Gamification & Theme - The Importance of Storytelling

First, a HUGE thank you to everyone who reached out after reading last week’s post.  It was amazing to hear from everyone and know the thoughts and prayers are coming. The love and support from friends and family is just amazing, and I am truly blessed!  Thank you to everyone!!!

Now, let’s get back into a personal passion of mine: Games!  I love my gamified class & when I married it with Standards Based Grading this year I watched the grow and learning skyrocket among my students.  I’m so excited I get to share how I came to this style of teaching, and journey I’ve taken to become a better teacher at Summer Spark 2019 in Milwaukee!  

All that said, I’ve realized my theme is a hodge-podge of two personal passions: Indiana Jones & the National Parks.  I love them both, but they really don’t play well together as a theme, and since the National Parks project I planned this year had to be scrapped, I need to revamp my theme and cannonball in to Indiana Jones.  Lots of work to do this summer around this, but it’s exciting work, redoing flipped lectures (Green Screen purchase?, royalty-free music, etc.), updating my game’s website to reflect the new theme (students may be helping me here!), and planning units to tie in with the theme (squad challenges, stories from Dr. Jones, & adventures/quests for students).  LOTS TO DO!

Which brings me to the point of this post: Storytelling.  It’s so vital in a gamified class to have a great story that can hook students into the game, especially if it’s a yearlong game like mine.  My students will be on a quest to defeat foes who are trying to steal important historical artifacts/antiquities (items in my game), and sell our nation’s history to the highest bidders.  They are tasked to recover the antiquities, which offer special powers/abilities in our game. As they discover more of them, they may find other unique artifacts through our Fortune & Glory Quests.  The end goal is to become an Obtainer of Rare Antiquities, the highest level in the game.

Hooking kids into this story is always the toughest part.  It’s essential to have the elements in place at the start and SELL, SELL, SELL!  Those first days when students normally learn rules & procedures through teacher instructions or icebreakers instead become challenges they must overcome to be ready.  Each piece of the larger story is uncovered in those early days, from characters that can help, enemies/bosses that will try to stop them, items to earn, where to store them, how will they use their items & badges, and what possible achievements & dangers could be unlocked!  Like any good novel/story, the exposition at the beginning sells it all. The goal is to get them immersed in the game world first, using it to teach both content & skills.

Now for the question at the end: I need a name for my alter-ego.  For the past two years, I’ve just ran with being Indiana Jones at times in class, but I feel like it’s not original.  Should I just run with it, or do I need to alter it to fit my name (a tough match since Henry Jones and Ryan Stephans don’t quite mesh)  Leave a suggestion in a reply on Twitter!

Summit Seeker(s) of the Week: This week I’m shouting out two awesome educators, one from my Twitter PLN & one from my school: Sam Mandeville & Meg Richard. Sam is an amazing 7th grade geography teacher who co-hosts the #worldgeochat on Tuesdays at 7 PM Central.  Her ideas and suggestions have hugely impacted my teaching and that of my 7th grade colleagues here at The Summit!  She also makes some pretty cool t-shirts (see below!). You can follow Sam on Twitter @SamMandeville.  Meg is a super-amazing 7th grade science teacher at The Summit who also coaches our Science Olympiad team!  She has been featured on the Teaching Channel and is just consistently awesome at everything, including being a nominee for Kansas Teacher of the Year!! Check out her ideas on Twitter @frizzlerichard.

Sam’s awesome t-shirt she made for me!!

Sam’s awesome t-shirt she made for me!!