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Gamified PD for the Win!

Updated: Sep 6, 2021

The new school year is well underway and, like always, I'm behind in keeping this blog updated with all the cool things going on at work. But this particular post is just too good to not share, so I'm making time.

A Bit of Background

Our school officially adopted the ISTE Standards for Students more than a decade ago, but like most international schools, there's a high turnover rate, so implementation can take time. Even longer when you throw in a global pandemic. It's almost like people had more important things to worry about for the last year and a half 😉

Anyway. Over the summer, I attended the ISTE Conference and started thinking of all the ways I could bring the standards to life through PD and collaboration this year considering I was actually here to start the school year in person instead of displaced or in a Chinese quarantine hotel, which is how the last school year started. I knew I wanted to set the tone for the year by designing a highly engaging and interactive session to help (re)introduce faculty to the standards and start seeing their application across subjects and grade levels. I have dabbled a bit in gamification over the years, but it always seems inauthentic because I'm not a 'gamer' myself. I don't know the first thing about D&D, XP or Easter eggs. I haven't played a video game since Super Mario Bros & Duck Hunt on the original Nintendo back in elementary school. I guess I'm what you would call a 'Noob.' Add most of the time, that doesn't bother me, but I really wanted to try and gamify the PD this year. Then it came to me, The Amazing Race! It was perfect. Groups working collaboratively to solve problems and complete learning tasks. Accumulation of points, movement around the campus, time constraints, competition, and prizes. Yes, this was it, but how?

The Plan

Like with all good learning experiences, I sat down to start formulating a plan. I revisited the school-wide goals, our Innovation & Technology department goals, and my personal goals. I considered what I knew about my 'learners' and all the things I overhear at lunch and in meetings about what people want and need. I had a meeting with my IT Director and the admin team to share the seed of this idea and thankfully, they loved it and encouraged me to take it and run. Given that my team would have 4 total sessions throughout the year to solely focus on Innovation & Tech, I decided the actual standards were the best place to start. I chose 7 locations around the school where teams would visit on their race, one for each of the standards to be read, unpacked, explored, and if possible, applied. I thought through what teams might do at each of these stations that would help them become familiar with the standard and indicators, spark conversation in their groups, provide a bank of user-generated ideas and get them excited about all the things that are possible in their classes this year. I wanted to keep the groups small (3-4 people) but wanted a bit of a wild card too, so each small group was only half of a larger color team and points were cumulative, so we didn't actually know who the winners were until the very end. Each team received a clipboard with their scoresheet, route, and QR code linked to an evidence folder. I assigned a 'host' at each station who would help facilitate if needed, hand out the standard 'clue', and, of course, award points.

Station #1- Empowered Learner

This is really the heart of it all. It's all about empowering students to take active roles in their learning by setting goals, tracking their progress, finding different ways to demonstrate their learning, and have agency. At this station, teachers read the standard and indicators projected on the screen and brainstormed ways to help students do just that! A graffiti wall was put out for documentation of ideas, and teams were asked to upload a selfie before being awarded their points.

Materials for this station:

Station #2- Digital Citizen

Crucially important to our work as modern educators, Standard #2 promotes the ethical, responsible and legal use of technology and digital resources. It encourages students to know and exercise their rights and responsibilities when interacting in online spaces. As the elementary school's sole tech coach with 1:1 devices in G1-5, it can feel overwhelming to support all teachers and students in this endeavor. Helping teachers find ways to embed and address digital citizenship in their classrooms is the only way we can do this standard justice. This station asked groups to consider how we are all part of making this goal possible. After reading the clue card, teachers composed paper tweets and added them to the wall for a visible board of ideas. Points were awarded by the station host for creativity, use of #hashtags, and @mentions.

Materials for this station:

Station #3- Knowledge Constructor

There are so many ways to engage with this particular standard because it feels like we do aspects of it all the time, especially in the homeroom setting. This one's all about students finding and using reliable information and resources for learning. It's about creating artifacts to showcase their understanding. And, it's about the lifelong pursuit of knowledge. At this station, teams were challenged to demonstrate their understanding of this standard in a creative way using a digital tool of their choice. It was the crowd favorite, but also took the most time to complete. I put up a poster with some suggested apps to use for the task, but teams came up with a range of different things. An uploaded artifact that showcased everyone's voice was the key to earning points for this station, and their entries did not disappoint!

Materials for this station:

Station #4- Innovative Designer

Purple Team showing off their lantern

This one is my personal favorite because it lends itself nicely to building, designing, and making. There are countless opportunities to bring this into transdisciplinary units and is always engaging, no matter the age of the learner. For this station, I set out a big box of recycled materials, makerspace goodies, LEDs, and tools. Teams were tasked with designing and building a Chinese lantern for the upcoming mid-autumn festival and think of the ways they might incorporate this standard in an upcoming unit of study. So. Much. Fun.

Materials for this station:

  • Projector with Innovative Designer standard and indicators

  • Clue Card for the station

  • Makerspace materials (recycled stuff, art supplies, wire, tape)

  • Tools (glue gun, scissors, cutting mat, Xacto knives)

  • LEDs, copper tape, coin batteries

  • Poster ( ISTE classroom posters from Tanya LeClair)

Station #5- Computational Thinker

When most people see this standard, they automatically think of coding. And that's a great way to incorporate this standard into the curriculum, but there's so much more that can be done here with data, sequencing, and problem-solving. For this station, teams were challenged to generate ideas of weaving in computational thinking across different subjects. The standard and indicators helped guide them in this work, and once people started reading ideas from previous groups, the momentum really picked up. By the end of the session, the entire paper was full! I'm now in the process of digitizing all of these nuggets of wisdom so they can be shared out with teachers. Stay tuned for that!

Materials for this station:

Computational Thinking across subjects

Station #6- Creative Communicator

Like all of the standards, the application of this one is far-reaching. It asks us to consider all of the ways we communicate and express ourselves, especially when using digital technology. It's definitely one of my favorites because I love giving students an opportunity to consider who their audience is, what information is worth sharing, and what tools or platforms would be most effective. At this station, groups applied this standard to assessments and created a choice board of sorts. Some teams made BINGO boards with ideas, some generated a list, and one did a mind map; all of them were great. Again, I'm digitizing people's ideas to share back, but I think it was a useful exercise that showed the versatility of this standard.

Materials for this station:

Station #7- Global Collaborator

Learning with and from others is really what this standard is all about, and with all of the COVID shenanigans over the last 2 years, it's an easy one to weave into classroom experiences. The main objectives here are to use digital tools and platforms that foster collaboration across cultural and social lines as a means to broaden students' perspectives and understanding of their role in local and global contexts. The activity at this station was a Take One, Leave One board where teachers shared ideas for how they might engage students in collaborating with others. Answers ranged from sharing published work on Seesaw blogs to taking VR field trips, exploring UN SDGs, and using video conferencing to interview experts. Again, I'm now working to digitize these responses to share back; they were great!

Materials for this station:

Next Steps

Aside from digitizing all of the amazing ideas that were shared at each station, I'm also looking ahead to the second PD session we'll be hosting at the beginning of November. Between now and then, I'm hoping to find ways to leverage this experience and find my risk-taker teachers who want to try some outside-the-box ideas with me. Ideally, I would be able to include teachers in the second session, as either a facilitator of their own mini-workshop in a Teachers Teaching Teachers (TTT) style sharing or through an informal recap of something they tried. Overall though, I'm happy with how it went, and the feedback from staff has been very positive.

What gamification ideas have you tried for Professional Development? What advice do you have for keeping the momentum and energy up as we head into an inevitably busy school year? I'd love to hear your thoughts!

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Justin Ouellette
Justin Ouellette
Oct 16, 2021

Hi Reyna,

What an exciting learning adventure you lead to inspire your colleagues to feel empowered with the ISTE Standards! Well done!

Justin Ouellette

Reyna Lazarou
Reyna Lazarou
Oct 18, 2021
Replying to

Thanks, friend! It was pretty great to see how into it they were. We have our second one coming up in a couple of weeks where we'll be going a bit deeper into Educator Standard #5 (Designer) and looking for ways we can intentionally bring it to life in units. Hoping the energy remains!

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