Online gaming has made the world much more exciting almost everywhere except in the classroom. While we now have access to computers and even tablets that feature all kinds of educational games, teachers still use old-fashioned incentives to encourage students. Sure you can get some extra credit by spending copious amounts of time doing challenging problems, but it's not fun and more importantly, cannot be achieved by students that find the subject challenging.
These are some of the things Shawn Young an 11th grade physics teacher at Quebec's Le Salésien High School was pondering over, when he hit upon the brilliant idea of creating 'The World Of Classcraft', a video game built to encourage and motivate students. Inspired by 'The World of Warcraft', it involves allowing students to view their schoolwork as an exciting immersive adventure in which they all play an important role.
To play the game, students first have to pick a 'role' or 'class' from one of three choices - Warriors, Mages and Healers. Each is represented by a special avatar and outlines what students need to do to earn points that translate into real-life 'powers'. For example, mages are incentivised with good grades making them attractive to stronger students, while healers favor those that are good team players making them a popular choice with kids that like to socialize.
Teacher then divide the students into groups of five or six. By mixing students playing different 'roles' the educator can form teams that are strong both academically and socially.
The groups spend the rest of the year working as a team - Each role player has the ability to earn 'powers' like being able to eat in class, getting extra time or being allowed to bring notes during tests. If students continue doing poorly or disrupt and bully others, they lose points and face 'death', which could translate to horrible consequences like a Saturday morning detention. What's even worse is that the 'powers' are not gained or lost individually, but as a team, which means that kids that misbehave hurt the entire group.
Classcraft is not designed to interfere with the curriculum, which means that it can be used by any teacher for any subject. Also, the 'powers' can be achieved for good grades, teamwork, punctuality and a variety of other things, making it possible for everyone to get some.
Educators can also customize the game by awarding 'powers' for traits they consider important. To ensure that students are always alert, Shawn has added in over 100 random events, any one of which can be sprung upon students at any time. Some are beneficial, others dangerous and a few, just plain goofy to bring some levity into otherwise dry topics like physics. The most important lesson that students soon learn is that in order to win World of Classcraft, they have to function as a team, which according to Shawn is the most important life lesson kids can learn.
Shawn who designed the game and launched the Classcraft Website about a year ago, says that he has seen tremendous benefits. One of the biggest is that students are no longer afraid to take physics because they know they don't have to be the smartest in the class to be able to excel. Beyond that, they are more engaged and seem to work harder not because they are afraid of failing, but because they don't wish to 'die' and and let down their team, which they start to regard as an extension of themselves.
The easy-to-play game is available (free until the end of the year) to any teacher that has a laptop and projector at his/her disposal. Shawn says it is simple to implement even for the least tech savvy educator. The fact that it is already being used by thousands of teachers in over 30 countries is probably the best testament to that!