How Classcraft locks in my school’s tech-enriched curriculum

Guest post contributed by Rebecca Osborne.

Want to write a guest post on Classcraft or another topic in education? Pitch to stephanie@classcraft.com.

Gamification is a rising trend in education, and for good reason. Technology is increasingly ubiquitous in the classroom, and students are surrounded by laptops, tablets, and smartphones outside school as well. More and more educators are harnessing the power of these digital tools to increase student engagement in the learning process.

At Fairmont Preparatory Academy, we have a robust technology program. We are always seeking new and innovative tools and apps to excite and motivate our students. Classcraft fits perfectly with our philosophy.

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Creating a successful program in 3 steps

In May 2012, Fairmont Preparatory Academy launched its technology program to implement a technology-enhanced curriculum in each classroom. At the time of its inception, this program, called the Fairmont Technology-Enhanced Curriculum (Fairmont TEC), was in the early stages of a three-year plan.

During our first year, we researched different technologies and had a pilot program to try four different tablet devices in the classroom. This step ensured that the technology was driven by the educators and fit their needs in the classroom. The iPad was ultimately selected following feedback from teachers, students, and parents.

In year two, we devoted a significant amount of time to professional development for our teachers. Our learning sessions centered on themes such as iPresent, where presentation tools for the iPad were explored, or iNotetake, where note-taking apps were examined. Each month, a new topic was presented, and teachers were given time to explore and collaborate to develop lessons that incorporated different tools depending on the material and learning objectives.

In our third year, all students in grades 9-12 were required to bring an iPad to school each day.

Our overarching goal through these three years was to focus on the process, not the product. By starting with the learning objectives and then asking what tool would help the student or teacher accomplish these goals, the student learning experience was made the priority, not the technology.

The basis for Fairmont TEC

We founded the Fairmont Technology-Enhanced Curriculum (Fairmont TEC) with the goal of providing research-based, personalized learning for teachers and students.

To make these experiences effective, we believed strongly in incorporating gamification into our 21st-century learning environments. Karl M. Kapp outlined the strategies employed for gamification in his book The Gamification of Learning and Instruction. These include giving feedback and rewards when appropriate, using stories to motivate, and encouraging risk-taking through replay. Perhaps the most important of these is replay, where teachers and students are able to fail but try again until the material is mastered. Adhering to these strategies is crucial for engaging students.

How Classcraft fits into our philosophy

Classcraft is a platform that seamlessly integrates the visual, artistic aesthetics of a gaming system with the customization and data analysis needed for tracking student progress. It is geared to be the optimal program for teachers and students to become deeply involved in the material and to see higher and higher levels of success.

Classcraft fits perfectly with our student learning philosophy: It enables educators to employ their best practices within their own teaching style while simultaneously furthering student engagement and learning outcomes. Students engage in friendly competition, which provides enhanced motivation for learning the material and investing in their own progress. Risk-taking is encouraged, and students have ample opportunities for replay — “falling in battle” in the context of the game is not permanent. This engenders an open learning environment that encourages student participation and discussion.

The increase in prevalence of technology tools in the classroom lends itself to new innovations in teaching. Rather than teachers continuing to rule as the sage on the stage, they act as facilitators, serving as a guide on the side. Gamification fits seamlessly with this teaching philosophy. Classcraft empowers students to take control of their own learning, engage more deeply with the material, and share and collaborate to enhance understanding.

Dr. Rebecca Osborne has been teaching at Fairmont Preparatory Academy for four years as a biology and chemistry teacher and also served as the Director of the Advanced Science and Engineering Program during the 2013-2014 school year. Two years ago, she took on the role of leading the technology initiative at Fairmont Private Schools, wherein she created professional learning courses for teachers and now assists educators in integrating technology into their curriculum.

Photo credit: ©iStock.com/cienpies

Meet the Classcraft team!

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Ever wonder who the people responsible for Classcraft are and what they do? Today Shawn, Devin, and Lauren Young (pictured left to right) are here to tell you a little about themselves.

Got a question for them? Ask away, and they just might answer right here on the blog!

Shawn:

I’m a grade 11 teacher, and I created Classcraft to have more fun with my students and help them succeed in school. I’m the lead game designer, lead developer, and education specialist on our team. My main focus is to make sure Classcraft reaches its fullest potential by using play, engagement, and collaboration to create a truly positive force in the classroom. I’m really proud that we’ve been able to have such a profound impact with so many teachers and students around the globe. I love our team and the teachers we get to work with.

Devin:

I’m Classcraft’s creative director and one of its co-founders. I spend my days thinking about design and communication, as well as working closely with the Classcraft’s illustration, community, and outreach teams. I’ve been a freelance creative director in New York for the past seven years, working with a wide range of startups and established brands like Chanel, Microsoft, and Intel. I love working on projects that create positive disruption and am super grateful to have found a project that enables me to work with my brother and dad.

Lauren:

I’m the other co-founder of Classcraft and its CFO. I take care of all the things that ensure Classcraft runs smoothly. I bring about 35 years of business experience to the table, and I’ve been on the ground floor of some pretty significant startups in tech, fashion, and fitness. I also act as a third set of eyes to my two hyper-creative sons and enjoy making contributions to the creative process, marketing, and community development. I love working with great people and doing something that truly makes the world a better place. Oh! … And of the three, I tell the best jokes!

What volunteering abroad taught me about teaching

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Guest post contributed by Noemie-Capucine Quessy

When reading the description for the IVHQ Morocco Women Empowerment program, it wasn’t clear to me what “occasional childcare” implied. Besides my experience coaching swimming lessons (which I loved), I didn’t have much of a teaching background. And working with kids? I mean, kids are fine although I find it’s awkward at times to deal with their impulsivity, loudness, hyperactivity, whining, disobedience … Besides my two adorable nephews that I see once a year, children are not part of my daily environment.

In the classroom in Morocco, we were sitting at a low table, cramped on tiny chairs around children aged from 2 to 8. Eyes were all on us, with inquisitive faces impatiently waiting for instructions as we stood there, perplexed and confounded. Were we supposed to assist the teachers, bring teaching material, or stand up and actually teach? And besides Arabic, what do the children know about French or English? How do you teach a class that has such a large age difference?

I noticed the alphabet letters displayed on the wall above the blackboard. I took a chalk and, with a doubtful voice, spelled in French: “A?” Immediately, the 14 students repeated after me, loud and clear: “A!” “Ok,” I thought to myself, “that’s a good start.” I then invited my volunteer partner to take over for the English part. We did the same with numbers, days of the week, and colors.  

We were teaching.

We taught children every morning, and soon enough they got the grip of it. As young as they were and even with language as an obstacle, we managed to introduce activities to make the learning interactive, fun, and creative.

When I was challenged to bring something new to both the class and their teachers, I introduced Play-Doh (a modeling compound I always carry with me while travelling) in the activities. With that new and fun tool, we taught kids numbers, small mathematics, and how to sculpt letters of the alphabet. By fostering creativity and innovation, we established a positive and productive classroom atmosphere.

The weeks went by, and our bonds with the children strengthened. When teachers switched the class to Arabic and read stories, the girls held my hands, played with my jewelry, and gave me occasional kisses on the cheeks. When playtime arrived at the end of each class, kids that once were whining, crying, or independently roaming around the play area soon took our hands and dragged us along with them. In the inner courtyard, in a circle holding hands in harmony, we sang, swung, jumped, skipped, and spun at the rhythm of Arabic sounds.

Having teaching experience would have been great, but I realized that what mattered here was the act of giving and donating our time and our heart to make a positive impact in the lives of others. Once we overcame our feelings of discomfort and disorientation, we realized what we were capable of achieving. And to see those little faces staring at us with a big smile, holding our hands tight without wanting to let go, that was a pure joy.

Volunteering in Morocco was one of the richest and most rewarding experiences of my life. Not only did I gain a better cultural understanding of a country, I also built strong ties with inspiring and remarkable individuals, both young and adult.

I did get confused at times. I did think, “What have I gotten myself into?” And I’m glad I did. You can only grow and learn when you take risks and accept challenges. And once you start thinking outside the box and working past your comfort zone, you experience a true sense of accomplishment and identity.

Hailing from the province of Quebec and now living in the mountains of British Columbia, Noemie-Capucine Quessy is a passionate traveler and life enthusiast. Always looking for new experiences, she travels the world exploring and embracing foreign cultures. Noemie-Capucine considers herself as a true footloose wanderer and hopes to inspire people in stretching out of their comfort zone, working on their Bucket List, and following their dreams.

Want to write a guest post? Email stephanie@classcraft.com.

Photo credit: ©iStock.com/chrispecoraro

The quest for knowledge in Nick’s classroom

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I am extremely excited to be using Classcraft in my classroom this coming school year! I grew up playing video games and role-playing games and know firsthand how engaging and educational they can be. I became an educator after witnessing how the conventional school day seemed to wipe the smile off of my friends’ and siblings’ faces. Since then, I’ve wished to make learning fun and exciting and have pondered how to integrate the best elements of game design into the classroom.For years, I tried integrating video games and classroom contests, but nothing really did the trick. Then one day, I found Classcraft, and learning became an adventure! In the month I tested out Classcraft, I have never seen my students more engaged and excited to learn. I even found myself reenergized by the experience and inspired to reorganize the entire curriculum into a sort of immersive RPG. My students have been transported to a mysterious realm where they must battle the demons of ignorance and restore the Light of Knowledge and Reason to the world.

Throughout the year, students will help to record this classroom journey. Boring assignments and tests have become monsters and bosses that must be vanquished. Resource materials are now magical items that help the students on their quest. None of this would have been possible without Classcraft. Classcraft has inspired me and my students to reenvision how we learn, and its simple interface has truly made learning an adventure.

Photo credit: ©iStock.com/touc

Defeating ‘monsters’ in Daniel’s class

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My name is Daniel. I’m from Germany, 35 years old, and I’ve been teaching for five years now.

I always thought that there had to be a way to improve the learning experience for kids. You can always try to use new teaching methods, but that didn’t feel like what I was looking for.

When I read about Classcraft in a German magazine, I was immediately hooked! Gamification for the classroom? It felt right! So I talked with my Year 6 students about Classcraft and if we should give it a try. They were all for it. We started playing back then without the web engine, just by using pen and paper to keep track of the progress.

And the kids loved it.

They loved it so much that some of the weaker kids started to improve. They participated much more orally, and their grades went up by two full marks. It has changed the way they see school, and they’ve learned to deal positively with class tests: Don’t be afraid anymore — just see it as some sort of challenge: Hero vs. Monster!

So that’s why I am looking forward to the app this fall: The kids’ learning experience and their attitude toward school will change. It also creates a deeper sense of class community when they play the game together in their groups. It makes me proud as a teacher to see when the kids improve and at some point excel themselves. There has been much positive feedback by the parents, who said that the game took away quite a deal of fear of school.

After playing Classcraft for almost two years now, the kids are really looking forward to playing the game with the app, and I am sure they will be cheering and shouting if we would win Premium classes.

Photo credit: ©iStock.com/kozzzlova

Classcraft on the high seas of Jay’s class

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I am Jay Higbee, and I teach high school chemistry at a public school in Mesa, Arizona, USA.

Ahoy, me hearties! Been sailin’ th’ waters o’ chemistry fer four years. Me crew fear th’ scurvy dogs sailin’ in our waters, thar names be dimensional analysis ‘n stoichiometry. Avast, each skirmish wit’ these bilge suckin’ dogs leaves me crew shakin’ at th’ knees! Thar motivation t’ battle dwindles ‘n me crew run off like a pack o’ flea bitten dogs. Classscraft be helpin’ a keep thar spirits up as we battle ‘n send these scurvy dogs ‘t Davey Jones Locker.

'Tis me first experience wit' Classcraft 'n I be so excited t' be usin' it. I know 'tis goin' t' make a difference in motivatin' me students when we scuttle th' tough subjects on th' journey t' conquer chemistry. Thank ye fer makin' me excited fer a new year ‘n helpin’ me crew find the booty of learnin’!

Photo credit: ©iStock.com/dudchik 

Classcraft in Chang-Hsin’s chemistry class

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My name is Chang-Hsin Wu. I am a chemistry teacher in a senior high school in Taiwan (R.O.C.). I have been interested in computer games and online games since I was a student. When I became a teacher, I searched for different methods to make my classroom lively and my students more engaged.

I bumped into Classcraft, which not only amazes me but also makes me as excited as Columbus when he discovered America. When I use Classcraft as a platform to interact with students in class, they become motivated, feel interested, and start to think how to work as a team. When I tell students that they can earn virtual coins by learning as a way to change their avatar and raise their own pets, they get excited. They can’t wait to create their unique characters and pets. Seeing their smiles, I really look forward to September.

I will definitely continue to use Classcraft in my classroom. And I sincerely hope that this game will keep evolving to fit the needs of teachers and students. Thank you so much for your devotion to education!

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Photo credit: Chang-Hsin Wu

Adventures in Robin’s English and Creative Writing classes

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Classcraft is a new adventure for me and my classes, but I am beyond excited to introduce this to my classes this fall. I teach English 10 as well as Creative Writing. In English 10, we take a state mandated writing test. I believe that Classcraft will give my students inspiration for their practice writing. This inspiration will travel into their writing for the state test, and therefore increase their scores.

My Creative Writing students will love creating their characters and interacting with them in the game and in their stories. I am going to create an online site for them to submit their stories and devote one section of that site to Classcraft. This way, they can interact with each other not only in the game but in their written adventures as well.

Classcraft will infuse new excitement into my classroom while prompting my students to become more creative. I cannot wait to incorporate this into my classroom and share my excitement with my colleagues!

Robin Kiku
Thomas Dale High School
Chesterfield County Public Schools

Want a chance to win all Premium classes for the fall? Enter our contest here, from now through July 31. #ClasscraftRules

Photo credit: ©iStock.com/randy-lillegaard 

Classcraft in Eric’s social studies class

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My name is Eric Hills (@MrEricHills) from Shakopee, Minnesota. I’m a 6th grade social studies teacher, and my students are getting iPads this upcoming school year.

I’m so excited to use Classcraft! The new iPad app looks awesome! I’m really pumped to use a platform that has avatar customization, custom class rules, guilds, and an iPad app to bring it all together. I use project-based learning with my students often, and I love the idea that students will be able to use this with their groups and that it will bring a new level of excitement to my classroom. I can’t wait for September!

As a self-professed nerd, this site not only appeals to me but also will get my kids pumped to be in class each and every day. Keep up the great work!

Want a chance to win all Premium classes for the fall? Enter our contest here, from now through July 31. #ClasscraftRules

Photo credit: ©iStock.com/ersler