Sunday, May 20, 2018

Side quests - with semi automated XP

If you are new to the idea of side quests, consider visiting Explore Like a Pirate and GamificationEDU.

The past few weeks I have been mulling over the idea of adding more sidequests to my game. Up until now, sidequests have been few and far between for a couple of reasons. The biggest hurdle is that I have felt that it is up to me to develop the side quest, complete with resources for the students, and this simply takes too much time. Another issue is that I honestly have never put in a system for awarding XP for sidequests, so whenever a student has actually completed one that I planned for we are both dissatisfied with the XP assigned. If this was not enough, I hate the idea of prepping all of this only to have one student actually complete the side quest that may have taken me days to craft. Yes, it is a me problem.

However, my gamification #PLN often mentions sidequests as a great way to engage students, and provide in-class time for struggling or less interested students to catch up, while more advanced students happily toil on the sidequests. This got me thinking about how I could shift more of the responsibility of side quests to students by providing a board of activities with some assigned XP for attempting/submitting, but still have the choice to add either XP or items on top of that if the end product warrants it. With that in mind, I turned to Westphal's "Differentiating Instruction with Menus", and the internet, and came up with a menu of 15 ideas that could be used as a sidequest. The menu includes a general side quest rubric and explains that the base XP value of a side quest type decreases the more times it is attempted. My motivation for placing this limitation is simply that I would rather a student attempt different avenues to explore the content and not fall into a routine of recreating the same thing for different concepts. The menu also includes a space for complete student choice for my more adventurous students.

With that hurdle taken care of, the issue of how to collect the work, keep track of who did what, avoid repeats and assign XP needed to be taken care of. I toyed with the idea of writing a Google Sheets script, but that is, at the moment, beyond me. What I came up with is a Google Form whose response sheet would:
  1. Provide a place to submit the work (if the work is a physical product, the students will have to take a picture and submit that. I wanted to avoid the "I created a mobile and left it in your room, but there is no XP!"
  2. Ensure that duplicates of a file are not counted for assigning base XP. (I have middle schoolers who are prone to clicking submit over and over in hopes of rigging the system)
  3. Automatically count the number of times a specific side quest type has been submitted and assign base XP accordingly.
  4. Automatically add up the XP a student receives.

This is the sheet/form I came up with, and you are welcome to make a copy of both. The folder and its contents are shared with anyone can view. To make a copy, click on file/make a copy for each of them, placing them in the same folder. Depending on your district's permissions you may be able to make a copy of the response sheet and have the option to create the form, or you may need to copy both and link them yourself.  For those of you that may need to recreate the form from scratch, I have included comments on each sheet explaining what it does and the formulas that are attached. Brief recap of how this works:
  • FormResponses1: Is where the data from the form is collected, and the query to check for unique URLs is created.
  • Unique: Counts the number of unique URLs and type of product by student e-mail.
  • PivotCount: Creates a pivot table that adds the values for each product type.
  • BasePoints: Uses the data from the pivot table to assign base XP values.
  • BaseXP: Creates a pivot table that adds the base XP earned by each student e-mail
I am sure that there is a more elegant way of doing all of this, and I welcome any feedback or suggestions.  If you would like to know how to automatically add these scores to your leaderboard or grade book, I invite you to take a look at "Assign XP automatically using Vlookup - Google Sheets".

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