I started teaching TV and sound production in a career and technical education (CTE) setting six years ago. The first couple months of teaching provided a steep learning curve for me. I am highly experienced in my industry, but teaching the content presented a new set of obstacles. My students had a broad range of abilities, motivation and backgrounds. The students enrolled in my class because they were interested in video production, sound production or a mix of both.
The curriculum was intriguing to the learners, but the traditional classroom environment hindered their engagement with the curriculum. Something was needed to engage my students more deeply. I also wanted to be able to reach all the learning styles of my students while providing necessary accommodations. While completing my master's in Educational Media Design & Technology at Full Sail University, I was introduced to a "flipped" classroom. As a result of my flipped experience, I decided to replicate it in my own classroom. A flipped classroom would allow me to differentiate instruction and also meet the accommodations--such as extended time on assignments or tests, special seating and notes provided--of the learner immediately.
I began using an online learning management system (LMS) called Schoology in the spring of 2011. Schoology is visually close to Facebook and other social media my learners use and are familiar with, but it was created for education in a safe online environment. The learning curve for me as the instructor was minimal, and my students instantly bought into the flipped class approach.
My classroom became accessible to my learners at any time they wanted to engage in the class. I created videos of my lectures and demonstrations and included notes for the learners to download if they chose to do so. The LMS allowed me to post my lectures, notes and demonstration for the learner to access at any time. My student demographic is made up of learners from multiple districts, so even if students were not in attendance a particular day, they could use the LMS to stay current or to review the content if they had questions or needed further clarification.
All tests, discussions and student blogs for my class were also posted on the LMS. I was still the teacher of the curriculum, but now I became the facilitator for their learning. I created weekly online discussions that would focus on the current topic of the course. I noticed that discussions grew automatically and almost everyone participated. My students posted on the LMS even when class was not in session, including evenings and weekends. They were engaging in the class even when we were not in class. Additionally, I created assignments on the LMS and learners could go back to details of the assignment if they had questions; assignments were even accessible to those students who were physically absent. The flipped classroom was working pretty well, but I noticed I still had issues with students not completing their assignments and/or low motivation even though engagement did increase.
Last summer, I took some time to reflect on the previous school year, and I decided it was time to investigate what else could be done to improve the LMS and the students' experiences. The idea of "gamification"--the concept of approaching a class environment as a game--excited me and intrigued my students. I had been introduced to gamification during my graduate studies and had been reading about other classes using this approach to teaching and class environment. The summer gave me time to plan how to transform my class and create the game my students would begin playing in September. I hoped this approach would improve the completion rate and motivation that some of the learners displayed in the "flipped" class model. I was not able to find any CTE classes using this approach, so I had to really look at how my class could be transformed into a game. …