Monday, October 20, 2014

Gamifying Reading

I've been desperately seeking a way to motivate busy high school students how to read, and after attending the GAfE Summit in San Diego, I developed a series of challenges for students to undertake in their reading but within a game-based experience. 

My goals are these:  

  • Make reading seem special and convince kids that they are lucky to get to do it
  • Make them feel like they are part of an elite group of special students
  • Give them a reward for accomplishing their goals
  • Give them plenty of time to reach those goals so there is no pressure, only positive outcomes
I decided share the challenges to four students to test the waters.  I was not prepared for how they reacted. Every single one of them started taking pictures of my notes on the computer screen, and the question they all asked repeatedly:  Can I start right now?  

Yes, yes you can read.

Because I work at a school called Valhalla and we are the Norsemen, I decided to stay with our school theme. Here are the challenges:

The Gjallarhorn
retweet a Valhalla Library tweet @valhallalibrary
share the Valhalla Tumblr page
write a book review that is shared by 5 people on Tumblr

The Edda
read a book of poetry, various authors
read a book of poetry, one author

The Loki
read a graphic novel
read a romance novel
read a horror/mystery/suspense book
read a banned book

The Bifrost

read all the books in a series (has to be at least three books)
read all the books by one author (has to be more than three books)

The Saga
read a non-fiction graphic novel
read a biography
read an autobiography

The Ullr
read a Michael Printz winning book
read a Mann-Booker Award winning book
read a Pulitzer Award winning book
read a Nobel Prize winning author

The Yggdrassil
read a book longer than 300 pages
read a book longer than 500 pages
read a book longer than 800 pages

Complete 5 Challenges--The Mjölnir Award
Complete all 7 challenges--The Odin Omnireader Award

I'm using GameOn from my coworker Mike Skoko ( as the vehicle to roll out the challenges and to keep track of what each student completes. Once they finish the challenges, they can go through them again at another level (apprentice, master, etc.)

And the reward? Free printing in the library for the school year in which they complete the challenges. When the test group  heard the prize was free printing, they really went bonkers even though they already get free printing.

So, I'll be giving them a prize that's just going to make them more efficient students. I'm cool with that. 

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

I Need My Stinkin' Badges

Last weekend, when I attended the Google Apps for Educators Summit in San Diego, and I learned the workshops were gameified, I got more than excited.  I mean, they were giving away stickers for completing challenges based on what we learned in the workshop. And, these stickers were cool looking.  They were space-themed with rockets and moons and spacemen, and they represented three different levels:  #gettinggoing #gearing up and #gettinggeeky.  Deep down I wanted those #gettinggeeky badges--I knew they were going to be harder to get.  I thought to myself, these guys thought this badge business through.  These badges are even alliterative.

In the second session I attended, my friend April showed me that in addition to earning real badges, the summit was also awarding online badges, and she set in motion a chain of events that still has me reeling.

The online badges were even more beautiful, and the challenges were fun.  Take a selfie at the photo booth with the Summit sign and upload it.  Tweet with the hashtag #gafesummit.  Talk to a sponsor and get a code.  It seemed as though a switch turned on for me, and my rabid desire to achieve took over.  I was going to get all those badges, I was going to get more badges than anyone else, and it was going to be amazing.

I felt incredible.

And I finished those challenges within 60 minutes.

When I checked my Credly account to see the glory of all those badges, my page indicated I had only earned two badges, when in reality I had completed nine. I mean, nine challenges is a lot of challenges, and I wanted that tab to say NINE. Really, I wanted it to say eleven. And why did April’s Credly account say she finished seven? Clearly, there was something motivating and discouraging about immediate gratification.  

This is when I realized that I had been manipulated in the best way possible.  These masterminds behind Google Apps for Education somehow got me to listen to two sponsor pitches, they got me to tweet and retweet, to comment on Google Plus, to join their Google Plus community, to give them a selfie, and to add a bunch of Chrome apps.  I was hooked.  

This is the power of gameification.

Kids and adults love to take challenges even when the only reward is a sticker.  The badge challenges were something I could try without penalty.  I could take risks and no one would know if I failed.  This wasn’t high-stakes learning:  this was try-it until-you-get-it learning.  I felt like my learning was in my own hands rather than in the hands of my instructor.

And I was liberated.

At the end of the summit, I still wanted those online badges.  This glitch with Credly that makes it seem that I didn’t earn the badges makes me crazy, but my learning is in my own hands.  With a few drags and clicks, I sent an order for custom stickers exactly like the ones I earned online.  I will have those badges for real. I need them.

I also need to get kids motivated to read, and gamfication is the solution for my library. Today I set out to design a series of reading challenges.  The challenges will include reading all the books in a series, reading a classic, reading a graphic novel, reading a book over 1,000 pages, reading from every genre, reading an award winner, writing a review on Tumblr, and more.  I’m designing the badges now.  The kids are going to go bonkers!