When Andrew Wallace was teaching in Alaska, he came across a program called Classcraft, which promised to help keep students engaged in class.
Wallace was looking for useful tools and in Classcraft, he found just that. The program is a role-playing game that can be managed by a teacher to help students learn.
“If I can get kids to be interested in my content, that’s a win,” Wallace, who now teaches freshman English at Williston High School, said.
Turning lessons into games helps keep students paying attention, but there’s also more to it than that.
“I think the biggest reason kids are into it is the power,” Wallace said.
In Classcraft, students have a say in what their character does, something that isn’t always the case during the school day. But in the app, students have the ability to refine their character and really set their own goals.
They can also work on ways to improve their character’s statistics, from more experience — referred to in the game as Experience Points or XP — to the ability to withstand more damage.
Some of the students spend time in the program after class. They might even know more about parts of it than Wallace does.
But, he said, he’s careful not to overuse the program.
“You need that little bit of the unexpected to keep the students’ attention,” he said.
One option that Classcraft offers does exactly that — it holds a student’s attention. Wallace can have the program pick one member of the class at random to answer a question. That helps students study for topics, and it keeps them feeling like things are fair.
“That way you’re not singling anyone out,” he said.
It also works to draw in students one at a time.
“That’s a good way of getting them involved and it gives them XP if they get it correct,” Wallace said.
Classcraft can work as a test, also. Wallace can set up boss battles where there are stakes for the students. If they get a question correct, they inflict damage on their opponent.
But if they get it wrong, then they’re hit. That might put them in a position where they need help.
“If they were wrong then they might fall in battle, and their teammates can help them,” Wallace said.
The rules of the game and the way lessons are put in help keep students on track and focused.
“This gives them an added venue to succeed,” he said.
Other teachers around the district use Classcraft in different ways. Wallace has become an advocate for it and shown other teachers what it can do.
Teachers can spend as much time as they want setting up quests, making them more or less elaborate. But students and parents see the work and see the value.
“I had a parent say they wished this was around in other classes,” Wallace said.