ClassCraft and My Quest for Student Engagement
I like to stay abreast of new technologies, and gamification is an aspect I have wanted to integrate into my English Second Language classes for some time now. I am not a gamer but I have lived with gamers so I am very familiar with the allure of the very popular Massive Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games (MMORPGs). Like many teachers I dream of seeing my students as attracted to, interested in, and excited about their ESL class content as I am. Unfortunately, most games I came across and could integrate into my planning fell short of my needs or were difficult to adapt to the ESL classroom. Then I discovered Classcraft!
ClassCraft was created by a Teacher from Quebec (extra health points for Canadian content already!) and is inspired by Massive Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games (MMORPG) where a multitude of gamers congregate in a fantasy world to complete various quests. In MMORPGs, players confront enemies and cooperate on quests in real-time, in an on-line gaming environment. In ClassCraft, students design their own characters by choosing an avatar and can choose from different classes of characters such as healers, mages or warriors.
To pique my students’ interest before integrating the game I had them choose an avatar with a promise that all would be clear in our next class. For my group, I ensured that each team of three was composed of a mage, a warrior and a healer.
Each of these character classes have particular strengths and weaknesses that contribute to the success or failure of a party during their quests. The students soon learn the importance of helping each other during various quests, as they can suffer real-world penalties, like losing health points/experience points (read grades) when assignments are not submitted on time.
An example of an avatar
ClassCraft’s Impact on Planning
ClassCraft didn’t detract from my course or the material at all. Class prep was minimally affected, with an additional 5 minutes of planning tacked on to each class. The classes are easily set up and all rules are customized. All of my assignments were integrated into ClassCraft as a quest, though I was disappointed that I didn’t have too much time to develop really creative quests. Also, I didn’t use all the potential possibilities in the game, and by opting to use the free version, there were a limited set of functionalities available to me. The students, however, appreciated the daily random quest generated at the beginning of each class and the fact that they had access to our class quests (assignments) on their mobile devices. For teachers, ClassCraft also offers analytics for you to track the progress of your students.
Sample assignment post
At the end of the experiment, I asked my students what they thought of using ClassCraft. One student stated quite matter-of-factly that all the teachers should be using ClassCraft! Even those students who were somewhat skeptical of games and gaming in the beginning fully enjoyed the experience, particularly the collaborative team aspect and the friendly competition between each of the triads. Since we were using the free version of ClassCraft, this meant that both I and my students were not able to use some of the more interesting optional functionality in ClassCraft. Many of the students stated that they would be ready to pay the $5 premium charge to have access to the additional functionality.
For Teachers Who Want to Try Classcraft
One of the downsides to using ClassCraft is that you are less involved in the interaction between students, as they generally download the ClassCraft app to their smart phone and work on their quests directly. Once you have created your quests, you don’t really see the students working away, but you do feel the enthusiasm which translates into students keeping up with their work, not to mention they tend to meet their deadlines more than before.
My advice for Teachers that want to try out ClassCraft is to go and explore the ClassCraft website. The company has a Facebook page, and you can create a free account on ClassCraft. You could also download the mobile app if you like. ClassCraft’s website has extensive documentation for download in PDF format to bring you up to speed on things like experience points (XP) and the difference between a Mage and a Healer. The following promotional video is also a good start!
Classcraft Promotional Video
It can all be a bit humbling when you are not a gamer even though you live with some. Fortunately there are also very awesome ClassCraft Ambassadors who share how they are using the technology in their classrooms. My first experience using ClassCraft was very positive. I’ll be using it again, but will spend some time to re-read the manuals for the software to memorize the rules to ensure that I using the tool to its full potential. And I want to make sure that I properly understand the difference between XP and HP!
As educators, we are often expected to maintain a certain decorum and be serious, but ClassCraft blurs the lines between education and entertainment. I would like to hear from other teachers on whether or not they think it is okay for students to have fun while they are studying at the college level. Please comment below to let me know how you feel about this!