Category Archives: Gamification

ECS 301 – Day 8 in the Field: Finding Peace

My last pre-internship day of 2014 came to a close.  I sit here looking back on the tumultuous journey of my first 8 sessions as a teacher.  It has been an interesting start to what I hope to be a life long adventure, but an amazing experience that will never be forgotten.

My journey started out a little rocky, for the most part, but part way through I found myself and yesterday everything culminated in a grand crescendo of education.  It is a little bittersweet leaving the students after such a great time, but I feel rejuvenated in my decision to become a teacher and look forward to our time in March.

So what made yesterday so amazing?  Yesterday was the day where I truly found peace with my teacher self.  I had made a very confident deal with my cooperating teacher that I wanted to get a taste of what an entire day of teaching felt like.  To sum it up in one word: exhausting.  Teachers pour so much of themselves into their days that it is extremely tiring, but in the end it is worth every second. Yesterday I was able to see how much these students cared for me as a growing educator and how much they want to see me succeed.  I saw that my teaching style and strategies can exist in today’s classroom, albeit somewhat modified.  It was a final moment of self discovery and in it I’ve found peace.

To start the day I decided that I needed to create a game-based scenario for one last shot at seeing if I could pull off being a game and project based educator.  I took the students into the gym and we proceeded to create ecosystems out of gym mats, nets, whatever was in the gym supply room.  How did it go you ask?  AMAZING! It was hands-down the best lesson I’ve ever been a part of.  The students were so engaged and so full of wonder and creativity it was a sight to behold.  As part of the lesson I made an impromptu attempt at pulling in some Treaty Education.  Once again I was shocked at not only the student response, but my own response as well.  I’ve been very hesitant to bring up Treaty Education, I didn’t think I knew how. Apparently I do know how and we came up with one word that the students will hopefully always carry with them: Harmony.  We talked about the tough issues surrounding race and sex and we all reached the conclusion that collaboration and working in harmony with one another is the greatest step we can take to finding peace.  My soul was lifted and I could see every student in the room deep in thought about what harmony meant to them and how they could incorporate harmony in their lives.

The rest of the day was not as great, but as I’ve found out it is in those moments we learn the most.  My cooperating teacher and I found that when I’m put on the spot, we had extra visitors during Math that completely changed the lesson, I default to direct instruction.  Oh, direct instruction, my arch-nemesis.  But because of that lesson, which to be honest was fun and not terrible at all, I have found out how to adjust on the fly and not lean towards lecturing.  In ELA we played Mad Libs and the students loved it! It was something different.  Not every student had enjoyed a Mad Lib so it was hilarious to see what they had come up with.  These lessons weren’t mind blowing, but they were OK and I’m so happy that at this time I’ve grown so much that OK is just fine by me.  OK lessons mean I still have things to learn, but I ask myself “Did the students learn? Did I learn? How can I make adjustments to make this better?”  If there are answers to those questions then I mark it down in the “Win” column now instead of the “Loss” column.

For the grande finale to an amazing day I was able to enjoy a Grade 1/2 classroom.  I worked with a small group of amazingly bright and adorable youngsters.  It was such a treat to work with them and see how amazing students are even at such a young age.  I never thought I could teach to people that young, but I can say, with a huge smile on my face, that I loved it!  And the coup de grace to this finale was a massive group hug from students I had only spent a total of an hour and half with.  I will say this, if you ever need to smile or feel loved just go to a grade 1/2 class.  After the chaos settles you will never find a more genuine feeling of being loved and appreciated.

I find it very interesting that I’ve answered just about every single question I’ve posed to myself and my potential readers.  Can I go UP? Should we Wreck-It? How do we find our Groove? All of them, every question I’ve found solace in.  I cannot wait to see what questions I have in store for my three week experience in March.

I can honestly say I’ve found peace in the fact that I love to teach.  I have had many different jobs before pursuing teaching and after yesterday I was both tired and energized.  I’ve never felt so alive when reflecting upon the great day I had in the classroom.   Thank you to everyone that has been a part of this journey so far.  My professors, my cooperating teacher, my classmates, but most importantly my students.  Thank you! I would not be the teacher I am today and the teacher I want to be tomorrow without all of you.  I hope we can all find peace, not only in ourselves, but everywhere.  Peace is generated from within.  If we take the time over the holiday season to look within I know we can find peace.

Thank you so much once again to Dreamatico for the image.  Your pictures are so inspiring and hopefully I’ve helped others find your site:

ECS 301: Battling Classroom Management

Classroom management is probably one of the most important teaching areas, but it is also the most tricky.  In reading the article The Great “Respect” Deception by Dr. Richard Curwin classroom management is quite complex and is difficult to simplify.  Most teachers want to create less rules in order to keep their classroom functioning.  The thought is less rules, lead to less things to remember, leads to better behaviour.  But as noted in the article that is not always the case.  We discuss the “hidden” curriculum in our classes, but in terms of classroom management this oversimplification of a rule system leads to many “hidden” rules.  These “hidden” rules seem to deter better behaviour because they are generally not known by the students so therefore they are unable to follow them.  The message from the article resounds with me as I believe that teachers need to be transparent with their students.  This includes classroom management and expectations.  If students are aware of what values, rules, and expectations exist in the classroom they can more easily navigate the classroom management spectrum.  Being transparent is probably one of the best preventative measures a teacher can put in place to avoid conflict and class issues.  In order to accomplish this there are some great tools available, such as Class Dojo.

Class Dojo, as depicted by Matt Giesbrecht,  gamifies classroom management by creating a system of points and rewards for behaviours.  Teachers are able to provide instant feedback to good and bad behaviours in the classroom allow students to work both individually and as a team towards common goals.  Well as soon as I saw this tool I was instantly enthralled with it.  I am a champion for gamification in the classroom and this tool fits how I would love to manage my class.

Being transparent and providing a clear rewards and feedback system are two things I took away from these two posts.  They are a foundation for my classroom management system and I will carry them forward not only in my Teaching Philosophy, but in my everyday teaching as well.

Image provided by  Thank you for posting such a great picture!

#EdTech and ADHD: How Technology can Help the Struggle

Thanks to a group of passionate educators, technology is starting to play a large part in today’s schools.  I read articles daily from educational technology (EdTech) experts like Jordan Shapiro and Alec Couros on how technology is transforming learning. I decided it’s my turn to jump into the expert pool.  Now I don’t have neither a fancy Ph.D, nor am I published anywhere, but I have two things on my side that I think make me qualified to weigh in on EdTech and ADHD. 1) I have ADHD 2) I have been using technology heavily since I was 3.  It also helps I have worked in the IT industry and I am currently still a part-time software developer.

Have you ever heard the infamous phrase “The struggle is real.”? As defined in the wonderful resource Urban Dictionary it is usually regarding some insignificant problem.

But for ADHD students the struggle is absolutely real each and every day.  So how do we engage our ADHD students so they can find success in the classroom?

Part of the solution I want to discuss today is EdTech.  EdTech at its core is all about creating engaging and stimulating educational environments for students.  Wow… doesn’t that sound EXACTLY what an ADHD student needs?

Engagement is what every educator should strive for in an ADHD student.  In engagement an ADHD student finds the focus that is typically missing.  How does EdTech create an engaging environment? Part of the reason is that students can relate to technology because it is pervasive in their everyday life.  The other reason is that it allows the students to take learning into their own hands.  Putting a device in the hands of an ADHD student is the absolute best thing that can be done in my opinion.  The hands-on learning experience removes the need to fidget and find stimulation because the device fills that void.  Keeping an ADHD student’s hands busy goes a long way to building engagement.  The next task is to keep an ADHD student engaged and stimulated.

Keeping an ADHD student focused, engaged, and stimulated is probably the biggest challenge parents, teachers, coaches, etc. have. Enter EdTech.  The hands-on experience described above is also part of keeping an ADHD student stimulated and focused.  As an educator or parent have you ever noticed that you can almost drop a bomb around an ADHD child whenever their hands are engaged? Whether it is sports, drawing, video games, crafts, woodwork, mechanics, and the list goes on, ADHD students thrive in hands-on situations.  It provides a physical outlet which ADHD students can channel the bundle of energy they are gifted with.   The state described above is hyper-focus and can be a great thing, however I will provide a note of caution that it can also be detrimental.

The problem that can exist is that students will not want to disengage from the task when required to.  Changing subjects from math to science? Don’t you dare take away my iPad! Or I’m not done yet, just one more level!  As an educator or parent it will be important to build routines around EdTech or any engaging activity.  Have an alarm or cue that your student will notice that they need to unplug when it goes off.  But make sure you and your student work together to come up with the solution.

If EdTech is striving to create stimulating and engaging classrooms ADHD needs to be in that conversation.  It is precisely what ADHD students need to stay focused and involved in school.  Add in game based learning and gamification, which include reward systems and achievements, and ADHD students will become unstoppable.   EdTech can create life long learners in ADHD students so they can shed the labels of Inattentive, Hyperactive, Troublemaker, Problem Child and start including those that have the ADHD gift. Yes, gift not curse.  This gift can thrive in the classroom of tomorrow… no wait… the classroom of TODAY!

Headline Image Credit to: – Thank you for posting such a great image!


ECS 301 – How do we go UP? Day 3 Field Experience

As I started my lesson on Day 3 of my field experience one of the students says “You look like the Grandpa from UP”… sigh… I’m not that old.  It was one of those humorous moments to start a lesson that gives you a vote of confidence as a beginning teacher that the students are warming up to you and look forward to seeing you work.  I wish I could say that the lesson was received with the same warmth and went in the direction of Grandpa’s house in UP.  However, the lesson went in a direction I never really anticipated, sideways.  Today’s lesson was Math and I wanted to put a fun twist on what is usually perceived as a boring subject.  I also wanted to test drive what forms the base of my teaching philosophy, game based learning and gamification.

To start I presented a new topic, percents, to the Grade 7 Math class.  The direct instruction portion went over as any typical math lesson I feel goes.  Some get it, some don’t, but I had faith that the game I had planned would help pull the rest of the class over the finish line.  To put it bluntly, it didn’t.  So here I sit trying to figure out how to pick up the pieces of a broken lesson.  It wasn’t all bad, but it wasn’t good either and I feel and think as if I let the students down.  We have been told numerous times that lessons will go bad, it happens they say, I understand that, I’ve seen it happen.  However, as it seems with lots of things these days, no one has discussed the “How”.  We’ve learned, “What” and “Why” but never “How”. So how do we pick ourselves up and say “I am not a bad teacher” after a lesson doesn’t work out the way we envision it?  The first thing that comes to mind is practice.  We need to remind ourselves that this time is our opportunity to practice the craft we are pursuing.  We will stumble more than we may be comfortable with but it is in this discomfort that we need to find out how this gig really works and how it works for us.

So what happens when your entire teaching philosophy has been taken out back, punched in the stomach, and kicked a few times when it’s down?  Now I shouldn’t paint this gruesome picture of a game that was well received, was fun, engaging, and took math to a different place that the students had not really explored before.  But, the reality is that because it was so different students did not really pick up the math in the game.  They’ve been instructed in such a specific way for so long that something different did not really work.  So here I am, teaching philosophy a little broken and bruised.  How do you incorporate game-based learning into classrooms where games are considered a privilege? How do you work games into a world where direct instruction dominates?  Well thanks to my cooperating teacher part of the answer is… drum roll please… time.  My biggest take-away from my experience yesterday was that in the world of education everything takes time.  More time than what most realize.

In the aftermath there were still some great take-aways that I have from my experience yesterday.

  1. Board organization goes a long way in helping students look back at a newly presented concept.
  2. Time, time, and more time.  Take your time with new concepts, but have things prepared for the students that catch on quickly.

So where do I go from here?  Well I’m not sure to be honest.  Do I continue to try fit games into a world where structure dominates? Will the system accept the type of teacher I want to be? Can I go UP from here?

The Carrot Theory: What Compels People to Win?

Chasing the carrot is a well known metaphor for trying to track down something elusive that is always just quite out of reach.  Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about competition and how it affects gamification and what I’ve dubbed The Carrot Theory.  We know now that games have one outcome, a winner, so therefore people always try to be that person: the winner.  Is that not the carrot that we dangle in front of all game players?

When we play the thought of winning, or another term I’ve heard about lately, mastery, compels us forward into the game world to continue taking on its challenges in order to achieve the penultimate goal we seek, the win.  Not just the “Epic Win” but just the win.  The end game is what everyone strives to achieve.   And in that the carrot is born! Infinite competition is the concept that if we continue to change the winning conditions as people approach the end they will continue to compete for the win indefinitely.  This is truly a gamification approach.  It is in the game element of the win, the game over, the end game, whatever you want to call it that we can tap into competitive nature and unlock human potential.

I’m sure there are many, many, many studies on games like World of Warcraft, if not there should be, on how a game that is over 10 years old compels players to continue to play day in and day out for that entire span.  What is driving those players forward? For those that aren’t “in the know” about World of Warcraft there is no “Game Over” or final end to the game.   It continues on indefinitely in a state known as “end game”.  So how do you “win” World of Warcraft? What is the competitive drive that tugs players forward in that particular game world?  XP? Loot? Cool bosses? Well that is what needs to be researched as I’m sure that answer is completely different for each and every player.  Such as in life the win conditions or the carrot for each individual is different.  So how do we create competitors out of each individual so that we all strive for that unified goal of the win? That is where I would love to research and in WoW leet speak terms “WTB time and 5g”.


ECS 301 – One Size Doesn’t Fit All: A look at differentiation in the classroom

In reading Chapter 1 of Gregory and Chapman’s One Size Doesn’t Fit All I find that differentiation is fast becoming a large concern for educators in all realms.  We know that each student learns in different ways and because of that educators are hard pressed to create new ways of delivering content to each individual student.  Four things that teachers can differentiate to better assist student learning are:

  1. Content
  2. Assessment tools
  3. Performance tasks
  4. Instructional strategies

Varying content is a great challenge for teachers as students gravitate towards the materials and concepts they relate closely to.  In order to vary differentiate content teachers must first ask students “What do you like?” and listen closely to how students respond.  By listening to our students teachers will have an easier time adjusting the content to meet individual needs of students.  An example of content adjustment is providing a more challenging math assignment to a student who excels at math and providing a more hands-on assignment to a student who requires a more practical approach.

In differentiating assessment teachers are challenged with finding fresh new ways of assessing the knowledge of students without any undue frustration or fear.  Using different informal or formal methods of assessment dependent on student need will assist in determining how much students actually know. For example exams are scary to most students and provide great stress that could be avoided by successfully differentiating your assessment.  Examples of differentiating assessment is having different projects for different groups of learners and using auditory testing having the students verbally respond to questions.

Performance tasks are also very challenging to differentiate.  Each student enjoys different things so one activity that may suit one student may not be suited for another student.  Choosing activities that meet the needs of all students as individuals will be a great challenge that will be faced in the classroom.  This also reinforces that one size does not fit all as proposed by the article.  Some examples of differentiation of performance tasks include creating a sketch for a reading assignment rather than a short book review.

Lastly, differentiating instructional strategies is the key to engaging the students as an entire group rather than one or two individuals at a time.  Again, this is challenging as each student takes in knowledge differently.  Because of this it is very important to listen to your students and find out what method works best for them.  Ask questions to discover how students learn best such as “Are you a visual learner or do you like to listen?”.  An example of differentiation in instructional strategies is the concept of gamification.  Using games or game-like activities helps engage students as it is a method that they can relate closely to.

Competitive Nature and Gamficiation

It’s been WAY too long since my last post.  Here is another article I wrote on LinkedIn.  Enjoy!

In my last post I outlined that bringing games into the world of education will have some consequences that I don’t think are seeing enough light in the discussion of gamification. Competition is a driving force behind why we as humans play and enjoy games. That being said, is adding that element a good or a bad thing? If you weigh the pros and cons the outcome is different for each individual. Some thrive under pressure and the drive to compete forces them to excel. However, some are the opposite and cannot handle the pressure and fear overtakes the drive and they fall to the wayside.

Every human by nature has a will to compete. It has been said “we play games to have fun, not to win” but is that really the case? Take a look at your own gaming life. Do you just play for fun? Is there a game that is specifically constructed “just for fun”? Looking across all platforms from board games, sports, eSports, puzzles, you name it every article has one outcome, a winner. But with winners comes the counterpart, the loser. Because with every game there are winners and losers competition is born.

No one likes to lose. We try so hard as game designers, educators, parents, to help soften the blow of losing, but in the end it is still losing. However, because of this hatred of losing and because the fact that their can indeed be a winner spawns what we see as the competitive drive. Corporations harness this property every chance they get. In business this is referred to as competitive advantage. It’s what sets one company apart from another. It is also what sets one human apart from another.

Looking deeper into competition will help us unlock the potential of each individual. If gamification experts take the time to understand why we play, what we play, and how we play we can explore the infinite possibility that is the competitive drive. I plan to spend significant time exploring this concept and learning how we can all play to win in each aspect of our lives. I also plan to understand how we can lose but still win. It is in these concepts of competition that gamfication excels and because of that it is why games will lead the way in the future of learning and work.

#gamification #gamesfortomorrow

The Unexpected Bi-Product of Gamification

As I read more and more about how games can transform society I can’t help getting sucked into the positive and optimistic world that is painted. As a gamer I can relate to the content and I agree with some of the facts being presented. Gamers are truly incredible problem solvers that can collaborate together for that “Epic Win”. However, there is an unexpected bi-product of gamification that I feel is not getting enough attention.

I would hesitate to say I’m an expert on the subject of games transforming society as I have no Ph.D and I don’t have any books published, but as a very avid gamer and an indie game designer there is a competitive side to gaming that drives a lot of what forms these “Epic Wins”.

In watching Jane McGonigal’s (@avantgame) TED talk in 2010 ( she brings up World of Warcraft (WoW) and how WoW captured the attention of millions of people of varying ages for countless hours. I was one of those people that spent countless hours within the World of Warcraft. The question presented by the talk is what could a person like me accomplish if real life tasks were presented in a game type format? A great question and one I’ve asked many times, but the real question I would ask is why…? Why the hell would I spend approximately 3000+ hours in a game world. Two reasons, but I’ll only touch on the first: Competition. I played WoW evening upon evening, weekend upon weekend because I wanted to be a part of the best guild and beat the best content that was in the game. I wanted to win. I was competing against the world for a chance at cyber glory.

Take a look at what is becoming one of the most exciting gaming phenomenons of our time. eSports, particularly League of Legends (LoL), is quickly capturing the attention of almost double the amount of players then WoW did. As of Jan 27, 2014 the game’s maker, Riot Games, stated that there were 27 million players worldwide. Why would so many people play a computer game? It is the drive to win, to be the best that fuels a lot of gamers. It’s what makes some games so addicting. Some of the most successful mobile games allow social media posts or have leader boards to keep pitting other gamers against each other.

I’m sure there are many more reasons why people play games, but competition is a big driving force in an industry that I believe could easily make a very large impact on our world. If we don’t spend the time looking into why people play games and the impact competition could have on a gaming society we won’t be able to unlock what we’ve already discovered about gamers and their potential of achieving great things.

In future articles I’d like to touch on how the competitive side of games changed how and why I played games, how games changed me as a person, why competition is a good thing for games, and many other aspects of the future of gaming and why it will be so important in the era of tomorrow.

#gamification #gamesfortomorrow

Game whilst you brush!

My last post oh so long ago was about how games are starting to transform integral parts of our lives from the ads we see to the way we learn.  Well a start-up is looking to transform the way you brush your teeth!  Check out the link to a very interesting Polygon article about Grush.

With devices literally at our fingertips everything is shifting to this interactive way of doing things.  Is it for the better or worse?  In my opinion it is for the better, but we will need to transform how we educate people, not just youth ALL people, so that society can continue to move forward with technology rather than watching this touch universe become a fading fad.  Will we look back 20 years from now and see this as a beginning to how we live life then or will it be just another decade past of a fad lifestyle?  I guess only time will tell.

Is gaming the future of education and other things?

I added this today to my LinkedIn page and thought I’d share it in my blog:

“I have a passion for creating games and think that the future of marketing and education is in gaming. Games are for more than entertainment, they are art transformed into a tangible product that creates an experience for users. People have greater ties to the content when they can play with it, feel it, own it, live it.”

I truly believe games have the power to transform areas in society such as education and marketing.  Imagine a child who struggles using current educational methods to grasp something as simple as 1 + 1.  Give that child something interactive, fun, engaging, tangible and I think they would flourish. Think back to when you were taught 1 + 1.  Did the teacher pull out marbles or rocks or pictures to show you how to add?  If so that is just a game that lets you feel what 1 + 1 is rather than just try to imagine it.  Today’s children grasp technology faster than I think anyone could even anticipate.  So why not move those games to a platform they connect with?

I know this concept has been around for a while, but I think it’s time we get more champions behind it and I want to be one of them.