Great Teachers Conference: Collective Wisdom Session

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On 11/10/18 at 8:00pm, I attended the Great Teacher’s Conference  Session at the Rizzo Center in Chapel Hill, NC presented by Wake Technical Community College

We ended the conference with a Q&A session with the youngest teachers as the audience, and all of us as the experts. We were asked to give advice for the first day.

Don’t make it too fun, but let them know things are serious.

Tell a funny story about yourself to put people at ease.

Be drawn in as a student. If it isn’t fun to be there, why bother to show up.

smile on the first day so people know you are happy.

why i love this subject, why I teach, why I am at wake tech

I know you’ve seen my ratemyprofessor ratings, make the expectations clear and how you will succeed in this course. Understand that each teacher has to teach to the slowest learner.

Tell them about your past, personal and professional- so you are relate-able.

Let them know that you are human. What are the expectations, and what is your educational experience. I’m thankful they are sitting in my class.

This subject is something I absolutely love. Here is a short survey including a small question such as “what is the purpose of music”. And it gets down to the basics of their thoughts and pre-suppositions

Validate that you know the subject matter, and ask if there is something you can do to make this class better

Talk about how great the day is and discuss how wonderful hot water, water, travel, freedom, etc. How many days would I have to teach without students

Don’t forget to move around the room. get to know people

There are alpha talkers. Monitor the alphas and let the betas come through.

Get students to move and get around with an icebreaker.

Keep track of who’s using the resources

Tell the students that they will all think they are your favorites by the end of the semester. Tell them that you’re human. They really will think it too.

Give 1 copy of the syllabus, and set up teams. Winner of the cahoot challenge gets an NQA pass on attendance.

Tell a story about being a student. I did not like this… I did not like that… explain it because this is why we’ll do things in this class.

Instead of something that you like, tell them to talk about something they hate and can share mutually.

Be friendly, tell jokes, talk about negative experiences, and relieve that baggage.

Do icebreakers such as 2 truths one lie, and decide what might be a lie. Its loud, rowdy, and get them in a fun space.

What name would you like to go by? Students are scared and intimidated, especially in remedial classes. What are you scared of

Tell some great stories about your kids or something you’re really happy about

make the opening speech about the appropriate subject- passion vs. professionality.

Do anything you can do to keep their attention just a few seconds longer. Make noises, jump around

Talk about things they like or hate in their classes, and by the end they’ll be really ready for the class

make a talk about practice and sweating and bleeding and put in the time. You cannot watch to get better. You have to work to get better.


How can we find time to grade. A teacher cannot focus on grading after lecture, and they are fresh in the morning. However the lectures are in the morning? Go when you’re fresh. Break it up into sections, do what you can to work in sections. Give answers in points and use the rubric, giving the answers to the rubric as a question response.

If you did not read the syllabus, what would you talk about to keep them interested? Personalize the experience of the class.

In challenging times of high stress, how do you keep the love of your field and student success. Keep a printed folder of positive comments and nice emails you received. In a seated class, walk around the class playing follow the leader- it breaks the tension. Keep a folder of letters of recommendations for your students to showcase how they’ve been successful and who you’ve helped. Keep the funny answers you get on tests and things. You aren’t just a teacher, but a teacher and coach at the same time. things won’t get better every day- there will be down days, but make sure you end well and begin well. Ride the wave. Its OK to back away. If you’re feeling poorly, just back away. Find students who you’re really happy to have in your class. Email that student a very positive response.

Take this with you: talk to the people around you. Don’t go office to classroom to car. Stop in other people’s audience. Collaborate. Most teachers miss the collaboration

Great Teacher’s Innovations Session

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On 11/10/18 at 8:55am, I attended the Great Teacher’s Conference Innovation Session at the Rizzo Center in Chapel Hill, NC presented by Wake Technical Community College

Our team joined up in a group of 4 individuals and a facilitator. We began the session by revisiting a sheet of materials sent to us: Outlining a success we’ve achieved through innovation in the classroom, and a problem we’re facing in the classroom.

I started the session off with my innovation.

I had found problems in the past because several students had found themselves withdrawing from classes because they felt “alone and cut off from others.” Based on this qualitative data from students, I implemented several changes in 2017 across my online courses.

Introduction discussion boards were created where students were asked to share their preferred activities and photos of themselves. This encouraged personal connections in online courses, and allowed students to recognize those people they had in previous classes or who they knew from seated courses.

To seem more available, I began calling each student prior to the first week of class to let them know that I will be their teacher and they can contact me with any problems they have during the semester

To encourage more discussion, I also implemented a mandatory discussion feature into my courses in at least 9 out of 16 weeks, requiring a 50+ word minimum original post, and 3 student responses with 50+ words for credit. This encourages deeper thinking about our work, more in-depth responses about other students’ work, and more constructive criticism.

Mark Monsky went next. The Innovation that made the biggest difference in classroom was making a connection with students early. In seated sections, he found that students were not engaged. Learning names early makes the biggest innovations. Going out of his way, Mark found that students really like it. The problem here was one with numbers of impressions. Students only have to remember the name of a single teacher. Teachers have to remember the names and faces of 20-40 students.

Leighton Ford Went third. His Innovation was to include a review session and do problems on the white board in hopes that his students would learn. Students however, did not learn. PD suggests that the use of video media and screen captures would garner attention. He segmented questions in video files- concentrating on frequently missed questions with timestamps. Very few students clicked on the material and very few bothered to use the jump links. He went back to the in-class review, and had students instruct one another in a flipped classroom style. This was well received, and he is pursuing this to see how he might split up the questions and hyperlink each question to get immediate feedback.

Exams are taken seated in class, and 15 minutes set aside afterwards to revisit the most frequently missed questions. At first, reviewing the classes in person was a drain. Good students would tune out, and the energy in the room would be sapped. Leighton noted that he goes over every question as soon as the test is returned. Instead, he opted to move the review until the week of the final exam. All 4 tests were covered in a single day prior to the final exam. All students who showed up were engaged. After the test people may have had too many other things to do, and not paying attention. Before the final exam, students very helped. Striking while the iron is hot is the best way to keep them interested. Right after the test they are tired and burned out, however, talking to partners is always a great idea.

Leighton teaches a Gateway course in math. Most people are not ready, and failure rate is really, really high. Students show up in math and act like its a regular class requiring they listen and give a small effort, but math doesn’t really work like that. Very few students ask questions: they are not comfortable, and don’t want to show they don’t know the required knowledge. So he, breaks his class into groups. He starts his class with a quiz of basic skills and uses this quiz to organize the class. His top 8 students start the groups, with next 8 grades distributed, and so on until there are 4 people in each group. They practice in groups during class time, and this allows students to work the problems together. As a teacher, he is in class moving around to help, but will only assist students after they have asked everyone in the group and one person from another group. Environment is really a friendly room, and questions in class are low. But requiring students to ask questions before moving on allows for a more collaborative environment. You have to talk in class. This is a nice way to get confident in class, especially math. Gradewise there are improvements showing in the class and retention rates are higher. Student withdrawals are not so much about lazy students, but now more about personal issues. His division is looking to redesign this class in 2019, so he is hoping this idea will catch on. Is there lecture? Yes, some. Most info is online, and standard lecture that allows students to take notes and explain concepts. However, if he does 100 problems in 1 hour as a teacher, you  will learn very little. If students do the classwork, the retention of ideas is better and understanding is higher. Seats are permanent seats. How do they like it? Students choose the seats when they sit down. Have a perm group seat is the same as a standard perm seat. In classes without groups, they are forced to move so they can connect with one another. I applaud him for question method. They work together. Some students who come in shy end up being talkative, competitive, working together.

Steven Hill went last. “I love my discipline,” he noted, “and history can bore students. I go into character to deliver speeches and talks from moments in history”. He does impressions on day one: Winston Churchill doing a speech. They may start serious and end funny, but will always be fact. “Mr. Hill makes those dead people sound interesting!” a student remarks. He tries to make things as interesting as possible for students. Another thing is he uses is props. A stereooptic to show what 3D was like in the past, for example. In the classes, reviews are mostly positive. he mention that on the first day: “I do not give A’s in this class. You may want to drop this, but I don’t give A’s in the class.” after a long pause, a student will ask “You mean we’ll have to earn them?” “Of course,” he will reply, “But I don’t give F’s either”. Enthusiasm builds the class. Monotone is too boring and the student is encouraged and emphasized to learn on their own. A seated class should not force students to find their own focus. A teacher is only a click away. He sets it the first day- enthusiasm, expectations, I manage them all every day. Leighton related that students do not react in monotone classes, do not care. However, laughing, joking in the class, allows us all to find things lighter and more exciting. Steven suggests that high energy and positive expectations make for an excellent class and great set of materials. The least little thing can bring you down. Struggle to ensure that you are upholding that level of energy and enthusiasm. You’ll have to overlook and combat the idea that students may try to bring down the energy level in the class.

From this point on, we talked about issues and joys we face in the classroom.

If facing numerous ringtones in the class, I suggested grabbing the BBC ringtone “Sound 30yr olds cannot hear”. if nobody knows- who’s got the cellphone out? look it up! For the most part, students wish to succeed, and keep cell phones out of the way. was discussed.

Cell phone policies: what is the policy, what should we do when its out of policy? Discussing this in class keeps stress off teacher and requires buy-in from students.

Rather than having serious homework, offer 10 topics due on the day before test. If you finish 8, you get full credit. Still you may face students who never enter the course materials in the seated classroom. Its real bad in math 171. Not as bad in 153 taught in computer lab.

All in all, it was nice to hear about the level of accomplishment in the classroom. A lot of these points can have bearing for later in the session and when talking with other teachers.

Game Design as Pedagogy

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On 4/18/18 at 3:30pm, I attended the Online Learning Consortium Virtual Conference Session Game Design as Pedagogy in an online session co-presented by John Stewart and Keegan Long-Wheeler of the University of Oklahoma.

Game Design As Pedagogy

We began this session by discussing game design as part of broader movement of active learning. Game design, like game play, readily fits into flipped and project-based learning pedagogies. Students must account for the many levels of their creation—as a narrative, as a game, as a journey to facilitate learning and self discovery.

This was fairly rigorous with some nice back-and-forth among the participants. Many wanted to use it in their classes and were looking for some practical methods, while others had used it ineffectively and were looking for tips which would improve performace.

A Bit of Background

Research conducted over the last twenty years has grounded game-based learning and gamification in both behaviorist and constructivist pedagogical frameworks (Rooney 2012).

However, there is still work to be done in assessing the pedagogical utility of game design in the classroom. Within the modern paradigm of ‘student creators,’ what are the pedagogical foundations for having students design games related to their coursework?

More Discussion

After some background discussion, we moved to discuss game design as part of broader movement of active learning.

For example, the game design framework allows students to reflect on the authenticity and fidelity of their game scenarios versus real world application of the skills and knowledge students convey in game design projects. This meta-reflection requires students to identify core concepts and embed them into narratives. Choosing game mechanics requires students to evaluate the best means of conveying content—a strength of game design over traditional project based learning. This iterative process of designing a game involves constant evaluation of core concepts and player experiences as students must account for the many levels of their creation—as a narrative, as a game, as a journey to facilitate learning and self discovery, etc.

Engaging Students

Using this framework for game design can engage students as teachers, as storytellers, and as problem solvers while simultaneously allowing for open-ended creativity.

Here, the co-presenters introduced the concept of game design as a pedagogical framework to start a conversation on the successes and challenges that instructors might face or have faced in the classroom.

Several people (myself included) discussed how gamification in the classroom has been working. There were a few hits (discussing the work Nicolas D’Agata has done with WEB141 Mobile Application Development). There were also a few misses (my work with WEB140 Web Development Tools was discussed. As I mentioned it as “chocolate-covered broccoli”, it elicited quite a few laughs. Most people who found gamification worked included it as an aside, and as a way of improving existing coursework. Many k-12 teachers used game-based math or english items like Prodigy, Reflex Math and WebMath items to keep students excited and ready for more.

They encourage participants will bring their own stories about students making and playing games. Some people made games as ways of working with statistics, determining the best mechanics for accurate and fair gameplay, etc.


  • What skillsets are students practicing when engaged in the game design process?
  • What pedagogies are inherent in the game design process?
  • What challenges should instructors anticipate when bringing game design into the classroom? Do these challenges vary by analog/digital game design?
  • How can game design be used to empower student voice and yield authentic projects?
  • How can students make the world a better place using game design?
  • What tools/platforms are available for game design in the classroom?
  • How is game design accomplished in online learning spaces versus face-to-face?
  • How to do we support student game design projects? Technically? Pedagogically?

In sharing ideas and stories, participants were encouraged to reflect on both their successful course interactions and what they have learned from failed classroom interventions. As a group, participants  explored pedagogical frameworks for implementing game design in their courses and engage with best practices.


It wasn’t really all that practical 100% of the time. Still, it is difficult to make a conference program that will be useful on a generic topic (gamification) and make it relevant to a specific group (curriculm education).


Lead Presenter: John Stewart, University of Oklahoma

John Stewart is the Assistant Director of Digital Learning for the OU Center for Teaching Excellence. John is interested in developing learning environments to promote digital literacy and opportunities for undergraduate research. Before joining the center, John lectured on history of science at the University of Oklahoma and Missouri University of Science and Technology. He earned his Ph.D. in the History of Science from the University of Oklahoma.

Co-presenter: Keegan Long-Wheeler, University of Oklahoma

Keegan Long-Wheeler is an educational technologist in the Center for Teaching Excellence at the University of Oklahoma. Keegan uses his background in science, pedagogy, and technical expertise to provide instructors with holistic solutions to their instructional and technological needs. Additionally, Keegan passionately creates open source professional development curriculum to engage faculty in digital literacy, experiential learning, game design, coding, and more! In particular, Keegan loves working with Domain of One’s Own projects and his open professional development programs: GOBLIN eXperience Play, WebFest, Canvas Camp, and more!

Gamification In The Classroom

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On 11/9/17 at 11:00am, I presented at the Wake Technical Community College Fall Professional Development Conference at the Session Gamification In The Classroom in the Engineering Technology Building in Raleigh, NC. This was co-presented by Tyler Dockery and Nicolas D’Agata of Wake Technical Community College

Gamification In The Classroom

In this presentation, we will cover 4 basic topics:

Some Background

This presentation is part of a grant we ran in 2014, discussing the reason behind what we did, the lessons we learned, and how you might be able to integrate these ideas in your classroom. This grant was proposed and monies set aside to train and develop gamified systems in low-performing courses in the WEB curriculum model. In this first part, we will discuss some of these results.


When Things Go Poorly

So, here we see a picture of one of my classes which was gamified, my 2014 class, WEB140 Web Development Tools. This graphic was used to help put students in the mood. It was nice, and captured the imagination of students right off the bat.
At the time, WEB140 Web Development Tools suffered from a series of problems: As an entry-level course for graphic design, web design and web development degree programs, this course had a very high enrollment rate. This was offset by a very low passing rate among students, and low student engagement of students in these courses. With our completions in this course at a very poor showing, I endeavoured to increase retention through greater students engagement by creating a gamified environment in which the students could learn and thrive.

Solution-specific ideas

The premise of the gamification came across naturally. I contacted students from the last year in WEB140 across several different sections, and asked some open-ended questions about the material. What made the courses work for them? Where did they stumble or fall, and how could we fix it?
Students admitted that the reason they did not enjoy the web coursework was because they were not engaged, and could not “get into it”. Based on numbers, quizzes and tests scored low because students did not retain the information or glossed over the work. Because they learned the material once, created it once, and then moved on— many students felt that they could ignore the material. Later, as each assignment built upon the last, students found that they had not repeated the material enough to absorb it, and had “forgotten what to do” or “how to do those kinds of things.” Further, they noted that it was difficult to contact instructors about problems, because many students waited until the due date to upload or even begin their projects.
In an effort to combat this, I made a herculean effort to pull this down into a workable format of solutions I could actually achieve:


I would work to engage the students with great artwork and a storyline which would allow them to become immersed. They would take on the mantle of an Intergalactic Spy, using artwork (through written permission on the part of the copyright holder) and a small adjustment to the storyline. Assembling code, building specific content, troubleshooting errors and problems, and generally assuring that materials could be made in an HTML environment, students would work their way through a 16 week story, one episode at a time, protecting a priceless treasure and solving a murder mystery.


A key point for students was that they were allowed to skip materials with low grades. This compounded their problems with quizzes, midterms, and final examinations. The solution: Allow repetition of course materials until a satisfactory solution was found. Quizzes offered every two weeks would require a minimum score to pass. If a student did not receive the minimum score, or desired to re-take the material, they were allowed 3 scores, and only the largest score counted. In this way, students who scored poorly on basic tags would be allowed to retake the quiz multiple times. Until they scored the minimum amount, they had to take the test again, and if all attempts were completed, the student would then be allowed to proceed and had to keep a low score (but the highest score would count).


In an effort to make students feel as if they could reach out to me (the instructor), I offered to be available from 11p-1a 4 days a week: Evenings on the first day of the week, and within the last 3 days of the week.

Story Form Engagement

By taking the students through the materials one item at a time, student were exposed to a story in serialized form. Each decision allowed student to take quizzes and open things like a choose-your-own-adventure book. A strict list of deliverables were noting requirements each week, and each was made available one item at a time with encouraging messages and explanations. Great artwork moved them through the story with chunked information.


Did it work? Not really. In general numbers, the course was a success, with students having much improved quiz scores and test grades. It seems this was probably an extension of the multiple quiz attempts and a larger pool of exam questions from which to draw. A numeric success, students noted they were actually less engaged in the class than they were in other courses.

Chocolate Covered Broccoli

Students mentioned in exit interviews that the course was exciting for the first 8 weeks or less only. After 8 weeks, the gamification storyline began to become less exciting and more filler content which stopped them from getting to the real meat of the course. Students who missed assignments or failed to turn them in missed content, stating that they could not follow the story any more. Students who did not read the course material failed to understand that there were minimum quiz grades and found they were flunking early in the semester, and many chose to drop.

After the midterm, many students said that they were facing fatigue. Too many classes, too many projects, and they admitted that by week 9 they were simply skipping over the content to get to the work. One student mentioned very specifically: “I didn’t read the story after the midterm. I just wanted to get my work done and find out what the next item on the list was and get my grade.”

Seems like building out all the dependencies and choose-your-own-adventure story lines were really some wasted time and effort. Scores did increase, but the story was not engaging. After

Second Time Is The Charm

In WEB141 Mobile Interface Design, students found that they were highly disengaged with the class, noting that book materials were very paint-by-number, and had little to do with real life problems. Students found it difficult to tell where they in the class, with scores for midterms, finals, and assignments clearly defined, but still hard to calculate where students should put their efforts. Student who fell behind in online courses felt that they could not gain any headway, and messing up on a project or two when coupled with the midterm left them flat with no way to raise their grade.

To combat the issue, Nic D’Agata looked at the data and changed his tactics to better meet student needs.



Since students in the first class found that the gamification content was a distraction, Nic built his material as an overlay. Content for the course changed little, with the gamification built over the top. Students had the option to ignore the gamification elements without detriment to the course content.


Many students found they could not tell which items were best for their grades, and the best uses of their time. Nic installed a system of “Money” earned through the course of the semester. Each week offered one or more project. Each project was a contract with a client, offering money for project which met the minimum requirements, and greater funds for projects which excel. Students were given the goal to reach $1 million by the end of the semester.

Nic also included a leaderboard where students could see their progress compared to other students. No names were given, so no privileged information is released, but it could encourage students to work harder if they’re in the wrong spot.


Students often found that getting behind was like getting in a hole too deep to get out of. At strategic points in the semester, students were treated to “Freelance” options, where they could troubleshoot existing code and earn money to increase their monetary income. This was essentially enrichment activities where students could increase their understanding or take on additional work to increase their grades.


Using blackboard achievements and badges, students would be automatically notified of “industry recognition”. Students could see the badges and gain an instant warm fuzzy for having some minor graphics provided to them.

On the right track

Overall, students reported that they felt more engaged in a course with open-ended projects and gamified elements.

Best of both worlds

Students enjoyed some open-ended projects and did not miss the “paint-by-numbers” approach. Some people really liked the 8-bit gaming platform of the course, and most people enjoyed the scoreboard/leaderboard process. This, along with the monetary system, was super-effective at motivating students

Nothing is ever perfect

Some people found that the assistant screen was difficult to watch and they got tired of waiting. Some students felt the monetary system was hard to understand, and they were looking for answers in grade format. It could very well be that they had skipped over some of the early material, but there is no way to tell.

The Assistant

The assistant is a moving digital display which lays out the information needed in each lesson. In some lessons this outlines projects, in others, it outlines specifics about the learning methods. While only a small number found it detrimental, it was almost a 50/50 split on Liking/Not Caring for the assistant.


The leaderboard answered questions that many students had about their grades, their places in the class, and provided some good motivation. The material was helpful to most students, with many students noting it as a prime motivator. Some students (about 1-2 per semester) found the leaderboard to be a source of anxiety causing them to worry about their location in the class.

The Leaderboard was a simple tool plugin, and could quite easily be coded into your classes.

Hands-On Leaderboard Addition Demonstration

At this point in the presentation, Nicolas answered questions about adding in the leaderboard. Using HTML code directly in his blackboard course, Nic added the leaderboard in to an older course as a demonstration. It was complicated, but well-received.


At this point, we’ve talked about our personal experiences, so lets begin some insight into how you can add this to your classes.

Blackboard Badging and Certificates

The blackboard badging and certificate systems are available to all current blackboard shells. They can both be accessed through the TOOLS menu options on the lefthand side. You can work with existing items, create your own, make your own certifications, etc. They are easily created, and can easily integrate with your course shells at any time.

At this time, we created a shown, in-person demonstration on the overhead.


The services we showed at the end of the material allowed us to include Quizlet materials for easy self-study materials, online games like Play Brighter or Virtonomics, advanced tools like Duolingo, or creating your own badges and materials with OpenBadges. The material was well received, and we did a few extra demonstrations on how to include teaching materials from duplingo, integrating quizlet, and Q&A was fairly sedate.

ECGC Keynote: Paedra Boinodiris- The Intersection of AI & Play: Making Data Science Actionable

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At 9:00am on 4/19/2017, I attended the ECGC Keynote: The Intersection of AI & Play: Making Data Science Actionable, presented by Paedra Boinodiris, at the 2017 East Coast Gaming conference in Raleigh, NC


ECGC Keynote: Paedra Boinodiris- The Intersection of AI & Play: Making Data Science Actionable

This is the 9th East Coast Gaming Conference, and even though she got married last week, this is part of her honeymoon. She began by talking about science fiction.

WE began by viewing, ‘Playtest’ in BLack Mirror. That show is certainly a distopian view of tech and the future. In the show, material is fed directly into the brain, and used to create some feedback to better engage the viewer. Then we moved on to Star Trek holodeck, Ender’s Game videogames, and then into games.

Games are powerful instruments of change. They are powerful instruments for helping people to think outside the box. To recruit, assess, change cultures being the holy grail. So much data is out there, but it is tech-centric and not people-centric. Why should people care? how wwill it affect them? why should viewers believe. What should they do with the information, and are they supposed to remember this a year from now?

THere is a huge problem to find what to do with the data itself. We discussed Watson as a way to mine information in ways to find patterns. WHen this is blended with experiences which are engaging, it can be a fantastic experience.

VItuozo – assess your critical thinking in roughly 8 minutes. How do you act? how do you shift your strategy based on failure. It also builds teams for your.

Hazardous software cyber simulation suite. Rather than 1 API for watson, we now have 50+. WIth 4 different domains for data insights, language, speech, vision . THe language AI can mine written text but also has tone analyzer. Working with tweeted data, the Met built a dress with the ability to change colors of the dress. Watson Personality Insights allows us to see the personality of the subject. How might that affect an RPG? give us your twitter handle, and we’ll build a character based on your tones, etc. People love to learn about themselves. Curate info of the player and create a better game!

Star trek-like Watson Dialog uses natural language to interact with the computer. YOu can feed it data and train the ai to learn more about it. We saw a disadvantaged teen program at Connally high school reskin the minecraft game based on their works. In their version, you fly a nanobot into a diseased body to fight virus. Watson gives feedback into the game to develop a complex ecosystem. They could stand up an instance on IBM bluemax, and manage the projects directly. ONce they see their worlds come to life, they can become fully engaged. That’s the hope of every teacher.

emotivinsight: coding to use the force to move items with their mind was shown. An interesting start 🙂

Data Insights allow games to see what the proper level of engagement is. this was used with edtech for Sesame Street software. It gathers information about the

Watson similarity Search was used to recognize tumors. Watson was used in conjunction with database materials to recognize problems before they occur. Seeing robot legs and chests, it might ask, “are you building a robot?” Watson AI can be trained to have drones play a frightening noise when being approached by birds of prey. We can teach it to recognize faces and emotions.

In the world of VR, Watson speech can help youadjust or interract based on the physics you’re creating. While these are nice, blending these together is truly exciting.

IMagine you were to create an empathetic chatbot. Tone analyzer + text to speech + speech to text + visual analyzation of face+ IOT + dialog. WHat if the chatbox knew your personality, knew your history, could talk with you about what you’re interested with and able to access written information on how to work with that.

What if this could help us train? what if it could recognize when a student or policeman were depressed? Could you use this to make highly customized training and effectiveness tools. Of course, but how?

How can we engage young children in “New Collar” careers? We are using games and gamification to bring students up to speed on quantum computing, design learning, etc. The public schools are a difficult nut to break into. Its not about throwing an idea over the fence, its more about breaking the mold and getting people on board while being totally invested. We’ll see a lot more in education with serious gaming.

When this gets focused on serious gaming in the workplace, there will be mountains of businesses who will DEMAND that we have graduates with this knowledge, but how prepared will we be?

See her weekly gamification podcast at

ECGC Conference: Keynote Speaker — Mike Laidlaw

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At a 2:00pm Keynote session in the East Coast Gaming Conference held in the Raleigh Convention Center, Mike Laidlaw spoke to the attendees about …

ECGC Conference: Keynote Speaker— Mike Laidlaw

The ECGC conference will be held on April 19,20,21st next year 2016. Be looking for that.

We began with a the trailer for dragon age inquisition.

What is a creative director? What is it that they do? They are responsible for All games, all creative products, our spinoff animated series, comics, and anything related to Dragon Age. Every item must be coordinated so they are in the same world and follow canon. For the games things are different, but every aspect of the game must gel with everything our readers know from comics, fit with every animated episode, and match up to every idea already placed about the series.

Dragon Age Inquisition was ambitious. Our initial idea: Let’s run on 5 platforms at once and use this as the new game plan, OH, and let’s also use a brand new engine. The game would include everything that you’ve come to know and love about the series, but also include massive use of exploration, a new facet of getting lost in the world.


inspirations for open world gameplay
open world content
the power system

Throughout the agenda, we must always fulfill this razor: “the challenge: immerse yourself in a vast world of companions choice and consequence”


Who else is doing it well? It’s good to be inspired by other games, but you cannot rip them off note for note. Then you’re just copying. And that’s obvious to everyone. Every 2 weeks Our team would pick a game and play through it. They’d discuss what the game did well, and what they did not. Communication is key. If there isn’t a shared vocabulary, things begin to fail.

  • SKYRIM: incredible freedom of space and role. the joy of cresting a hill and finding something cool “down there”
  • SID MEIERS PIRATE: the power of theme. self-directed goals & multiple vectors of success. Multiple playthroughs are often required to make everything work through.
  • FALLEN LONDON & SUNLESS SEA: the power of abstraction and allowing players to create their own connections. If something is not supposed to be available yet, the note which springs up might say: “Has the player met constable bob?” vs. Connected: the constables.
  • XCOM-ENEMY UNKNOWN: Example of a counter-objective: EU added more story to the xcom formula. Story beats reward for gameplay. Story brings more story rather than achievement bringing more story

Strategy1: Multi-region open world.

Advantages: Strengthen each region with its own narrative. Create diverse, distinct visul palettes.

regional narrative:

We sought to answer the following questions: what the overall feel of this locale? Why would I, the inquisitor, come there? What is special about it? How does my presence here advance the inquisition or hinder its foes?

Emerald grove- A wonderous forest. A band of refugees here have information for you and at the end of the day you cut off supplies to foes, and gain an ally.

We repeatedly ran into the problem that the first 5 or 10 minutes people didn’t understand what to do. A character sets the first camp, lets you know what to do, and where to go. This narrative character seem contrary to your role in the story, but keeps the theme strong.

Diverse palettes. You needed to move from region to region with no visual trouble. A series of choices make the game fun is what is seems from the outset. However, a series of compromises are what the builders will experience.

Strategy 2: shared content strategies

Content for the levels consisted of three major types:

  1. Placed, crafted content.
  2. Shared, systemic content.
  3. Designer hugs.

Systemic content used shared libraries of assets for consistency and ease of maintenance (pre-fabs could be placed, but our team could alter each instance). One update to the search system would allow all objects that reacted to that system to instantly respond to the changes without touching individual instances. In effect, one edit would allows for many updates, instantly and simultaneously.

Designer hugs: nooks and crannies of exploration that gives you a fun, neat reward. Big games that allow for an open area, and have neat effects will generate a buzz. It rewards you for making the right choices.

Strategy 3: Reviewing content.

Issues with in-room content reviews:

  1. long play length of area.
  2. Reviewing one path/perspective.
  3. out of context issues.
  4. directing player experience.
  5. content was at different levels of completion.

The best way to circumvent these issues was to ask open ended questions to the team. We took those focus testings to the team and their ratings. By offering what they COULD do, players wanted to reach those goals. The team used inhouse heatmaps to see where people spent time on each level, where fights happened the most, where people died. This allowed them to tweak the areas, distributions of bad guys, and power levels.

Areas for improvment- plots

Open area plots were sad and lame. It was new to them and new to the team. The company budgeted lots of time and writing for plots, however,the quests very, very simple with little or no trouble to complete.


There was several systems. The systems appeared repeatedly in several sessions. People came to expect them, to prepare for them, and to be bored by them.


Put the jump in the game. Seriously. They put banter in the system to help keep the game live. However, players were more engaged by the ability to jump while moving.


How can you make it so that as a player you can progress the story without doing exactly as you’ve been asked to do? The Advisors within the game are smart, but help you understand that you’re still making the decisions. They took a complicated GUI and added bickering and resonance to the gameplay.

Operations were the core objectives, things that must happen.

Power had been earned, so it could be used to open new areas. Any area you opened should have enough power to open another area, so that you never achieved a zero-sum power solution. Power mechanics allowed you to continue buying and getting awesome armor, wtc. without hoarding. It allowed for a fluid economy. The open world idea allows the spoilers will not occur if they share the experience.

Completionist players had far, far too much power. And our team had to deal with that. As did the hinterlands pacing.

WHile it was a major struggle, looking back I feel:
It was a big game, the team worked hard, we did well.

Mike Laidlaw is Bioware’s Dragon Age Creative Director

ECGC: Gamified Talent Management: Using RPG design to motivate employees and redefine work

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Gamification and Leadership

Today at ECGC (The East Coast Gaming Conference), I attending a leadership training seminar: Gamified Talent Management: Using RPG design to motivate employees and redefine work, a lecture by IBM guru Phaedra Boinodiris. This was really fantastic, and should fit nicely with the classroom gamification that I’d like to see in some of our flagging classes. Phaedra Boinodiris identified 4 major attributes of using gamification to find and motivate successful employees:

  1. Cognitive stability
  2. Cognitive complexity
  3. motor-impusivity
  4. establishes a baseline

She then demonstrated a game used for potential employees, a game in which the user built a structure with spots and lines to reach a given point. This could then be used with responsive software to determine some of the cognitive qualities of the individual to help with the onboarding process. She further showed some proprietary software (darnit!) which could be used to chart an individual’s current state and progress in a gamification environment: Nick’s portal environment result from data showing changes and adjustment over time.

Using their previous data as well as the results of the employee profile and reviews, a composite was created similarly to a character sheet– showing calculated mentor matches (along with that mentor employee’s contact information, job matches and suggested promotion track to achieve it, how that employee ranked against others in the industry, how that employee was perceived by their peers, how the current marketplace is embracing their recognized skillsets, an employee assessment, and list of training or certifications suggested for the employee.

Upon my request, Ms. Boinodiris would not reveal information about IBM’s proprietary software. 😦

Questions posed by the leaders using this software required the team to be evaluated as a group. Once all members had taken the assessment, a team could further be assessed, posing questions based upon the team performance in addition to the qualities shown by the team:

  • “To be good at my job, what paths need to be completed?”
  • “What training needs to be completed by our current team?”
  • “What training might need to be required of new or potential team members?”
  • “How many goals are being completed within the group?”
  • “What is it about the ‘class’ of employee that makes this optimal or in need to accomplish our team or individual goals?”

Based on results of these tests and questions, what kind of employees are they? Could you give them designations such as hunter, farmer, leader, etc.? After a class designation has been properly identified, can you change or adjust these designations to make your team the team you desire or the team numbers show is best suited for a particular task?

Once backed up with data, adjustments to your staff’s ‘class’ could be made by sending them ‘quests’ perhaps once per day or week. These quest tasks would slowly evolve the thinking of the team or team members, so that training is no longer siloed. For instance, you might recognize ‘Hunter’ employees as those who track down new, effective leads. ‘Farmers’ on the other hand, might be constantly revisiting old leads to grow new business in already fertile ground. You might assign hunters to revisit ‘old hunting grounds’ once a day and slowly evolve their systems. Farmers on the other hand, might strike out into leads on ‘newly forested areas’ where they can begin relationships and begin a new harvesting in new areas.

By removing the siloed training, you make continual training something that is both approachable and achievable. Also, it CAN become fun. However, you must find ways to provide tailored content to make sure your employees know what they need to do, or show them how they can improve.

It is vitally important to remember: As far as gamification goes, if you’re spending a majority of your time at the beginning determining what motivates your audience, you are doing it wrong.

When adding gamification to your school, workplace, etc, you must avoid the ‘chocolate covered brocoli’ – adding a small benefit to something which your population already hates. A badge alone will NOT motivate the students or employees anymore than covering something they don’t want with chocolate.

The Multiplayer Classroom by Sheldon Lee
The Multiplayer Classroom by Sheldon Lee

Consider reading The Multiplayer Classroom by Sheldon Lee. (I spoke with Sheldon Lee the author during a conference call last week. This was great timing!)

Serious Games for Business by Phaedra Boinodiris

Also consider reading Serious Games for Business by Phaedra Boinodiris


I felt this was a great presentation, and I learned a lot that I felt would be helpful in methods of leadership! Tell me what you think!