‘The Multiplayer Classroom’ Review

Multiplayer Classroom coverThe Multiplayer Classroom: Designing Coursework as a Game by Lee Sheldon

This is an entertaining collection of case studies of how to apply how multiplayer role playing games work to a classroom. There is plenty of detail of the possible pitfalls and challenges, along with the rewards. If you are looking for a step-by-step tutorial for setting one up yourself, you need to find another book.

My students are highly motivated by games because of freedom, curiosity, challenge and choice. If my classes had those aspects, maybe they would be more motivated to learn. The issue is, most of the case studies looked at adapting classrooms into one particular type of game. And most of my students are not interested in role playing games at all.

The most popular games in my classes are:- FIFA, GTA V, Minecraft and the smartphone/tablet casual game of the month (which constantly changes).

They are working cooperatively but not in guilds. They are interested in making progress but not on their XP. They have virtual lives but are not particularly invested in avatars.

So, maybe what I really need in my classroom is something more like an ARG (alternative reality game), where real life and the fantasy theme of the game are combined. But whenever I’ve played ARGs, most of the time I follow the clues and then just double check what the fastest players did. I am also unwilling to follow clues like using telephone numbers or emailing, and maybe my students would be too.

I saw the idea of having secret ‘quests’ hidden around the school which earn bonus XP somewhere else, and would love to do that. But what would my regular quests be? And how do I reconcile my grading of four different objectives which are criterion-based and ‘best-fit’ at the end of grading periods, with awarding students Fs at the start of the year and building up their XP with assignments. My students might ‘grind’ all they want but never learn to evaluate, how do I devise a ‘boss-mission’ that separates the analysis from the evaluation? And what if students never get the top level skills (for whatever reason), how do I recognise their effort without misleading them on their capabilities. I don’t think XP grading works in my context.

My idea, such as it is, is to start really small. Instead of instigating guilds and XP and boss levels, I just want to introduce side-quests for now.

A side-quest, for those non-nerds out there, is when you have little missions in your game you can do for bonus points and prizes. You can skip them all and still complete the game.

I saw two things that I wanted to adapt for my classroom elsewhere. Homework takeaways and making scratch cards for my students. There is a motherlode of formative assessment strategies on Edutopia that would be perfect for this.

What if I made a few varieties of homework takeaway scratch cards with rewards built in. Either completing the side quest drops ‘loot’ or awards ‘achievements’ (or both?) Then I could tuck bonus side-quest missions in unexpected places without them being too incongruous.


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