ClassXP will be a new way of displaying grades in the classroom that uses elements from popular video games to motivate and engage students. We are creating a dashboard accessible from any web enabled device for students that exchanges "grades" for "levels" and "XP". Each time a student completes an assignment / project / test / etc, they will earn XP towards their next Level, working towards mastery of each subject. Teachers will be able to easily assign points to students for the completion of these tasks, as well as create and give out achievement badges from their own simple to use dashboard.
What is Gamification?:
It is no secret that engaging and motivating students is a major obstacle in the classroom. Many of these same children who have trouble remaining engaged in the classroom go home after school and spend hours at a time glued to screens playing their favorite video games. Well designed games have the power to challenge and motivate players to relentlessly attempt tasks until they can complete any objective given to them. Good games promote growth by creating a safe environment to learn by failing. They also use a system of mastery based progression, and provide constant, real-time feedback and extensive data. A lot of these elements can already be found in everyday life in what is called “gamification,” the use of game elements and mechanics in non-game scenarios. Some examples of gamification, include:
- Achievement "badges"
- Achievement levels
- "Leader boards"
- Progress bars indicating how close users are to completing a task
- Virtual (or sometimes real) currency
- Systems for awarding, redeeming, trading, gifting, and exchanging points
- Challenges between users
These game mechanics are often applied to non-game applications and processes in order to engage and motivate users and encourage a particular behavior. This is seen in travel and credit card rewards, Foursquare badges, Nike+ achievements, Weight Watchers food points, and countless other places. Many of these elements that are designed to motivate users, however, are absent in the classroom.
In the past, I have worked with students in Hartford’s lowest performing elementary schools to increase their math and literacy skills assessed on state standardized tests and worked with middle and high school students in inner city after school programs. I constantly found that one of the best ways to connect with my students, regardless of age or gender, was through video games, and I started to incorporate games into my lessons. To help motivate students become more engaged in a writing prompt, I drew upon one of my favorite childhood video games. I played the soundtrack for the game and displayed a picture that I had drawn of the characters. I even included myself into the plot to help create a more immersive experience. As a result, I received essays of greater length and quality than usual. When I go back to visit those students, even years later, they still talk about that assignment.
Teachers using games in the classroom is nothing new. I remember playing Jeopardy! for quiz reviews, where we were split into groups and answer questions from a PowerPoint game board generated by the teacher. The teacher kept track of the points by each team, and the winning team was given a small reward, usually a few bonus points on the quiz. During my small group sessions tutoring math, I used a similar mechanism. I gave each student a whiteboard, and asked them to do various math problems. Each student would work on their problems individually, and would receive a point for each correct answer. I made sure not to make it a competition between students, but instead encouraged each student to break their personal best score each day. This method also provided immediate feedback to the students and allowed each student to work at their own pace on problems at their own skill level. Instead of having to wait to receive feedback the next day, my students were able to learn exactly what they were doing correctly and incorrectly, and practice the necessary changes.
I realized through these experiences that games and game elements are sometimes used in classrooms, but despite being powerful motivational tools, are not integrated into the curriculum or used to their full potential. This led to an idea to turn the school experience more into something found in the top selling commercial video games. I developed the idea into a dashboard for students to see their grades in a way that would display information in a similar way as a typical role playing game, with levels, experience points, and achievements. I took this idea to the Games, Learning and Society conference in Madison, Wisconsin to share it with game developers and educators. After realizing that this was not something that existed but was very well received, I decided to create it myself. Inspired by the research of game design and gamification experts like Lee Sheldon, Gabe Zichermann, Jane McGonigal, and James Paul Gee, I designed ClassXP.
The goal of this ClassXP is to promote and increase the engagement and motivation of students in the classroom. This will be accomplished by taking elements from video games and applying it to how we approach grades in education. Students will create their own avatar, and earn experience points (XP) as they progress through the school year. XP works in the same way normal grades would work in that it is earned by completing assignments and projects and doing well on quizzes and tests. The better students perform on these tasks, the more XP they earn, just as they would earn a higher grade in the standard grading system. This system encourages students to produce their best quality work. XP will be tied to traditional grades, and students will “level up” when they achieve the next highest grade. Teachers will also be able to create and give out achievements and badges for various accomplishments, such as having a perfect homework completion rate, or acing multiple tests in a row.
The software itself will be a new way of displaying grades, on an interactive and engaging dashboard that students will have access to at any time on any web enabled device. Teachers will be able to easily input the assignments for their lesson plans into a simple database and the scores that each student receives, and the software will output that information into the engaging dashboard. On each student’s page will be their customized avatar and a dashboard displaying all of the information relevant to their grades. The big difference from a traditional grading system is that this information will be displayed in a way that students are already used to seeing in their favorite games. Their page will list their current and completed assignments, as well as their progress (in the form of progress bars), which will be broken down by subject (ie. Math, Science, History, etc). Subjects will further be broken down into the curriculum’s units (ie. Environmental Issues, Persuasive Writing, 18th Century History, etc). Each assignment/project/test will be an opportunity for students to earn XP, which will feed into progress bars for units, subjects, and an overall student level. These levels will be out of 10 for each unit and subject. When a student reaches level 10, which would be equivalent to an “A” under a traditional grading system, it means that they have mastered that topic. These progress bars will continually fill up during the year, providing students with real time feedback, goal setting, and a sense of accomplishment in their work. Teachers will be encouraged to allow students to redo assignments so that students can earn more points and increase the quality of their work. Many additional features, such as a class vs. class competition system, multiple ways of displaying student data, and a fully customizable interface, will be added as we continue development.
The team behind ClassXP consists of myself, Kingtoi Ho, Josiah Hills, and Isabel Bedoya. I have spent the past 6 years working with youth in various capacities, including summer programs, after school programs, and in schools as a math and literacy tutor for state standardized testing. My educational background includes a Master’s in both Public Administration and Survey Research. Prior to forming Stellar Learning Innovations LLC, the company creating ClassXP, I started, and continue to run, the Little Eagles Football League, a nonprofit program that uses soccer as a motivational tool to promote education in Mali, Western Africa. I am currently employed as a Program Manager in the administrative offices of the largest regional educational district in CT, which includes giving professional development for teachers around using game mechanics to increase engagement and motivation in the classroom, and a biweekly podcast discussing the use of technology in education.
Kingtoi Ho is a computer programmer based in the Netherlands. His resume includes work on software and games in a variety of different programming languages. King has developed software for different platforms, including apps for iOS devices and web based services. King is developing the ClassXP software and will provide support and updates once ClassXP is complete and released.
Josiah Hills currently works as an educational technology specialist, but his resume includes being a high school science teacher, a department head, and working for the CT Department of Education as an educational technology specialist. I have brought Josiah into the project to help me develop the content side of the software to ensure that it is ideal for classroom use and easy for teachers to implement.
Isabel Bedoya is a graphic designer. After completing university in her native city of Lima, Peru, she has built an impressive portfolio of work for a large range of companies and organizations, doing everything from logo creation to illustration to web design. Isabel will be in charge of the graphics work for the software, largely around avatar creation and customization.
We have been in development for just 7 months, and we have already accomplished the creation of the basic software with the features outlined above funding solely out of pocket. However, we need your help getting across the finish line! There are still more features we would like to add before we are able to release fully to the public. Some of these features include a class vs. class and group vs. group competition system, multiple ways of displaying student data, a fully customizable interface, a parent portal to see how their students are doing, and a mobile/tablet app for even more accessibility. The money raised through this Kickstarter project will go towards creating these features for the launch of the software. Those of you who back us will be the first to have access to the ClassXP software.
Risks and challenges
We are highly motivated to meet our targeted timelines and develop great features for ClassXP. However, as with all software development, our project will take time to complete, and we can not anticipate all possible issues. We decided to wait until we were fairly far along this process before launching this Kickstarter so that we could be confident in our timeline. Your funding will help us strengthen our development cycle and improve our initial offering. Thank you for your support.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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