A good friend of mine, knowing my affinity for educational technology and gaming, sent me a link to this amazing story about a teacher who turned his sixth grade class into an MMO termed “Classrealm.” I have written about learning as a “game” in my article, “Learning is an Epic Win – Jane McGonigal.” The idea of applying concepts of game theory to learning is not entirely new, but its application has been challenging and problematic. This article on Kataku highlights how a passionate teacher did just that by creating an RPG/MMO element game in his classroom titled “Classrealm.” The rules of Classrealm were as follows:
1. ClassRealm is completely voluntary. If you don’t want to participate you don’t have to.
2. XP is the backbone of ClassRealm. Every 10 XP you earn pushes you to the next level. Every one starts at level 1.
3. XP can be obtained by doing simple things such as:
• Answering questions
• Joining in class discussion
• Working hard on an assignment
• Helping others
• Participation in general
• Random Encounter Friday (explained below)
• Gaining achievements (explained below)
4. Achievements are gained by completing specific tasks. For example: a student can obtain the “Bookworm” achievement by reading two unassigned chapter books and explaining the plot and characters to me.
5. Each achievement has four levels — bronze, silver, gold, and master. Each level is harder to reach than the one below it.
6. Boys are pitted against girls. The gender that can acquire the most achievements by the end of the year will win extra recess and an ice cream party during lunch.
7. Each Friday will be Random Encounter Friday. Every one who wants to battle will put their name in a hat. I will draw out two names and they will battle. Students will be asked a question. I will repeat the question twice and then start battle music. The first to write the correct answer on the board and put their hands up will win XP. You can only answer once. Question subjects are chosen at random.
8. Students may join in alliances of up to six ClassRealm citizens. The alliance with the highest combined level at the end of the year wins a pizza party.
9. All info, except for the current amount of XP each student has, will be listed online and in the classroom for students and parents to see.
During the one week experiment, Ben Bertoli (the teacher) highlighted the rapid change in attitude experienced by his students.
“I had students I never heard from volunteering to answer questions they didn’t even know the answer to. Students who normally wouldn’t even care were going out of their way to get XP from class participation. Every one of my students pushed themselves to focus during the day’s assignments and behave. One student, who earned a bronze level achievement, was even applauded by the entire class. It blew my mind.” – Ben Bertoli
While the experiment lasted only one week (long-term application has not yet been explored), it demonstrates how game theory can be effectively applied in a classroom environment, promoting enthusiasm, excitement, good behavior, cooperation, and thinking outside of the traditional box of education. To learn more about this experience, see the article in Kotaku: “How One Teacher Turned Sixth Grade into an MMO” and “Ben Bertoli’s ClassRealm is Gamifying the Classroom” in Wired.