Reflection on Game Mechanics and Development (Gamifiying my Life)

I’m experimenting with using story to gamify. This weekend my kids are my target. They (9 and 13) HATE taking family walks, something I force on them once a week or so. This week I’m calling it a family “adventure” (using the right language) and allowing them to bring a friend telling them only that the adventure will involve the outdoors and food.

On Sunday afternoon we’ll be chased by orcs up a mountain (I’m not quite sure yet WHY this is happening, I’ll post about it when I figure it out.) I’m the game master and keeper of the food and water. Kids will have to complete challenges to gain access to said food and water.

Challenge examples:

  • Find a plant that you now the name of. (This can be used many times! It will become harder and harder as they run through the names of plants they know.)
  • Find a rock that you know the name of. (Kodiak only has 1 type of rocks in the area where we’re going.)
  • Pick up 5 (or 2 or 3) pieces of trash.
  • Tie a specialized knot

I decided I didn’t want to make it at ALL about school–but if you wanted to apply this game to a classroom you could  easily substitute vocab or multiplication tables as challenges. I’m going to list them out in a small notebook to bring with me in my bag.

When the Orcs get too close ( i.e. my army starts dragging their feet) we’ll have to battle. I think throwing stones at a mark or seeing who can throw stones the farthest might be how we decide if we defeat the enemy or not. We might also choose pushki (cow parsnip) sticks and see if they break when struck against an orc (tree or rock). I’ll have to make some of it up as I go along.

Along with the food, I’m going to bring a pack of cards as another way to decide outcomes along the way. I watched a couple of Matera’s videos and noticed that he employs playing cards for different classroom/game tasks.

Complaints will magically suck the sweetness out of the cookies and turn them into dog treats dog (this is a side quest of mine: eliminating complaints in my house).

The quote below is one that struck me in my reading this week, highlighting, again, that gamification is one of the tricks (tools) we teachers have at our disposal to help students learn how to learn.

Though the rhetoric of gamification claims ties to intrinsic motivation, any attempt to cause one behavior (i.e., learning) through other means (i.e., game elements) is the very definition of extrinsic motivation.

“At the heart of [the debate about the value of gamification] is a deep philosophical question about whether we should engage students where they are, or expect them to come with a well of intrinsic motivation. Like many questions in education, the answer is not either/or. A good teacher judiciously moves back and forth between tricks to elicit student interest and space for students to motivate themselves, all with the long-term goal of building intrinsic motivation” (Toyama, 2015).



Toyama, K. (2015 October 29). The Looming Gamification of Higher Ed. Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved from: on October 28, 2016.


Hi Theresa,
I found that creating a story helped me get ideas flowing. I came up with the theme and challenges after I had an idea for a story I liked.

You asked about games to use in the classroom, a really easy review game is to break the class into groups of 4 and have them take out one piece of blank paper per group. Ask a review question. One person in the group (with input from the others if necessary) writes the answer on the paper. When the group is done they raise their hands. A point is given to the fastest group with the right answer. The writer rotates with each question asked.

When I taught Spanish my students LOVED Pictionary and Jeopardy. I have some tips on how to manage those games and minimize prep, if you’re interested I’ll send you some resources.

Hi Gerald,
Unlike you I found creating a story essential to my being able to come up with other elements. I think this highlights that there are multiple ways to implement. Matera is also a “story-inspired” guy. I’d love to hear what your students think as you implement. There was a math teacher at our local high school who flipped his classroom and implemented some elements of gamification, but he gave it up before a semester was over because his students (and their parents) gave him so much negative feedback. I wonder if it was the flipping or the particular elements that were poorly received. At any rate starting small avoids that awful feeling of investing so much time and energy and having a lesson or unit bomb.

Keep us posted!

Hi Genevieve,
What a great summary of this week’s readings. There was so much information, I was feeling overwhelmed and only really used one element: story. I look forward to seeing what you come up with!



Game Mechanics (Week 8)

Which aspects of story and game mechanics will be useful in your class and how might you use them?

This coming week, I am planning on teaching a lesson with story, XP (unrelated to grading), and a leaderboard. The lesson is on time management for several groups of teens.

I had a game-based lesson plan already and am looking at ways of taking it to the next level and gamifying it. Once I started adding in the element of story, I began to get excited! The students will be stranded on an island in the North Pacific (irony: we live on an island). I’m still working on the details and how to work the productivity quiz students will take at the beginning of class into the story.

Students will be divided into groups. I thought about adding in some roles (hunter, gatherer, entertainer, builder) but I think that will be too much information for our short time period. Students will be presented with a list of tasks each worth a certain amount of XP and focused on acting out island survival. Going with the idea that survival involves: shelter, fire, signaling for help, water, food and a positive attitude. For instance, students can earn 1XP for every ounce of water their group is carrying. There are also several activities that involve getting up and moving. Kapp (2o15) suggests not to start with objectives, but with having the learner make decisions which immediately engages learners.

Since I’m concerned that these groups could be difficult to motivate as we’ve never met and they are in a new environment, I’ll have some badges on hand to offer to students who are active in the game. Cox (n.d.) notes that badges can have a postive effect on classroom management.

Matera (2014 Loc 803) mentioned a sundown timer and I thought it would be great to have students finish their tasks by sunset. I was unable to find one, but I found another on YouTube that will work and I’ll just build the sunset into the story.

When the time is up we’ll add up the XP (I’m going to TRY to track points as the groups are working, but it might be crazy) and put the groups on the Leaderboard (just marker on a whiteboard). I’ll then show Eisenhower’s Matrix (see image below) and we’ll figure out how the tasks fit into the matrix. Groups can try for a few minutes, then we’ll discuss as a whole group.


Whew! Sounds like a lot of work for a 30 minute lesson, but I’m thrilled with how adding in a story really gave me a lot to work with and added much more depth to the lesson allowing me to draw on students knowledge of the outdoors, which wouldn’t have come up otherwise.


Cox, J. (n.d.). Classroom Management: Using Gaming Elements. Retrieved from: on October 24, 2016.

Kapp, K. (2014, March 12). Eight Game Elements to Make Learning More Intriguing. Association for Talent Development. Retrieved from: on October 24, 2016.

Matera, M. (2015). Explore Like a Pirate: Engage, Enrich, and Elevate Your Learners with Gamification and Game-inspired Course Design [E-Reader Version]. San Diego, CA: Dave Burgess Consulting.




Reflection Dream Big

– a reflection- about what you may have learned, how your thoughts may have changed, and the way that you impacted the learning of others in the course.

**Both of these postings will be shared on Twitter on the tag #gamified. Grading will occur in Blackboard Grades.

Reviewing how I talk about learning in my classes, I focus process over product, but it seems to take a long time for students to get onboard. The majority would rather have explicit directions on HOW to do something, so adding in the game elements to help them focus on getting it done are great.

Next week I need to give a stand-alone 30 minute presentation on time management. I focused on making it game based. I think I’ll add in a few badges along the way as I’ve been experimenting with those. I think I’ll play around with a simple leaderboard, too (team names on a white board), to up the competition between teams.

Since my typical teaching day doesn’t have periods where I repeat lessons this time management lesson I’ll have the opportunity to work with four different groups and tweak as I go.


Hi Sara,
I think the transition to the growth mindset/purpose driven learning in education is huge. You’re right we need to allow room for students (and teachers!) to make mistakes and learn to fail.

Hi Genevieve,
I really enjoyed your post. As a teacher and as a parent I can appreciate how we use language to talk to parents helps to frame the opportunity to change in a positive light, especially for parents who may have had their own negative school experiences.

Hi Anthony,
Thanks for sharing the story from your classroom. I like the way you took two of Matera’s words and focused on them. It makes Matera’s intent more achievable. I try to not set up “right” and “wrong” scenarios in my classroom but at the end of the day there is a rubric and points to be assigned because the bottom line is a grade.

I’m going to try to focus on Matera’s words of resilience and curiosity for the next week and see where that takes me.


Dream Big

Consider the Bartle types, but also consider the aspects of Purpose Driven Learning that Matera puts forth as you think about

how you currently use the language of learning in your class, and

how you would like learning to be discussed in your class. Dream big! After we envision some of these uses of language, we can think of ways that we might bring them into being more visibly in our classrooms. 

Purpose driven learning and the growth mindset make such good sense in the classroom (and parenting!). The exciting part of the research is that it reminds educators that we CAN make an impact.  Tierney (2014) makes an intriguing statement with regards to gamification and higher education:

“As educators, we have the authority to tell students to do assignments. We regularly hand out assignments with little to no aplomb, no mystery, and no sense of expectation or promise…As game designers, we cannot rely on the kind of compelled participation …we would quickly find ourselves without players…”

Perhaps we are a bit too comfortable with that authority of handing out assignments and would do better with some expectation of fun and mystery. I will be considering this thought and how I talk about learning in my classes, which is probably not explicit.

In moving away from player types, which I found a bit overwhelming, I appreciate Radoff’s 4 key components of game design: immersion, cooperation, achievement, competition (2011). This helps immensely when thinking about creating a gamified classroom, or even just a more interactive classroom. When we add in Gabe Zichermann’s SAPS model focusing on the elements of Status, Access, Power, and Stuff I begin to beleive that I can actually create a game-based class (Matera, 2015).


Matera, M. (2015). Explore Like a Pirate: Engage, Enrich, and Elevate Your Learners with Gamification and Game-inspired Course Design [E-Reader Version]. San Diego, CA: Dave Burgess Consulting.

Radoff, J. (2011). Game On : Energize Your Business with Social Media Games. Hoboken, US: Wiley. Retrieved from

Tierney, W. G. (2014). Postsecondary Play : The Role of Games and Social Media in Higher Education. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. Retrieved from


What is the implication of player type in game design? Reflection

Consider options you may have in gamifying your own classroom and the types of gamification you as a game player might enjoy.  Answer the essential question from this perspective, and share with us your thinking at this point about the gamification strategies you might use. 


I ended up using a different player type test. I took one other as well that had me at a higher percentage of Achiever and almost nothing for Griefer or Socializer. I think it’s pretty accurate, however in games I currently play I am not at ALL interested in typical social aspects–which amounts to sharing my scores on Facebook and inviting friends to play.

As a learner I am going to do the tasks before me and complete what I need to complete to achieve both the grade and my own mastery of the topic. I try to “find the fun” a la Mary Poppins “, but sometimes it’s hard to do.


My digital game playing falls into the category of relaxing–an opportunity to turn off my brain–and mostly solitary. Although I have to say back in the day I spent my hours playing games. (I’m a master at Tetris and was once pretty good at Pong!)

In my classroom I’m offering badges for students who go above and beyond. I started out attaching points to them, now I just give the badge to say “good job” if a student figures something out. I’m going to include the mention of them in the syllabus for next semester, so students will know they are coming and figure out a (n easy) way to share the badges so that all the students can see what’s been earned. If I were teaching high school I’d be all over the creation of a full on semester long game. Teaching online, and asynchronously, makes it trickier and it’s so much more practical for me to incorporate elements as we go along.

This week I found a great YouTube channel that discusses all things gaming with a focus on education.

Comment 1:

I completely agree “…educators should try to recognize their student’s gamer types to encourage all types of “players” in the classroom, just as educators differentiate for their student’s learning style.” I’m interested to hear how Matera addresses students who choose not to engage. There may be students who aren’t going to buy what we’re selling, so to speak.

Comment 2:

Hi Sara,
I liked the reassuring quote you shared that if you
“Make it social, make it meaningful and give people some freedom”, you’ll have successful game. It has always fascinated me how classes have different personalities (I’m talking high school here where you teach the same material to several different groups.) and how as a teacher I need to learn what works and what doesn’t with the particular group. You’re so right not to underestimate group dynamics.

Comment 3:

Hi Genevieve,
I love your idea of getting kids outdoors! I’ve been playing around with badges the last couple of weeks in my classes. I have fun thinking them up and I like the way they’re independent of grades.
You have some excellent ideas on implementation. I look forward to hearing about how it works out!

The Implication of Player Types in Gamification

There are many reasons that people play games. Beginning in 1990 Richard Bartle proposed four different reasons that people might play in MultiUserDungeons/Domains (MUDs). The four types are: Killers, Socializers, Achievers and Explorers (Bartle, 1996).  Nick Yee built on this idea researching players of MMORGs (Massively Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Games) to identify, among other ideas, the motivations of playing. He found overlap in the types of players and that the competitive element was present in all 3 categories he defined, not a separate element. Dixon (2011) suggests that we think of player personas and then we “don’t have to be too concerned with differentiating between motivation, behaviour or preferences”, but can use the ideas of different player experiences to guide development.

The research on player types  has mostly taken place in digital gaming and the replication in  the classroom lacks research (Dixon, 2011). In practical application trial and error will play a role in game development as the researchers continue their work.

Strain (2015) offers some tips for accommodating player types:

  • For  Achievers offer badges, points and vary the length of achievements to maintain interest. 
  • For the socially motivated, celebrate successes with leader boards and other public recognitions.
    For Explorers, provide opportunities to unlock esoteric aspects of the game and allow side quests
  • For Killers (or the competitively motivated) ensure competition particularly, with stakes.

Knowing that these types will overlap a teacher can know that in the gamified classroom there are many reasons and ways that students enjoy learning. It’s important to consider the different student personalities and to build game elements that entice students who will be motivated for different reasons.


Bartle, R. (1996). Hearts, Diamonds, Clubs and Spades: Players who Suit MUDs. Retrieved October 10, 2016 from

Dixon, D. (11 May, 2011). Player Types and Gamification. Retrieved October 10, 2016 from

Strain, J. (7 November, 2015). Player Types in Gamified Education. Guidance Through Mathematics. Retrieved October 13, 2016 from:

Yee, N. The Daedalus Project.

Reflection Week 5/New World Teaching



What draws me to education is the elusive “perfect lesson”. There is no such thing. It can always be improved upon.

“New World Teaching” is “Next Gen Learning”. Maybe because I’m as a 46-year-old digital native these are not new ideas to me. I appreciate that my parents put me on the front edge of the digital revolution buying a computer and hooking up a modem in the 80’s. Learning is student-centered, not should be.

Born Digital and the other book posted were just frustrating and seemingly out of date–10 years old! We’re making significant progress. I don’t feel I need to know what students of today need. I’m convinced. Onward.

This week I’ve been excited about Kahoot, Chris Hesselbein of IgniteEducation, whose blog I practically inhaled (see below). He has posted a slick Google Sheets Leaderboard and did you know Michael Matera has a food blog?!

Often my first instincts on how to gamify are wrong. For example, I was thinking that badging would be easy to do–but I immediately went down the road of giving badges worth points that could be traded in for something (extrinsic motivation).Chris Hesselbein on Igniteducation had some good advice about badges:

  • Use the badges to diversify the learning environment
  • Make them highly visible
  • Be flexible with badges
  • Be consistent, give badges to students fairly and for the same reasons
  • Celebrate both successes and failures

Hesselbein also has a great post on rewards in general:

  • Stuff: extrinsic, not best for long term engagement
  • Power: grants agency to student
  • Access:freedom
  • Status: represents player accomplishment.
    • A well designed game or gamified lesson utilizes all four of these reward categories to activate the full spectrum of motivational elements. Games are an excellent model for how to reward the successes of our students in class. However, let’s not forget that rewarding success is far less powerful than celebrating failure.

I thought leader boards would be nice to incorporate, but not all students are motivated by the leader board. Ideally they should be short-lived and you probably only want to show the top 5 or better yet, show each student who is just above and just below them individualizing the leader board. AND a leader board should be separate from a grade not synonymous. Hesselbein also had some more good ideas on “Shameless Leaderboards”:

  • Make it optional: allow learners to opt out.
  • Use Avatars
  • Make it cooperative: Whole class XP
  • Display the top five or ten
  • Display growth: percentage increase, points for the week

Several levels less involved is the quiz platform Kahoot. There is some great research there  (See Mak, 2016) and anecdotally students really like to take quizzes this way–and it works for huge groups (700!). I tested played and created some games and found it easy to use. It does require a number of devices for participants with Internet connection and is real-time only. An option for use with only one device for a whole class might be Plickers.


Hesselbein, C. (3 December, 2015). Four Ways to Reward Success in a Gamified Classroom. IGNITEducation. retrieved on October 5, 2016 from

Hesselbein, C. (3 December, 2015). Status is the Ticket to Intrinsic Motivation. IGNITEducation. Retrieved October 5, 2016 from

Hesselbein, C. (12 April, 2014). Retrieved October 5, 2016 from

Hesselbein, C. (18 March, 2014). Retrieved October 5, 2016 from

Mak, W. (28 March, 2016). Retrieved October 5, 2016 from:


Hi Kate,
There are so many ways to create an interactive classroom, I don’t think gamification is the only road. For instance, we know that direct instruction isn’t the best, but I see (at the higher ed level) much more discussion and interaction than lecture. It will be interesting to see how your students change over the year as they become used to your teaching!

Hi Gerald,
I agree with you that we need to “increase engagement in learning” as teachers. And the elements of gamification can be applied to help us do that, but it’s still only a tool to use, not the magic bullet.

I appreciated all the statistics. Those were not something I came upon in my research. I found it so interesting that the numbers of adults having knowledge of online learning, Khan Academy and MOOCs was so low! As most of my students are adults in online classes my experience is probably skewed.
There are probably distinctions to be made among and within “video games”, because some of them might be a waste of time. I’m not sure what my hours-upon-hours playing Tetris back in the day have gained me in my adult life (OK, maybe bragging rights), but I did play some early role playing games that required strategy, communication and teamwork that WERE probably helpful. I am not currently a gamer. I prefer to cook and browse Pinterest :-).

Hi Sarah,
I think you’ve hit the nail on the head when you said “I think that more teachers will begin to shift their classrooms from the ‘Old World’ to the ‘New World’ as they try to find the best ways to engage and educate their students.” I firmly believe that teachers WANT to engage their students. Teaching is so much more enjoyable when pulling content out of students is NOT like pulling hen’s teeth. It does take work and experience to know where to take a class of individuals, but that is why we’re here learning in order to take it back to the classroom where it matters.



New World Teaching

Matera makes many claims about the new world of teaching. How valid are these claims? Is there research to support this?

Matera states, “the New World in education requires us to look past the old ways and create more dynamic learning environments and methods of teaching…we need to look beyond what we do in order to create, see and even understand a new reality” (2015, Location 468). Sure, students are changing, ore than 60 percent of students today are visual or visual kinesthetic learners (Jukes et al., 2010, p. 31). But good teachers have and will

“…empower students to take control of their learning; they provide clear feedback to the students’ efforts without threatening their egos and without making them self-conscious. They help students concentrate and get immersed in the symbolic world of the subject matter. As a result, good teachers still turn out children who enjoy learning, and who will continue to face the world with curiosity and interest” (Csikszentmihalyi, 2002).

Teaching and teachers are changing right along with students, although we may not be keep pace. At the college level over the past 25 years there’s been a steady shift in pedagogical styles toward creating a more collaborative learning environment (Bart, 2014). Matera points out that “[a]s educators, inspiring self-motivated learning is key” (2015, Location 502), I optimistically believe that teachers want to engage their students where they are. Good teachers model the curiosity, enthusiasm and interest for their students, regardless of the over-arching culture of education.


Bart, M. (18 November, 2014). New Faculty Survey Finds More Learner-Centered Teaching, Less Lecturing. Faculty Focus. Retrieved October 4 ,2016 from:

Csikszentmihalyi, M. (2002). Thoughts about Education. Creating the Future. Retrieved October 4 ,2016 from:

Smith, D. (2010). Understanding the digital generation: Teaching and learning in the new digital landscape [Review of the book by I. Jukes, T. McCain & L. Crockett]. NACADA, Retrieved 4, October 2016 from

Matera, M. (2015). Explore Like a Pirate: Engage, Enrich, and Elevate Your Learners with Gamification and Game-inspired Course Design [E-Reader Version]. San Diego, CA: Dave Burgess Consulting.



Week 4 Reflection

I have LOVED exploring the world of VR this week.

I’m anxiously awaiting the arrival of my Google Cardboard–I went for a mid-priced one at 11.99.

I know the next piece of exercise equipment I buy will be something like a VIRzoom bike/headset so that I can exercise by riding a flying unicorn.

I took an “aerial tour” of the Kremlin and Red Square in Moscow courtesy of AirPano as my parents were visiting in person.

VR movies will be the 3D of the future, we’ll don headsets and be surrounded by action. It’s like the magic pictures in the Harry Potter series come true.

While it’s all very exciting and intriguing, I don’t see a great use for VR in the classes I currently teach–mostly software applications, but I’m thinking simulations and field trips in future classes. Virtual interviewers, for Job Search Strategies, but I’m not sure about a VR Excel spreadsheet.

As a parent I see tons of opportunities. I’ll search 360 degree videos first when talking with my kids about a new places and concepts. I am struggling a bit with the what VR will look like in future classrooms and what it might mean for brain development.

My Comments:

Theresa’s blog

Aleta’s blog