Over the years I’ve become a big advocate of Student Chiice in assignments. This means different things to different educators and this post is not intended as a dive into definitions and best practices of individualizations, personalizations, blended structures, or whatever your preferred term. For the sake of brevity, my working understanding of choice is similar to that of an open world mission based game; two great examples are the Grand Theft Auto series or the Disney Infinity Story Modes (wow those are the opposite extremes!). Essentially I offer students a buffet of curriculum and skills based activities during a unit. They must complete a minimum number of the activities in order to receive XP. In the past I have made a minimum number required before advancing’to the next ‘world’ (unit). This had the downside of encouraging ‘intentional non-learners’ to drag their feet with missions so they wouldn’t have to do more work. I began setting deadlines for missions which increased completion – which was a bit surprising since students could submit late and still earn full credit.
Next year I want to improve on the delivery of various missions to make them more gamelike. In the open world missions there are a variety of ways the player can earn a mission. Often there is a ‘main narrative path’ and then side missions and ongoing missions. My boys have been playing the Star Wars Disney Infinity games. In the first level of the original trilogy game Luke and the crew need to get off Tatooine (Luke’s home planet for you non-nerds). To do so they need to earn 2000 coins in order to pay Jabba the Hutt to let the Millineum Falcon out of the garage. (It doesn’t follow the movies). To advance this main narrative they can find any nimber of ‘agents’ that will give little missions to complete. My boys have put batteries in a Jawa sandcrawler, defeated Tuscan Raiders outside of Jabba’s palace and rounded up whomp rats for a barkeep. They can also just free explore the planet; my boys are enamored with the Sarlaac Pit for some reason. The point is that the player access missions in a variety of ways and based on the agent they receive a clue about the type of mission; the Jawas are going to deal with droids, Biggs Darklighter will have you race vehicles, and Jabba has you searching for rare treasure.
The last few years I have had a Google Site that has stored all of the assignments and activities. I want to add more interesting delivery tools though. Since my school has gone 1:1 most students stare at a screen all day and I’d like them to at least be able to change it up once and awhile – even if it is still tech based. Here are a few ideas I am kicking around.
- Tale Blazer – this app will allow me to create an augmented reality in around my school. Using GPS and clue codes this app creates a Pokémon Go style game right in the school. Students ‘bump’ into agents that can deliver an missiont, ask a question, or send them on. Lots of potential but requires learning the coding.
- Inklewriter/Twine – these similar programs allow choose your own adventure style stories using hyperlinks and other web based tools. Lots of potential for advancing a narrative along with allowing for meaningful student choices.
- ‘Catfishing’ Gmails – over the course of developing previous games I realized that I can create gmail addresses with different names and pictures. The students school gmail addresses accept my fictional account emails. Similar to receiving racing missions from Biggs, students can expect ‘tech based’ or ‘artsy’ based missions depending on which character is emailing them.
- Google Sites – keeping a traditional storehouse of a few missions and expanding options with these extra side missions.
- ‘Mailboxes’ in the classroom – this doesn’t have to be a literal mailbox. My narrative deals with underground historians so a bulletin board with missions that need to be done makes sense. Could also put narrative Easter eggs here.
- ‘Breakoutedu’ missions – no plans for this yet, but I like the idea of laying out clues based on the unit info. Students that can break the locks get a special top secret mission. Maybe some real world ‘public history vandalism’
These are the ideas I’ve been kicking around. Old love to hear what you all think. Email me or leave a suggestion in the comments.