The beginning of this year has a different feel for me. This gamification has reinvigorated me and I am hoping that I can translate this growing passion for my subjects (science and technology), coupled with the gamification, to raise student engagement to never thought of levels.
So, when I last posted, I left you all with my thoughts about the importance of a successful narrative. In short, if you have not read my previous posts: the narrative creates the story and the story creates the selling point, and the selling point ropes in the player. Now, most classrooms do not replicate any sort of environment that most students would find "game like". Desks are often in rows, kids need to remain still, work is provided with little flexibility, you know the drill... I was guilty of this for years myself but this year I decided it was time to change that.
Now to clarify, I have no issue with this style if it works for you but over the past two years I have been slowly working away from this because it does not work for me. I'm active, over the top, loud and a bit of an odd ball and asking the kids to do something I could never do often proved difficult on me. My gamification was my opportunity to ditch it completely and try something totally different!
When I walked into my classroom on Wednesday, August 26th, this is what I was faced with...
The first thing I decided to do was think back to my RPG playing days and layout what I could access as a player. The easy ones of course were the shops located in the villages. I knew as part of my game I would be selling items and forging and crafting them as well, so right away I knew I needed two locations in my room for this to happen and thus my "General Store" and my "Blacksmith" were born.
*Disclaimer - my room would not have been completed on time if it were not for the incredible help of my wonderful staff. At points, I had 5 different people helping me out from cutting out game cards and sorting them, to re-lining bulletin boards with paper and everything else you could think of, they did. Kim, Marilyn, Carolina, Walter, Karen - I would have never completed this without your help!*
If you look at the picture above on the left, I used the display case in the back of the room to create these two different areas. Normally, this display case accumulated random junk throughout the school year and just became a burden. Now, it would be a focal point of my game. To dress it up, I printed off different photos of old barn wood, bricks and nails and proceeded to cut them into strips and blocks. I lined the bottom with wood strips to create an old hardwood floor and lined the back with wood and brick to create the back walls and roof. To create the store photos themselves, I used a very, how should I say, uniquely named, website. This website takes standard photos and blows them up to cover multiple pages forming one large image and it does it well. Want to create large, unique posters for your room or office? You need to learn to rasterbate. Sigh, a lame joke. The website, named as a "youth mistake" according to the creator (if I understood a blog post I read correctly) is located at http://rasterbator.net and generates fabulous wall art for free. You just need to take the time to cut and put it together. Feel free to check it out!
Anyway, to complete the look I added hours of operation, open and closed signs, and dirtied up the blacksmith floor with various odds and ends to sell the whole crafting feel while putting up pretend shelves and items on them in the store. I'm very happy with how it turned out. Here is the finished product!
I decided to take the table and build my own Battle Ground. I filled it with sands and rocks and little figures I found at another game shop. I added sticks and big chucks of broken concrete and other scraps and carefully tried to pull it all together. I wanted to create a war torn area where battles (work submission) would take place. I have to say, I still have some details I want to add to it and I have an incredible art teacher who is looking at getting a few detail pieces for me as well, so it is not 100% just yet but I'm happy with it now. Now back to the whole work submission component. When I discuss my questing component I will be addressing at the same time how I use this table along with it. You'll have to check back later to see how it will all come together. For now, check out the table!
*Not shown is the 4 x 4 gravel laminated print the kids put their work on to avoid spreading dirt all over the room - I hope!*
I then needed a map of the land to make it real so I found one online (thank you to whoever made it!) and did a little rough, photo-shopping. I added the names of the lands and again used the rasterbator (still feels awful to type that) and made it 6 sheets of paper big. Next, being a Catholic school, I needed a prayer corner. Easy transition! I made the last panel of the bulletin board my Chapel. This will contain all the important information I need to communicate in both my religion and science courses and provide a small perk to the Priest class player! I tied it all together by printing old signs, and getting the incredible Marilyn (art teacher extraordinaire) to fill them out to complete the signage. This way to shop, map, etc... It really cleaned up the look I have to say!
Also, yes I do use that TV. I hook it up to an old laptop and use that computer to display my digital leader board. This helps players know where they lie in the greater scheme of things from multiple standpoints (XP, gold, by class, etc...).
The last thing I did was rearrange the desks into 4 guilds like you see pictured. They have small signs floating above them that will soon be replaced by true guild names and logos. I'm excited for that part. Finally, I need to complete my Armory where the kids can collect their needed supplies for their guild and subsequent quests. It will be on the left under the wall of cabinets. I've started the transformation but have not yet completed it. I will also be wrapping my desk with black fabric and adding some sort of detail to it indicating that it is my throne and palace for I am Master Heebs during this gamification! Will take me another day or so.
So here is my class. Ready for the kids and hopefully captivating enough to capture their attention and take them into the land of Scientia Terra. Fingers crossed it all works out!
PS: Good luck everyone with your own classes as the year begins!