What the students did in the multiplayer classroom

October 21, 2012 at 11:10 pm Leave a comment

The first obvious difference in the class was the students going to the class bulletin board the first thing they did when entering the room. They wanted to see how many XP they had and if they leveled up. Following Lee Sheldon’s schedule, I put in place 20 levels. The highest levels corresponded to an A, A-, B+, etc.

The class

In some ways the class wasn’t that different from other algebra classes. I taught, students did activities and homework assignments. They took quizzes (more of this later). But about every other day, sometimes for just 2 minutes, sometimes for 20 minutes, they were involved in a role-playing game. This made the levels meaningful as the students’ avatars got items and increased skills with each level. The items [little pieces of cardstock] were pirate-related like a telescope, jewels, or a blunderbuss. The skills were things like swordsmanship, swimming, carpentry, or lock-picking.

Why take class time for a game?

Two reasons. First it was an investment in student participation in the whole idea of assignments and quiz scores turning into leveling up. Second, and more importantly, it was an opportunity for the students to participate in math in context. For example, the students had to decipher the secret message about the Spanish ship they were searching for. One of the students choose an “Arabic manuscript” by Al-Kindi that explained frequency analysis. She took “Arabic” for her next skill when she leveled up and asked me what the “manuscript” meant. Her guild helped her assign probable letters and decipher the clue. My goal then and now was to blur the lines between a game and doing math.

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Last spring’s experiment Notes on the pirate game

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