Ever since I was selected as the winner of the Gamification of Education project it has been a whirlwind of excitement. People have been reaching out to me to inquire about what I am doing unlike ever before. I have been asked to present at a few conferences, asked to share with other teachers and do PD sessions, met with my superintendent, received countless new followers on Twitter and even made the paper. The best part is that this award has given Gamification a platform that it did not have around here before. People are interested and they want to know how it works! Awesome!
Let me be the first to stress that I am not an expert in Gamification by any means. I am still learning the ropes as I go. What I was blessed with was a supportive admin and resilient set of students who were both up for the challenge that was The Fight for Scientia Terra. To everyone, even myself, in the beginning it was a difficult concept to explain, let alone put together, but it has come together unlike anything I could have ever imagined!
Recently, the local newspaper (The Fort Sask Record) stopped by my classroom and wrote a fantastic article that really did a great job explaining what our program is all about and the perspective of the student. The two students who were interviewed did a fantastic job! Raw and honest - the best way to be!
Today, I wanted to share the article with you all. I'm proud of it but even more proud of the kids. They really dove into the deep end with me and this is a definite testament to them! Thanks Omar for putting together such a great article!
Local teacher on top of his game (*Side note* That was clever)
Scott Hebert’s Grade 8 science class is not all about fun and games, but they’re a significant part of it.
The Our Lady of the Angels teacher has been awarded the Gamification in Education Award by Spain-based organization Gamification World for his Grade 8 science class program, which he has morphed into a role-playing game that stays true to the province’s scientific curriculum.
Gamification is the process of using typical elements of games, such as scoring points, rules of play and competing against others to other areas of activity, such as education.
Instead of tests, they have battles where students can demonstrate their knowledge to inflict damage on their enemies. Instead of grades, they gain experience points.
“It’s a role-playing game that hits every curricular goal and every learning target that I’m required to do by law. But they don’t realize they’re learning until they do assessments and they know all this,” Hebert said.
The game map has five cities that correlate with the five main branches of science. Students can earn achievement badges, collect and trade items, and embark on quests which require them to scan items hidden around the classroom with their smartphones.
Our Lady of the Angels Principal Lorne Monaghan said when he first heard of the gamification concept, he emphasized that it was important to meet curricular outcomes and make sure teachers were covering all the required material.
“This seemed to provide that. It was something that piqued the interest of students but still allowed them to cover the required curricular material in a very unique way,” he said.
Hebert first launched his game plan for The Fight for Scientia Terra in 2013 after winning an Alberta Excellence in Teaching Award while working as a phys-ed teacher. That recognition inspired him to continue developing innovative ways to teach.
One thing he noticed is that the way school work is presented to students can be discouraging for youth.
“One of the big things is I realized is that the language of education is intimidating to kids. When you say it’s worth this many marks or you’re going to fail if you get this much … while that’s real-world, for some kids who are nervous about school or are struggling with certain topics or subjects, that’s intimidating to them,” Hebert said.
That’s why Hebert gives his students experience points for defeating their enemies rather than grades. He also tells them what they did right rather than emphasizing what they did wrong.
“If they’re doing a quest worth 500 experience points, and they get 80, I tell them congratulations, you gained 400 experience points,” Hebert said. “And they get really excited about that.”
The approach to learning had made science class a far more engaging experience for students such as Fernando Nunez.
“You get to do more hands on activities and work with other people,” Nunez said. “And you get to know them better and also how to work with other people better.”
Others, such as Aimee Livingston, said it took them about a week to understand how to play the game, but then found it helped make learning about science a lot more fun.
“I found it really interesting,” Livingston said. “Last year I kind of failed science and this year I really enjoy it compared to last year … That’s like a huge improvement for me.”
The kids have embraced the game, and are now driving it, adding components like jobs so the class now has classroom custodians.
Hebert first heard his project was due for recognition when he was told he was short-listed as a finalist for the 2015 Gamification World Awards in the education category. On Nov. 1, he found out he was one of the top three finalists in the world. He eventually won first place.
It was particularly humbling because his project was running against massive gamification platforms such as Classcraft, which is utilized by more than 600 classrooms worldwide.
I thought it was cool that they would think my little classroom experience of trying this is even in that same category,” Hebert said. “I didn’t do it for recognition or the award – I did it to increase engagement in sciences.”
Ultimately, the most satisfying part of creating The Fight for Scientia Terra for Hebert is helping kids see that education isn’t something they should be afraid of.
“The cool part about a game is if you’re trying to get something and jump off a cliff and you die in the game, you get a chance to restart,” he said. “And kids don’t feel that exists in education.”