(This is a post I started at the beginning of September but am just getting back to in our 3rd week of Hurricane leave)
Friday started the process through which my students would select their Avatar types for my classroom. For those interest an overview of the Avatars can be found here – Super Avatar Types Overview. As students began selecting their Superpowers they were also selecting the method by which those powers would be earned. I don’t believe in harming a students class grade for late work. If they demonstrate a skill or content knowledge I dont believe it matters when they have demonstrated it; however I did want to incentivize submitting work on the due dates so last year I introduced the HEARTS system. Students start the semester with 3 hearts and lose 1 heart when an assignment is late. If they have 0 hearts they cannot use their super power. The basic idea is based on loss aversion – I have something and don’t want to lose it – and it worked well for some students. I hqve added what I am calling a Charging System this year. Students start a Unit at zero abikity to use their Super Power and ADD a ‘charge’ with every completed assignment regardless of due date as long as it is completed prior to that unit’s exam. The power goes back to zero after the test and the power has to be recharged. It has a similar incentive outcome (getting work done) but with a positive reward instead of a negative punishment.
To keep these two systems working in the same classroom students are allowed to select which of the 2 Power systems they would like to utilize (seletimg which Avatar Type Powers is another post). This is led to some really interesting discussions amongst students and forced them eqch to be reflective about what their strengths and weaknesses are as students.
One of the first comments I overheard was at a table group with students that were obviously go-getters. The tenative leader said:
We’re not going to miss due dates so we might as well be Hunters
The Hunters are the group that start off with the 3 hearts. My first reaction was excitement that these students had already formed a classroom squad without any prompting on my part. My second reaction was to smile because they had already reflected on their own classroom tendencies. They knew that their tendancy was to get their homework done so they were not afraid of the loss penalty.
In each class more than half of the students chose to be Sentinels. This Avatar type earns a ‘charge’ each time they complete a mission or quest. The downside is that the power resets after each transition period marked by the required Common Assessment test. What these students like is that they do not have any other deadlines. As long as their work is completed by the time of the transition period they still earn the charge. Rather than a ‘loss aversion’ penalty the students earn ‘access’ and ‘power’ rewards for completing work. The fact that the students chose the reward method is another motivator. Wgile the charges are obviously external motivation the internal motivators are also layered into this system. Most students have independently formed small Collaborative Squads in order to support each other with quests and homework. This is the Relatedness internal motivator. This Relatedness is paired with Autonomy provided by offering a large number of choices in both topic and product. While internal motivation cannot be forced the conditions in the environment can encourage the development of the motivators which I am seeing emerge among the students.
In my mind I am calling the Hunters and Sentinels my “meta-guilds” because they are semi-permanent and the choice of Hearts or Charges impacts the overall game play. The other choice students have to make is the actual Super power they will possess. The Avatars Overview linked in the first paragraph will show all the choices but in my next post I will to point out three of the Power types and how the students selected them – Super Strength, Super Detective, and Indestructible.