Hi everyone and welcome to the effective teaching podcast. I'm your host, Dan. And today I'm joined by my special guest Lindsay Wesner all the way from South Africa. She's the founder or co-founder of purpleZA providing professional development for teachers all over South Africa and all over the world. Because I know I met her when she came over to Sydney in Australia and I met her at a Google conference. So thank you Lindsay for coming and joining me.
It's great to be here. Thanks for the opportunity to chat
Now, Lindsay, today you're gonna be chatting to us about gamification and how we could make this work in a positive way in our classroom. Can you start by just giving us a brief idea of what gamification really is for teaching and learning?
Sure. So I think most teachers will resonate with the fact that when we think about our students and games a lot of us struggle to kind of get the same measure of attention and the same measure of engagement that our students get when they play games, whether those be, you know, board games or computer games or sports games even. And so really the idea of, of gamification is applying the features that we have in games. Mostly looking at things like video game elements with the idea that we're applying that in a non-game context. And of course we wanna know why we would do that and why we would do that of course, is to up motivation and engagement. So it's much more than just the kind of incentives and rewards. It's really about the, the experience that users get of a game, right? So where they're experiencing autonomy, they're, they're experiencing upping their levels of competence. There is there's the social and the kind of connection element is how do we design an experience where our students are engaged in motivated using the elements of game themselves?
Yeah, I think you actually hit on a few really cool things there. Like you talked about the social elements there, you talked about the leveling up, which is kind of like as they're progressing in their learning. And then you also talked about the whole idea of autonomy built in there as well, which I think is, is fantastic. I think they're really key things generally for building in lifelong learning for our students, cuz you know, autonomy, I think is really, really important for that sense of, of lifelong learning that comes with schooling. I think, I think at the end of school, students should be off on a path for lifelong learning which is what this podcast is all about. So with gamification, how do you do that? So I can set stuff in my classroom where there's you some kind of competition that kids are gonna get rewards or something. But I feel like sometimes, sometimes that's not necessarily the best thing for the learning that happens because it just turns into a bit of a competition and they don't help each other and things become, you know, particularly like I deal with high schoolers and they just, they, they, they split really quick. So how can we do this in a way that's really gonna be helpful for our students to yeah. Do that social stuff, but also have that autonomy as they're progressing with their learning.
Yeah, exactly. I think so at purple today we call teachers learning architects because we really want to be focused on how do we design learning for our students. And I think that the role of a learning architect in gamifying learning or in gamifying lessons is essential. And I think it's really important to distinguish between competition and gamification, right? Because competition is one element of gamification. And if you think about what all great games have that actually makes gamification work, there are far more elements than competition. So for instance, I think you wanna think about a story, right? So games have got an engaging story. Jay, you've got some kind of hero or character that's going on a quest setting the scene with the scenario. The story is a really key foundation of, of gamification. So within games you have, of course got your characters, right?
So you are never quite your yourself. You are another character. So I think giving students the opportunity to take on another character, giving students an opportunity to pick their super power for instance those are things that help students shift their conceptualization of self because I think often our students label themselves and they're like, you know what? I'm not a math person. And so if in, you know, if in a male game I am the problem slay, then it gives them a chance to re conceptualize their their identity and also really important in addition to the the idea of leveling up is you wanna make sure that we emphasizing mastery, right? So in games you you don't die on the first time you fail at a task you've got repeated attempts to, to level up. You can always keep on going back.
You can, you know, win health points and you can buy, buy access to try things again. So mastery isn't always is always an option. And I think that's an important element of gamification that is really great for foundational learning is that ability to retry to engage again and to get assistance, you know, so I can, I can go and get this particular tool. I can get a hint card, I can get something that gives me just that little step that I need to get closer to answering the question or solving the problem. So balling in multiple opportunities for mastery is a really key element to gamification and the design of gamification, which often we don't get in traditional competition. You know, it's kind of, let's go through this race or if you're using, you know, an online cuing apple tool, right, that's over first, second, third place, and now we're done.
And actually when we're intentional about the design of mastery, I think it's a really powerful a powerful thing. And along with that, you wanna have really clear objectives, right? So I need to know what is required to win so that I can apply my problem solving skills so that I can, you know, kind of collaborate if that's, if that's part of the activity that I can investigate with a really clear goal in mind. I think that when I know I need to do this to get this many points or to get this bad or to get this next step and that those things are incremental that really makes gamified learning accessible for, for students. And then of course you wanna have your your visible progress, right? So generally in gamification, you've got some form of a leaderboard or a rank, which can, can actually not only serve to motivate and, and bring out the competitive element, but if you design it in such a way that actually the leaderboard is demonstrating skills or competencies that your students have, it can actually help you to remove it from being a teacher centered.
I am the only one who can help you with all of these tasks. And if I see, you know, Anna has got the assessment of angel badge, and I haven't quite managed to get that yet that I can then be encouraged to collaborate and connect. Connect in that way is is another way to, to flatten your kind of knowledge economy and, and engage your students in gamification in such a way that even if I am at the bottom of the liable Lord, I'm not being left out. And I think you also wanna think about your currencies, right? So what is it that you are rewarding? What are you, what are you incentivizing? What can I get points for? Is it only the speed at which I compete a task? Or can I get points for a creative strategy? Can I get points for asking for help? Can I points for for asking questions that the teacher hasn't thought about? Right. So what gamification does is it gives you an opportunity to kind of acknowledge and praise and incentivize more than a traditional assessment would,
If I go back to what you were saying too, before, when you were talking about students, see other students at different levels and having different badges and then them going and, you know, helping each other out and finding that out. I think that really replicates really well, the kind of stuff that happens in, you know, in games for our students. Anyway, if they're playing games, whether it be computer games or board games and stuff, if they get stuck places, they, and they know someone who has gotten past that, they always go and they, how did you do that? Explain how you did it. And the person doesn't necessarily do it. If they're not doing it for them, they just go, oh, I did this and I did this, I did this, you know. Oh, okay. And they go and try it and they'll try it again.
And they go, oh, I still got stuck here. And then they come in and they go, well, on that bit, you need to, you know, do this and this. And that's where, what gets you through. And they're like, oh, finally, it's all pieced together. And so that, that peer teaching really happens normally in a gamification setting. And I think the, with the way that you were talking about the leaderboard, having those different elements clear on it really allows students to go, well, actually, I don't have to go to the teacher and they're busy. This person's past where I'm up to. I can go and ask them to help me with the bits that I'm struggling with. Now, the other thing I find that teachers get worried about with gamification is they think a lot of it has to be technical. Like it has to be on a computer. It's gotta be this w band computer game. How else can we bring you if I'm in a, or that doesn't have computers, how do I do this? How do I make it gamified?
If you have a chalkboard, you have a leaderboard is what I would say in, in in summary. But really you can create a game without using any technology. If you've got a story, you've got tasks you can even gamify things like assessments. So I did this with my students when I was in the classroom, I changed all of the marks to XP points. So your traditional grade for a, a test, I would just add three, three zeros onto it. So you would now have 80,000 XP points if you got 80% for an assessment. Right. so there, there are, there are a lot of simple things that you can use terms of the principles of gamification to to make that happen. Of course, technology gives us opportunities for, you know, things like how we can provide feedback and, you know, discussion forums and things for the social connection.
But there is absolutely no reason why you can't turn a lesson into a game or a series of lessons into a game into a game at points with, with tasks, things like a breakout game where students are engaging in kind of puzzles and solving clues and and unlocking, you know, physical locks to get into something or get out of a room wherever there's a, wherever there's a challenge and there's a target and there's kind of incremental challenges. Those challenges could even be as simple as all right, guys, this is the, the same old worksheet or activity that we were doing. But now, because it's part of a story because you've got characters because you've got points because you've got a leaderboard, your objectives are clear. You really can actually transform any lesson if you are using the principles and thinking about the principles more than the technology itself.
Because ultimately it is about that fun, right? That interactivity, we want to bring the joy, that getting something right in a game brings to our lessons. You know, when you, when you, when you see that like, you know, fist pump like yeah. The little, the little victory, the victory dances, that's what you wanna create in your class, even things like making activities timed, not that everything should be timed. There is definitely a time and a place for things that need to be given time where students need to be able to come back. But, you know, a quick little challenge, can you and your team do this? All right, let's go make that a number of points. There's a lot that you can do to, to really make it tangible and practical without even using any technology at all, visible visible progress and visible rewards is also a great thing. So, you know, adding the critical thinker of the weak badge or your, you know, kind of communication champion those kinds of things, little titles, even little physical badges, or you get to wear the Cape, or you get to have that sticker on your desk, or you know, kind of making those things visible is another way that you can incorporate a ramification without any technology whatsoever
For the teacher who wants to get started with this, where, where do they begin? Do they start by developing out a story so that they've got some kind of system, if like, I, I don't know, like if I am I just doing a lesson, that's got a short story. Do I do a whole unit with longer stories? Where should I start?
I always think that starting small is is, is wise when it comes to, to teaching. You don't wanna, you don't wanna kind of rope your students with you in this long experiment. If you, if you're not confident yourself of course there's nothing wrong with failing in front of your students, but we also wanna be really intentional about learning design. I would say, take a unit of work, take a lesson, take something that is, that is small and concrete and experiment with that. Definitely you need a story. So some kind of tragedy has happened is a really great storyline, you know, we've lost the instructions for today's science lessons experiments, and we need you to figure out how we do this and you know, which, which team of scientists is gonna be the one to figure it out. Right? So it's, it's really creating that scenario, even if it's a fictitious scenario positioning them as kind of you're the heroes that we need for this particular for this particular challenge or this particular task, making clear what the goal is.
And then I would say, you know, kind of breaking it down into, even if it's just two or three challenges that are that's, that, that are standalone, that can be completed and deciding on how you're gonna allocate points to that and making sure that there is some kind of reward at the end of it. That is something that you could do in one, in one lesson. I think that once you have seen how your students respond, because of course each class is different, each student is different. Then we know how to start to differentiate what gamification looks like. And then you can look in more detail at those principles and see, okay, how can I give my students more choice in future, for instance, how I make the feedback more immediate, because that's another thing, you know, immediately in a game you've passed or you failed and, and you can move forward. So I think start with something simple, start with a story, start with clear objectives, two or three challenges and some kind of reward, and then you'll have enough lived experience to build on in future.
Beautiful, well, Lindsay, thank you so much for coming on and joining me today. Can you just tell people a little bit about where they can come and connect with you? Because I know you use gamification for all the professional development that you provide teachers and stuff, which I think is fantastic. Where can they go to connect with you?
So I am pretty much at lady Wener on all forms of social media in my personal capacity and then our professional development company where we have a gamified professional development platform for teachers, like you said, is at purple a EDU on all social media. So if you search for LadyWesner or PurpleEDU, you'll find us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, YouTube. We also have a YouTube channel where we have expresso cafe interviews with innovative teachers who are doing things like that. And if you have a look at our website, www.purpleza.co.za/Stories, you'll find actually some examples of teachers who are gamifying their lessons along with their resources and other great things like inquiry based learning, project based, learning design thinking. So some really great other teachers that you can connect with. If you're listening from anywhere else in the world, you can help into some south African teachers classrooms and see how they are rethinking teaching and learning design to help empower our students to be lifelong learners. And of course, understanding that as teachers, we have to be doing that ourselves and modeling that in terms of taking on our own professional growth and, and development, as much as we want our students to be hungry for knowledge. So we need to do that too.