This is Part 9 of a series of entries about my use of Gamification in my course over the past school year. I'll be providing some philosophy, my experience, and my changes for the future. I'd appreciate any feedback, and would be happy to answer any further questions you may have.
Gamification is a synthesis of multiple educational movements. It has flipped learning, mastery grading, collaboration, project-based learning, game-elements, blended learning, and many other different schools of thought. In many ways, it is the distillation of these are methods. It's the "one ring" that can bring them all and (not in the darkness) bind them. For that reason, many of the gamification elements I bring up aren't really unique to gamification. This method merely serves as a great way to use all these different tools.
Today, for example, I wanted to talk briefly about the "Synthesis" portion of the QUEST model. Once students have been given the "understanding" information, and once they have worked through the readings with the "explore", it's time for them to put all their knowledge together and make something in a synthesis project. Now, traditionally, projects were solely about assessments. You'd learn about Native Americans, and then make a diorama. You'd learn about sequence and flow charts, and then you'd make a posterboard teaching your classmates how to make Muddy Buddies (it's a thing, look it up). While these are ok, they don't really add to the experience. If you learn how to add, and then do a huge adding worksheet...you really haven't expanded on your knowledge, you've just continued to "Explore". For a project to really be project-based learning, it has to teach more than the sum of it's parts.
In my class, the Synthesis project is the highlight of the unit. It's here that students are challenged to make something, or solve a problem using the skills they learned, as well as peripheral skills from the rest of the canon. For example, one of my favorite projects has always been the King Arthur Video Project. After learning about the Middle Ages, and reading through King Arthur legends, students are tasked with writing a new King Arthur Tale and creating a 10 minute video. I give them some scaffolded steps along the way but otherwise the task is open ended. Students must put together a "Pitch" so I make sure they're on the right track, write a script, film the video, and then create a poster or trailer. The project ends with them writing a "rationale" explaining their choices.
When I first did this project, I got some backlash from students, parents, and even some other teachers. "Why are they making videos? This is English class! I never made a video in English class; we just wrote essays." Some students said "can't we just write a paper? It'd be easier than working with these people." Other teachers implied this wasn't rigorous enough or that students were just goofing off. While I can see where they're coming from, there's a lot they're missing. True, videos weren't done in the past, and yes, some groups are tough to work with, and of course, some students at some point in the project will goof off...but this is true of any type of assignment ever. What this project does require students to do with quite profound:
1. Students have to read, understand, and analyze the original King Arthur stories
2. Students must identify patterns and style components of the Arthurian Legends. What makes them stand out?
3. They must create a plot line following the plot pyramid and literary elements to create an interesting story.
4. They must use narrative and creative writing to draft compelling dialogue.
5. They must incorporate the King Arthur elements from step 1 and 2 into their story.
6. Public Speaking skills are used in the rehearsing and acting elements of the video.
7. Technology and editing skills are used to create the final cut (note: while I give the students a brief overview of iMovie, this is not a video production class. Many teach themselves while doing this project.)
8. Students publish their work online
9. Students reflect on their work and rationalize their choices
10. Students actually have fun creating something.
Papers and essays and powerful, and I still do them in other portions of the QUEST, but synthesis projects tie in multiple skills and content areas. Students not only demonstrate understanding of Arthurian Legends and critical reading, but also use writing, speaking, technology, and reflective skills. While not all of my synthesis projects are quite this detailed, this is a solid example of what a Synthesis project should be.
That's just one example of the "synthesis" stage. Check out the "trailer" I put together below. It contains clips from many of the videos I received this past school year and dare I say it, it actually makes me excited to winter and the return of the King (Arthur).
English Teacher | Instructional Technology Specialist | 2014-15 PBS Digital Innovator | Gamification Researcher | Marathon Runner | Ph.D RMU 2015