Academic Aesthetic 176: Games in Education Part 3

Categories Education, Netcast, Technology

So where was I?

Oh yeah, games in education.  I started in Episode 174 by giving a background of what I’d done up to that point, which I suppose means that’s not when I started at all, but that’s the post I named “Part 1” so I’m just going to leave it at that.

In Episode 175 I discussed my current thoughts about turning my own Middle School curriculum into a game, including several problems and solutions I’d encountered.  Some problems had multiple possible solutions, and I’m not quite sure which ones I’ll pick when I’m done.

Now we’re up to the errata, the extra things, the little details that help the big picture idea without making or breaking it.  Also, keep in mind the disclaimer I offered in Part 2: All of this is not yet implemented and is subject to change based on whims as well as school policies.  If my principal glares at me and says “Mr. Smith, stop being an idiot,” I’ve no choice but to salute and about face.

(FYI: My wording here is for effect.  My principal might tell me “No,” but she would word it in a much nicer way than I did.)

Quest Types

When adopting a game-themed teaching strategy, assignments become known as quests.  My students who have played any RPGs (A.K.A. Role Playing Games, such as Warcraft, Final Fantasy, Kingdom Hearts, etc.) will already be familiar with the terminology, and those who have not will still hopefully be able to make the adjustment.

Projects = Standard Quests

The word “standard” is used here only to differentiate these from other quests.  Students select these, attempt them, and if they fail they can try again.  When they succeed they get the points attributed to the quest and move on to their next chosen quest.  Students cannot get credit for completing the same Standard Quest twice, though they can attempt to redo a failed quest as many times as is necessary.  The only thing they miss out on is time.

Homework and Warm-Ups = Daily Quests

Some RPGs have a quest type known as a “Daily Quest.”  This quest is repeatable – you guessed it – once per day.  Rather than have the students copy/paste their work from previous days, these quests would be worded so that the work done would vary each time.  Sample quests could include “Write down two things you learned in class today,” “Listen to this audio file and write down what you think is the main idea,” and “Leave a comment on Mr. Smith’s blog where you ask one question about your current project.”

The quest text could be the same each day or be selected from a pool of quests, but the point is these quests are meant to be repeatable with different results each time.

Oh, and like Standard Quests, these can be repeated if failed.  They just can’t be successfully done more than once per day.

Quizzes and Tests = Boss Battles

In the “real world,” so to speak, a boss is an employer – someone who tells you what to do and (hopefully) pays you for it.  In most video games, a boss isn’t your employer.  Instead, they’re bigger, nastier enemies for you to take down.  This is compensated by earning better than normal loot and XP (experience points, remember) when you win.  My quizzes and tests fit well into this category.  Quizzes and tests as a whole are worth only a small percentage of my students’ final grade, but as I give far more projects than quizzes each assessment becomes worth more individually than any single project.

As with the quests, these boss battles should be repeatable.  If a student takes a test 20 times to pass, but then passes, then they’re showing they’ve learned the content being covered.  Getting it right the first time becomes less important than getting it right eventually.

Content Management Software

A component that has been part of my course since my first day on the job has been the submission of work online.  I just don’t see the need to require an assignment to be created on a computer, then be transferred to a dead tree, then have its grade placed back on a computer.  That middle step seems pointless and, considering the days where my wife’s health issues have kept me out of the building, a major road block at times.

I’ve tried multiple solutions for online assessment, including Drupal,, WordPress (the self-hosted version), and Edmodo.  I’ve been quite happy with WordPress, as it solved several problems I had last year with Edmodo (I’ll get into those in a little bit), is simpler to use than Drupal, and doesn’t allow the students to send private messages to each other like  Unfortunately WordPress lacks an addon that will manage points the way I want to manage them.

Fortunately, Edmodo does that part perfectly.  Using my old grading system I chafed at the way Edmodo totaled up points when I graded assignments, but their method of counting up all the points equally will fit right in with the new standard for my class.

A previous issue I had with Edmodo, where students submitted the wrong file for a project and had to wait for me to delete their submission so they could try again, has been resolved.  Students can resubmit a project as many times as they want until I grade it.  As I won’t grade them until they’ve completed the quest, this works out very well.

My only misgiving with Edmodo at this point involves student profiles.  They have the ability to change their profiles, including their avatars to whatever they want.  This could give rise to issues ranging from inappropriate imagery to students changing their names to attempt some form of anonymity while they harass someone.  I’ve dealt with one student this year already who thought nothing of insulting other students online, and that was on a site that afforded me a lot more control over student accounts than Edmodo ever did.

That issue makes me think of proceeding with caution, but unless I find a better, more controlled solution, we’ll be using Edmodo when I start using my Game strategy.  After all, I can always set an offending account to “read-only” until the issue that made me take action is resolved.


In most RPGs, players are able to select different classes, or archetypes for their characters.  Common class examples in existing RPGs are warriors, mages, rangers, hunters, rogues, priests, paladins, and so on.  While I’m not planning on implementing this idea right away, I’m toying with eventually allowing my students to pick a class while  … um … taking my class.  Since I teach at a Creative & Performing Arts Academy, classes can align with the majors that are available.

Students could choose to be bards (for the music-themed or drama majors), artificers (visual arts), performers (drama or dance), or go with the catch-all technologists.  Each class could have specific requirements (Mandatory quests? Specific boss battles?) and / or perks (Bonus points when completing quests that align with their class?).

Naturally something this complicated will take a lot of planning to use in an effective manner, so I’m starting to think about it now, long before I intend to try it out.  With luck I’ll be able to work out the details over the summer and have students selecting classes when they take my course next year.

Well this concludes my brain-dump for now.  Rest assured there will be a Part 4, but don’t expect it right away.  I’ll write that one out when I have enough new content to make it worthwhile.

Aaron Smith is a Media Arts & Technology Teacher who spends most of his time on computers. In his free time he plays video games, edits videos, and misses his wife dearly.