This post is about achievement and reputation – in games like Moshi Monsters. If you’re a player – you might find this a bit boring … so skip to the bottom and leave me a comment on “how achieves and rep matter”. For teachers – this is about formative assessment and what’s killing it.
Feedback is best received when it is emotionally meaningful. Teachers are told during undergraduate study that formative assessment is ongoing – yet all too often it is imperceptible to students. Summative assessment is far more conspicuous – and draws significant attention from parents (are your studying for your exam?) and executives (how did the exam go?).
I think it is more important for students to be able to measure their levels of attainment during their learning – to feel good at life, learning and participation and be confident when getting that summative test. Imagine hiring a graphic designer and giving them an exam, not talking with them about their portfolio. Brain-missing but powerful pressure if you’re a kid. Often, we find positive methods of recording student achievement in primary school. This is often undone by High school, who, in a stoke of genius turn it into behaviour management. A complete 180. Now the card feels like a yoke around your neck in a rudimentary effort to curb unwanted behaviour. We can’t hit you, so we’ll humiliate you, and you brought it on yourself.
At the end of the lesson, kids who I never had much problem with would line up to get their report card signed. They would ask “Was I good?”, to which my standard reply was “Good at what exactly”. The poor kid had spent my lesson in emotional-deficit because some other clown spent theirs yelling at them. I don’t believe that kids are villainous, but in the eyes of a regime unable to differentiate effectively, they often don’t fit into the ideal the teacher believes to be ‘good’ either – and we’ve all seen teachers carry a grudge over one incident that they carry for months.
Games give constant emotional feedback. They use achievement and reputation. This is very important, so pay attention – if you are a game-avoider.
Achievements or “achieves” are how players recognise how well they are learning – to play, co-operate, explore, stick with it and solve problems. Yes, games present the ideal learning environment – offering directed and self-directed learning from the get go. Does the average high-school classroom achieve this every time a kids sits down to learn? Games do, and as kids spend as much time playing as they do in school – think about who’s winning?
Achieves are given for tackling problems and succeeding, or for fun – don’t shy away from fun – learning can be fun without tarnishing it’s academic value.
Some ideas: “Well Read’ achievement for reading. “Somebody Loves Me”, “Money on my mind”, “Falling Down” … game makers invent incremental, creative awards for being good at the game – and more importantly for spending time in the game. Each achieve has learning requirements – and are usually creatively presented to players as ‘worth doing’.
Imagine if you took your subject matter and created a series of 30 achievements (learning goals) – that kids could do as self-directed learners. We might go far as to say – these are 30 instances of formative assessment. Not some lame sticker system or ink-stamp (good for buying coffee) – but a system by which they recognise they are good at learning – and not one which tells 90% they are not.
This is quite simple to do by creating a set of graphics that they can place on their blog, wiki or profile page (assuming this is a contemporary classroom). Hand out the ‘achieves’ when appropriate. The “achieves” begin small, and easy to get – and rise up. Some can only be attained after completing lower ones. Again, games makers ensure that no matter how good you think are, there are always achievements to be earned. You can take on the really big ones after you’ve hacked away at the smaller ones – and you can actually tell when you are most ready. Isn’t that exactly how exams are supposed to work?
Reputation or “rep” is the second commons – the thing kids crave online. You cannot assign it, but you can earn it. Having a swag of achievements builds reputation. A number of achieves, put together, earns rep points – and rep points matter.
Being able to see how many rep points someone has – is an indicator of the number of achievements earned. It is not an exact comparative measure – which is why it is emotionally meaningful. Others will want to know your rep – how did you get that? No one ever asks how you got a C on the test except an irate parent.
As you are probably not a gamer, this might all sound a little inane – which is exactly why teachers should play more games – to understand how players measure their own skill and learning. It is now far more social and complex than the 8-bit High Score tables most teacher would remember from the 1980s although education still believes in the high score table. The online world (where our reputation increasingly resides) is far more interested in your achievements which is probably why many students with graduate degrees find it hard to find an actual job. Employers are Googling and using LinkedIn to seek out the achievers with creative, applicable reputation. Paper says you went somewhere, did something that one person judged. Rep and Achieves are something entirely more useful to anyone who has opted to ‘be online’ – and even more critical if you have chosen not to.
If you want to see how this works – Take a look at Moshi Monsters. Try unlocking some achievements, read some of the forum. Then think – this is something that kids enjoy, are good at, and spend thousands of hours working on – by the age of 5. If you’re a Moshi Monster player … I’d love to hear what you think about Reputation and Achievement!