GBL n00b

Jedi badges

Games-based learning (GBL) n00b – that’s me!!!

I’m proud to say that I am a n00b because it actually means I’m trying it out. There’s only so much theory one can take because in such matters, the best way to learn is to dive right in.

My year 9 Information Systems and Technology (IST) topic is Digital Media. I know most students typically engage in digital media everyday in some shape or form. I also know that given the chance to create digital media, most students enjoy it. From past experiences, I also know that students don’t often give much thought to purposeful design as they enjoy creating more.

Game-plan (my bigG)

In junior Technology subjects (like IST), we use a very simple Design Cycle of: Design, Produce, Evaluate.  I tried to fit the course outcomes according to this design cycle, matching it with the Jedi ranks so students can level up from initiates to Padawan (Design), Knight (Produce) and Master (Evaluate).  I think it fits rather well such that as learning deepens, students do level up.

Text-based digital media is the simplest so I made it a compulsory start so students experience what is expected to level up. After this, they are free to choose any of the other digital media types (audio, image, animation, video). They are all keen to move on as I said they can create machinimas (how lucky am I to have a class of gamers to be a GBL-n00b in?).


Edmodo is my friend! It has given me a platform to assign work (and annotate/give feedback online – woohoo), award badges and insight into class dynamics. I love that the class is using Edmodo like facebook (they said so themselves), seemingly oblivious to the fact that I’m there. So far, nothing inappropriate has been posted.

I created these student accounts using randomly generated Jedi names and their first names as Surnames. I prefer this than them renaming their usual Edmodo accounts. I wonder if Edmodo will get cross with me….oopsie.


Students were not levelling up quick enough to sustain initial motivation generated by the idea of badges. XP points to the rescue thanks to Classdojo (how lucky am I that student logins came out on the eve of introducing it to my class?).

Looking at the positive and negative behaviours as a class was a good way to communicate my expectations, not just about behaviour per se but the quality of the work they turn in. That is, if they are showing creativity and good thinking in their submitted work, they gain +XP. A few days in, they are indicating some thinking about their own behaviours by suggesting certain actions merit +XP, including exceeding expectations (one of the positive behaviours). I think here is an example of extrinsic motivation seeping into intrinsic mode. Classdojo has made much easier to track – and publish – XP.

But are they learning? Am I teaching?

Submitted work and work in class would certainly suggest so. There is still an incredible urge to create and bypass design and theory so I remind them regularly – these are essential to levelling up.  Students are challenged by each other and by me.  Feedback is constant. I am not teaching in a traditional style yet I feel more attuned to my students – their interests, abilities and understanding of the topic.

Look at their notebooks and there is nothing. By the time we’re done, they would have created Digital Media rather than read or write about it. Is that teaching? Is that learning?

I’m not going to lie – they do disengage sometimes and I bring them back. At first I seriously doubted my approach. But then, how sure are we really that kids are 100% engaged, 100% of the time. Is that even a realistic expectation?

I’m a GBL-n00b and proud of it. This is just the beginning.

Full Disclosure

I am not their real teacher – I’m filling in for four weeks. I took a punt designing a GBL unit with students I’ve never met. It is evolving as I get to know them more and as they come to trust me and my “unusual” approach.  The work students are doing is not graded and likely will never show up in their reports. And yet, they do the work….with enthusiasm….and increasingly better quality.

I am happy….and tired.

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9 thoughts on “GBL n00b

  1. Kalen says:

    Hi Malyn – Kalen from ClassDojo here. Thanks so much for the great blog post. So happy to hear the students are starting to self-reflect on their choices and building stronger learning habits 🙂

    If anyone who comes across this post has any questions about ClassDojo or needs help getting setup, please don’t hesitate to reach out – 🙂

    • malyn says:

      Thank you Kalen.

      I showed this post to our Computing Department and they loved the idea. In fact, the teacher who teaches the other 9IST class signed up to Classdojo right there and then.

      Having classdojo certainly spiced up the whole GBL thing and helped create an environment for better learning AND better quality products. I should probably write a post on that, i.e. ClassDojo is not just for classroom management – it can be a tool to help communicate expectations for other things including quality of work, thinking skills, etc.

      Thanks for dropping by.

  2. Jeannette James says:

    Fantastic that you are giving GBL a whirl! What I especially love is your commitment to establishing a diverse range of learning experiences for yout “troops”. I am sure they are learning! I would love to be in this class 🙂

    • malyn says:

      It is wonderful to be able to try a diverse range of learning experiences. It lends credence to what I’ve been saying all along, diversity in approaches make both teaching AND learning interesting.

      I love that I am in this class. Feel free to drop in if you’re ever free when we’re on.

      Thanks for dropping by.

  3. Carl Heise says:

    Yes. I like, in addition to above comments the LMS, really makes a difference. The interface, I think, pushes it over the top in terms of the feel of it being immersion. In terms of the project I am working on, am hoping for something that feels like Scott Pilgrim VS the World (think the Manga, not the movie, but movie is okay). BUT we are starting small.

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