In trying to differentiate as well as move class time from rote memorization to more active critical thinking activities I have actively been trying to “Flip” my classroom. There are several issues with Flipping (equity and access big factors) but I have noticed that engagement over time is a big weakness. It is unlikely that you’d be reading this and not know what a Flipped Classroom is, but just in case, Flipping a class means that the teacher assigns a recorded lecture or other digital material for content acquisition (think simple note-taking) which the students must complete outside of class time. Students come into class with the base level content information so the teacher can focus on higher order skills. This is an effort to move the teacher from the “Sage-on-a-Stage” mode to a “Guide-on-the-Side” mode. In theory this makes a lot of sense, but in practice I’ve found that students are not all that willing to engage with the dull work of base level note taking.
This year I began the first semester by incorporating a narrative device (this will get its own post!) to increase engagement. In my first semester American History class we need to cover 4 standards from Colonial America through the late 1800s Progressive Era. The narrative device was pretty effective for the first set of recordings -I had nearly an 80% completion rate on the due date which was way up from previous years.Students are down to a 65-70% completion rate for Standard 3 though. There are a number of possible reasons for this but I am getting the impression that the novelty is wearing off, so I will reach into my Game-Inspired Design toolbox and attempt to boost completion.
I’ve designed a simple Badging system and paired it with a 2 reward elements. In this standard there are 4 recordings that must be completed and a small project called a “public history mission”. As students complete the work they will receive a piece of the badge. The badges are printed on stickers and the students will have to display their badge pieces on their school laptops. In gamification thinking, “Status” is a powerful motivator and is the most powerful (and cheapest) reward a student can receive. Displaying the accomplishment of a completed Standard 4 badge should be a reward in itself. Earning the badge might have some value but the effect is dampened if there is no public display of the badge and the accomplishment it signifies. If the student completes the badge he or she will also receive a choice of several “Power Cards”. This card will give them some power unavailable to other students. For example, the student can wear headphones for a day or get a second chance on a test they bombed. Using these “SAPS” (status, access, power, and stuff) rewards should increase the completion rate which in turn should help the students be more effective in their critical thinking activities and district mandated common assessment exams.