Bosses, Plickers, and New Testing: A Half-Baked Planning Post

I was introduced to Plickers several years ago and, at the time, didn’t really grasp the potential that they might hold. If you don’t know, Plickers are a mash up of high tech and low tech that allows for real time student assessment. Basically, every student is given a “Plickers Card” that has a unique QR code with each side labeled A, B, C, or D. These are physical cards that are the size of a half or full sheet of paper. The teacher asks a question using the Plickers website which is projected in the classroom. Here is where it gets interesting. The students answer the question by holding up their QR code. The teacher scans the room using the Plickers App (Apple or Android) on their Phone or other connected mobile device. The student’s answer is dependent on which side of the QR code is on the top of the Plickers Card.

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The system has a bit of a learning curve. Questions have to be preloaded into a library and then added to each class from the library. One downside is that quizzes and such cannot be saved for later use (at least not directly). Questions are then selected from the mobile device and then displayed on the projection. After a few tries it feels natural but it is not the most intuitive design. Play around with it though and you will get the hang of it.

Here is why I am really interested in Plickers. The QR codes can be linked to individual student data AND there are reports. Why am I so excited about this? Well, if we can track student data and then have a paper back up, why can’t this tool be used to mash together required assessments and gamified engagement?!

I have been using my DreadSheets Boss Fights as a review tool that leads into my required district level exams. At this point I have had students working in small groups to answer questions and attack the boss. With Plickers though, EACH student can give an answer to a question presented on the board. Since each Plicker QR code looks different and the answer letters on the sides are small (8-10 point font I would guess) cheating is fairly difficult. I am sure some students will try but they would be trying to cheat in a traditional setting anyways.

I have already been working on modifying the DreadSheets to incorporate individual student entries (more on this soon). I have access to the required assessments prior to giving them so it would not be difficult to load the questions into the Plickers software. They are district level assessments and not subjected to the same level of test security and legal complications that a state level End of Course Exam would entail. If necessary I can print off individual student results and the students can use that to enter their answers into the district web-based testing website. Using the reports I can check to make sure that they entered in the scores correctly.

This would potentially turn the typically boring and dreaded “TEST DAY” into an exciting climactic event. The individual student’s correct answers would determine attacks based on dice rolls. The more correct answers the more dice rolls and more hits on the other team or Boss. This would bring some Social Motivation to play as each students’ individual success help improve the overall team’s success. The program will have to hide each student’s rolls from each other player though to prevent any potential FERPA violations (need to think more on this). Since the Battles and Boss Fights would have items and special abilities there is more for Free Spirits (playing with the mechanics), Socializers/Philanthropists (helping or interacting with other students), and Disruptor/Griefers (acting on other players). Typically tests are structured to hit the motivations of Player types (collecting points) and maybe Achievers (mastery motivation). One concern is a student that gets too emotionally invested in the game and whose judgement is clouded with adrenaline, anger, or frustration. To be fair, these are issues in a normal testing day situation. Another issue might be the expectation of a reward. I will need to think more on this.

Overall, I need to play test this concept a bit more but I am really excited about this idea. Its a bit half-baked at this point but it would mash perfectly with the “Clash” concept (team’s battling each other) I am developing to go along with my new narrative (again more to come).

As always, any thoughts or suggestions would be greatly appreciated as I polish up this very raw concept.

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