So recently my program was the subject of an article in the Edmonton Journal (our city's largest newspaper) and to my shock it was placed on the front page! Since then, it was shared on Reddit and has since continued to be spread globally. The messages I am receiving and the personal stories being shared with me are so cool! For those of you who have not seen the article, which Janet (French) did an amazing job on, I've pasted it verbatim below.
Here is a link to the original story! Click here to see the original...Oh and click here for the SubReddit Page
The Minotaur King has a grip on the hero, Master Heebs, who refuses to divulge where he has hidden a rare and precious gem.
Tasked with liberating their master and reclaiming their resource-rich land are 22 eighth graders armed with tablets and a mini whiteboard. They will defeat the Minotaur King with a series of quests, battles, and treasure hunts, earning precious objects and experience points on the way.
Welcome to science teacher Scott Hebert’s classroom in Our Lady of the Angels Catholic Junior High School, where lessons transport students to another time and place.
There are no chairs or tables in this unconventional classroom — just painter’s tape on the floor marking each group’s territory, a series of fabric tents, and castle-themed wall decor.
While some teachers dabble in using games to teach concepts or build skills, Hebert has morphed the whole school year into running narrative that culminates in a battle with the Minotaur King. “It has reinvigorated my love of teaching, because every class is unique and different,” he said, the din of a guild battle raging behind the castle walls.
Hebert turned to gamification after teaching science the conventional way — with lectures, note-taking, and tests — and found his students weren’t as engaged as he would have liked. He remembered a video a colleague had shared about bringing a game-like atmosphere to the classroom, re-watched it, and became, frankly, a little obsessed. By the beginning of the last school year, he was begging and borrowing game pieces and decorations for his classroom, and designed and printed his own set of reward and penalty cards for players to use. Worksheets became challenges players had to solve using their knowledge of science, tests became “boss battles,” and kids earn experience points, not grades, which are tallied on a leaderboard under their characters’ names.
“There’s a lot of anecdotal evidence from teachers that if you use different or more calming language, that takes the stress of the situation off kids,” he said.
Not only did his students’ grades go by seven per cent to 12 per cent that first year, kids became enthusiastic about science. Confused parents began emailing and tweeting at him, asking why their children wouldn’t stop talking about his class.
‘I thought science was really boring’After studying the human body for the last month, four guilds clamoured for victory in a Thursday morning battle. Or, as other teachers might say, students took part in a review session.
Twenty folders with questions inside lay spread on the floor. When Hebert said, “Go,” there was an all-out sprint to snatch up the folders. Students hastily scrawled their answers on mini whiteboards before darting up to Hebert, who called out his approval, corrections and hints with the smooth co-ordination of an air traffic controller.
Success in Thursday’s battle hinged on correctly labelled diagrams of the human heart, identifying organs involved in digestion, and explaining the gall bladder’s function. Players thrust forward “freeze” and “poison” cards to stop the particularly ambitious Vicious and Delicious guild. The attacks pulled their restless members away from battle and left them hovering, agitated, in front of “the punisher” (a mask-wearing superintendent) for a couple of minutes.
“They hate our guts,” said 13-year-old Ezra Walker.
The obstacles lobbed at Vicious and Delicious were in vain, as the guild emerged victorious after completing 17 of 20 questions in 40 minutes.
The class has changed how 13-year-old Tanisha McQueen feels about science.
In Grade 7, the artistic teen found science class stifling, like there were few opportunities for creativity.
“(Hebert) makes it fun and it doesn’t feel like you’re learning. It just feels like you’re playing a game, and that it’s fun,” she said. Although some parents have asked Hebert how their children are supposed to learn without desks and chairs, McQueen finds an active approach more engaging than sitting and writing notes.
Walker, who describes himself as a “big nerd,” enjoys the group work essential to success in the class, and students’ ability to choose which projects to work on.
Earning extra objects and abilities in the game also pushes him to work harder.
“It kind of encourages you to do better, because you can get all this cool stuff to help you,” he said.
Spreading the gospel of gamificationIt’s not just the students who are thinking strategically. Knowing students differ in how they learn and what motivates them, Hebert designed Scientia Terra to pique the interests of many personalities — not just hyper competitive game lovers.
Gaming — whether table top, role-playing quests, or on digital devices — is chock full of rewards, Hebert said, which is what makes them so addictive. He wanted to harness the compulsive draw of games in class, and get away from a traditionally punitive approach to teaching that accentuates students’ failures.
“Please be careful with grades,” Hebert told a room full of teachers assembled at a professional development session he ran last month on gamifying classrooms. “Kids wear this like a badge.
Even though she rarely gamed in her free time, the competitive aspect of Hebert’s class is working for 13-year-old Caitlyn Buckler. “It makes you work your hardest, because you want to be top of the leaderboard,” she said.
Buckler wants to be a doctor, so she was delighted after Hebert spent part of his Christmas vacation ordering animal organs to assemble a fake corpse for enthusiastic students to perform an autopsy. In the “Heebs Anatomy” extracurricular project, students applied to be on a team that determined the body’s cause of death.
Teachers interested in using gaming don’t have to go quite so over-the-top as Hebert. He suggests they start by gamifying individual lessons, or even a unit, rather than diving into a year-long plot.
He runs a website, a YouTube channel, and hosts training sessions to help other teachers learn how to incorporate the approach into their classrooms.
Involving students by having them decorate and equip their domains, and seeking their feedback to improve the game are essential elements, he said. And, yes — maintaining a gamified class is a lot of work, much of it done on his own time. He doesn’t care.
“These kids are our future. These kids are the ones that are going to solve the problems we’ve created, or solve the problems that have yet to be solved. There’s no amount of time or effort that I view as too much in getting kids engaged in the sciences — especially girls — because there’s such a lack of girls in science, technology, engineering and math.”
Here is me with the News Paper ... because ... why not?!