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Get in the Game(ification) With Five Games

This year at the CUE 2017 National Conference there were a lot of sessions on the topic of gamification, a strategy for increasing student engagement by applying game design principles to a classroom setting. After my presentation, several people came up to me and said that they were very interested in gamification, but they felt uncomfortable with the whole idea of game thinking because they had simply not grown up playing games. This got me thinking that maybe there aren’t a lot of teachers who game on a regular basis. So with that in mind, I would like to suggest five games that teachers who are interested in gamification should play and, more importantly, what they can learn from each in order to help them gamify their classroom.


Settlers of Catan

“Settlers” has become a breakout success at game nights because it is a strategy game that is very easy to learn, but difficult to master. The basic idea is that you are settling a land and you need different resources to build roads and cities in order to earn points. You must choose your locations and use your resources wisely to build the best empire before your fellow settlers do.

What can we learn from it? In Settlers, there is more than one way to earn victory points. Every player must choose a strategy that best fits their particular situation and playing style. When designing a gamified environment are you allowing for multiple paths for success? Every student comes to us with a particular set of skills which we should let them use in order to experience success in our learning environment.

Ticket to Ride

This game brings us back to the good ol’ days of railroad tycoons as it challenges players to connect cities on a map by building railroad lines between them. All you have to do is collect enough cards of the same color to build a connection. Sounds easy, right? It is until your “friend” claims the only remaining route to St. Louis!

What can we Learn from it? The rules of Ticket to Ride are extremely simple yet the gameplay is intricate and engaging. If you have too many rules, your gamified learning setting will feel contrived and stressful. This charming locomotive themed game reminds us to keep our rules simple while we make our learning tasks complex.

Forbidden Desert

Your airship has crashed in the desert! It is up to you and your team to find all of the parts of the ship while staying hydrated, avoiding the sun, and not getting buried by sandstorms. Forbidden Desert is a type of cooperative game where the players work together to accomplish a goal despite the best efforts of the game to thwart them. No joke. The board is actually trying to kill your characters.

What can we learn from it? We do not always have to make students compete against each other. It is a wise move to make their greatest enemy a shared one. Design learning tasks which are difficult enough that they will want to work together. Together they will rise to the challenge!

Dungeons and Dragons

D&D, as it is commonly known, allows players to create a fictional character with certain abilities, skills, strengths and weaknesses. Then a Narrator, or Dungeon Master, unfolds a story in which the characters must act in accordance to their own strengths to navigate the challenges presented by the narrative. Yes, I know that it is usually associated with 12 year olds hanging out in their parents basements. Yet roleplaying games are possibly the greatest exercise in interactive, creative storytelling that gaming offers and it is for this reason that many people still play them well into adulthood.  

What can we learn from it? Roleplaying games teach us about the importance of the narrative and the growth of character throughout the game arc. In your gamified classroom are you working to create a collaborative fiction which motivates your players to explore and face new challenges regularly? Do not underestimate the power of a good story to keep your students exploring.

Tag

You’re it!

What can we learn from it? The most important thing we can learn from Tag is when to end the game. In most tag games there is no defined end point, yet players will get tired. The beginning of Tag is always more fun than the end. Choose a wise place to end your classroom game before your players want to quit.

My advice to teachers who are interested in gamifying their classrooms is to start playing games! Every time you play a game look for the game design elements which make it fun, challenging, frustrating, or rewarding. Then take a minute to consider what you can learn about creating an engaging experience for your players…er… learners. Now, go play some games!


Chris Hesselbein is an Innovation Strategist with the Lake Oswego School District near Portland, Oregon. Check out the Insert Coin blog series and other articles about classroom gamification at Insertcoin.org. Follow Chris on Twitter @ChrisHesselbein

Your Internet History is Now For Sale

Most of us are acutely aware of the fact that everything you do on the Internet can be monitored and tracked by your Internet Service Provider (ISP). Every site you visit, how long you spend on the site, what you click on, etc., can be logged and is typically maintained by your ISP. And it does not make a difference if you’re browsing via incognito mode.

During the Obama administration, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) implemented rules designed to prevent ISPs from gathering data and reselling it without consumer consent. Those protections were designed to limit what companies could do with information such as browsing habits, app usage history and location data. The FCC online privacy rules were set to go into effect by the end of the year.

This week, in a party-line vote, House and Senate Republicans lifted the reigns from ISPs such as Verizon, AT&T and Comcast. If Trump signs the legislation, which he is expected to do, ISPs will be able to monitor their customers’ behavior online and, without their permission, sell that user data directly to marketing companies, financial firms, and other companies that specialize in data mining.

Advocates for privacy protections online called the House and Senate action “a tremendous setback for America.” “Lawmakers who voted in favor of this bill just sold out the American people to special interests,” said Representative Jared Polis. And Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said the Republican-led effort was about putting profits over the privacy concerns of Americans.

Republicans that voted in favor of overturning the FCC online privacy rules argued that the privacy regulations would stifle innovation by forcing Internet providers to abide by unreasonably strict guidelines. Some Republicans also stated that eliminating the FCC privacy rules would enhance consumer privacy. Interesting.

But one of the chief arguments for repealing the FCC online privacy regulations was that they’re duplicative of Federal Trade Commission (FTC) rules. They argue that the FCC rules would be disruptive of the current regime, that they would create a double standard solely for ISPs. In fact, broadband providers do not currently fall under FTC jurisdictions. The FCC rules that were repealed did not step-on the FTC guidelines; rather, they finally gave some definition for how ISPs need to protect consumer information.

Why should educators be concerned about this action? Most CA schools use K12HSN as their ISP, but it’s what happens beyond the school connection that concerns me. According to CNN, tweens and teens spend about 7 hours a day using media. And those 7 hours, mostly spent online, do not include time spent using media at school or for their homework. Given the granularity of data being collected, and now with few restraints on how that information is used, ISPs will be able to more effectively target young people with advertising. Tracking teens’ digital trails will help companies precisely determine their interests, preferences, and their locations so they can market products to them. This will likely result in further exploiting their insecurities and vulnerabilities, which sadly just reinforces that self-worth is determined by what they own or don’t own.


John Fleischman is CUE’s Sacramento-based Legislative Policy Consultant and former Assistant Superintendent of Technology Services at the Sacramento County Office of Education (SCOE). He possesses an extensive background with creating and implementing informational and instructional media for use in a variety of educational environments. Working at the regional, state and national level he is currently guiding development and enhancement for several major technology initiatives including the Outreach and Technology Assistance Network and U.S.A. Learns, a comprehensive online program for teaching English to older adolescents and adults. John serves on a number of advisory boards and committees for a variety of different projects and organizations such as the Internet2 K20 Initiative, California K12 High Speed Network, California Education Technology Task Force, California County Superintendents Educational Services Association, CUE, and the Sacramento Educational Cable Consortium.

Get in the Game(ification) With Five Games

This year at the CUE 2017 National Conference there were a lot of sessions on the topic of gamification, a strategy for increasing student engagement by applying game design principles to a classroom setting. After my presentation, several people came up to me and said that they were very interested in gamification, but they felt […] Read More

Your Internet History is Now For Sale

Most of us are acutely aware of the fact that everything you do on the Internet can be monitored and tracked by your Internet Service Provider (ISP). Every site you visit, how long you spend on the site, what you click on, etc., can be logged and is typically maintained by your ISP. And it […] Read More

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