Top Ten Tips is back with Classcraft under the lens. Classcraft is a classroom management system unlike any other - it turns your class into an educational RPG with the students on quests of learning. Steve takes a look at some of the key elements that can help you get the most out of this amazing platform.
Since jumping onboard with it, I have seen some remarkable things in my classroom. I've seen boys willingly complete extra homework in subjects that they don't favour. I've seen students collaborate to defend each other in the game world and reason with each other as to how to go about it. I've seen behaviour and manners so polished that they sparkle - just on the off chance that I will share some digital gold coins!
It really is a remarkable platform and so it seemed a good fit for Top Ten Tips, especially since the iOS app now opens up gameplay to the mobile generation.
Prepare for your Quest
Classcraft is pretty big and can seem daunting at first. Don't panic though as there's a wide range of guides and teacher notes available within the app to guide you in how each aspect of the game works. There's also a detailed FAQ section, a forum and a built in contact form if you get really stuck, INstructional videos for various aspects are also available via Vimeo and Youtube!
Clash of Clans
Before you can launch the game, you'll need to group your students into teams (or clans, tribes, guilds - however you want to dub them!) It's best to keep these as mixed ability teams and try to ensure an even balance between them. Once you've done this, make sure you explain the three charcater types (Warrior, Mage, Healer) to them. It's essential that they include a mix of all three in their team - don't let all the boys choose Warrior! Each has it's own unique abilities and this facilitates one of the core aspects of the game - collaboration. Healers will heal wounded team-mates, Warriors will defend them from damage and Mages will restore AP (action points that are needed to use these abilities) amongst other things. Successful teams will find a delicate balance of skills and harness them all to the benefit of the group.
Make it your own
One of the most powerful features of Classcraft is the ability to fully customise and tweak every aspect of the game rules. This includes things like:
- The nature of the character powers
- The amount of XP gained/ HP lost due to different events
- The amount of XP needed to level up
- The amount of AP regained each day
- The random daily events list
- The forfeits on the cursed dice which players must role if their character dies
By tweaking the rules to your personal tastes you can make the game your own and ensure that it has the maximum impact in your classroom.
The custom challenges are the beating heart of the game. You can create challenges based on classroom work, extra assignments or even social tasks. The challenges can be grouped in sections based on subject or any other theme. When you create them, there are a few little tweaks available to you. You can type in the name, nature and details of the task (and add media files if desired) of course but you can also turn on student comments for each task. In some cases you may want them to actually provide the work via this forum. They can even attach files directly here. another nice touch is the ability to offer small XP or gold rewards to students just for reading the challenges. This is a great way to ensure that they check back regularly and actually look at the challenges on offer!
The Gradebook feature allows you to sync test scores and the like directly into the game. You have the ability to set benchmark thresholds which can determine whether students are penalised or rewarded for their attainment in tests. Suddenly students have another reason to practise those weekly spellings!
My one word of caution here would be to be sensitive towards less able students who may not be able to attain as highly as others. You wouldn't want to punish them in the game for this! A way around it would be to record test scores in differentiated feeds and tweak the thresholds accordingly.
The Classcraft Fellowship
At our school we are fortunate to have a lot of specialist teachers for subjects like music, French, Arabic and PE. Get them involved! Share the concept with them and give them an idea of how to assign bonuses or penalties in their lessons. Site co-founder Luke Rees is our music teacher right now and has had students bring one of my iPads to him so he can interact with the app directly. Our French teacher has added some of her own classroom challenges and been wowed by the response from students. Don't have any specialist teachers? Try showing the system to a member of your school management team or a year group leader and get them to add a guest challenge!
Another concept I've been playing around with is to allow students to offer their own suggestions for challenges. They aren't allowed to complete their own challenge but receive the same bonus if 5 others complete it.
Going for Gold
Being able to spend gold and customise their characters appearance is something that students really love. The use of gold pieces is not available in the free version, only the freemium and premium versions. Be aware that the freemium version allows gold to be bought by students as an in-app purchase. As such the premium account is definitely the way to go. This way you can dole out the cash in parallel to XP as incentives for engagement, participation or behaviour. Sometimes I offer challenges just for gold, sometimes for a combo of XP and gold. Mixing it up keeps things interesting.
Here are three avatars from my class...
Quests through Time
Classcraft includes two "quests" which take the form of a built in stopwatch and countdown timer. Obviously there are other tools that you can use to facilitate these but having them within the game allows you to utilise them and make a class-based challenge seem integral to the overall game. Another nice touch is the fact that you can select a random player or team within the quests and apply a time-based task just to them.
The Hand of Fate
One of the most popular features in my classroom has been the daily Random Event. This customisable list of one off special events includes bonuses, punishments and criteria that must be met as well as some other surprises. It's become a little ritual every morning after the register that we spin the wheel of fate and see what occurs each day. I will sometimes use it a second time on the same day if I feel the students need perking up.
Adding your own events via the rules menu is fantastic too as you can tailor events completely to your liking. To be a bit of a meanie, I added one called Bamburygeddon which instantly knocks 10HP off of EVERY character with no magic allowed to defend its effects! Don't forget you can also remove any that you are not comfortable using.
Here's an absolutely brilliant one:
You Have My App
(Yes that was a LOTR reference)
The recent launch of the free Classcraft app has really elevated the potential for using it in and out of school. Students can access their profile, upgrade their character, check out the latest classroom challenges and more. A definite must have for anyone looking to get the most out of the game.
And that's ten. I hope you've found some useful tips here and enjoy bringing Classcraft into your learning space.