Gamification in the Classroom: Level 5 — Road Work

Throughout this semester, I’ve been working to update Writer’s Block based on verbal feedback from students, research for this project, and personal preferences to make it a little easier on me.

My last post about gamification was back in October 2019. A lot has happened since then, for sure. Since that was my pilot year with gamification, it ended quickly due to Covid-19.

Gamification — gā-mə-fə-ˈkā-shən\ — is basically the process of turning a non-gaming environment (a classroom or business) into a game-like environment using game-based mechanics (experience points, items, levels, etc.).

Gamification in the Classroom: Level 1 — Getting Started

During the following school year, I kept a lot of things the same. However, several things became digital that were not previously (badges, item cards, entry forms, etc.). On top of that, I started graduate school (Texas State University) in January 2021, which meant my blog took a giant backseat.

For one of my courses this semester (CI 5381: Creativity, Interest, and World(s)), I had to complete a creative project. I chose to revamp my classroom game: Writer’s Block.

Why? In short, I felt that the way our game was set up, students were not as encouraged to participate, especially when they got behind on the leaderboard. I wanted to change that.

This post is my reflection for that project. It includes evidence of my work, connections to a couple of our class readings, and hopes for the future.

Find out more:

Level 1: Getting Started
Level 2: Incorporating the Standards
Level 3: Game On
Level 4: Problem-Solving after the First Six Weeks
Level 5:
Road Work

Evidence of My Process

Throughout this semester, I’ve been working to update Writer’s Block based on verbal feedback from students, research for this project, and personal preferences to make it a little easier on me.

My end goal for this project included three parts:

  1. determining team formations — idea from Explore Like a Pirate (Matera, 2015) suggested changing teams each quarter
  2. receiving and analyzing feedback from students about the current game: what works, what doesn’t, changes they would like to see, etc.
  3. receiving feedback from students about the updated game: what they think, what they like, don’t like, ease of access, etc.

I changed so many things over the last couple years, but I continued having the same issue each school year: the students at the top of the leaderboard remain there, and the students at the bottom of the leaderboard have little motivation to move up.

The main concern students had was that they had to go to too many different places to find things. Our first Writer’s Block game site included more information than needed, according to numerous students.

a photo of our original game site

This past summer, I went to the Region 12 TransformED Teaching Conference. At this conference I met Michael Matera and John Meehan, two of the top education gamification gurus right now. They introduced me to their new website (EMC2 Learning), and they talked with me about my classroom game eager to answer any questions I had.

Due to that chat, one of the biggest changes I made at the beginning of this school year was the addition of a Road Map. Previously, all our side quests were in one booklet where students could explore freely and complete anytime they wanted. However, that offered too many choices, so I created a Road Map for each unit that included Must Do, Should Do, and Aspire to Do activities.

At first, each Road Map I created included about a week’s worth (sometimes two) of activities. I would leave blank spaces for extra activities. The idea for the different types of activities came from an Edpuzzle training (Barnett, 2021) I completed in the past. The only difference is that in my classroom, the Must Do activities are taught as a class. Other activities are side quests students can work on anytime.

For this particular project, I expanded on the Road Map idea and incorporated feedback from my students regarding the rest of Writer’s Block.

Student Feedback

Of my 65 current students, 59 responded to the Writer’s Block survey. The first question they answered was about teams. Since I was considering the option of changing teams around based on the book idea, I wanted to see what they thought. I was surprised by how many students wanted to change teams a few times a year.

The next big question was about badges. Badges are achievements earned in class, but I’ve done them several different ways throughout the years. This particular year, they were not working well at all. The overwhelming need for them to change was clearly evident, especially with one student’s response: “Not having badges, because they are too hard to keep up with.”

I also asked students what they wish would change about our classroom game. Here is a list of some of their answers:

  • “I wish that we could change the way we organize it. Sometimes it’s hard to figure out where things are.”
  • “That the side quests were easier to find.”
  • “I would like a printed chart to keep track of my own stats, badges, etc. Also if you could have a few new item cards to buy like every other week.”
  • “I wish it was easier to access and find things.”
  • “Having less places to look to find something.”
  • “I wish we could buy item cards any time we wanted.”
  • “Please put everything on one page.”
  • “I wish I could keep track of more things on paper.”
  • “I wish it was easier to find the Item Card Shop.”
  • “More aspire to do options and side quests easier to find.”

Because of their feedback, I changed so much. We hit the refresh button on a Writer’s Block update: new teams, new leaderboard, new game site, new start.

There were a few groans when XP (experience points) restarted, but they recovered when I told them their old points would be saved for the Grand Finale.

I gave students two days to explore the changes, ask questions, and discuss their new plans with their new teams. After two days, twenty of my students already had over 1,000 points!

Students, I want you to know that you are heard. I value your feedback, and I am so grateful for your support as I learn and grow as a teacher!

-Mrs. Houser

By asking for their feedback and incorporating it into our update, I’ve shown them that we continue to have “an environment that is supportive and rewarding of creative ideas” (Sternberg, 2010, p. 399). There were plenty of ideas that I had not thought about, so their ideas helped make our game even better. Knowing they are heard and that their opinion matters will hopefully continue to encourage them to explore and learn.

Below is an introduction to our new Writer’s Block game site. As you watch it, I hope you’ll notice how I incorporated the feedback from my students!

a quick tutorial video I made for our updated game site

One Week After the Update

One week after the update, I asked students to tell me one thing they liked or disliked about the changes. Here are some of their comments regarding the changes:

  • “I like the new Road Map because it is organized and looks good.”
  • “I like how simple it is to get from place to place because before this it was really harder to find things.”
  • “I dislike starting our stats over, but I’m glad we get to still have them in the grand finale.”
  • “I love the new badges treasure map! I like the idea because it pushes you to get your badges so when you finish them you get a surprise.”
  • “I like that you added our class calendar on the website. I didn’t know where it was before that.”
  • “I like how you added farming quests.”
  • “I like how it’s not as stressful to look for things now. Before I forgot where a lot of our stuff was. I like how organized this is and how everyone’s opinion got to be put into this new look.”
  • “One thing I really like about Writer’s Block is that the road map has its own tab because it’s easier to find what we can work on now.”
  • “We have an item card carrier now! I love this update because we can see what he have and not have to worry about forgetting.”
  • “I like how Game Zone is on the website now instead of in Google Classroom. I didn’t like having to go to several places to find things.”
  • “Why do we have to order item cards now? It feels like it takes forever.”
  • “I like the item card shop! When we fill out the order form, it’s like putting in a real online order!”

Overwhelmingly, my students are enjoying the new update. More students are turning in side quests, too. Leslie (2014) stated “that the attitude students take toward the learning process and the habits they practice have a bigger impact on how well they do in school than previously accounted for” (p. 81). With the updates I’ve made, I feel like there has been a shift in the attitude toward learning in our classroom.

Students are encouraged, helping one another, and providing more feedback as we go along. Since our update, I’ve even made a few changes and added a few things based on what students have said. With everything being more succinct and accessible, students are more inspired to try new things. I enjoy our writing days where they can explore the quests and practice their skills on their own terms.

Below is a screenshot of our leaderboard after one week of the update. I hope to see more progress as the weeks progress!

One week after our Writer’s Block update, students are already encouraged!


(Note: I just learned how to apply a hanging indent on WordPress, so I hope it works when I publish this.)

Barnett, R. (2021). Self-Paced Classroom Certification. Edpuzzle.

Leslie, I. (2014). Curious: The desire to know and why your future depends on it. Basic Books.

Matera, M. (2015). Explore like a pirate: Gamification and game-inspired course design to engage, enrich, and elevate your learners. Dave Burgess Consulting, Inc.

Sternberg, R. J. (2010). Teaching for creativity.  In R. A. Beghetto & J. C. Kaufman (Eds.), Nurturing creativity in the classroom (pp. 394-414). Cambridge University Press. 

7 thoughts on “Gamification in the Classroom: Level 5 — Road Work

  1. Hi JJ. I deactivated my twitter account. Sorry I didn’t get a chance to tell you. Thank you inviting me to your group. It was always a pleasure. Not sure if I’ll return someday, but I just wanted to let you know 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

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