ClassCraft: The future of class activities

I have recently learned a new word: Gamification. Gamification stands for the use of game design elements in non-game contexts. Seeing this word made me think about the academic usage of video games. As a huge fan of games myself, I decided to plunge my hands in a new software called ClassCraft.

Like I’ve said in my other articles, my cooperative teacher uses Iphones in his class. I was impressed to see how glad students were to be able to use mobile devices in the classroom. If you have been in a high school in 2015, you probably haven’t seen any students who were not using cellphones or Ipods. It has become a major trend. What can we do with it? Can we stop it? My answer is no. What we can do is use it to our advantage as teachers. In 2013, Shawn Young came up with a brilliant idea: create an online application that allows teachers to use electronical devices in class without changing their class plan. This idea holds the name of ClassCraft, which ressembles to popular games like World of Warcraft, StarCraft and Minecraft. ClassCraft is a free application (it is free to use, but you must pay to be able to use the application on mobile devices) that creates a stimulating class experience, different from what students are used to.

Each student must choose between three specific classes: the Mage, the Warrior and the Healer. Each class holds different roles and abilities established by the teacher, which are great to reach different types of student. Students are grouped in teams that are called  »Guilds ». The teacher holds the role of  »Game Master ». He/She can give experience points to guilds and decides what tasks the teams must complete. The students’ characters have HP, which stands for Health Points. When tasks are handed late or not completed, the Game Master can remove HP. Once their HP reach 0, the teacher must penalize the ineffective students. This is a good way to motivate students to stay on task.

PROS

  • ClassCraft is incredibly easy to use. There is no downloading or installing process. The only thing that ClassCraft requires is a laptop and a projector (or a Smartboard) for the Game Master to use. Students can work on computers and laptops.
  • The application stimulates teamwork and group sharing. While students can receive experience points for their own character, their guild also receives points. Each student feels responsible for the development of their team. Shawn Young said:  »Success is an individual thing in our society, which is a bit bad for education […] You work better working in teams. »
  • Effective students and guilds can be rewarded with in class rewards, such as arriving late to the class or being able to listen to music during a certain period of time. All the rewards are decided by the Game Master and must be adapted to the school rules.
  • The variety of powers given to each character class (Warrior, Mage and Healer) are free to change from a class to another. Each student will find something interesting in at least one character.
  • While the application is great for English teaching, it is useful for a bunch of other class. For instance, Stephanie Carmichael used ClassCraft in physics class.
  • Awards can be given from outside classroom activities. For example, the Game Master may give experience points to students who are involved in school committies. This is another excellent way to motivate students to work harder.
  • ClassCraft does not require teachers to change their class plans or their teaching methods. Homework, tests and feedback can all be posted on the ClassCraft main page. Joshua Ducharme mentions:  »I can’t tell you how many times my students were discussing among themselves about not forgetting their homework, studying for tests, and going the extra mile to complete some challenges that I created for them to earn extra XP. Teachers can still use their class books and regular homework to evaluate students. The only difference is that feedback is now given through ClassCraft.

CONS

  • Caryn Swark says that ClassCraft is a big time investement up front, and if it is not properly modified and framed it could be more punitive than supportive. This means a lot for teachers who are not willing to prepare in advance the ClassCraft activity. It does require a lot of time and a lot of extra work from teachers.
  • The fantasy-themed application can be a major turn off for students. In my practicum with secondary 4 students, I know the students who would like to use ClassCraft. However, I know a lot of students who would think it is childish and not suited for their interests
  • While the application is free and includes a demo for teachers to use in their class, the game operates on a freemium model, with several important features including mobile access and character customization locked behind a paywall.
  • Teamwork can be difficult to manage for teachers. Shy students might be criticized for not participating enough. Students can develop conflicts amongst their own guild and it becomes even harder for the teacher to handle the problem.
  • The gifts awarded to effective students can develop jealousy in the class. Some rewards, like leaving the class earlier or being able to receive a specific answer to a test, will make other students angry. These rewards can also be abused by some students.

ESL Applications

Overall, while doing the pros and cons, I realize that ClassCraft is highly effective in English classes. With 7 pros against 5 cons, ClassCraft comes in handy for teachers using ICTs in their classroom. Giving homework and tasks does not become easier, but it becomes funnier for students to complete their homework. It is difficult for the teacher to manage the application, but students are more inclined to work effectively due to peer pressure. Instead of feeling bad for receiving a  »C » grade on their last test, students will be happier to see that they have received less experience than the mage in the other guild. This evaluation system develops a strong sense of teamwork. Weaker students are going to feel bad for not doing enough work, since their guild will fall behind the other guilds. Meanwhile, it also encourage competition in the class. To a certain measure, competition can help students push their limits. If a student wants to be the best warrior in the class, it is crucial for this student to prove that he/she can do what it takes to earn experience points, for instance participating in outside classroom activities or helping other guilds in the classroom. While some students will be bothered by the competition in the class, I think it is a great way to motivate them to work effectively. If the application can become free of any charge in the future, I certainly think it will positively change teaching methods.

The best way to see if it works is to try it out!

Here is a tutorial on how to work with Classcraft

For those of you interested in going the extra mile (paying for the application), here is a great Screencast of what ClassCraft looks like on mobile devices

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