Sweet, Sweet Data

I love teaching English because most of what we do is subjective. In English, you get to bring your prior knowledge and experience to a reading and examine a text not just in the way the author may have intended, but how you personally interpret it as well. This leads to great discussions, impassioned arguments, and, hopefully, new perspectives, ideas, and opinions.

But as much as I love the subjective nature of teaching English, I have an obsession with data, statistics, and analytics. Probably because I love extrapolating subjective questions from concrete information. For instance, Google Analytics tells me the average visitor to my site stays for 2:27. That fact fascinates me. I’ve stayed awake at night, long after I wish I could have fallen asleep, wondering why. Am I a terrible writer? Is it because this site is only a few months old? Is it because of the shrinking American attention span? Wait… how does 2:27 compare to other sites? While i’m still trying to figure out the answers to those questions, the newest data I’ve collected gives plenty of opportunities for speculation. Here is the data from my first day of school!

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As you can see, I have 74 kids this year. Mostly females. When I saw this on my roster in the summer, I was nervous. How would girls respond to my gamified classroom? If you notice the number of people who respond to this set of questions as someone who never plays video games, the number goes from 18 to 14 to 12; however, If I showed you the response form, you’d see all of my male students play video games at least sometimes. This leaves us with only the girls who said they never play video games. So, if we take the lowest number, 12, assuming the respondents didn’t realize Candy Crush, Temple Run, and other “puzzle” type games counted as video games until I listed them in a later question, about 75% of my female students play video games of some kind, sometimes. That’s pretty cool and quite the relief.

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I felt better, too, after I saw the answers to these questions. Students seem to be excited to be in a classroom that’s a video game and are only showing a bit of apprehension toward the grading system. I made sure to explain that the grading system, while different, has the exact same value as the other English classes’ grading system. They just use percentages, while I use total points. I think by making this clear, a lot of them were more willing to give the class a try.

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These next set of questions were used to gather information on two fronts: 1) I needed to know what the BYOD state of my class was. I was thrilled to see 97% of my kids had a device they could bring into school. For the two that didn’t, I have some classroom computers they can use. 2) I wanted to gather some metrics on areas I want to see students improve in this year. By getting first day feedback about students’ feelings toward presentations, technology, writing, personal leadership, English as a subject, and working in groups, I will be able to see how students change over the course of the year when I reassess them.

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This maybe the most important question of them all. After my thirty minute explanation of the class, rules, showing them the game website, telling them what a tough grader I am, and how they would work harder in my class than they’ve ever worked before, I was very happy to see that my kids were still excited to be in my class. This reinforced my gamification hypothesis; I believe gamification won’t increase student performance, but will increase student engagement, happiness, and effort.

In another question, I asked them to describe their feelings toward my class in one word. Here is what they said:

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I was also interested to hear, in one word, what they wanted to improve on this year. I was surprised to see writing the clear favorite. I’ve never had a class that wanted to write.

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So, there you have it. My first day data. What does is it all mean? I don’t know for sure, but as I gather the same data at different points in the year, I’m interested to see how my students change.

Notice something in my data? Let me know in the comments! They work now! Want to tell me about your first day, comment too!

Until next time,

GLHF

7 comments

  • What tools did you use to collect the data?

  • Always excited to read more from you, Chris! Love the data you collected and how you’re planning to assess sentiment along the way. And the whole team here @Schoology is excited to be a part of such an innovative experiment! Looking forward to reading more as the school year progresses.
    -JMR, Schoology’s Community Manager

  • Did you build all of your achievements within Schoology…I too have begun this idea of gamification for my AP Biology class and am trying to use Schoology…do you use student progress? I am nowhere near where you are but hope to be one day!

    I would be curious to “peek in” at your class if you would so graciously allow me access to your Schoology class

    Thanks for the great updates…it has been fun following your progress…

    • Chris Aviles

      I have built all 100+ achievements into Schoology. It was tedious, but worth it now.

      What do you mean by student progress?

      I’d be more than happy to let you check out Schoology. The kids haven’t registered yet, but in a week or so when we are fully operational, get a hold of me and I’ll add you for a bit.

      Thanks for stopping by’

  • 2 sec hits: a) Google Analytic tracks any hit, crawlers included. b) Your site is a little squirrelly on some smartphones. I, for one, exit if it takes more than a few seconds to load. c) And remember, iOS doesn’t allow much more than viewing the basic site coding. This is the first time I’ve checked out the site on a computer. I must return! Bravo to gamification in the classroom. I see everything as a tool or resource; for better or for worse, kids now see everything as a game.