Just had a great talk with a fellow educator, David Oon, who’s the ICT HOD at Spectra Secondary School. He has been doing gamification with a knowledge web/map system for a number of years and it has worked well for the lower secondary levels. He even budgeted for various physical items which students can redeem with the experience points they earned. This is especially ideal for the socioeconomic group he’s working with, since the items are of high practical value for schooling and other aspects of daily life.
But over the years David realised that the upper secondary students are not so engaged by the gamification anymore. They tend to question the relevance of what they’re doing. This prompted my colleague to reach out to various educators, including myself, who have had experience with gamification to see what design additions can be done to resolve this issue. Unfortunately none of us have actually reached the stage he’s in. Most of us gamified at a topic level. He has gamified at a syllabus level! What a grand achievement! Edit: David has insisted that he is simply carrying on the good work that his predecessor, Wei Ren, started. You can find out a bit more about how Spectra Sec uses gamification and knowledge maps in this link. David’s not resting on his laurels, he still wants to level up.
And the next step in his leveling up is to bring a narrative flow to his gamification. He already has a narrative in mind. So the next thing is about how to implement/manifest this narrative. We recalled how the Marvel Cinematic Universe did it – by using post credit clips to link one movie to another. The advantage of this over the traditional method of a cliffhanger is that there is closure. The movie has already completed its small arch, the audience is satisfied with the closure and the post credits just tease a little bit more. For example Thor’s hammer was shown on earth in the post credits of Iron Man 2. It had totally nothing to do with the plot of the Iron Man 2 movie itself, but it piqued our interest. And when the Thor movie was shown, many of the audience quickly connected the plot back to the Iron Man 2 post credit scene of Thor’s hammer on earth, helping to connect Iron Man 2 with Thor, despite not much of a plot continuation or overlap. In later use of the post credit scenes for Marvel Movies, sometimes there are clear plot overlaps, but the fact that it’s not a necessary condition makes post credit scenes the underrated hero of the Marvel Cinematic universe.
To borrow this analogy for a narrative flow, perhaps it’s better for a topic, or as David calls it, a learning zone, to have a self contained capstone/boss-fight for closure, before having a transition activity or cinematic to connect to the next topic/learning zone. It sounds simple enough but sometimes we connect everything together thinking it’ll be better. Imagine if the ending of Iron Man 2 directly linked to Thor’s plot in-movie instead of via a post credit scene, the feeling will be very different. This was kind of what DC tried to do by foreshadowing future movies in Batman vs Superman with the Flash’s time travel scene in-movie to warn Bruce Wayne about Superman. We all know how well that turned out.
So tentatively, we arrived at the conclusion that self-contained learning zones with capstone projects/assessments, linked via videos or activities to other learning zones is the way to achieve a narrative flow. This understanding will probably evolve the more we explore and brainstorm with various educators. I’m excited to see where this will lead us!