What were your goals for your lesson/project?
Goal 1: To increase students’ love for learning French by making class more engaging.
Goal 2: To increase student choice and involvement in their own learning process.
During this unit, approximately 50% of the time in class was used for traditional instruction (direct instruction, whole-group speaking and listening activities, etc.) and the other 50% of class was devoted to students working on self-selected activities and projects to demonstrate mastery of the content objectives, and recording their progress in an online gamification system, Classcraft, by claiming points for their completed work and moving up to new levels in the game based upon their points earned. Some activities were able to be completed without technology, and others required the use of technology (Prezi, Piktochart, Duolingo, Flipgrid, Google Docs, Google Spreadsheets, and Quizlet were some of the technologies students used). Students were given 15 minutes per week in class to reflect upon their learning, and to share work on their e-portfolios if they chose to do so (which would also earn them additional points in Classcraft).
What tools did you use ?
- Classcraft: This was the main tool used daily throughout the unit! I paid for the “premium” version ($10 a class, plus $1 a student for the year), but I think that the free version would have been nearly as useful as the premium version. I explain why I chose those tool as my main technology tool in the following section.
- Duolingo: This is one of my students’ favorite websites (and one of mine) for language learning. It is a translation-based language learning website— although I am not always the biggest fan of translation, I love that students can work through short 10-15 minute lessons on here any time they want at school or at home, and can progress at their own rate. One of my beginning students has done 90 lessons on Duolingo this year, and a few others are not far behind! For those who choose to use this program regularly, it can lead to great language improvement. I see my students use vocabulary in class that they have learned from Duolingo lessons done at home.
- Flipgrid: I love this tool as well. A teacher sets up a “grid” of questions for a class (either a text-based question, or a short video question) and then students record individual video responses of less than 90 seconds. Students follow the teacher link to the grid to do this, and it is so simple that they don’t even have to register or sign in. I love this as a formative assessment tool at the end of a lesson to see if each individual student can answer a question without any preparation. I don’t allow my students to rehearse or to use resources for these questions. That means I don’t expect the answers to be perfect… it is just a chance for my students to speak, and then to listen to themselves and others speaking.
- Piktochart: Infographics are simple for students to create here.
- Prezi: I love that my students have used this site enough in other classes that it requires no introduction or explanation. My 6th graders are way better at making Prezi presentations than I am!
- Google Docs: My school, American International School- Chennai, uses Google Docs all the time for everything. My students use Google Docs more than they use paper.
- Google Spreadsheets: We used this to track our progress on Duolingo in a class document. Duolingo also sends me a report weekly showing what students have done in the system, but for some reason it does not always include all the data for every student. This spreadsheet is easier for me to see at a glance, and some students are motivated by seeing their progress in comparison to others in their level of French, as well as in the higher levels. Do you see the lessons that are marked at the top with an orange square, like the 8th lesson in Food? Those are what I have started calling bonus levels. If a student finishes one of those lessons, he/she gets a 500XP bonus added to Classcraft. I have labeled about every 15th lesson as a bonus, and that just keeps my students even more motivated to keep moving ahead in the system!
- Quizlet: I create online flashcard sets for my students to use for each set of vocabulary we learn in class. This is not the most exciting site, but it gets the job of vocabulary study done.
- Compfight.com: Some students used images from here for presentations (others used ones they found via Google or Prezi).
Why did you choose this/these tools for this/these task(s)?
I chose Classcraft for my primary tool for three reasons:
1) Nearly every “power” that a student can earn in the game can be changed by the teacher— some of the original pre-set options were things that I was not willing or able to use in my classroom (like giving “extra time” on a test…. after all, my students already don’t have time limits when completing any kind of assessment). For those “powers” that I did not like, I changed them to something that worked better for my class— like being able to sit in the teacher chair for the day.
2) Students earn points by completing academic tasks that the teacher enters into the “assignment book.” Many of the tasks that I set involved technology, but not all did. I think technology is great for supporting learning, but I still do not believe that everything should be high-tech. My students were still able to earn points in Classcraft for completing activities that did not use technology at all. I made some activities mandatory for them to complete, and others optional. I wanted my students to self-select their work for the most part, and to be in charge of their own learning. Students also completed other activities in the language and then could ask me for XP for that work as well.
3) The Canadian Media Fund sponsored the development of this program, and due to this fact it operates in French as well as English. My students use the system fully in French.
How did you go about introducing your lesson/project?
As I explain in my video, I introduced it over two days. Day one was for explaining the system, and day two was when we started to put it into action. I was amazed at how much my students actually helped ME to understand!! They know way more about gaming systems than I do, which actually made the introduction of the project go much more smoothly!
How did the students react? Include actual samples of student reflection (video, images, etc)
My video shows students at work the day that the system was introduced. They dove right into it! I love that the student in the video is dreaming out loud about “earning the power of going to the CIC (library) and sitting at a desk there and doing work.” I am totally happy with that being what a kid is working towards earning in the gamification system!
Outcome? Did you meet your goals?
Overall, this project was a success. I used this same project for my research project for my SUNY master’s degree course as well, so in addition to the observations included in my video presentation above, I also had to collect data about student learning. I compared the results of a pre-unit and post-unit assessment for this gamification unit with the results of pre/post unit data from a the previous non-gamification unit. Although there was not a statistically significant gain in student performance, the project was still successful because of student attitude improvement.
There were several students who benefitted tremendously from this project. One student had not done a full writing activity all year in my class, and I had been seriously considering a recommendation that he repeat this beginning-level course next year. I introduced the gamification system, and he promptly labeled it as “EPIC.” Now he is doing all his work, and has made tremendous gains. Honestly, for this particular student, gamification changed the trajectory of his progression through the World Language course sequence.
However, I do think that gamification benefits some learners more than others. I teach a mixed-age class of beginning students, and I have had a 10-year-old in the same class as 15-year-olds for most of the year. The 6th graders (and especially the 6th grade boys) were much more vocal about their interest in gamification. I’m not sure if the 8th graders were truly less interested, or if they just didn’t want to appear to be enthusiastic about the same things as their younger classmates. When the 6th graders went on Week Without Walls, the 8th grade students still wanted to use the system. Even though I am not sure that gamification did anything to really benefit some of my students, it did not have a detrimental effect on their learning either. I can live with that, since it was so great for some other students!
What would you do differently next time? What did you learn?
I would start using gamification earlier in the year, at least with 6th graders who are beginning-level students! It has really changed the attitude in my class. Kids come in excited about the “event of the day” and class is more fun for them and for me.
If you want to try to use Classcraft or another gamification system in your class, I recommend just jumping into it and letting your students help you figure out the details. I spent way too much time reading tutorials on the Classcraft website, and watching their videos that explain the system. Honestly, the amount of time I put into that was out of proportion to what I gained from doing so. I learned more in the first day of using the system than I did from many hours of trying to learn about it ahead of time. I warned my students before we started using the system that I might mess some things up because I was learning too— and that did happen at times. My students were gracious and forgiving when I didn’t understand how different types of points could impact one another. They remained happy to use the system, and eager to help me understand it better.
How do/did you plan to share this with your colleagues?
My students were so excited about gamification that they told their friends about it, and those students who have the other middle school French teacher, Mlle. Miriam, asked if they could also use the system. She came to me to ask, “What is this Classcraft thing that all the kids are so excited about!?” After that, one of my classes went up to join one of her classes for a 15 minute introduction to gamification. Now those other students are using gamification as well!
What was your greatest learning in this course?
In language education, people love to talk about using “authentic materials” in class. This usually means things like newspaper articles, menus, or video clips of native speakers talking about the themes being studied in class. This project really made me think about “authentic materials” in a different way. For many of my students, talking about “warriors, mages, healers, XP, AP, HP, and avatars” is about as authentic as it gets. These are things they speak about with their friends in English, so it makes sense to continue those lines of conversation within the language class as well.
I learned that gamification does not “take away” from serious learning time, as I was worried it might. Instead, if students are really engaged in the gamification system, it extends learning well outside of class time.
Another thing that I learned from this project was how to use iMovie to create a movie. Wow. I think that merits a different blog post. Let’s just say the learning curve was steep.
Did this implementation meet the definition of Redefinition?
According to Puentedura, ‘Redefinition’ means that “the computer allows for the creation of new tasks, inconceivable without the computer.” Some of the tasks that we did in this unit were not at this level. For example, using Prezi or Piktochart is really just a digital version of making a poster. However, we did reach Redefinition with other areas of the project. The ability for my students to complete differentiated lessons on Duolingo, no matter what their language level was, and to then earn points for those lessons within Classcraft— and for them to do this all independently (even during spring break!!!!) was really redefining what technology enables them to do as learners.
If you want to learn more about how Duolingo along with other technology is redefining learning, I strongly recommend watching the TEDx talk— particularly at minute 3:00, when a young English language learner comes on stage and talks about how he has learned English completely through the use of technology. We really are living in a time when technology is redefining how people learn!