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Educational buzzwords, gamification, and Classcraft


It often seems as if K-12 education is nothing but buzz words. Problem-based learning. SAMR. Close reading. College and Career. Flipped classroom. Disruptive technology. BYOD. Data driven. MOOC.

We’re good at that stuff.

Administrators read a book or attend a conference and next thing you know . . . a new program or initiative with a hour of “training” at the next staff meeting. Sometimes there’s so many buzzwords flying around, it’s just easier sometimes to ignore all of them. I get that. As schools, we’re great on jumping on the latest trend and not always following through in the long term.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean that all buzzwords are bad. I think most admin types, and all of you trend following classroom folks as well, do it for a reason. You all want the best for your kids, you’re all looking for what works, for ideas and strategies that might make a difference.

So I think it’s okay to throw out another one. Here ya go – gamification.

I’ve been talking and presenting about game-based learning and gamification since, well . . . a while. I really jumped on the gaming bandwagon during the first few weeks of my rookie year at Derby Middle School. It was during those very first days in my teaching career that I began to see the power of games in the learning process.

So it’s kind of cool to see all of the different tools available that help teachers incorporate gaming concepts and simulations into their instruction. If you’re interested in folding in game design and concepts into your curriculum, one of the tools you need to check out is an online tool called

Classcraft is a free online, educational role-playing game that teachers and students play together in the classroom. By using many of the conventions traditionally found in games today, students can level up, work in teams, and earn powers that have real-world consequences. Acting as a gamification layer around any existing curriculum, the game transforms the way students experience your class throughout the school year.

Just to be clear, gamification and game-based learning are not the same. Put simply, Gamification is about finding ways to make reality more like a game. Game-based learning is about finding ways to make a game more like reality. Gamification involves using gaming elements such as levels, customization, leaderboards, cooperative learning, competition, and challenges. It’s not a game, it’s a game-like experience. Game-based learning uses actual games to encourage the learning of skills and content.

So . . . Classcraft is a gamification tool – use it to help make what you currently teach and how you teach it more engaging and authentic.

Using the web-based and iOS platforms, you and your students can easily manage all the complexities of the game. The class is taught normally, and the game runs passively in the background, collecting points and managing powers. Classcraft can be played with one computer and a projector or deployed on every student’s tablet or laptop.

Classcraft is relevant to students because the risks and rewards in the game are real. Do well academically and help your teammates with their homework, and you can gain experience points that can unlock real powers like eating in class or asking a question on an exam. Show up late too many times, and you might fall in battle and need to come to detention. In Classcraft, participation is a must to survive!

You have the ability to customize the game by awarding “powers” for traits you consider important. To ensure that students are always alert,you have access to over 100 random events, any one of which can be sprung upon students at any time. Some are beneficial, others dangerous and a few, just plain goofy to bring some levity into otherwise dry topics like physics. The most important lesson that students soon learn is that in order to win World of Classcraft, they have to function as a team, which according to Shawn is the most important life lesson kids can learn.

Shawn Young, a high school physics teacher, designed the game and launched the Classcraft site about a year ago. He says that he has seen tremendous benefits. One of the biggest is that his kids are no longer afraid to take his class because they know they don’t have to be the smartest in the class to succeed. They’re more engaged and seem to work harder, partly because they don’t want to let down their team.

To play the game, students pick a role from one of three choices – Warriors, Mages and Healers. Each is represented by a special avatar and outlines what students need to do to earn points that translate into real-life powers. For example, mages are incentivised with good grades making them attractive to stronger students, while healers favor those that are good team players making them a popular choice with kids that like to socialize.

classcraft 1

Teachers then divide the students into groups of five or six. By mixing students playing different roles, you can form teams that are strong both academically and socially. The teams can remain together throughout the year or you can change them up by quarters or semesters. This encourages students who might not normally socialize to work together to win the game. All team members benefit from cooperative efforts and learn to consider the needs of others before they take actions in the game.

I know it’s a buzzword. But it’s a good kind of buzzword – one that can help you actively engage and motivate all of your kids with your content. And you’ve got all summer to literally play with it. Need a reason? Check out the testimonials.

There are three different levels of pricing for access – free, freemium, and premium.

Find out more and sign up at their site.

6 Comments Post a comment
  1. Reblogged this on momentarylapseofsanity.

    May 26, 2015
  2. Mike Johnson #

    We used Classcraft for the last 2 months of the school year on a trial basis and my kids absolutely loved it! They couldn’t wait to get to class & see how their character was progressing and it was a great motivator for a few of the non interested students.

    May 26, 2015
    • glennw #


      Thanks for the comment! It seems like everyone I’ve talked to has had a good experience.

      Curious about the pricing model – did you use the free version? Can you upgrade as you go along?


      May 26, 2015
  3. Reblogged this on Technocrats.

    May 27, 2015
  4. Reblogged this on SilberLab.

    June 1, 2015
  5. I just love how they all got together and built their own game

    June 2, 2015

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