The stars were aligned! GIE was in town. Wow!

I can’t believe my good fortune in having the Games in Education conference arrive not only while I was taking this course, and not only in my own town, but actually at the point in my gamification activities where I needed every piece of information I got  from every session I attended. The Games in Education conference was held at Troy Middle School, just down the hill road from HVCC, and right at the point I was wrapping up Module 5 building activities. On both days, although I had signed up for some longer afternoon hands on activities, I found I had to leave right after lunch to go home and immediately apply what I had learned in the morning sessions. Wow – the stars were definitely aligned.

Of primary use to me were the sessions on Alternate Reality Games in the classroom and Pervasive Games. Both of these include online and offline activities, linking the game components to real life. I think that this is a great model for a class build, and with an online course the domains can be switched around. The online course is the online game component and their offline work is the reality. These structures appeared to be engaging and successful and I went home and combed through my designs to find where I could build up this dynamic.

But most revelatory was the idea of storyline. Tuesday afternoon I went home and brainstormed what storyline I could use to hold my gamification concept together. The obvious storyline for me was “student learns art history” – but I knew that was going to have limited appeal beyond a few. After much thought I went in and rewrote my welcome. It now reads (in part):

How can Quests and Badges help you learn? 

It is possible that you are totally devoted and addicted to the process of being a student and learning everywhere you go from everything you do. If so, you might not care about the badges so much, but you should really enjoy the Quest for knowledge and understanding of Modern Art History. Your story line is “A student who loves to learn, explores and masters Modern Art History and learns to think like an Art Historian with new classmates”.

It is also possible you are taking this course to fulfill a requirement and perhaps it is even a bit outside your usual realm of experience. Your story line might be “An explorer in a new world, discovers the important principles, skills and facts about the world of Modern Art History, and with others on the team, starts thinking like an Art Historian.

It is also possible that you are totally devoted and addicted to learning, but struggle with time management, organization, motivation, reading, writing, asking for help, or other aspects of learning, and you need more assistance in some or all of these areas. Your story line might be “A brave soul ventures forth to new and challenging worlds, and with the help of others on the team, keeps up, works to their personal strengths and starts thinking like an Art Historian.”

Do any of these story lines sound like your story line? Do you know what your story line is? Whatever you bring or do not bring to this major Quest, there will be activities and tools to help you succeed and an entire team of fellow explorers sharing the journey. Badges are awarded for the required student work done well, and also for optional activities that might better play to your strengths or help you acquire new strengths. Did you get a perfect score on your “Teach the Class…” Challenge? No? Well, go find a badge activity to make up for those points – called XPs (experience points). There are lots of small manageable badge challenges that build up points quickly while helping you and others in the class start thinking like Art Historians. You can move through 5 levels of 3 different types of badges in this class – that is a lot of opportunity for success!

In his Tuesday keynote, Lee Sheldon, who teaches at RPI, asserted that it was important for writers to write and programmers to program. I had wondered why Koster had been so adamant about the storyline concept in his book, and this clarifies it for me. Apparently, in game development circles, there are a lot of juvenile and underdeveloped storylines and both Sheldon and Koster are writers who see the importance of a good, sophisticated storyline to the success of a game. I could see that I needed to create a storyline – or several – in my course. Based on what I was incorporating from Koster in regards to “fun” I didn’t think that I needed to create a fantasy storyline. If fun was hard work, mastery, and reward in well designed interaction, then I just needed to identify the storylines that my students were bringing to the course. I also wanted to create a storyline for the student who struggles, so they would not see “noise” and get frustrated.

I also like the idea of the narrative because it presents a context to students when they start a class – a reason for engaging, and a map of sorts in that if they know the story they are in, they will have a sense of how they should be acting and what they should be doing.

I also created all my badges in this module. I had the idea for them, and still had not produced any visible designs. I needed to have them in the very beginning of the course so had to design at least the first level. I located the mozilla plugin for making badges and was able to produce all 15 in one afternoon. This is a fantastic tool – find it here: