Badges, Rewards, Schoology, and You!

What a week! My game, and the site, are in full swing. Things are going way better than I ever imagined. My kids have found 9 of the current 20 clues currently published in my ARG and are absolutely in love with the leaderboards (which is fully up and running if you want to check it out). They’ve checked the leaderboards hundreds of times in a little over a week. Maybe my favorite part of all the opening week action is reading the discussions they are having with each other about the game and checking the post times. I have 40% participation and these kids are playing at all hours of the day (and night!) and are even playing when they are in other classes at school (I almost feel bad). They posted so many comments in the game folder on Schoology that I had to give them the ability to start their own threads. I initially anticipated opening a weekly thread, but the First Week thread I already made has so many comments in it (231 so far. That’s over thirty a day!) that you can’t read them all because they got squished up against each other as students reply to other students, as shown in this picture. The grey lines link students’ replies to each other.


In my class, I call badges Achievements because it sounds more epic. During this first week, I overheard multiple students bragging about having earned one of the handful of Achievements I’ve handed out thus far and planning out what they are saving up to buy out of the item shop. It’s not only my students who love the Achievements, but it seems you guys do as well. Of the fifty or so e-mails I’ve received, most of them have been about Achievements (badges). How I design them, how I hand them out, how I came up with them, what is their point. So, lets talk about them.

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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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My Gamified Syllabus And Thoughts On The First Day Of School

For most in the great state of New Jersey, tomorrow is the first day of school. My classroom is going to look a lot different this year than it has in the past. This year I am realigning my teaching with the Common Core, placing heavy emphasis on technology, transitioning to project/problem based learning, using Google apps for school, and blending my classroom with Schoology. I am implementing a self-paced, mastery learning environment where students can “Bring Your Own Device” (BYOD). My classroom will be partially flipped and totally gamified with achievements (badges), leaderboards, an item shop, and what I believe to be the world’s first ever attempt to turn my students’ work into an Alternate Reality Game (ARG) using Transmedia storytelling. Even now that list still intimidates me, but you gotta go big or go home!

On the first day of school, you won’t find any icebreakers in my class. We only have one middle school in our district, so most of my students have been classmates for years. Besides, I rather get to know them in a more genuine way than “Two Truths and a Lie” can provide. It takes time to build relationships. Where I want to spend my time is explaining my syllabus, then immediately getting feedback and pre-assessment data using Google forms for future use. Let’s take a look at that syllabus!

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