Date Archives August 2014

The Joys of Gamifying Staff Professional Development

3D GameLab is awesome.  I can’t express that enough.

This summer, I learned of the work some teachers were doing in gamification in a flipped classroom.  That’s when I learned about 3D Game Lab.

From their website, 3D GameLab is “a gamified learning management and content creation platform where teachers design, play, and share quests and badges to create personalized learning for their students.”

I recently moved out of the classroom and into an administrative role providing professional development for my staff.  I was so disappointed that I couldn’t try 3D GameLab in my own classroom. In talking with Tom Driscoll, he suggested I use it for staff PD.  Genius!

I convinced my principal to get my school a subscription and began making quests.  I was frustrated at first because the interface of 3D GameLab requires you as the user to complete certain quests in order to open up all the tools available to you.  However, in the process, I was learning a lot about how to gamify a classroom and that will ultimately lead to a more successful implementation.

After completing the necessary quests myself, I began creating quests.  Most of my quests at this point have been introductions to the basics of certain tech tools.  My school serious underuses Google Apps for Education, so I made several quests on using different GAFE products.

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Here’s a screen shot of a few of the quests I made available to my teachers.

I introduced it last week at our staff meeting as well as emailed out instructions to sign up and join the class.  It isn’t required participation, but encouraged.  After the introduction, I waited with bated breath that afternoon to see who signed up.  It was no one.

Since I’m new to this school, I wasn’t sure what to expect for participation numbers.  The staff seemed eager to learn, but I didn’t know how much effort they would put in.

The whole next day went by and again no on joined.  About 9:30 that evening, I got on my computer and I had an email.  There was a quest that needed to be approved.  I logged into 3D GameLab and I had 2 teachers that had completed 4 quests each.  That was about an hour worth of work both had been doing.  As I approved their quests, I noticed they were still completing other quests.  Shortly after 10, they have completed 6 quests.  Neither had any idea that the other one was on as well.

I sent out an email the next day applauding the teachers and telling the staff all the different badges those 2 teachers had earned.  Other staff members began to log on and check out the site.  One teacher told me, “You sure know how to motivate people to do something.”

More teachers began to join and out do each other on the leader board.  One teacher signed in for the first time on Friday afternoon and completed 5 quests.  I repeat, ON A FRIDAY AFTERNOON.  Over the weekend, she went on to complete all 13 quests I had made available  and was asking me this morning for more quests.  She said when she got to 3 quests left she just figured she’d go ahead and complete them all.

So far, I’ve been very pleased with the motivation of my staff to complete the quests.  That is inherent in the gamified system, which is exactly why I wanted to try it out.  So far, it has worked better than planned.  A teacher that told me herself she was very anti-technology use because of her fears logged on and briefly was the point leader.  She said she liked being able to work at her pace and not feel pressured to catch up to others.

Would you prefer gamified PD?

How to create an online computer lab (or other) sign up sheet for your school

Many teachers are tired of the outdated clipboard model of signing up for lab time or computer/iPad cart use. My school is no different.  Teachers on the third floor didn’t want to walk to the bottom floor just to see if the computer lab or traveling cart was available when they needed it.  They wanted a simple way to check availability and sign up.  Being a Google Apps school, I began researching ways to use Google Calendar and maybe a Google Form.  I found some ways to use scripts with Forms, but the scripts didn’t work with the recent Sheets update.  I decided it was time to search for a third-party app or site that could help.  That is when I discovered

Using this free service, I could create an online sign up sheet that allowed my staff to select available times.  Once they booked the block of time they wanted, the event would be placed on a Google Calendar and an email sent to them to confirm booking.

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I then embedded the Google Calendar onto our school website so teachers could easily see what times were booked.  If the time they wanted wasn’t booked, they clicked the link and began scheduling.

This could be used for parent teacher conferences, adminstrator observations, and many other scheduling uses that schools encounter.  There is a paid option with that has more options, but so far, I’ve found everything I need under the free version.

What do you think? Could your school use an automated system like this to make scheduling easier?

What Disney’s MagicBands could mean for schools

While planning an upcoming trip to Orlando, I decided to pre-purchase some Disney World passes and visit the park.  As I was researching the various options, I discovered the Disney was now doing ticketing and other features on a product they call a MagicBand.

From the Disney website, the description reads:

Tap into the magic with your MagicBand on your wrist. This colorful wristband is actually an all-in-one device that effortlessly connects you to all the vacation choices you made with My Disney Experience.

The wrist bands use Radio Frequency (RF) technology to transmit your location and can be used for park admission, hotel room access, ride “reservations”, and more. From Disney’s perspective, they can monitor guest movements around the property and adjust staffing, traffic flow, etc for a better experience for their guest.  From a guest perspective, you can carry less around and have a more personalized vacation experience.

Being interested in wearable technology, I immediately began thinking of how these could be used in schools. Putting “Big Brother” privacy issues aside, schools could use technology like this to:

  • monitor transportation needs (busing) and make them more efficient
  • have an automated system to notify parents when a student has arrived at or left school
  • automatically take attendance when the student walks in the door
  • link the bracelet to a student funds account for lunch or bookstore purchases
  • monitor foot traffic flow throughout the school day to determine problem areas
  • Create a check out system for devices or other school supplied property

What are your thoughts?  Is this a technology we could see making its way into schools soon?


A Third Iteration of the Flipped Classroom?

In my book, Flipping Your English Class To Reach All Learners, I dedicate a chapter to the different models of Flipped Learning in practice.  I identified First Iteration and Second Iteration models and the development of each model.

First Iteration

  • Traditional Flip (sometimes called Flipped 101) – front loading the video with problem solving in class.
  • Writing Workshop Flip – front loading a mini-lesson video with writing projects in class.

Second Iteration

  • Flip Mastery – front loading content along with mastery assessment for advancement.
  • Explore-Flip-Apply – placing video in the learning cycle after an initial activity and application/assessment after practice.
  • Peer Instruction – using video or digital elements to initiate peer instruction.

At FlipCon14 this summer, I was introduced to the work of Tom Driscoll, Tim Downing, and Corey Papastathis.  These educators are using methods of gamification in the classroom and combining them with Flip Mastery.  For the purpose of this blog post, I’ll call this model Gamified Flip Mastery.  They are using programs like 3dGameLab to add gaming elements into the structure of their classrooms.  I was so intrigued by this model that I am in the process of developing quests for my staff to use as Professional Development (another post on that will come soon).

This new model has a great deal of potential to allow teachers a way to gamify their classroom in a more efficient way than trying to self-track all the details.  I believe this model deserves serious consideration when discussing the different flipped models.

In my book, I speculated what might be possible in the third iteration of Flipped Classrooms, but didn’t define what would constitute moving into that third iteration.  Since this model takes a Second Iteration Flip (Flip Mastery) and adds significantly to it, I would think that puts it in contention as the first Third Iteration Flip.

Does being a Third Iteration Flip make it better than a Second Iteration Flip?  Absolutely not.   However, as someone who has invested a great deal of my professional work over the past few years training, researching and developing the Flipped Learning models, I love seeing the models continue to grow.

What do you think? Is Gamified Flip Mastery the first Third Iteration model of the Flipped Classroom? What other models have you seen that might enter the Third Iteration discussion?