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Teacher Feature: Turning Learning into a Game

For students in Dennis Reagle’s science courses, going to class is a game. Literally.

Shaler Area Middle School teacher Mr. Reagle uses Classcraft, a classroom management tool that turns the classroom into a role-playing game.

Students choose from three character options at the beginning of the year: a healer, warrior or mage. Each character comes with its own set of unique abilities, which students can use to their advantage as they complete class assignments. Students and their characters are grouped into teams that must work together and utilize each character’s abilities for the benefit of the entire team.

Each character functions through health, action and experience points. The choices students make during the course of the science class can affect those points. For example, if a student doesn’t turn in a homework assignment by the deadline, his character loses health points – if a character runs out of health points, the computer assigns a random classroom consequence. On the other hand, if a student performs well on a quiz or chooses to complete a more difficult version of a task, they earn experience points. The more experience points, the more abilities the character is able to use.

“I feel you’re interacting more and want to interact more because there are rewards for participating in class,” said eighth-grader Emily Peterson. “The more you succeed in class, the more experience points you can get to level up your character.”

The Project ACE 1:1 iPad Initiative allows Mr. Reagle to implement a “flipped classroom” model and better utilize Classcraft. Because each student is given a District-issued iPad mini device, the students are able to view short video lessons on topics at home, which makes in-class time available to complete projects, labs and group discussions.

Mr. Reagle’s classroom has always utilized a rewards system, but he first “gamified” his classroom 6 years ago when he gave students the curriculum in treasure map form. The map provided various pathways of activities that all resulted in the same mastery of the concepts. Students had the flexibility to choose the routes that contained the lessons & projects that interested them the most. This method did require a great deal of record keeping, but the introduction of the iPads to Shaler Area gave Mr. Reagle the option to implement Classcraft into his design, which now manages much of the data for him.

Mr. Reagle has found that using Classcraft has created more peer engagement, increased cooperative learning, and gives the students a platform where they can practice important life skills like budgeting and planning ahead.

“I see a lot more buy-in to what we’re doing in class,” Mr. Reagle said. "The kids genuinely seem to care about their character. It gives them more to work for than a grade.”

Shaler Area teacher transforms curriculum into mock video game
TribLIVE | Local article Dec. 26, 2016