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#6922314 Oct 31, 2012 at 09:13 PM
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108 Posts
So here's a thought: do avatars provide us with a safety net?

Online, I would say they definitely do. I uploaded two shots of my Xbox avatar as well as a shot of my actual self (but wearing elf ears, cause it's Halloween and my elf ears are awesome).

So this is me:

photo (1) by arithenay, on Flickr" rel="colorbox"> photo (1) by arithenay, on Flickr" />

Aaand, this is my avatar.

xboxav by arithenay, on Flickr" rel="colorbox"> xboxav by arithenay, on Flickr" />


avatarpic-l by arithenay, on Flickr

As you can see, my avatar looks a lot like me. I know some people go the opposite route, but in my experience, a lot of people like their avatars to be similar to their RL look. But many of those same people would never upload their real pics to a server.

My theory is, avatars provide a safety net. Sure, my avatar looks like me -- but if you're not close enough to me to have ever actually seen me, you wouldn't know that. In other words, what happens on xbox stays on xbox: my wins, my fails, whatever I do, I don't have to worry about it affecting me in my day to day life.

I wonder if there are ways to provide students with that same safety net. I already do to a certain extent -- in my classroom I regularly post leaderboards with the students' experience points, but I've had them all choose avatar names so that no one has to share their current level if they don't want to. And while they do have paper avatars that they can add to as they level up, they don't have to display them if they don't want to. So it provides a certain degree of anonymity and security, I think.

A lot of you are probably familiar with the amazing Felicia Day and her online series, The Guild. They actually released a video a few years ago called "Do You Want To Date My Avatar?", which (nerd alert), was my wedding song. Hopefully the video of the song pastes below:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=urNyg1ftMIU

If not, here's the link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=urNyg1ftMIU

The song is basically all about the security of an in-game relationship -- "if you think I'm not the one/ log off and we'll be done." It's a different scenario from education but I think the basic message is the same: there's safety and security in anonymity, even if we still identify to a large extent with our avatars.

So my thought is, how can this become a safety net for learning?
Don’t do work that just exists within your classroom... do work that changes the world. -Will Richardson

http://www.gamifymyclass.blogspot.ca
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#6922317 Oct 31, 2012 at 09:16 PM
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108 Posts
Sigh sigh...

Don't know why only the third pic showed since I did the bb thing for all three, but here are the two missing photos:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/88599978@N04/8143219219/in/pool-gamesmooc

http://www.flickr.com/photos/88599978@N04/8143251272/in/pool-gamesmooc
Don’t do work that just exists within your classroom... do work that changes the world. -Will Richardson

http://www.gamifymyclass.blogspot.ca
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#6926465 Nov 01, 2012 at 08:54 PM
Guild Officer
187 Posts
I really enjoyed The Guild music and videos! I have to say, after the first season I got a little sick of all the "she said he said" stuff, although the one-liners were excellent.
"Vork is down. Repeat, Vork is down." We've all been on that raid, one way or another. Great pics of your various avatars, too! Love the ears (LeeDale, in as many of her incarnations as possible, as pointy ears. Because they're cool.)

I'm interested in the idea and I want to see what other educators think of the idea of the leaderboard with character names on it. I assume their level is basically equivalent to their grade so far in the course?

Lyr was talking about sprinkling in NPCs into the leaderboard to make it that much more difficult about who was whom. I liked this idea, as it would help preserve the safety net you're talking about.

As always, I suppose the instructor would need to make it clear that someone (the instructor, most likely!) would be keeping track of who's who, to nip any feelings of anonymity.

Of course, the challenge to this (other than maintaining student privacy and safety) is the learning management system. While I can bring my students to another system (Ning, Moodle, Shivtr, etc) for additional functions, there's always the feeling of having to go "outside" for something. I wish we could truly offer a "one stop shop" experience. I suspect with open source LMSs this is much more likely, but I don't see why it couldn't be possible via a SCORM (or Tin Can?) interactive object in the course. Has anyone used any of these?
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#6928978 Nov 02, 2012 at 12:48 PM
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108 Posts
I assume their level is basically equivalent to their grade so far in the course?

Yes and no. :) I've broken their XP into two categories. Actually, that's not accurate -- all points are XP, but not all XP are skill points. Because I teach grade 6, I teach a number of courses so it doesn't work to say your XP are your grade. Students earn XP through a variety of ways:

1. Completing assignments/tests
2. Winning contests
3. Spotting errors ("farming" a la Lee Sheldon)
4. Bonus Quests

All of these give XP, but only assignments and tests give "skill points" (ie, grades) in a specific subject area. So a student can have 500 XP with 215 of them also being "skill points" in social studies.

In other words, the leaderboard does reflect how students are doing in the course, but does not directly correlate to their marks.
Don’t do work that just exists within your classroom... do work that changes the world. -Will Richardson

http://www.gamifymyclass.blogspot.ca
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#6930478 Nov 02, 2012 at 07:12 PM
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561 Posts
#6922314 missrithenay wrote:

So here's a thought: do avatars provide us with a safety net?


A lot of you are probably familiar with the amazing Felicia Day and her online series, The Guild. They actually released a video a few years ago called "Do You Want To Date My Avatar?", which (nerd alert), was my wedding song. Hopefully the video of the song pastes below:



I was wondering if you ever saw the film SECOND SKIN, where a couple, think they were not WoW but another MMORPG they actually had big screens and sat at computers at the wedding ceremony and got married as their avatars? They had met in the game, and became a couple in the game and then met and got married in real life. I have known more than one person whose "spouse" left them in the real world for an "avatar" they had met in a game and then met in real life. So it sure wasn't a safety net for them.

I used WarHammer in one of my classes in the Spring of 2010 and said we would try WoW if the computers would take it and one woman in the front row didn't want to be involved in a class like that because her husband "plays WoW every evening." and when I asked if she played too she looked aghast and dropped the class the next day. So much for sharing your spouse's hobby.

So I would say for some it is a safety net and for others it is the unknown, the enemy, the destroyer, depends basically on what your intention is on entering an online virtual world. It does allow you to make mistakes that might be costly and learn from them, but really, how many dragons are we asked to slay in real life? The key is to extrapolate or connect slaying a dragon with something that is constructive and useful in the real world. Like knowing that sometimes it is important to retreat and find another strategy to win.
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#6930491 Nov 02, 2012 at 07:14 PM
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#6926465 Leedale wrote:


Of course, the challenge to this (other than maintaining student privacy and safety) is the learning management system. While I can bring my students to another system (Ning, Moodle, Shivtr, etc) for additional functions, there's always the feeling of having to go "outside" for something. I wish we could truly offer a "one stop shop" experience.



Isn't the "one stop shopping" kind of our "holy grail" of classroom gamification?
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#6931440 Nov 03, 2012 at 01:42 AM
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108 Posts


So I would say for some it is a safety net and for others it is the unknown, the enemy, the destroyer, depends basically on what your intention is on entering an online virtual world.

Very true. But from their point of view, perhaps that WAS a safety net -- how many of these people would cheat on their spouse in RL? Now, I am in NO WAY defending them or saying that adultery is a good thing -- only that from their perspective, the avatar may have given them a safety.

But I still think you raise a good point, because the safety net can allow us to do good things (slay dragons, experiment freely) or bad things (troll, commit adultery, etc.). The same, I imagine, would apply in an educational setting.
Don’t do work that just exists within your classroom... do work that changes the world. -Will Richardson

http://www.gamifymyclass.blogspot.ca
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#6936216 Nov 04, 2012 at 09:40 AM
Guild Officer
187 Posts

@missrethenay
Thank you for the excellent description of the grades (marks?). I've been playing around with the idea of using that kind of set-up. Frankly, though, I've been strongly considering setting up a way for students to have more freedom to pick what assignment they complete to earn points for a particular skill. I remember being a student and when I got that choice it made all the difference in the world to me. I also do like the XP/quest component, though. It would take me awhile to get something like a leaderboard figured out in such a way as to not make anyone's grades obvious. I'm not sure I'm clever enough!

@grasshopper

It [virtual worlds/games] does allow you to make mistakes that might be costly and learn from them, but really, how many dragons are we asked to slay in real life? The key is to extrapolate or connect slaying a dragon with something that is constructive and useful in the real world. Like knowing that sometimes it is important to retreat and find another strategy to win.


Very true, and that's something that's been rattling around in my head for awhile. I do love the rallying cry of "Die and do over!" that games and VWs give us, but there's always the need to keep perspective. Like you said, how often does it come down to a situation where they can make a relatively deadly decision and be able to recover from it?

It's a challenge to keep that perspective, because games/VWs are so shiny! LOL! However, what we need to do is keep our eyes on the objectives. Whether these are our goals or the learning objectives required in the course, we can't simply play a numbers-based game and hope students osmose the math out of it. There has to be some surrounding discussion and consideration (the classroom affinity space, as it were).

@grasshopper
Yes, "one stop shopping" is definitely our Holy Grail! The tech-nerd in me wants everything to be single sign-on for everything. This may also stem from the number of complaints I deal with related to certain homework managers at my job.

My concern with sending students out of the main LMS is that they may not split their time effectively between the LMS and the auxiliary site. Students simply don't have good time management skills, sometimes. Perhaps using something like Remember the Milk as a reminder system...?

Really, with all this technology, why can't it simply fix all our problems? :D

-LeeDale
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#6936763 Nov 04, 2012 at 12:35 PM
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#6936216 Leedale wrote:



Really, with all this technology, why can't it simply fix all our problems? :D

-LeeDale



I frankly don't know. I watch us all struggle, and it isn't just with say, our administration, or immediate superiors, or co-workers, or even students we try to get into the "gamification" fold, but ourselves as well.

I remember being first delighted, and then appalled, at the brick phone, and later my first real cell in 1996, it had four hour standby, 20 min talk time, on the battery. No internet no text messaging. . . sometimes I just feel like I need to step back and wait till "they get it right" and then use it, but by the time "they" do, it is on its way to being obsolete. What the h*ll? It is the Red Queen all over again, running as fast as I can to stay in one place.

I do know my involvement in this mooc and the immersion has put me so far ahead of say 95%+ of my co-instructors, that I am not sure how to approach or talk to them anymore. What presentation can I give that they would jump on the chance to join me? Yet, in about 25% of the time my students are ahead of me. How can education ever expect to catch up and be leaders in gamification if we can't proselytize strong enough to raise a good solid "guild" of users? It is how we get others to join that is troubling me.
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#6938032 Nov 04, 2012 at 06:47 PM
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45 Posts
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NFavEJ5aKsA
This short video outlines the value of anonymity in certain teaching situations: teachers' college students in the Middle East, where students may be prohibited by culture from having visual representations of themselves. This also addresses the responsibility to protect the child's online visual image.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KFNPqouIxO0
A student response to the social aspects of online anonymity.

Secondary kids are also very sensitive to how their peers see them -- the anonymity of an avatar should help with that. However, they are a diverse group in the classroom and, as they become teenagers, refine the oppositional mindset that rejects first and then finds a pretext for that rejection.

I see a tension between engagement through immersion and the abstraction that allows broader lessons to be taken from experience. My biggest problems have been with gamers who refuse to engage in a specific game. My (senior secondary) students know that I'm sick of hearing "<insert game> is so g@y!"

Power gamers hammer away, gaming the system for points, and refuse to consider whether there is a broader principle being illustrated. They are terribly disappointed that their gameplay hasn't brought them an "A"...despite all comments to the contrary.

What do you think? Are primary, secondary and adult learners qualitatively different in their approach to games-based material? Which games principles are our basics, and universally apply in education? Which are merely situational?

#6930478 grasshopper98 wrote:

[quote_post6922314 user=803334]So here's a thought: do avatars provide us with a safety net?

So I would say for some it is a safety net and for others it is the unknown, the enemy, the destroyer, depends basically on what your intention is on entering an online virtual world. It does allow you to make mistakes that might be costly and learn from them, but really, how many dragons are we asked to slay in real life? The key is to extrapolate or connect slaying a dragon with something that is constructive and useful in the real world. Like knowing that sometimes it is important to retreat and find another strategy to win.

(Being "down under" doesn't make me backward)
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#6938061 Nov 04, 2012 at 06:56 PM
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45 Posts
#6936763 grasshopper98 wrote:


What presentation can I give that they would jump on the chance to join me? Yet, in about 25% of the time my students are ahead of me. How can education ever expect to catch up and be leaders in gamification if we can't proselytize strong enough to raise a good solid "guild" of users? It is how we get others to join that is troubling me.



I struggle with letting go in the classroom, but I'm taking baby steps. In a former job, I coined the phrase "My pain in the backside is someone else's development opportunity." I used this to give myself permission to take the risk of delegating.

Contributing to a real, valued task is better than any number of curricular exercises. How about getting your tech-savvy students (in return for a grade boost, perhaps) to administer certain elements of the nuts-and-bolts of the course? If they're busy, they'll misbehave less...
(Being "down under" doesn't make me backward)
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#6940263 Nov 05, 2012 at 09:34 AM
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#6938061 Michael Barry wrote:

[quote_post6936763 user=768203]
[b]

Contributing to a real, valued task is better than any number of curricular exercises. How about getting your tech-savvy students (in return for a grade boost, perhaps) to administer certain elements of the nuts-and-bolts of the course? If they're busy, they'll misbehave less...



I am good with a controlled environment even in the virtual world.

Since we are talking about avatars, I have seen many "unknown" persons hiding under the guise of their avatar be extremely abusive to other players, belittling, insulting and basically driving them out of the game. I would have concerns for long-term play for my students in a very open virtual world where I was not also able to monitor it.

I am working on the immersion into Minecraft for this MOOC participants in the Spring or Summer, probably summer, where we are all in the game interacting and Hawkye and I will be there to guide and monitor. Even then we are working on setting the parameters of the game so you can't throw lava on someone's house and destroy it. We need to keep it a positive building and cooperative game. You can set the game to such controls if you control the game and the server it is on. So yes, there are the same nasty, mean people in virtual worlds as there are in real life [obviously not in our MOOC] There is a reason we can "block callers" or "block tweeters" most interactive technology allows us to shield ourselves, but sometimes the harm is already done.

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#6941883 Nov 05, 2012 at 03:15 PM
Guild Officer
187 Posts
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NFavEJ5aKsA
This short video outlines the value of anonymity in certain teaching situations: teachers' college students in the Middle East, where students may be prohibited by culture from having visual representations of themselves. This also addresses the responsibility to protect the child's online visual image.


This is something that has come up in online courses that I oversee as well, actually. Religious objections, privacy concerns, or students out and out not wanting their pictures out there...these are all things that we've run into. For example, for most people, there is exactly one photo of me that they'll ever see online. While my real name is in this MOOC (not LeeDale), I still am very careful about what I post online.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KFNPqouIxO0
A student response to the social aspects of online anonymity.


I really liked this student video you posted. That would be an excellent teaching tool for helping students understand online communication.

Power gamers hammer away, gaming the system for points, and refuse to consider whether there is a broader principle being illustrated. They are terribly disappointed that their gameplay hasn't brought them an "A"...despite all comments to the contrary.

Is this different from instructors who throw multiple choice textbook publisher questions at students in the name of assessment? I think any tool can be misused and imprecisely used.

Games and gamification need to be used with precision. Like a finely edited movie, they need good pacing, everything needs to relate to the plot (learning objectives), and the emphasis needs to be on education and not the tools themselves. This is true no matter if you're using clickers, computers, World of Warcraft, or Blogspot.

What do you think? Are primary, secondary and adult learners qualitatively different in their approach to games-based material? Which games principles are our basics, and universally apply in education? Which are merely situational?

I think it's all in the preparation and in the presentation. Most of us don't teach Kindergarten, so "Let's play a game and learn!" isn't typically the best approach. I think how learners approach a game, or a gamified course, really depends on the teacher's mindset and presentation going into it. Of course, I've seen some cases where learners are simply dead set against games in the classroom, too.

For me, I think the game principle that is sorely needed in many classrooms is thoughtful, constant feedback. I'm not talking about summative, end of the week quizzes. I'm referring more to progress bars, leaderboards, and other kinds of formative assessments. I'm jumping ahead a lot to week 6, though! :)

I would love to hear what others have to say on this topic. I think this topic so far has been one of the most fruitful and practical discussions.

-LeeDale
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#6943221 Nov 05, 2012 at 08:51 PM
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Leedale: Is this different from instructors who throw multiple choice textbook publisher questions at students in the name of assessment? I think any tool can be misused and imprecisely used...
...For me, I think the game principle that is sorely needed in many classrooms is thoughtful, constant feedback. I'm not talking about summative, end of the week quizzes. I'm referring more to progress bars, leaderboards, and other kinds of formative assessments.
Grasshopper: I would have concerns for long-term play for my students in a very open virtual world where I was not also able to monitor it.

I was once a government economist (shields head from stones). I would have loved educational leaderboards in those days, since that would tell me which education systems could have their funding cut. ;(

But I'm better now. Part of my metamorphosis into a caring, sharing teacher-type was Daniel Pink's TED talk on motivation:
http://www.ted.com/talks/dan_pink_on_motivation.html

Perhaps I'm anticipating Week 6, but Behavioural scientists (excluding economists!) know empirically that while small incentives can focus attention, large rewards and punishments are essentially destructive of creativity: this reinforces Kuhn's conclusion that rewards and punishments are essentially two sides of the same coin.

The hyper-focus of a large reward/punishment works for very small, discrete, totally-defined tasks like screwing a bolt and nut together. BUT who would pay a large reward for something so damn simple -- especially if a machine can do it for nothing, after capital costs?

Once the task takes even rudimentary intellectual flexibility or creative thought, increasing reward/punishment DECREASES achievement. I'm reminded of my Army training, when a simple task like replacing the magazine on a rifle, which I'd practiced dozens of times, became almost impossible under the pressure of a live fire exercise: hands shaking, tunnel vision, etc. You perhaps gather that I didn't enjoy having real bullets fired over my head.

Bringing this back to Avatars (finally!): When death goes from being...well, death...to a minor inconvenience, risk-taking is relatively less forbidding. The Avatar removes another "punishment" (from the adolescent point of view) which is the stigma of "uncool" in being seen to make mistakes.

Similarly, small but valued rewards serve a place in encouraging student engagement, and adults appreciate the occasional lolly (aka "candy") reward. The larger rewards get the bigger the incentive to "game the system" and avoid the learning objectives. Recognition and the appreciation of fellow players/avatars probably serve as small rewards in this context.

On Grasshopper's comment -- Yes, abuse is always a problem. Abusive behaviour serves as a "reward" to the twisted mind, ie:
I can't get anything positive here, so I'll get my thrills from seeing someone else suffer.

Perhaps I'm a little bit Buddhist, but the open palm has an effect in many cases -- either in changing the behaviour, or in robbing the abuser of their fun.
(Being "down under" doesn't make me backward)
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#6947238 Nov 06, 2012 at 04:44 PM · Edited 7 years ago
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#6922314 missrithenay wrote:

So here's a thought: do avatars provide us with a safety net?

Online, I would say they definitely do. I uploaded two shots of my Xbox avatar as well as a shot of my actual self (but wearing elf ears, cause it's Halloween and my elf ears are awesome).

So this is me:

photo (1) by arithenay, on Flickr" rel="colorbox"> photo (1) by arithenay, on Flickr" />

Aaand, this is my avatar.

xboxav by arithenay, on Flickr" rel="colorbox"> xboxav by arithenay, on Flickr" />


avatarpic-l by arithenay, on Flickr

As you can see, my avatar looks a lot like me. I know some people go the opposite route, but in my experience, a lot of people like their avatars to be similar to their RL look. But many of those same people would never upload their real pics to a server.

My theory is, avatars provide a safety net. Sure, my avatar looks like me -- but if you're not close enough to me to have ever actually seen me, you wouldn't know that. In other words, what happens on xbox stays on xbox: my wins, my fails, whatever I do, I don't have to worry about it affecting me in my day to day life.

I wonder if there are ways to provide students with that same safety net. I already do to a certain extent -- in my classroom I regularly post leaderboards with the students' experience points, but I've had them all choose avatar names so that no one has to share their current level if they don't want to. And while they do have paper avatars that they can add to as they level up, they don't have to display them if they don't want to. So it provides a certain degree of anonymity and security, I think.

A lot of you are probably familiar with the amazing Felicia Day and her online series, The Guild. They actually released a video a few years ago called "Do You Want To Date My Avatar?", which (nerd alert), was my wedding song. Hopefully the video of the song pastes below:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=urNyg1ftMIU

If not, here's the link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=urNyg1ftMIU

The song is basically all about the security of an in-game relationship -- "if you think I'm not the one/ log off and we'll be done." It's a different scenario from education but I think the basic message is the same: there's safety and security in anonymity, even if we still identify to a large extent with our avatars.

So my thought is, how can this become a safety net for learning?



Many students suffering from performance anxiety seem to benefit from hiding behind an avatar. Their anxiety is greatly reduced in environments such as Second Life and the students themselves are more open and uninhibited when practicing a foreign language for example in a virtual world.

On the topic of abusive players, Lisa Nakamura describes how a character on Lambda proposed a petition , entitled Hate-Crime, which was intended to impose penalties upon characters who harassed other characters on the basis of race:
http://www.humanities.uci.edu/mposter/syllabi/readings/nakamura.html

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#6947942 Nov 06, 2012 at 07:57 PM
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Again on the topic of abusive players, in a classroom setting, I think the teacher serves as a control/moderator. IE, my students have some anonymity, but I know who they are, and I make it very clear to them that I can see exactly what they post online. Some parents don't like their kids chatting online for fear of cyberbullying -- I figure, if we're going to have cyberbullying, then by all means try it on Edmodo or one of my other sites, where I can see exactly who wrote what and at what time ;)

Leedale:

Thank you for the excellent description of the grades (marks?). I've been playing around with the idea of using that kind of set-up. Frankly, though, I've been strongly considering setting up a way for students to have more freedom to pick what assignment they complete to earn points for a particular skill. I remember being a student and when I got that choice it made all the difference in the world to me. I also do like the XP/quest component, though. It would take me awhile to get something like a leaderboard figured out in such a way as to not make anyone's grades obvious. I'm not sure I'm clever enough!

Feel free to message me privately about this, but have you ever tried using layered curriculums? They are FANTASTIC for providing students with choice.
Don’t do work that just exists within your classroom... do work that changes the world. -Will Richardson

http://www.gamifymyclass.blogspot.ca
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