QuestBoise 2014: Using Virtual Worlds as a Platform for Gamification in the Classroom

These are the live blogged notes for Using Virtual Worlds as a Platform for Gamification in the Classroom at the QuestBoise 2014 conference. All mistakes are my own.

Presenter: Enrique Chachafeiro

Tour of Virtual world:
YouTube Video for Presentation:

He is a science teacher at a charter school in SC. Before, worked at engineering firm (I think that’s what he said, but the sound got fuzzy).

Summary: 20 minutes on forms of education that he’s already done and how they’ve turned out. The last half about what he’s doing now, using a virtual platform, to instruct science and english.

Started gamification with Biology: The Game.

  • First attempt at gamification (using game mechanics in the classroom). Didn’t know it was well established as a teaching technique.
  • Unscripted, unprompted
  • Traditional classroom, game components – based it on Xbox
    • used badges, achievements, avatars
    • very 8 bit
    • used Adobe Captivate to make an explanation

The results were

  • the class engaged at unprecedented levels – mentoring/remediation sessions between students
  • competition for badges – girls did not engage with this form of mechanics (achievements and badges), boys were excited about it though
  • overall performance was markedly increased

Year 2: Ambitious

He did some research, particularly Lee Sheldon and Karl Kapp. Ate up all the books and papers on gamification that he could. He went very ambitions as he planned throughout the summer.

Implementation of quests, backstory, and world building. Syllabus was 37 pages (?) long, but it was part syllabus and background story and information. Very involved. On the map, they could move around the map to unlock quests and fight other peoples. Sent orders by Google Docs, which was not as solid a tool back then as it is now. About three weeks into the semester, he found out that the kids laptops at the router level or PC level was caching all the orders so they were not updating on the server.


  • too big – not tech savvy enough
  • Google Spreadsheets, MOODLE, mashup for map
  • 3 weeks before collapse
  • LMS with Quest themed projects remained
  • early evidence of what might have been

New Beginnings

  • Charter School – freedom from standardized tests, from constraints of county district
  • New school – lots of work
  • Board game base, Google Sites for backstory
  • Great engagement, well received

Lifted an entire game and put it into the classroom. Take an existing game, modified the rules for the classroom, and have the physical components in the class. Board game is called Twilight Imperium. Created a website for the classroom game, Has a trailer to get kids excited about the class. Worked well for the first semester but not so much for the second semester. The girls were having far better time of it than the boys because having friends or allies was key. The girls were best at strategizing by talking to others and socializing. Got monotonous after a while and he thought it could be improved.

The ultimate game

  • Inspired by training at Duke for Alice programming
  • Certificate ion Virtual Worlds from UW
  • Learning experiences become adventures
  • immersion, story-driven engagement, bounties, achievements

Alice is a free programming language. Took Virtual Worlds certificate. This new game uses OpenSim, which is open source. He’s at a charter school, which is public, so no private funds. Like any public school but you must be self sufficient. Platform was viable because they did not need a grant and affordable for the school to move forward.

The desktops for the computer lab had power PC gaming desktops so it could run the games. Turn the learning experiences into adventures, have kids forget they were in a classroom. It was paramount to getting the kids to not only be there but to be driven to move through the story, which in turn was the curriculum.

Building it as they go. They did it all on their own without external help. Linked to video

Question from chat: @QB, @8bit, how important is it to get participants to build, not just walk around? We are planning on having activities that allow students to build……but it is not going to be mandatory in English 1 or Biology.

Enrique explained some of the biology games included in the virtual space. If the games are done correctly, the next space (or level) is unlocked (in this case a door is unlocked that opens to more content).

Work in progress

  • providing a place in world
  • purpose, importance, story
  • reinforcing, working towards ‘flow’
  • establishing context
  • mastery
  • constrained by time, programming
  • online community and resources
  • formative, non-intrusive assessment with Pro-NIFA

He can make as complex a set up as he needs for a lesson for multiple uses. Cannot do that in a real life classroom. Students must master material before moving on. The downsides are that it takes time to learn how to do and to implement. It also requires some programming skills. Everything is simple right now, but it is expandable as it is modular. Can have more complex interactions once they learn how to program it to do so. Can add classes or modules if needed. Pro-NIFA is software that gets logs from the simulation (things that happen in the virtual world). It keeps track of what students are doing, if they are successful at it, how long they were at it. Gives assessment information that is not available in a real world environment.

Read Supporting Formative Assessment and Appraisal by Smart, Competence-based, Probabilistic Systems by Michael Kickmeier-Rust and Dietrich Albert (PDF). Includes information on Pro-NIFA.


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