Category Archives: Assessment

Advanced XP Calculator

This version of the XP calculator is designed for larger numbers of students across multiple classes and teams. Version 3.0 currently accommodates up to 500 students. It also can work for smaller numbers of students but I might recommend the Basic XP Calculator if you only have one class to deal with.

Here is how to set up the Advanced XP Calculator…

Create a Google Form for XP input. There are only two questions on this form. The first question is “Name” or “Student”. I suggest a multiple choice or drop down question. Enter the students’ names as choices for this question. *NOTE- It is essential for these name choices to be exactly the same as the names in the ORANGE roster section of the calculator sheet for this system to work! The second question is “points” or “XP”. This is  just a short text input for the number of points you are awarding to the chosen student.

*Pro Tip- Bookmark your XP input form link on your mobile device so you can quickly access it and input XP on the go!

Setup the XP Calculator Sheet. First, Create the response spreadsheet associated with your Input Form.

Then, copy this Advanced XP Calculator sheet into your Response Spreadsheet. The easiest way is to just to use the tab dropdown menu and choose “copy to” and then select your Form Responses spreadsheet as the destination.

 

Manually add your roster information to the ORANGE roster area. The only necessary columns are the Name (which should be EXACTLY like the options for the Name on the form… In fact you might want to fill this out first and then copy and paste this roster into your Form as options) and the Avatar which will show up on the leaderboard (this can be exactly the same as the name if you want but it needs to be filled out if it is going to show up on the leaderboard.) The email column is experimental at this point, so skip it for now.

*Note- If you add a student to your class they will need to manually be added to both your google form AND the orange roster section on the calculator sheet. 

Publish the Results on a Website.  On your Form Responses Sheet, adjust your “sharing” settings so that this sheet is viewable “PUBLICLY ON THE WEB” If you do this correctly you will see a little globe icon in the blue share button“ If you do not share your sheet, your charts will not show on your website.

Set up a website. I like Google Sites for this because you can insert a chart from any Google Sheet with a few clicks. At the bottom of the insert sidebar, simply select “Chart” and choose your Response Sheet. It will display all available charts. If mine are not enough feel free to make your own charts from the data or just edit mine to suit your needs.  When you have inserted all of your charts make sure to “PUBLISH” your site and put a link to it somewhere easy for your students to access. Don’t forget to make sure it is available to everyone on the web so that there are no privacy barriers in place. If you do it right, your site should look like this.

And you are done! Now, every time you submit a form, it your website will update. Students may have to refresh the page to see the newest data, but that’s it! Here is a video tutorial if you need a bit more guidance.

I am constantly trying to improve this system, I welcome your thoughts and comments. If this works well for you please let me know on Twitter @ChrisHesselbein or by email at chris@insertcoin.org

Be careful! Leaderboards can be a tricky balance of fame and shame so you might want to read my article on 6 Tricks for Shameless Leaderboards. Remember that effective gamification is not about the points and leaderboards, it is about diversified learning.  Slapping some XP on a project does not effectively gamify a classroom.  However, points and levels can be powerful feedback tool in a properly gamified system. For more on how to gamify a classroom read my Insert Coin Series.

 

XP Calculator and Leaderboard Solutions

One of the key components of gamification is feedback. Games give players timely, if not instantaneous, feedback. The quicker the feedback cycle, the more effectively the player can adjust their strategy. To effectively gamify a classroom, it is crucial that teachers give feedback to every student in their classroom as quickly as possible. In other words, we need methods of collecting, processing and communicating large quantities of data, usually in the form of experience points (XP). This is where technology can give teachers an advantage.

A spreadsheet can quickly process data. But what about collecting and reporting? It is often time consuming and tedious to enter data directly into a spreadsheet and a teacher rarely has access to the sheet while they are circulating in the classroom. To remedy this, I have created several systems that will allow teachers to process data entered from a Google Form! Furthermore, those results can be published to a Google Site so that your students can stay up to date on their progress. Currently there are two versions which deliver the similar leaderboards yet offer different functionality and features.

First is the Basic XP Calculator(v2.1) which was originally designed for elementary classrooms with fewer students. The advantage of this simpler system is that it is slightly easier to set up and a teacher can also enter points for multiple students with each form submission. The disadvantage is that it can only accommodate up to 75 students. While it does include support for guilds or teams, it does not have as many features as the advanced version. I highly recommend this version if you have smaller class sizes. To learn how to set this one up please check out the Basic XP Calculator Tutorial

Next is the Advanced XP Calculator(v3.0) which is designed with upper grades and multiple classes in mind. This solution take a bit more setup and management but it currently can accommodate up to 500 students from different classes and or guilds/teams. If you don’t mind doing a bit of roster management, this solution might be right for you. If you are a high school teacher with multiple classes you might want to try this one out instead. Click here for the Advanced XP Calculator Tutorial.

I am constantly trying to improve this system, I welcome your thoughts and comments. If this works well for you please let me know on Twitter @ChrisHesselbein or contact me by email at chris@insertcoin.org

Although I am streamlining the leaderboard process, be careful! Leaderboards can be a tricky balance of fame and shame so you might want to read my article on 6 Tricks for Shameless Leaderboards. Remember that effective gamification is not about the points and leaderboards, it is about diversified learning.  Slapping some XP on a project does not effectively gamify a classroom.  However, points and levels can be powerful feedback tool in a properly gamified system. For more on how to gamify a classroom read my Insert Coin Series.

 

Basic XP Calculator

This is a tutorial on how to setup the Basic XP Calculator and Leaderboard. The idea is that a teacher can input student XP into a Google Form and automatically update a leaderboard on a Google Site. This basic version (v2.1) can currently handle up to 75 students and is best suited for elementary classrooms or smaller class sizes.  If you have a large number of students, you may want to try the Advanced XP Calculator system instead.

Here is how you set up the basic version, step by step…

Create a Google Form for the Input of Student XP

  1. Make a form where each question is the name of a student in your class. The question should be a simple text input. The question title should be whatever name you wish to appear on the leaderboard.
  1. For anonymity, you may wish to enter an avatar or ID number in the question title so that the real name does not show up in the public leaderboard. If you do this, you may want to enter the student’s real name in the description so you can easily reference them. Enable the description text on a question by using the three dots in the lower right hand corner of each question.
    This is an example of what your input form might look like
    .
  1. Finally, Click on the Responses tab and create a Form Responses Spreadsheet where all of your data will be stored. Then you are ready to set up the calculator.

*Pro Tip- Bookmark your XP input form link on your mobile device so you can quickly access it and input XP on the go!

Set up the XP Calculator and Leaderboard Sheet

  1. First, Click here for the XP Calculator and Leaderboard Spreadsheet v2.1. Look down at the tabs on the bottom. From the “XP Calculator” tab dropdown menu, select “copy to” and choose the Form Responses sheet created from your Google Form. The XP Calculator sheet will automatically pull the names and data (for up to 75 students) from your “Form Responses 1” tab. When data is entered, It will sum the XP of students, look up their level, rank them by XP, and even report on the status of their guild or team if you set it up to do so.
  1. To customize this sheet to your game, first edit the YELLOW section. This is where you determine the XP thresholds and given titles for each level. This section can be modified for whatever fits with your game. In the ORANGE section you may assign a guild or team to each student who shows up in the blue section. If a team is added, the calculator will give team scores as well as individual scores. If you do not want to use this feature, just leave it blank. Everything else is automated, so don’t mess with it! Your final sheet will probably look something like this.

Publish the Results on a Website.

  1. On your Form Responses Sheet, adjust your “sharing” settings so that this sheet is viewable “PUBLICLY ON THE WEB” If you do this correctly you will see a little globe icon in the blue share button“ If you do not share your sheet, your charts will not show on your website.
  1. Set up a website. I like Google Sites for this because you can insert a chart from any Google Sheet with a few clicks. At the bottom of the insert sidebar, simply select “Chart” and choose your Response Sheet. It will display all available charts. If mine are not enough feel free to make your own charts from the data or just edit mine to suit your needs.  When you have inserted all of your charts make sure to “PUBLISH” your site and put a link to it somewhere easy for your students to access. Don’t forget to make sure it is available to everyone on the web so that there are no privacy barriers in place. If you do it right, your site should look like this.

And you are done! Now, every time you submit a form, it your website will update. Students may have to refresh the page to see the newest data, but that’s it! If you need a run through here is a video tutorial.

I am constantly trying to improve this system, I welcome your thoughts and comments. If this works well for you please let me know on Twitter @ChrisHesselbein or by email at chris@insertcoin.org

Be careful! Leaderboards can be a tricky balance of fame and shame so you might want to read my article on 6 Tricks for Shameless Leaderboards. Remember that effective gamification is not about the points and leaderboards, it is about diversified learning.  Slapping some XP on a project does not effectively gamify a classroom.  However, points and levels can be powerful feedback tool in a properly gamified system. For more on how to gamify a classroom read my Insert Coin Series.

 

6 Tricks for Shameless Leaderboards

Leaderboards are a common fixture in a gamified learning environment. The argument for using leaderboards in a classroom is that they are a motivating way to give feedback to our learners.  Leaderboards motivate people by tapping into two primal constructs, fame and shame.funny-dog-picture-toilet-paper-shame The hope is that, when scores are publicly visible, learners will be motivated to climb to the top. For competitive, fame-seeking, achievement-oriented students, this is indeed what happens. However, the students on the bottom of the leaderboard are more likely to be discouraged by the public display of their ranking.  In rare situations, those students may be motivated to get out of the bottom ranks, but that motivator is shame. Shame is never the best way to encourage learning. So, are there ways to create less shameful leaderboards that still motivate learners? Here are a few suggestions.

Make them Optional- Mandatory participation in leaderboards is a sure fire way to create a shame dynamic. If you allow learners to opt into the leaderboard, they will be more likely to be motivated by their status, even if they are toward the bottom.  For those who opt out, the activity can still be mandatory even if the leaderboard participation is optional. Those not listed on the leaderboard can still check in on where they would fall if they were participating in the leaderboard.

Use Avatars- Using avatars instead of real names gives students a slight emotional separation that can lessen the sting of the leaderboard. An avatar can be as simple as a random identification number or as complex as an alter ego. The important thing is that an avatar grants a certain amount of anonymity to a possibly shaming situation. For more on avatars, see my previous post – 3 Dimensions of Educational Avatars.

Screen Shot 2014-04-12 at 12.42.48 PMMake them Cooperative- Instead of listing individual rankings, list the rankings of groups in the learning environment. This encourages everyone in the group to pull their weight without singling out any one participant. Also, create a collaborative goal for the class. This can help make the leaderboard less about individual achievement and more about top contribution to the group goal. It is a subtle difference but, if spun properly, this concept can be effective.

Display the Top Ten- This is nothing earth shattering, but displaying only the top of the group will give those competitive types the recognition they are fighting for while not publicly shaming those who are not on it. Of course, it doesn’t have to be the top ten. Maybe yours can go to eleven!4024541219_6c81dfe660_o

Display Growth- Even if you are only displaying the top ten, if those ranks are based on cumulative totals, there is a good chance that they will not change very often. Even students who are working very hard might not ever get listed on the top ten. Instead of displaying a cumulative score, why not display a growth score?  How about displaying points earned for the week or the weekly percentage increase? This gives credit to the students giving the most to their own learning even if they are not the top scorer in the class. Tap into fame for as many learners as often as you can.

Personalize- This is a very tricky proposal, but with the right technology we can get it done. Instead of showing everyone’s score in relation to the whole, how about displaying only the five directly above and below the student in question.  This would give them smaller goals for overtaking the person directly ahead of them. When you are in 13th place, all you care about is being in 12th.  Anyone want to try to get a system like this working? Let me know and let’s get a project going!

Make them Short Term- Leaderboards that persist over a long period of time have a tendency to stall out because those on top tend to stay at the top. The most exciting time for leaderboards is at the front end when everyone is very closely matched right out of the gate.  Making leaderboards have a shorter life span is more encouraging to all because everyone has a chance to start over from zero on a regular basis.

Which one is best for your classroom? Good news, Everyone! You do not need to choose any one particular trick. In fact, combining multiple strategies makes for an even better scenario.  How about an optional top ten leaderboard that displays team names?

Looking for an simple automated solution for a leaderboard using Google Forms and Sites? Check out this post on how to use my XP Calculator and Leaderboard.

Want to read more about Gamification? Check out the Insert Coin Series which details best practice for educational gamification.

 

5 Tips for Badging Done Right

Badging is becoming a hot topic with the rise of the Gamification trend.  Many educators see badges used in game based learning platforms and would like to harness the power of badging in their classroom.  Many educators have asked me about how to properly go about a creating a badging system. Since every classroom, project and learning culture is unique, I cannot provide a detailed step-by-step guide to this process. However, there seems to be a pattern in the more successful programs I have seen.

AdventureMap_B-300x1841. Diversify the Learning Environment-  Before a single badge is ever given, the learning environment must be diversified. By that I mean that the system must allow for multiple pathways to success. A great example of this is the adventure map from Playmaker School. Inversely, imagine a non diversified learning environment where there is only one way to prove proficiency. At the end of the process, all students would have the exact same badges in the exact same order. In this type of system, a badge would be no different than a checkmark. What makes a badge valuable is the unique nature of the accomplishment. The more unique a set of badges, the more ownership a student will take. Applying a badging system to a standardized learning environment is a cheap trick that will eventually sputter out. Diversify the learning first. You may even find that the diversified learning structure would be enough to motivate students, even without badges. Why not stop there? But if you must continue…

2. Make Badges Highly Visible- There is no best platform for badging. Choose a platform that your users are comfortable with and go to often. For badges to maintain their value, they need to be VISIBLE and seen often. In a face to face classroom, would an online system be the most effective location for badges? Will they be seen on a regular basis or does it require a side trip? Football players sometimes have badges on their helmets and Boy Scouts display them on their sashes at troop meetings. A good badging platform should easily integrate with your daily routine and not require a series of complicated steps in order to distribute and display the badges. The more effort expended on the badging process, the less energy there is for teaching and learning. It is not about the badges. It is about the work behind the badges.

3. Be Flexible- The greatest thing about badges is that you can create new badges anytime a student is creative enough to forge their own pathway. This may sound like a lot of work but it really takes the pressure off of the instructor to preemptively create badges for all possible scenarios! Teachers and students may collaboratively create the badges as they go, giving the students more ownership in their own process of learning. Don’t forget to badge as you see fit to reinforce positive, unexpected behavior in the classroom even if it is not directly related to learning outcomes. For example, a student might be awarded a badge for sharing, cooperating, or helping. Stay flexible and be ready to reward unexpected achievements and positive behavior.

4. Be Consistent- Once a badge is created, record the specific criteria for attaining that badge and reward it to others who also complete those objectives. Students care very much about fairness and if they perceive that the system is not fair, the badges will be devalued. Make badging requirements available to students upon inquiry. Also, be consistent in the rewarding schedule. Set up a badge distribution schedule so the learners can expect when to receive their badges. This also makes those spontaneous behavior badges, given out immediately, more special.

10842834543_806a895b68_z5. Celebrate!- Badges themselves are not incredibly motivating. Receiving a badge can be exciting in the short term, but the badge in itself is not an intrinsic motivator. The successful learning and work behind the badge is an even greater reward. But the most powerful motivation behind badging comes from the status that badges represent within the learning community. (For more on this, see my last post on The Paradox of Badging.) If the learning community does not celebrate the individual achievements of its members, the badges mean less. The most successful badging communities celebrate, on a regular basis, the unique accomplishments of their learners. They create frequent events where their badges can be displayed and revered as they connect with others to compare the uniqueness of their individual journeys.

Want to read more about Gamification? Check out the Insert Coin Series which details best practice for educational gamification.

 

The Paradox of Badging

What makes a badge valuable, desirable, or motivating?  It seems that the answer may be a bit counterintuitive. I propose that there is a “Badging Paradox” currently at work. When planning a badging system, leaders are focussing on the badges themselves when in fact the more a system focusses on the badge, the less valuable the badge becomes.  I see four levels at which badges accrue value. We will start with at the lowest level and work our way out.

The Award- The lowest level of value is that of the awarding of the badge itself. The instant the badge is awarded, there is a feeling of accomplishment. This moment can be slightly motivating for many reasons. Maybe the badge looks cool or it may cause interest from others at the time of the disbursement. It may also induce feelings of pride or catharsis. However, this is short lived and when the initial reactions dissipate, the badge is just a badge.

The Effort- Zooming out from the badge we see the work which the badge represents. The work and learning on the way to earning that badge is more valuable than the badge itself. Even without the badge, learners can take pride in their actions. If the work is not difficult or something to be proud of, the badge loses value for the recipient.

imagesThe Person- One level up, we see the badge as a smaller part of a whole. Although one badge may seem small when compared to the accumulation of all the other badges, every badge serves to reinforce every other as they create a visual panorama of acquired skill. Each piece of learning, each new skill, means more when you add it to the menagerie of talent that has been accumulated by each individual. The whole of this portfolio, just as with each person, amounts to more than just the sum of its parts.

The Community- The fourth level and the most important is what the badge represents within the community. The issuing institution sets the consistent requirements for attaining each badge. That means that everyone in the community understands and respects the work done by that learner. When the badge, and more importantly the badge collection, is displayed, there should be a shared sense of accomplishment. This is the level that most systems overlook. If the issuing community does not publicly recognize and celebrate the status and achievements of its participants, the badges lose a large portion of their potential value.

*Beyond?- Taking it one step further out, badges tend to lose value because, once you leave the community, the badges may not be looked at with the same reverence.  It is difficult to make our badges worthwhile in the realm beyond our specific badging communities. We can attempt to extend our community and create a larger unified badging culture like the Scouts program has done. Yet even in this organization, when a scout exits the program, the badges still tend to lose value in the greater community.  

Escher-WaterfallThe Paradox: Badging works not because learners receive badges. Badging motivates learners through what the badges represent: an award, effort, a person, and a community. The less focus we put on the badge, the more the badge means in the context of the community that values it. Earning a badge may be rewarding for some, but status in a community is highly motivating for all. Less motivating badging systems focus on the rewarding of the badges themselves. Truly effective badging systems focus on a culture and community of diverse learners.

Want to read more about Gamification? Check out the Insert Coin Series which details best practice for educational gamification.

A Botanical View of Badging

A flower is a beautiful thing to behold.  It is a plant’s visual attempt to get attention in order to further its propagation. The eye-catching nature attracts pollinators and other creatures that help the plant. It also catches the attention of humans who tend to rip the flower off of the plant in order to aid their own propagation. Yet, that flower would not exist if it weren’t for all of the smaller systems of the plant which causes it to grow and bloom: the roots, the leaves, the stem, etc. The whole system requires care and maintenance in order to culminate into that coveted blossom.  In general, humans have two behavioral relationships with flowers, Harvesters and Cultivators.

 Harvesters look at immediate value of the blossom. They consider what the flower is worth or could be used for in that moment. Maybe it could be exchanged for a smile from one’s mother, or perhaps it could be a “get out of jail free” card exchanged for one less night sleeping on the couch. Whatever the use, these harvested flowers, now separated from the systems which produced them,  quickly wilt along with their exchange value.

Knot_Garden_at_New_Place_-Stratford-upon-AvonCultivators take a different approach to the flower. They attend to the whole plant. They take responsibility for the entire system which creates the flower.  All of the work from tilling the soil to watering the seedling, to regulating the amount of sun, is considered and reflected in the final product. To the cultivators, flowers rarely have acute, immediate value. Instead they appreciate the general aesthetic they have created, not just with one flower, but with the cumulative beauty of the mosaic that now resides in their garden.

Badges are like flowers.

Some worry that the badges will be used as an extrinsic reward system, a cheap trick to get students to work harder. We have all seen simple reward systems that exchange the accomplishments of the participants for desired goods or experiences(pizza, recess, etc.). These systems are extrinsically motivating. I would argue that systems like this are not actually badging systems.  Attaining a goal to acquire a badge that can be exchanged for a prize is no more a badging system than winning tickets for playing skee-ball. The tickets are a currency. They have an exchange value but no indication of exactly what was done to get the tickets.  Even with a properly designed badging system, could the badges themselves be considered extrinsic motivators? Used improperly, as currency, they might be. An easy fix for this to to ensure that the badges have no exchange value.  The badge alone should never be able to be exchanged to get an extrinsic reward. If flowers had no exchange value, would we harvest them?

imagesMuch like a cultivated garden, a well designed badging system uses badges as a tool to visually represent the cumulative accomplishment of the learner. Just as flowers, badges should be displayed publicly. While each badge may be viewed individually, the true significance of the badges is amplified when viewed as a part of the larger mosaic of work. These symbols are never harvested from the garden because to do so would extract them from the meaningful system by which they came to be. A properly designed badging system focusses not on the badges themselves, but the underlying, often unseen effort that goes into the earning of the badge. When we use badging systems in our classrooms, lets create cultivators, not harvesters. Remember that the reward lies not in the flower itself, but in the garden.

Want to read more about Gamification? Check out the Insert Coin Series which details best practice for educational gamification.