students demonstrate mastery of concepts and tools. The instructor will determine the amount of XPs earned (if any) by a given student based on performance on the pre-assessment. Students will have the opportunity to apply XPs toward specific tasks within quests based on their pre-assessment performance.

Along with using gamification techniques, I have also transitioned all of my courses to an outcomes-based grading system. Canvas makes it easy to integrate outcomes-based grading into course assignments by giving instructors the option of using the Learning Mastery gradebook instead of a traditional gradebook. Assignments and rubrics are aligned with course learning outcomes. My students and I will be able to track progress toward course outcomes, and grades will be meaningful for both me and my students. Below are the learning outcomes for one of my courses in Canvas. 

Learning Mastery Gradebook in Canvas

I welcome your feedback on my first attempt at gamification and my shift toward outcomes-based grading. Feel free to leave a comment to let me know how you're using these methods in your courses.