In video game lingo an avatar is a graphical representation of the user but more importantly it also means the gamer’s alter-ego or character. I’ve argued before that teachers don’t really get to see their students; rather we interact with the school avatar of the student. Even in the closest student-teacher relationships the teacher only gets a small window into the full personality of the student. The converse is true though too. Teachers and students amplify the parts of their personalities and skill sets that are best for the classroom and tone down elements that are not beneficial. This does not mean that either the teachers or the students are insincere. If we think of this in terms of gamification it means that when people play the game of school they are taking on an alter-ego. If you buy into this argument then it becomes important to allow students to take on an avatar that best fits their personality and skill set.
Traditional schooling allows for a single avatar type. In terms of Player Type models, school is set up for “player” player types; this type is motivated by manipulating the rules of the games in order to gain as many points as possible. In creating my 2018-19 game I am attempting to create a Superhero vs. Super-villains narrative. In doing so I have identified 8 different types of superpowers each with unique powers that will allow students to “play my game” in different ways.
- Super Strength
- Super Speed
- Mind Control
- Flight and Power Absorption
- Super Detective
- Elemental Control
I will make additional posts to detail the specific powers of each type. Each avatar type will have a “common assessment” power, a “battle” power, and items that will be unique to their particular type. This is an expansion of my current avatar system which only had 6 avatars. The big twist that I am adding this year are two “meta-guilds” – the Sentinels and Hunters.
When students pick their avatar type they will also be able to select how they want to “power-up” their skills.
Sentinels will have selected the option to “charge” their power. As they complete assignments and complete side quests they will power up their skills to maximum levels. I think of this as a “Thanos” situation. The student-player will have to work to collect ‘charges” throughout the unit in order to maximize their power.
Hunters on the other hand are in more of a “Superman” situation. They have power and need to avoid losing their abilities. I use my “heart” system to accomplish this. Hunters will have 3 hearts for the entire semester and when they fail to complete a required assignment by the due date they will lose a heart. If we are thinking of Superman then this will be like adding some Kryptonite and taking away some power. If the student loses all 3 hearts then they will be powerless during the common assessments and battles. They will be given 3 of the Hunter’s Heart cards and will give me one each time they have a late submission.
Avatar Types will also be able to Level Up as part of their Battle Skills. A big part of the class will be different battles. During “enthralled skirmishes” (5 questions mini-quizzes), “Clashes” (end of unit battles between Sentinels and Hunters), and “Boss Fights” (end of semester Sentinel/Hunter team ups) each type will have different strengths and weaknesses. For example Super Strength heroes/villains will have really strong attacks and but will be the most vulnerable where as the Indestructible will be less strong but have a higher defensive rating. During the battles each student-player that gets a question correct will be able to roll a die or dice as their attack. The defensive rating will be the amount of hit points that each player starts the battle with. Here is my chart. Attack is the dice that the type gets to roll. For example a level 1 Super Speed type will roll a 4 sided die but a Level 1 Indestructible will be able to roll both the 10 sided and 6 sided die and add the two together.
Leveling up will be based on the XP amount. I have not set the XP levels yet, but generally 10,000XP is a great score for a single semester. Since I have students for 2 semesters I believe I will make 20,000XP a level 10. Since the levels are not tied to a grade I will (hopefully) figure out how to stagger these level gains so that levels 1 and 2 are easier than levels 9 and 10.
In addition to the Leveling Up, students can also increase in “Rank” through special Ranking Quests. I’ll write more about this in another post. Basically students need a minimum XP and can then go on a special Quest to demonstrate a basic skill. They also need to demonstrate basic content understanding through a 10 question skirmish. If they successfully defeat the content and skills portion they “rank up” and earn a new title. Their title depends on whether they are a Sentinel or Hunter. When I was thinking in terms of straight Hero/Villain the titles would have been:
However, I have changed away from the clear good/evil dynamic so will need new titles. The ranking system will stay the same though with 6 possible ranks. Students that rank up will get the following:
Over the next few posts I will go over the individual Avatar Types where I will discuss the various powers, upgrades, and items. I will also dive into my Battle Mechanics, onboarding and other half baked ideas!