Tag Archives: gamification

Leveraging Fortnite in Education: What can educators learn from games?

Fortnite has quickly become all consuming for many of our youngsters in 2018. They play for hours on end, discuss complex strategies at lunch tables, worship the ritualized character “dances”, will do whatever chores you ask for V bucks, they’ll even rush through their homework so they can join in on the next Battle Royal. What has this video game done to our children? One word: engagement! Fortnite is a 45 million user cooperative survival game which has three elements: scavenging, building and combat. This type of game is described as a ‘sandbox’ game, because gameplay is nonlinear and open-ended, allowing gamers to roam around the virtual world and interact with it and the other gamers that are online. The game design is a survival of the fittest – 100 online players glide into a virtual world and try to survive, by shooting, building and collaborating with each other until the last gamer is standing, winning nothing more than bragging rights.

My burning question has always been… what makes this game such a phenomenon amongst our children? Can we use similar game mechanics in Fortnite to engage our students in class?

It is clear that kids who play Fortnite willingly engage in a complex and many-layered activity for long periods of time. A research group from Stanford pointed out that players are continually practicing  “teamwork, collaboration, strategic thinking, spatial understanding and imagination—and when they lose, they’re highly motivated to try again for a better result.” Wouldn’t that be an amazing learner to have in our classrooms? How do I get one?

The designers of Fortnite are very aware of cognitive structures which make this kind of game so addictive. Its’ mantra, (similarly to online gambling games) “Lose by a little, win by a lot,” is its’ guiding force.  Max Albert explains in How Fortnite Became the Most Addicting Game In History:

  1. If a player loses the game by a little, they can examine the state of the game and note that they were “just one or two moves away from winning! I’ll win next time for sure!”

  2. If a player wins the game by a lot, they can examine the state of the game and note that they “are AMAZING at the game. I’m just going to knock out a few more levels while I’m on this hot streak.”

Have a look at how Candy Crash uses similar design and mechanics as Fortnite to keep players engaged and playing for hours.

Similar to a gambling game at your local brasserie, Fortnite makes it easy to keep trying after failure, the phenomenon known as Failing Forward, discussed by Avi Spector here, and Catherine Boisvert here. In a nutshell, here are the features that make Fortnite so motivating:

  1. Small wins keep motivating players – Failing Forward
  2. The comic-like aesthetic removes any sense of reality, mitigating the violent content
  3. The simplicity of play allows for incremental successes
  4. Players experience a profound sense of belonging to the game’s community.

Kids don’t talk on the phone to each other, they talk on the Fortnite platform. Also, because the virtual world is relatively small it forces encounters between players more rapidly, thus more action. The turn around between kills is super fast, so there is never much waiting. The immediacy keeps the engagement high, and makes for getting back up after failing painless.

Fortnite is a gaming MASTERPIECE that belongs next to the Mona Lisa in the halls of history.

Perhaps the biggest and most popular feature is the ability for players to collaborate and strategize with other gamers while playing in real time. It is not uncommon to hear players helping and supporting each other during a game, saying things like, “watch out, he’s right under you,” or “I have a great shot gun for you, come see me, you can have it” even “You lure him this way and I’ll wait inside the barn – you get him from the outside and I’ll attack him from the inside.” This collaboration is not limited to the game itself, players share Youtube videos, study game-play tactics, discuss strategies, create user materials all to make the playing community better.

Looking at the engagement loop from a gaming viewpoint, it clearly shows “the motor of gamification” on a continuum. This means that ones’ improvement never ends, learning how to win never ends, and giving up is never a question. How can we as educators leverage the intrinsic motivation found in games like Fortnite? I brainstormed and came up with the following key elements:

  1. Provide opportunities for lots of student choice & voice
  2. Value finding different solutions to the same or similar problems
  3. Allow for lots of try-overs
  4. Embed ongoing collaboration in learning
  5. Establish a system for immediate feedback (or as quick as is possible in a school setting)
  6. Start small with quick activities
  7. Help students develop a variety of strategies when “stuck,”
  8. Make sure students can see their progress

Leveraging game mechanics in your classroom is an effective way to get more engagement in your class. If students are engaged they will be more likely to realize learning is an ongoing event in the real world and the virtual Fortnite world to boot.



Fortnite: Schools ‘could Learn Lessons from Gaming’  by Bethan Lewis  – https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-wales-44871124

Stanford Experts Provide Guidance For How Parents and Teachers Can Navigate the Fortnite Craze by Julia James -https://ed.stanford.edu/news/stanford-experts-provide-guidance-how-parents-and-teachers-can-navigate-fortnite-craze

How ‘Fortnite’ Hooks Your Kid, And Why Experts Say You May Not Need To Worry by Justin Kaplan – http://www.wbur.org/commonhealth/2018/08/24/fortnite-habit-kid-problem

Parenting the Fortnite Addict by Lisa Damour – https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/30/well/family/parenting-the-fortnite-addict.html

10 Years Later: Is Creativity Still Being Killed in Schools?

Image by Verena Roberts CC BY-NC-SA

After watching Sir Ken Robinson’s TED Talk, “Do Schools Kill Creativity?” in 2006, I have been actively looking and searching for creativity in schools. Are we seeing the evidence that creativity is as important as literacy in schools today? Is creativity dying a slow death in schools, if it was even there to begin with?

Sir Robinson told us that many brilliant people don’t think that they are brilliant, “because the thing that they were good at in school wasn’t valued.” He noted that brains work by connecting and interacting in many different ways and we aren’t encouraging similar connections and interactions through interdisciplinary studies in our schools. Is there evidence to support the existence of interdisciplinary studies in all of our schools?

My son has been reading the Unwanted book series. Throughout this series aimed at middle-school readers, creativity is seen as the most important ability in order to save the world. The series begins with a group of children being sent to their deaths because they are the “Unwanteds”. A person is “unwanted” based on the Quill’s society fixation on order, the lack of identity and limiting people’s abilities to think for themselves. However, instead of heading to their deaths, the “Unwanteds” are welcomed into a world called Artime, where creativity is seen as the most important ability in order to save the world.

Evidence that Creativity in Schools Can Save the World:

The “Maker Movement”

In Maker Spaces, students are provided with a wide variety of materials and encouraged to make or create something in order to experience learning in action which is guided by design thinking. The learner is encouraged to fail and persist through their own learning process in order to produce a desired outcome. Learning is based on designs, prototypes and first versions – very similar to our current technology market. Learners are encouraged to take their ideas and create a new product or item to change their world.

Jackie Gerstein’s “Stages of Making”

Copyright Jackie Gerstein, used with permission. https://usergeneratededucation.wordpress.com/2015/07/28/stages-of-being-a-maker-learner/

Maker Spaces are also motivated by crowd sourcing or participatory culture. This means that learners learn to support one another in creating learning opportunities for themselves – instead of a consumer based culture where learners consume the learning they are given.


Similar to Maker Spaces, gamified classrooms encourage critical thinking. I recently listened to Scott Hebert present about how gamification has transformed his science classroom.

The 6 Player Types – Scott Hebert ERLC EdTech Innovation Summit

One of the key aspects of his learning was that every learner can be included in the gamification of a classroom – every learner has a role to play. Everyone is included in the learning process and encouraged to use their unique strengths and talents in order to create new learning opportunities for others.

Closing thoughts

In the Unwanted series, the Unwanteds are taught how to create magical weapons using drama, fine arts and design to defend their creative world. The Maker Movement promotes the idea that creating your own idea is the way to develop and extend your own learning. Unwanteds also set out on Quests to save other people from their hostile and totalitarian worlds. Gamification also encourages quests and collaborative learning adventures.

As we think back 10 years to Sir Robinson’s plea to promote creativity in schools, I am delighted to see some clear evidence of creativity in action. However, I still think we have a long way to go. Are we still killing creativity in our schools?

If you haven’t seen it, I urge you to watch the full TED talk:

Beyond the Textbook: Gamifying Classroom Management


 Would you consider using a gaming model of classroom management even if you yourself are not a gamer and don’t really get gaming? Tweet @learnquebec or reply below.

What if the engagement level of students in your classroom increased simply because they felt responsible for overseeing their virtual team of avatars? What if your students naturally police unfavorable behaviour while creating opportunities to build team-building skills? What if classroom noise levels were self-monitored by students? What if effective collaboration with peers gave you more time on a test? Well, ponder no longer. Every classroom in the world can now imitate gaming experiences in which students and teachers play and learn together.

Education is continually, albeit slowly, innovating with new technology. Many teachers are expanding beyond our standard and static textbooks, notes, worksheets, paper and pencil test routines to develop new research, writing, and analytical skills in students. We are now seeing the emergence of classroom management tools that incorporate gaming philosophies to managing classroom life; in essence teachers are turning their classrooms and their daily routines into an engaging real-life game. This is because in a game, natural consequences for transgressions are built into the system. For example, student collaboration will increase if students feel they will gain a token reward for their efforts, or will more likely try to keep their noise level down if they can see their noise level is off the chart!



One such ingenious tool, available since September 2014 is called ClassCraft (http://www.classcraft.com)Already with over 160 000 users, thousands of involved educators, in 60 countries, and in eight different languages, Classcraft is improving classroom management. In a recent interview, co-creator, Shawn Young describes his innovative product as a “behaviour game, which acts as a layer on top of standard teaching” to manage student conduct and to amp up engagement. In fact, games like Classcraft place student engagement and classroom behaviour at the epicentre of its’ learning management system (LMS). The teacher’s dashboard is rich with an integrated clicker system, timers and stop clocks, random student “pickers”, the ability to post assignments, test dates, and to interact with student avatars like never before by adding or removing points depending on their classroom behaviour.

What would this look like in your classroom? Let’s follow a student in a Classcraft class and witness the adventures that unfold throughout physics period.

Our student, Willy Common, better known as “Merlin Cool” in physics class, strolls in 5 minutes late, provoking the teacher to subtracting 5 “life points” from his character for being late. However, a fellow teammate, a healer called “Sara Health” heals him with one of her powers she earned through long-term positive behaviour, essentially erasing Merlin’s lateness. She immediately gets rewarded with XP for helping out her teammate. As she levels ups, she also gets gold pieces that now gives her enough money to add a cool new cap on her avatar. As the class rolls along, “Merlin Cool” lifts his hand up twice to answer a question about significant figures and is rewarded 50XP for his involvement from their game master (the teacher). He uses to gain a power that allows him to hand in his homework a day late. This is great for him, because he has a basketball game, and knows he’ll not have enough time to complete it all. As Merlin leaves class, he high fives his team, called the Labyrinth Gypsies, and gives an extra thanks to Sara for healing his lateness.



Team play provides on-going interaction, instant and direct feedback, second chances, opportunities to navigate challenges so students can learn from their mistakes while being reinforced by their successes – the philosophy of good video games. These gaming principles are embedded in some amazing digital tools that can easily be applied in any classroom, influencing student learning across the board… social, interpersonal and cognitive.

Now not all behaviour management tools are as elaborate as Classcraft, but can be just as effective. For example, Classroom Dojo (https://www.classdojo.com) is an immediate feedback tool that rewards or removes points for positive or negative classroom behaviour, for a plethora of reasons from participating in class to encouraging group work. This feedback can produce reports for teachers and parents to share with the students, reinforcing the good, providing a place to dialogue about effective behaviour to get your goals met.

Too Noisy (http://www.academyapps.net/toonoisyliteonline/), helps student self-monitor their noise level when collaborating in class, a great reinforcement tool for keeping noise down to acceptable levels.

Remind 101 (https://www.remind.com), another cool app, allows the teacher to quickly notify students and parents through text about behaviour, assignments, tests, pyjama day activities and so on.

Have a look at the infographic below to see how digital behaviour management tools can readily gamify classrooms and change student behaviour in an exciting, meaningful way. Find examples of simple tools that remind you of important classroom information, similar to getting a second chance in a game, to Classcraft, a complete classroom gamification platform which can turn your whole classroom experience into a fun, engaging game.

Infographic BM



Many interesting digital tools are now turning classrooms into interactive game-like environments, blurring the lines between school and the larger community: between school and home, and between school and communities beyond the classroom. Students learn to be part of a motivated team with a common goal. Positive behaviour, as in life, advances the team. The teacher builds token rewards into the system as added incentive to engage with him/her and the team… hey, we all need our cookies!

Here is the main conundrum of this whole gaming-as-behaviour-management: as educators, we have the wistful desire for our students to exhibit positive behaviours just because. We would like them to be intrinsically motivated to be “good”. This very adult desire casually leaps over the powerlessness and lack of control that many teenagers struggle with at school. Using games or gamifying the very structure of the learning scenario are ways of balancing the power dynamic and giving some control back to the students, in a positive way. By applying simple gaming principles, students become a functional part of the classroom, experience how their actions affect their peers… and create communities of learners.

Beyond the Textbook: Let the Games Begin!

www.pixbay.com Creative Commons Deed CC0
Creative Commons Deed CC0

Are you a gamer? Do you use games in your teaching, or wish you could? Tell us below or tweet @learnquebec

There is no denying that the students sitting in front of us need to be stimulated and engaged for true learning to occur. We want them to be excited as they crack open their textbooks to seek eureka moments in the pages. So what would it take to make this happen more often?  Are there tools already out there that can help bridge the gap between what needs to be taught and what students want to learn? I’ve always been interested in the way that multi-facetted, three-dimensional interactive simulations get students directly involved in their own learning, games such as SIM City, Minecraft or World of Warcraft. Students playing these games are curious and engaged along a learning path of their own design. With the scaffolding provided by a skilled teacher, subject textbooks can serve as tools to gather knowledge to address an issue in the game rather than to teach static concepts organized according to someone else’s creativity. Simulations lead to meaningful research into the same concepts as in textbooks; students become their own teachers.

At LCEEQ’s most recent conference, held in Laval Qc, on February 9th, 2015, John Hattie presented his research from his well-known book Visible Learning for Teachers: “the biggest effects on student learning occur when teachers become learners of their own teaching, and when students become their own teachers”. (Hattie, 2012). Students control their own learning, and develop strategies for life such as “self-monitoring, self-evaluation, self-assessment, and self-teaching”. This research suggests that educators need to put students in varied learning environments, whereby they are stimulated to make informed and creative real-life decisions, learning for life.

Given our students’ ubiquitous exposure to 21st century tools, we now have access to online games that can stimulate students’active participation in the learning process. Again, Hattie’s research indicates that some of the highest influence on true learning is through self-assessment (is my city healthy?), on-going formative assessment (my citizens really like it when I lower taxes and make green spaces), constant feedback (my citizens need more commercial spaces to shop, it will make me richer too), and developing meta-cognitive strategies (The last time I built a park next to a factory my citizens revolted – let’s not do that again!).


Furthermore, psychologist Dr. Mark Griffiths’ research out of Nottingham Trent University supports Hattie’s, encouraging educators to seriously consider using video games to develop “individual characteristics such as self-esteem, self-concept, goal-setting and individual differences.” (Griffiths, 2002). Griffiths goes on to state that not all video games are beneficial to learning. Teachers need to to align the tool with their curriculum and gather resources to best inform student discovery. This way, they can optimize the potential of the simulations inherent to some games by encouraging students to engage in extraordinary collaborations and experiences. For example, using a game like SIM city (http://www.simcity.com) in social studies; students experience how to build and maintain a city of their own creation, while keeping the fine balance of making their city eco-friendly but still pushing economic growth. Engagement in such a simulation goes beyond academic learning and delves into cross-curricular competencies, skill development and personal development emulated in real-life scenarios.

Think about the “teamwork, persistence, empathy, willingness to fail, project management, critical thinking, risk and reward analysis and goal setting” that takes place within the student while in these rich environments. The classroom shifts the attention away from a single content generator, the textbook, to a student discovery classroom, where students have the freedom to collaborate, problem solve, hypothesize, reflect in a simulated real-world setting.

Not only can games provide important personal problem-solving strategies and insights, but can also develop literacy skills. Game studies theorist James Gee explains, all gaming experiences, be it cards, board games, tablet games, online games, are a series of problems the user must solve to win, “The human mind learns through well-designed experiences.” Gee wrote in a 2013 report entitled Good Video Games and Good Learning, “[it] finds patterns and associations across different experiences and—after lots of time, effort, and practice—generalizes these patterns and associations into the sorts of concepts, principles, and generalizations we humans capture in language.” (Castaneda & Sidhu, 2015) Thus, games can be seen as text, not unlike books, yet still harnessing the motivation and engagement that tend to follow game environments. The challenge for teachers is to harness the learning potential of video games by making sure students learn what they need to learn.

Stay tuned for my next post in this series, Beyond the Textbook, when I interview Shawn Young, science teacher and CEO of Class Craft, a free online role-playing simulation designed for the classroom, that involves teachers and students learning together.

Castaneda, L., & Sidhu, M. (2015, February 18). Beyond Programming: The Power of Making Games — THE Journal. Retrieved February 24, 2015, from http://thejournal.com/Articles/2015/02/18/Beyond-Programming-The-Power-of-Making-Games.aspx?Page=1

Gee, J. P. What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Learning and Literacy. New York: Palgrave/Macmillan, 2003.

Griffiths, M.D. (2002). The educational benefits of videogames Education and Health, 20, 47-51.

Hattie, J. (2012). Visible learning for teachers: Maximizing impact on learning. London: Routledge.

La ludification d’une classe de FLS

photo by Mocks 108 CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

L’autre jour, j’écoutais un baladoweb de la série Freakonomics au sujet de la motivation, plus précisément, au sujet de comment éduquer les gens à faire des bons choix en terme de santé et d’obéissance aux lois. Ce n’était pas une émission du domaine de l’éducation, mais plutôt du domaine du marketing. Mais le marketing et l’éducation sont des cousins assez proches — les deux visant principalement la modification de comportements des gens à qui ils s’adressent. Ce billet se veut donc un hommage à l’espèce humaine, cette espèce qui est telle qu’elle est, peu importe les théories idéalistes sur lesquelles on s’appuie souvent pour l’expliquer.

Au printemps 2014, j’ai présenté dans un billet mon entrevue avec Avi Spector au sujet de la ludification (gamification) en apprentissage du FLS. Ce qui suit est mon entrevue avec Catherine Boisvert, l’enseignante qui a expérimenté cette approche dans sa classe de français, langue seconde entre janvier et juin 2014. La ludification, selon Avi et d’autres, c’est l’utilisation de stratégies et d’approches qui sont propres au domaine des jeux, incluant les jeux vidéo. Ça ne veut pas dire qu’on joue à des jeux en classe, mais plutôt qu’on puise certaines approches ou structures de jeux connus pour les mettre au service d’un contexte d’apprentissage. Le projet d’Avi et de Catherine avait comme fondements les 6 principes suivants :

  • Les notes : les notes sont structurées en fonction d’un gain de points et non la perte de points;
  • L’appropriation du parcours : il y a une transparence quant au programme et les élèves ont le choix des parties du programme qu’ils vont travailler. Les élèves connaissent d’avance les travaux à remettre et peuvent choisir l’ordre dans lequel ils les font;
  • L’échec vers l’avant (failing forward) : l’échec est perçu comme façon de progresser;
  • La rétroaction : une rétroaction ponctuelle et fréquente est donnée à l’élève pour lui permettre d’ajuster ses démarches, ses stratégies et ses travaux.
  • La différentiation : les élèves peuvent choisir différentes démarches, différents outils et différentes façons de démontrer le développement de leurs compétences, selon les aptitudes de chacun;
  • Les défis sur mesure : dans une classe individualisée, l’élève progresse à son rythme et ne progresse qu’après la réussite d’une cible d’apprentissage. Les nouveaux apprentissages se construisent sur des bases solides à chaque étape. Dans les jeux vidéo, on appelle cette démarche  « levelling up ».
Catherine Boisvert, CQSB

Enseignante : Catherine Boisvert, CQSB
Contexte : classe individualisée de FLS en éducation aux adultes (16 à 24 ans). Les élèves sont de secondaire 1 à 5 dans une même classe.

Qu’est-ce qui t’a amené à expérimenter la ludification dans ta classe de FLS?

Avi a déjà travaillé avec moi. Il cherchait un cobaye pour voir comment la ludification pouvait se dérouler en classe. Moi, personnellement, je préfère appeler ça de la « gamification » parce que mes élèves, ce sont des « gamers ». J’étais aussi à la recherche d’une façon d’essayer de jazzer un peu mon cours. J’ai un petit groupe et on est dans un petit centre. J’ai des élèves récalcitrants, qui se mettent des étiquettes, qui commencent leur première journée en disant : « Ah, non, mais moi j’suis pas bon en français. » Je voulais qu’ils aillent chercher cette espèce de combativité qu’ils ont avec les jeux. On a parlé des jeux auxquels ils jouent. Je leur ai demandé ce qu’ils font quand ils ne réussissent pas un tableau dans Candy Crush Saga. Est-ce qu’ils se disent : « Ah, non, moi j’suis pas bon »? Comme si c’était un jugement, comme si c’était fini, une sentence. Au contraire, ils essayent encore et encore! Ce qui m’a attiré vers cette approche de gamification, c’est ce qu’on appelle en anglais Failing Forward (l’échec vers d’avant), cette espèce de persévérance, qui fait que les élèves puissent se dire : « C’est pas grave, je me relève puis j’essaye une autre stratégie ». Je voulais qu’ils s’amusent dans ma classe, qu’ils essaient, qu’ils se disent : « Je me suis planté, c’est pas grave, je me relève puis je continue ». Je trouvais que la gamification était une façon d’amener cet aspect-là dans ma classe.

Explique-nous un peu la logistique de ton approche.

En éducation aux adultes, on fonctionne avec le Programme de formation pour le premier cycle du secondaire et avec le vieux programme pour le deuxième cycle du secondaire. On est en train de vivre la réforme un peu en retard. Donc, il y a 4 compétences pour le FLS au deuxième cycle. Chaque compétence fait l’objet d’une SAÉ — les élèves sont évalués en fonction de chaque SAÉ qu’ils me remettent. Les SAÉ sont évaluées avec des étoiles. Une étoile, c’est le minimum pour passer, c’est l’équivalant de la note C. Deux étoiles, l’élève est capable de réaliser la tâche sans problème. Trois étoiles, l’élève va au-delà des attentes. Pour chaque compétence, il y a la possibilité d’avoir jusqu’à trois étoiles. Je n’ai jamais, à date, reçu un travail qui ne méritait pas au moins une étoile. Pour passer à une prochaine étape (l’idée du Level Up) et pour ainsi accéder à l’examen d’étape, il faut avoir au moins 8 étoiles, sur un total de 12 étoiles possibles. Le jugement de l’enseignant entre aussi en jeu. Le but des élèves est de terminer leur scolarité au secondaire le plus rapidement possible. Donc, ils peuvent passer des examens d’étape ou de fin d’année en tout temps. Je veux par contre m’assurer qu’ils ne vont pas échouer les épreuves, donc le système des étoiles fonctionne bien pour concrétiser le cheminement des apprentissages. Les élèves peuvent voir s’ils sont prêts à tout moment. Le parcours est transparent.

J’ai choisi de fonctionner avec des SAÉ, même avec le vieux programme. J’ai vu que mes élèves en secondaire 1 et 2 étaient plus actifs et que le programme leur était plus pertinent, donc plus motivant. Ils étaient plus engagés dans les tâches. Mon but est toujours d’accroitre la motivation des élèves. Ce que je trouve le plus difficile, c’est de travailler sur les savoirs essentiels dans ce contexte, parce que les élèves trouvent des façons d’atteindre leurs buts qui peuvent des fois contourner les savoirs essentiels. Dans le fond, ils arrivent à travailler des stratégies de communication sans le savoir, mais pas forcément ce que je veux qu’ils travaillent. Je trouve aussi qu’ils ont une réflexion métacognitive quand ils argumentent pour avoir plus d’étoiles : « j’ai été capable de comparer — regardez, j’ai écrit plus quemoins que et après ça j’ai écrit autant que ».

Quelle a été ton expérience avec l’idée de l’échec vers l’avant?

L’échec vers l’avant, c’est intéressant. Les jeunes qui jouent à des jeux vidéo, quand ils sont confrontés à un échec, ils recommencent en se disant : « qu’est-ce qui a marché? Qu’est-ce que je peux refaire? » Dans le fond, l’aspect ludique des étoiles que j’ai utilisées, comme dans Angry Birds, ça semble avoir un effet dédramatisant. Les tâches que l’on fait servent d’évaluations formatives. L’idée est que les élèves sont tout le temps en évaluation, à tous les jours. Donc, quand arrive une formation sommative, les élèves sont habitués et ils sont à l’aise. J’ai aussi remarqué qu’ils savent aussi à quoi s’attendre. Je les sens outillés, et ILS se sentent outillés. J’avais des élèves qui ne fournissaient pas tellement d’efforts et dans une classe individualisée, chaque élève est responsable pour lui-même. Donc, si je ne faisais pas la police, ces élèves ne faisaient pas grand-chose. Une fois que j’ai commencé à expérimenter avec la ludification dans ma classe, ce sont ces mêmes élèves qui étaient presque tannants tellement qu’ils me demandaient si j’avais corrigé leur travail! Là, j’avais le problème de ne pas fournir moi-même assez vite! J’avais jamais eu autant de correction à faire, mais en même temps, j’étais contente parce qu’ils venaient me voir pour me demander combien d’étoiles qu’ils ont eues. « Hein, comment ça, deux étoiles? Ok, alors je vais le refaire! » Ils ne voyaient plus ça comme des évaluations. Ils ne se voyaient plus comme des étiquettes qui leur collaient dessus. C’est comme s’ils prenaient le contrôle, qu’ils sentaient ce « sense of agency » dont Avi parlait.

Selon toi, quels ont été les principaux succès du projet?

Les élèves savent mieux ce qu’ils doivent atteindre en français, ça représente le QUOI. Ils savent ce qu’ils doivent être capables de faire en français. Ils savent mieux lier des savoirs essentiels à des situations. Ils ont plus de choix — au lieu de suivre un courant. Ils peuvent se dire : « je vais montrer cette compétence de telle façon ». Ça leur offre un contexte plus ludique — la perception qu’ils jouent à un jeu. Ça rend la communication plus naturelle, comme des enfants qui jouent et puis qui apprennent en jouant. Je sens que les élèves ne voient plus de barrières, qu’ils perçoivent les buts à atteindre pas comme une note, mais comme être capable de faire quelque chose. Dans le fond, la note, c’est pas aussi important que d’être capable de communiquer en français, surtout à Québec, où j’enseigne. On travaille des situations concrètes, issues de leur vie, comme par exemple, échanger un appareil qu’on a acheté. C’est aussi beaucoup moins dramatique. Je sais que j’insiste beaucoup là-dessus, mais je crois que c’est l’aspect le plus important de la gamification/ludification des apprentissages en FLS. Si un élève est habitué de penser à l’évaluation comme étant une chose punitive, une sanction négative, il va éviter de s’investir dans son apprentissage pour ne pas vivre trop d’émotions lors de l’échec éventuel. « Tu ne peux pas dire que je suis pas bon, j’ai même pas essayé. »  L’idée du Failing Forward, de l’échec vers l’avant, rompt ce cycle de démotivation. Dans un contexte individualisé comme celui de l’éducation aux adultes, c’est très facile de ne pas se rendre compte qu’on fournit pas le même effort qu’un autre, parce qu’on n’a pas les mêmes tâches. Mais avec un système de gamification en place, les élèves peuvent comparer leurs efforts de façon très concrète — « t’as combien d’étoiles? T’as combien de tâches de faites? » Et enfin, être bon en français, langue seconde, ce n’est pas nécessairement très cool. Il faut lui ajouter du cachet, pour que les élèves fournissent l’effort requis — ce projet a contribué à rendre le FLS un peu branché dans les yeux des jeunes.

Quels ont été les principaux défis pour toi et pour tes élèves?

J’ai découvert que pour certains de mes élèves qui venaient d’autres pays, l’école c’est supposé être sérieux. Donc s’ils s’amusent, ils ne sont pas en train d’apprendre! J’ai dû confronter cette idée-là — on a tous grandi et découvert ensemble. De plus, c’était difficile d’instaurer le nouveau système et de faire embarquer tout le monde au mois de janvier. Dans le fond, commencer dès le début de l’année scolaire fonctionnerait beaucoup mieux. J’aimerais consolider et développer le projet pour qu’il soit prêt pour le mois d’aout et pour que tout le monde puisse commencer avec une plateforme comme Edmodo. De plus, je suis dans un contexte d’apprentissage individualisé, dans lequel j’ai les cinq niveaux dans une même classe, donc je me sens des fois comme un gardien de but — celui-ci a une question, l’autre à besoin d’explications… Même avec la gamification, j’essaye toujours de trouver des moyens de composer avec cette réalité.

À quoi réfléchis-tu présentement?

J’ai des élèves qui parlent français comme moi, mais qui ont plus de misère à écrire, d’autres élèves ont des troubles d’apprentissage comme la dyslexie. Ces jeunes doivent alors travailler des stratégies de lecture. J’aimerais trouver une façon de jumeler les élèves afin que les forces de chacun puissent venir aider avec les faiblesses de l’autre, peut-être avoir certains élèves dans le cadre d’une même SAÉ travailler des compétences différentes. J’ai des élèves qui s’expriment très bien en français, presque comme des francophones et j’ai aussi des élèves qui viennent d’autres pays et qui ne parlent que très peu et pour qui le français est la 3e ou 4e langue. Souvent, ils viennent d’une culture d’apprentissage très traditionnelle, dans laquelle il y a beaucoup de répétition et de pratiques écrites, mais très peu de communication spontanée à l’oral. Donc, j’aimerais les jumeler avec mes petits Québécois « slackers ».

Dans le fond, je veux amener les élèves à déployer cette même combativité que je les vois déployer quand ils jouent à un jeu. C’est sûr que c’est plus facile si la tâche est aussi liée d’une certaine façon à leur vraie vie et non pas juste « conjugue-moi 20 verbes ». Le jeu à lui tout seul, c’est sûr que ce n’est pas assez. Mais, c’est le jeu qui soutient l’apprentissage et qui ajoute à leur motivation. Il est certain que je dois adapter les SAÉ pour qu’elles soient assez ouvertes pour qu’un élève puisse se retrouver dedans. Un élève qui tripe sur la planche à neige pourra mieux écrire un texte explicatif sur le « snow » que sur un truc scientifique qui ne l’intéresse pas.


Avez-vous des questions pour Catherine Boisvert au sujet de son expérience de ludification? Utilisez les commentaires pour lui en faire part!



All Fun and Games: Gamifying a Language Classroom

Photo credit: jonesytheteacher CC BY-SA 2.0
Photo credit: jonesytheteacher CC BY-SA 2.0

In February, I attended a session at the LCEEQ conference given by Avi Spector on Gamification. I was skeptical, as gamification is getting a lot of press from corporate training and marketing folks, and we don’t always see eye to eye on classroom practice issues.

I was pleasantly surprised, therefore, when Avi presented an action-research project that he had undertaken with an FLS teacher in the Adult Ed. sector at CQSB, Catherine Boisvert. Now, before you say to yourself: “Oh no, Adult Sector is not for me, that’s not my reality, I teach kids”, remember that the Quebec Adult Ed. sector is geared towards students over the age of 16, so many students are actually not much older than those in regular secondary classrooms. Moreover, I discovered that the gamification model is so universally applicable across ages, that its principles are valuable no matter what level you teach. If you have read the blog before, you might know that I am a BIG proponent of action-research as a model for professional learning. We learn and grow as educators when we try sound pedagogical approaches, reflect on our experience, adjust and try again. So, without further ado, here are some key points from my interview with Avi Spector:

What is Gamification?

Avi discusses his definition of gamification and how it compares to game-based learning. Important distinction!

*Note: currently, the videos are only available on a computer. We are working to have them available on mobile devices shortly!

Reasons and Motivations for the Project

I spoke to Catherine Boisvert, the teacher whose classroom was the laboratory for the gamification experiment, via Skype last week. She works with teenagers and young adults whose pathway through traditional schooling was not always successful. Catherine had this to say about her reasons for agreeing to participate in this pedagogical innovation in her classroom:

Catherine Boisvert, CQSB

I was looking for ways to jazz up my curriculum. I work in a learning center with a small group of very disparate students, all working at varying levels of French language ability. I wanted to make my classes more dynamic and to move away from the self-perception about their abilities with which the students were coming. I get a lot of students who come into my class the first day and say to me: “I’m not good at French” – they label themselves as not being good students right off the bat. I wanted for them to have this gaming spirit, the same perseverance that came through when they talked to me about the games they played. I was really inspired by the idea of failing forward, of using mistakes as opportunities to try another strategy, or a new way of doing. I wanted to take the drama out of mistakes and have students say to themselves: “It’s ok, it doesn’t matter, I’m just going to try again”. I also wanted students to feel as though they had all the tools necessary to pass the exam, and for this, I needed them to do a lot of practicing. I didn’t want this work to feel like a burden, I wanted it to be fun.

The Six Principles of Gamifying your Curriculum

These are the guiding principles that Avi and Catherine followed when designing the gamified learning environment.


The model used by Catherine and Avi

Avi provides an overview of the setup in Catherine’s FLS classroom.

Outcomes of the Experiment

Catherine talked to me about her ongoing experience this past school year:

I had students in my class who really didn’t put in very much effort before. Less than the minimum, in fact. After the gamification model was put into place, these same people would submit work and demand feedback so they could win stars. When I would say to them “Well, I’m hesitating between one and two stars” their reaction would be “What do you mean? Give that back, I’m going to change it so I can get two stars!” They never would have said that before! It’s as though they weren’t taking the evaluation so personally anymore, it wasn’t a label that they felt they had to stick on themselves – I’m good, I’m no good. These labels are so immovable and students really feel powerless when they buy into them. I see that students feel more in control of their learning – they feel that they have the power to get one, two or three stars. As Avi would say, they feel a greater sense of agency. I noticed that even when they are trying to convince me to give them more starts, they are actually referring to their work and the clearly stated outcomes: “What do you mean I didn’t use enough comparative language. Here, I wrote ‘more than’, and ‘as much as’ and ‘similarly'”. So the learning is actually very deep and metacognitive.

Students are also more clear about expected outcomes, because the outcomes are part of the ‘game’. They are better able to make links between essential knowledge and the situations in which you apply that knowledge. This also gives them more choice as to the ways that they can demonstrate competency growth, within the LES structure that I’m using. My students no longer see tasks and objectives as obstacles to getting a good grade. They see them rather as opportunities to ‘level up’.

My biggest challenge was a cultural one. I do have students who come from cultures where school and learning are a serious business. It was more difficult to get them into the spirit of the ‘game’, because of the perception that if you’re having fun, you can’t possibly be learning. Also, next year, I won’t be starting the project in January. Starting right away in September will mean that there won’t be a disconnect midway through the year.

(Stay tuned for a blog post featuring my whole interview with Catherine Boisvert from CQSB en français, bien sûr!)

Are you working on a Gamification project in your classroom or network? I would love to hear about your experience.


Avi Spector is a pedagogical consultant with the RECIT FGA and the Riverside School Board. His provincial mandate is to support General Adult Education teachers from the nine English School Boards. You can tweet him @a_spector

All of his Gamification workshop materials can be found on his Pinterest board www.pinterest.com/avimspector

Catherine Boisvert is a French Second Language / Francization teacher at the Eastern Québec Learning Centre in the Central Quebec School Board.