Canadian high school physics teacher Shawn Young wanted to engage and motivate his students when he came up with the idea to create an online role playing game that teachers could play with their students in the classroom. The result was a game that allows students to play in teams as mages, warriors, and healers, each with unique powers, and that incentivizes through real world risks and rewards. This game didn’t focus on a specific subject matter, like physics, but instead helped enhance the general dynamics of the classroom.
In this new game,, the more students do well in class, not only academically but by supporting their classmates’ learning, the more they gain points by succeeding with real positive actions, such as bringing notes to an exam. If students do poorly, are disruptive or bully others, they lose points and penalize their Classcraft teammates.
After working for three years to develop Classcraft, Shawn Young finds it a little ironic that the entire idea stared as sort of a joke with his students. Shawn, like many of his students, was a gamer and they liked to joke about earning experience points for accomplishments in class. Since Shawn was already a web developer as a side job, he decided to make it happen. He created a role playing game online for his 11th grade physics students.
Classcraft is not dependent on grade or subject matter, but more about gamifying class behavior. This game does not require teachers to change their style of teaching, but just ads a layer of gamification over what is already happening in class. Teachers match students with avatars and avatar characteristics – then, most importantly, the students form teams of 5 or 6 that become their team they play with for the semester of even the year. Teachers can customize the game completely and award experience points for whatever they want.
The main goal for students is to earn powers that will make them successful- powers that actually have an impact on their real life. But there is also an element of risk included in Classcraft, with a library of 100 random events that teachers can choose to add in order to change the course for any student, making it not only more challenging, but fun. Working in teams is also a huge game changer for students- as the game fosters a real sense of collaboration that can be very hard to initiate among students in a “typical” classroom setting. Already a student in Texas who had really bad grades has shared that because of the team of work inspired by Classcraft, he has felt much more included and successful at school.
Young recognizes that learning is a social act and has worked hard to create a game that truly harnesses that essential aspect. At the most base level, Classcraft can be played with just one computer and a projector, with the teacher sharing daily updates of player statuses with the class. This was how Classcraft originally functioned and did a great job of engaging students. But with years of work and updates, students now can access their own dashboard and track their own progress. It is web- based and pushes updates immediately, so the game platform is completely scalable for any size classroom and can be used with any computer or device. The iOS apps are coming in September with the Android app soon to follow.
For Shawn the goal with his students was always to learn better and learn more. Classcraft is free right now and Shawn wants to make sure the game stays accessible for all teachers and students so that he can help as many as possible learn better and learn more, regardless if they are in his classroom or not.