Getting an "A" in the Gamified Classroom

In my earlier posts, I have discussed the work I've been doing to bring game-based design principles to the structure of my America 3.0 course. I am continuing to develop the levels that form the core of the knowing tree and, while I feel confident that the doing tree makes sense structurally, I am continuing to tinker with the relationship between what students do and the points they'll earn in class (because even though I'm gamifying the course, at the end of the day, I teach at a college preparatory school with transcripts and grades on the 0-100 scale).

These core principles inform my thinking:

1. Doing, not Knowing: Students earn no gradable points for progressing in the knowing tree. I believe it is valuable to know things (anyone who's played me in Trivial Pursuit knows that knowing is important to me...I read Wikipedia for fun…), but I believe even more strongly that knowing for its own sake is less valuable than knowing and then being able to do something with that knowledge.

2. "Gotta Level:" In order to pass the class, students will be obligated to achieve certain levels across the knowing tree. There are 6 branches of the knowing tree. Students must reach level 10 in all 6 branches, level 20 in 4 branches, level 40 in 3 branches, level 50 in 2 branches and level 100 in 1 branch.

3. Student Selection: There are 6 doing trees, as there are 6 knowing trees. The formula for earning gradable points is 100 achievement points = 1 point.

4. Collaborative Work is Good: Students can earn points by doing work themselves or earn them by working productively in their ALT (accountable learning team).

Two examples of how students earn points. 

1. Critical Writing: one essential branch of the doing tree is critical writing. Writing is clear, measurable and requires that students read carefully and progress on the knowing trunk to actually have something to write about. There are four kinds of writing that I'm defining:

Short, short form - tweeting

     "one very simple idea"

Short form - blog postings (200-500 words) (a 2 minute movie script)

     "one simple idea, explicated"

Medium form - the short paper, the "long blog" (1000-2000 words) (a 7 minute movie script)

     one complex idea, explicated with depth

Long form - the long paper (2000+ words) (the webpage) (a 20 minute movie script)

     one highly complex idea, explicated along multiple arcs

Achievement points in writing are earned in clusters of 500 points. 500 points are earned according to the follow formula:

1 long form mode = 3 medium form modes = 15 short form modes = 100 short, short form modes

There isn't an A/B/C/D/F grade assigned to the writing itself in this case. Rather, the writer earns an A and hence gets the achievement points, or the writer gets an R, which is to say "redo."

2. "Modeling:" I define modeling as non-written forms of expression (so conveying the same message as a written text, but in a different mode). This covers modes like infographics, visual/performing arts, mind maps, photography, film and so forth. 

Because modeling is idiosyncratic, modeling points are earned on a case-by-case basis after discussions with me where I approve the scope of the project and assign it points. Some examples of 500 point achievements in modeling are:

1. An infographic (see examples in the Schoology forum) on a complex idea, like use of technology by senior citizens.

2. A photo essay illuminating Jewish-African American relations in Los Angeles.

3. A curated (photos found, but not taken by you) photo essay on Native American resistance to cultural assimilation.

4. 5 minutes of a short, creative film about high school students responding to 9/11 on 9/11/01.

5. A 3-4 minute pop song, written and performed, which speaks to a social problem in the USA.

Modeling projects can be done by ALTs as well - the complexity of the work proposed generates the achievement points.