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McDowell County teacher on Gamification success in the classroom after NCCAT course

Elaine Waters, a World History teacher at McDowell High School, recently took part from November 17-December 5, 2014, when NCCAT hosted an online program for North Carolina Public School teachers in the 3DGamelab environment. We appreciate Elaine sharing her experience. Thanks for this great work in North Carolina schools!

From a teaching perspective, using 3DGameLab and quests simplifies learning and assessing for me and motivates students to make choices that I want them to make, often without them realizing it. If I design and write a quest carefully with a specific objective in mind, I can camouflage the learning as something fun, eccentric or teen brain-oriented. For example, I want my students to have hands-on skills experiences to make learning personal and to help them make connections to history. When I posted my "You Spin Me Right Round, Baby!" quest about learning to hand-spin wool fleece into yarn with a drop spindle, I also posted a sound file of the 1984 sound of the same name. My kids immediately made connections to the song that was sampled by the rapper Flo Rida on his 2009 hit single "Right Round." Because of the title, the catchy song clip and the connection to a current rapper that they know and, of course, my terrible 80s dancing, they are working hard to finish the Required Quests (which build their history background knowledge) so that they can do the quest that they want to do. Sneaking in content through choice is encouraging learning and helping me know who needs more instruction or practice. I give them class time to work on quests, but I often have students start quests at school and then turn them in from home later that evening.

When students turn in quests, I can quickly respond to their answers, whether with approval or by returning the quest for polishing or clarification. My students have learned the hard way that to get their Experience Points (XP), they have to meet expectations. Laziness and apathy just don't cut it. Most of them have gotten better at using evidence from the text to support their answers and to defend their point of view, as well as the basics of writing better sentences. I return all quests that do not use capital letters, correct punctuation, complete thoughts and correct spelling. They are more willing to edit and resubmit to grab those XP points than they would be on a paper/pencil assignment.

I have found that, over the last 7 weeks of using 3DGameLab and quests, that 3DGL allows me to have a place for all of those "outside the box" eclectic things that I would love to teach my students but just cannot cover in a semester class. Art integration in History is very important to me, but is a huge time sucker and often is set aside due to time factors. Writing quests that are art-based that kids will choose to do on their own time still gives them those enriching opportunities that otherwise would not be possible. We love 3DGameLab and quest-based learning and hope to keep building a quest library to enrich learning and teaching for new "gamers" next semester!

Photo: Elaine with student during Gamers Smackdown during Digital Learning Week.

Click here for a link to Elaine Waters teacher page with more information.

Click here for more on Digital Learning courses with NCCAT Online. These courses will be hosted on the NCCAT Online Learning Portal and are open to North Carolina public or public charter school teachers at no cost to you or your school.

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