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HI everyone,

At callaghancollegewallsendcampus we are on a trial for Minecraft for Education. So far so good. We have been working on improvements from last year and have started to implement a 'Minecraft License' (like a pen license in primary schools) based on good digital citizenship. We are using Canvas as our base platform for all student training and they have to complete a one hour digital citizenship course on (which is directly linked in Canvas for all students and staff), upload their certificate as proof to get a badge to move into the Minecraft side of learning. Last year the students were very happy to move through their Canvas lessons and complete their Minecraft tasks. The engagement level was much greater than previous units of work with no Minecraft. Hopefully, in the future, we can add more badges to tasks and create better rubrics to service the new syllabuses, literacy/numeracy progressions and national competencies. 

Here is a brief presentation we have done on the basis of our journey. This is just the slideshow, no notes, but you might get the idea.

Minecraft CCWC 2018


Ryan Corris

Mastery Paths with Badgr

Posted by Ryan Corris Champion Jan 9, 2018

If you have not explored Mastery Paths yet, I highly suggest doing so.  In short, Mastery Paths is a way to differentiate and individualize learning.  Students take an initial assessment.  The assessment can be auto graded if it is a quiz or students can even submit an assignment that there teacher grades in SpeedGrader.  Based off of the score, each student is assigned to an upper, a middle, or a lower path.  The teacher sets up the content for each path that is conditionally released once the students receive their score.  So, how does this work with Badgr?


Badgr allows badges to be awarded for completion of a Canvas module. So there are two ways that I can see using Badgr with Mastery Paths.


All in One Module Method

For this method you would build all of your items for each of the three paths in a single module and assign a Badgr badge to the module.  Let's say there were fifteen items that would be conditionally released based off of students' scores on the initial assessment.  Items 1-5 are set to the high score path, 6-10 are assigned to the middle path, and items 11-15 are for the low score path.  Make sure to set all fifteen items as required for module completion.  Normally, students would have to complete all 15 required items to complete the module and receive a Badgr badge.  However, students only need to complete the items assigned to their path to receive the Badgr badge.  For example, I am a student and I earn a score that places me in the middle path which assigns items 6-10 to me for completion.  Once I complete these 5 items, I will receive my Badgr badge.  Since the other 10 items have not been assigned to me, I do not need to complete them to receive my badge, even though they have been marked as required for module completion.


Since everything is contained within one module, each student would receive the same Badgr badge since only one badge can be attached to a module.


Each Path in its Own Module Method

This method offers the opportunity to give a different badge for each of the three paths.  Using the same fifteen items from the example above, create three different modules.  One module for each path.  So, module 1 could be the high score path and contain items 1-5.  Module two might be the middle score path and hold items 6-10.  Module three could include items 11-15 and be set for the low score path.  Make sure to set all items in each module to required.  Once the initial assessment is completed by students and scored, students will once again be assigned to a path.  In this case, the path would also direct students to a specific module.  (Students may see the other two modules, but they would be empty.  Only the items for their specific path will be visible.) Each module could be assigned a different badge or the same badge depending on your goal.  


If you have questions or additional ideas, please include them in the comments below.  I would also love to hear about your own experiences with Badgr and Mastery Paths.



Some helpful resources...

Here are a few Canvas guides that were helpful when I was learning about Mastery Paths: 

Here is a great blog post by Kona Jones with a slightly different thoughts about how Mastery Paths can be used: 

If you have questions about Badgr, check with Kim Hammond


Gamified Gradebook in Canvas

Posted by johnpj Jun 14, 2016

So, I've been working with some faculty to incorporate gameful learning practices into their Canvas courses and I thought it might be useful if I started sharing some of the techniques (hacks) I've come up with. Here is a quick tip for creating a gamified gradebook in Canvas:


How to create a Gamified Gradebook in Canvas:


  1. Create a "Games" Assignment Group with a 100% weighting
  2. Choose the the gradebook option: "Treat ungraded as Zero" (required for scoring to work)
  3. Create an Assignment with "Paper" submission worth 1000 points(or so); no due date (I'm going to call this Assignment "Max Points")
  4. Create several "game" assignments or "challenges" worth 0 points within the Game Assignment Group; no due date; Tell students how many points the challenges (assignments) are worth in the assignment instructions (be sure to publish all the assignments)
  5. Let students pick (submit) as many game assignments as they want
  6. Grade whatever assignments they pick and score as appropriate


Students accumulate points towards that 1000 point mark by completing assignments of their choosing. Of course you never score Max Points assignments; it just sets the target for 100%


As a variation, you can hide (disable) the Assignment tool form the students and use Modules to conditionally reveal challenges or "bonus levels" (game assignments).

Janell Amely

Gamification - Week 5

Posted by Janell Amely Apr 8, 2016

Time flies when you are having fun and putting out fires!


The second week of the Video games and Learning class was about the history of video games, and the mechanics of the course seemed to run smoothly. Students were posting in multiple discussions and were interacting with each other a goodly amount. I was able to use James Jones How to Count Student Discussion Posts  to pull up numbers of posts to compare to the non-gamified version of the class from the year before. Really, it would be pretty impossible to statistically correlate anything, since the classes are at different universities, with completely different demographics. It was still neat to see a 2 post increase in average of posts per person. Then the grading came. The way the course is designed, there is very small amount of "worthiness" grading, because that type of grading pretty much sucks. I personally finding it demotivating to not get a high score because of some idiosyncrasy of a professor that I forgot to account for. With that in mind, we wanted students to get XP for the course readings, and to reflect and apply the readings in the discussions or personal reflections in their Character Sheets.


First lesson of design, it needs to be obvious if possible. I found this out drastically with the design of the XP tracking sheet. Once handed off to someone else, it didn't make nearly as much sense as I had thought it would. Second lesson, almost nobody reads when they can skim instead. Even people that have a doctorate ;p Having to have some type of user guide for something as simple as a score tracking sheet meant that my design was bad. This caused the wrong grades to be entered into the grade book, not once, but twice!! over 2 weeks/modules. Oh the shame and horror! Eh, oh well, live and learn;p Once the XP sheet was re-designed to be much more simple and intuitive, there was much less of a chance to have the wrong row of numbers entered. Turns out that I really didn't need the multiple summing rows for different challenges to be counted, that just made it too complicated!


My recent work has focused on designing badges for meaningful student achievements. Community Builder is an iterative badge, meaning that at 25, 50, 100, and 200 posts the student can achieve a badge for (bronze, silver, gold, rainbow). Great Conversationalist was given to the student who has posted 10 meaningful posts in one discussion. Eye Candy is for students who have added images or formatting to their posts to differentiate it from just straight text. Knowledge Enabler is for someone who has added outside content to the course (like a video, website, or pdf). Another set of leveling badges focuses on the community as a whole, Cumulative Community Discussion Posts (1000, 2000, 3000). We specifically are trying to encourage achievements in the course that feed back into the community, making it a better class/community. Students are happy to receive them, although I don't know if the badges offer anything to the experience for them. The badges are not tied to any XP, and that is an intentional choice.



10postsinone.pngpost lots of pics.pngpostextrastuff.png

    1000posts.png       2000posts.png        3000posts.png

I have been really interested in Twitter use, because I post things relevant to the class. When my mentor (who I am assisting for this course) left for the week to present research in Thailand, she posted a picture with the class hashtag, so that the students could be included in what she was doing. We can post calls for papers, links to supplemental papers, information for game design-a-thons, call outs to websites that are relevant to current readings, or silly things, like cookies decorated like game characters. I am hoping that more students will take up this mode of communication, since I have specifically placed it on the front page so that they can see their own posts featured there. I feel like maybe adding more levity (like posting a pic of a creeper that I take at a store, and saying "thinking of you, student") will help it be an alternate communication area. There are also a couple of badges that students can get for using this alternate mode of communication.


1stweet.png 5tweets.png

Other than inputting the correct XP, things that have been clunky include tracking the XP. Since students can post it in multiple places, it means that I have to check all of those places for every student to make sure that I catch everything. Sometimes I miss things, sometimes I get so caught up in reading the posts that I forget I am supposed to be tracking the paper mentions, or sometimes students post things a day latter and expect that I'll go back and see it automagically. My favorite was the student who thought that we should just know what he had read/played, even though he had not written it down anywhere. Unfortunately, my web kung fu is just not that good ;p Now that expectations were made clearer, he has been maxing out XP each week.


One thing that has been difficult, is getting quality feedback about the design of the course, and what ways it could be improved. After speaking with a student for over an hour, I managed to get a great idea about navigating from him. He wanted current item buttons directly on the homepage, to make it easier to, A. Remember which module we were on, and B. easily get to the current discussion, current blog, and that weeks module. I though that was really helpful, because I have the same issue with my other two online classes that I am taking, specifically that I can't remember which module we are currently supposed to be in. Because of this, I designed several course navigation buttons that I change the links to, weekly.


current modulenav.png




The items that I would like to work on:

  • Clarify what the student view is for using the Scheduler (it won't be used for several weeks, so still have time)
  • Make a set of Quiz modules for Level Up games
  • Make a progress bar that all students will be able to see with their own XP in it.

The first two I can figure out, the third, I know it is possible, but has to do with within-course API calls, which is beyond my current ability.


Oh yes, I had left with a cliff hanger of using the quizzes to add an unlockable game at each level. The idea is to embed a game that I have programmed, into a quiz. Quizzes have the ability to unlock with the correct code, and once unlocked the student could play the game. I am not sure that it really adds much, and I think it qualifies as "icing on the cake". Like, if I get it to work, that would be cool, but not necessary. The biggest problem is that I have no way of tracking what the student scores in the game, and we were thinking of making the score equal added XP divided by a roll-the-dice number (so it doesn't get too high). The only thing that I can think of is to have students screen cap or take a pic with a phone of their score. Clunky. Still cool, but I think that progress bar would add a lot more value to the students than a  short game would.


Hope you have enjoyed my take on gamification, there are a few more posts to come ;p

David Lyons

Grade with Emoji

Posted by David Lyons Employee Mar 23, 2016

Disclaimer: This is really silly and you probably shouldn't do it but it's fun to know what's possible.


Did you know you can grade with emoji in Canvas? It's true! 

All you have to do is create a grading scheme like you normally would (How do I add a grading scheme in a course?) but instead of assigning letters, you assign emoji!* You don't have to do this course wide since you can use different grading schemes on individual assignments (How do I add a grading scheme to an Assignment?)


Here's an example Grading Scheme I setup to show how it works:

Screenshot 2016-03-23 09.53.28.png


Here's how it looks in the Gradebook to a Teacher:

Screenshot 2016-03-23 09.57.56.png


And finally here's how it looks in the Student view:

Screenshot 2016-03-23 10.15.44.png


I tested this on OSX, iOS, and Android and it worked as expected. Emoji support varies from device to device since it's up to the device to render the emoji, not Canvas. If you are going to do this make sure to use emoji that are likely to be supported on every device, and not just new or obscure ones.


Happy grading!


* Not sure how to get to the emoji keyboard? Go read the guide for your OS:

This is a repost from my personal blog Enjoy!


The Video Games and Virtual Worlds online graduate course has been live for the last week! It is pretty awesome to see it working, and that the students seem to be enjoying it. For this week, students were specifically asked to fill out a Google Forms survey on their thoughts and biases about video games, modify their Canvas notification settings, and if desired set a playful Avatar for their Canvas account. Why? Here is a breakdown:

  • Survey
    • Students answered questions about their game-playing history, what they thought was average time played /age of players / gender percentages / time spent playing socially, etc.
    • The results of the form were viewable after the survey was completed. I did this to help students get an idea on what preconceptions and experiences other students were entering the class with. This helps to build social confidence and trust, which will lend to a better learning community.
  • Canvas Notifications
    • This is the first solely online course being taught at UPenn at the graduate student level. As such, we wanted to make sure that we could reach students with announcements, and other notifications when necessary.
  • Avatar
    • Part of creating a game character is customization. Encouraging students to create an avatar to use in the course can help with creating a virtual identity in the class, allowing them to take on different characteristics than in face-to-face learning environments. For example, a quite student may become more "vocal" on a discussion board.
    • This class heavily uses discussion to build on the readings. By "listening" to multiple points of view, experiences, and arguments, as well as forming concise written arguments to persuade others, we learn more about the topic, what others think, and we change our ideas from initial impressions of the readings. The Avatar is the "face" we see in the discussion, so encouraging students to choose a playful one keeps the course-as-game theme going. We suggested that they use as a free avatar creator.
    • Human brains are highly adapted to identifying icons faster than photos, so having a cartoon-like avatar image will hopefully help with quickly identifying a person to their comments within the discussion board.


Embedding the Google form into an assignment made students accessing it a more seamless experience, since they did not have to leave Canvas to complete the form. This is something that I learned from the incredibly helpful Canvas Community. There, the population of Canvas users are encouraged to ask questions, share tips, and write up tutorials on neat things that they have found or figured out how to do within Canvas. This crowd-sourcing is what keeps Canvas at the top of the LMS pack, because they (the Canvas developers) are constantly taking community feedback and suggestions, putting them into a voting process, and implementing them. Canvas updates every 3 weeks, with roughly a 6 month build time for idea inclusion.


I learned the different ways to embed google content from Stefanie Sanders tutorial on Using Google Docs for dynamic Canvas content. There are two main ways, the first that I used several times, is an html inline frame, which is a window inside your tab that you can access the Google Doc/Sheet/Form from, and it shows up within the frame. This is great if you want students to see it, but not have the ability to change anything on it. The second way is to insert an External URL into a Canvas module. Provided that your Google File is set to allow sharing and editing, this will provide a  place that students can enter information in themselves. Say that you want all students to type an intro onto the same Google Doc, so they understand how it works in real-time. Linking to the share link with the External URL ability of the module will let the students open the module page and have the document right there to live-type into. For more information on how to do that, see the link above.



This is also awesome for updating your syllabus. Online courses require setting everything up before the class even starts, which is a huge work load. Face-to-Face classes can allow the teacher to plan them out 2 weeks ahead, so that work load is spread out over the semester. Same amount of work, just timed differently. For our class, we wanted students to be able to get in and see the course before the semester actually started (which was a Thursday, oddly enough). This access can help waylay first-time-online-only students fears and give them the time to become more comfortable with the interface. Prior to this class, many UPenn students would only access Canvas for course files to download, and had not had the experience of submitting assignments online, taking quizzes, or navigating modules. That would be why we opened the class at the beginning of the week, instead of waiting until Thursday. This meant that some of the later modules hadn't been fully completed, which required updating the syllabus, mostly with the correctly cited reading choices for that module. How much easier it proved to be to make the syllabus a Google Doc! Not only could we make a full sized iframe to open on the syllabus page, but we could also double check each others work. Some times this meant correcting due dates, other times it meant inserting the correct citation on a note of the reading. Since it is an online document, we didn't have to worry about conflicting copies, since we could both work on the document at the same time! That was very helpful in getting everything synced and tied together. Important note: Make sure to publish the document and use that link, or students will get the editing page view! It looks far more professional to publish it, which also makes the document responsive to internet window size.


Much of my time this week was spent making tweaks to the user interface and/or finishing up rest of the course. A list so I can keep track a bit:

  • Fixing the map image so that it would stay within the background color of the page (set width to 100% instead of exact pixel w * h, means that the picture will shrink to stay within the background color, but only go as large as it would have been at full pixel w* h) <-- not quite right. Still need a <div> around the image with the max-width set to the largest pixel size that you want it to appear at (   <div style="max-width: 500 px;">  )
  • adding in the non-optional assignments to the correct modules
  • Learning how to use the Scheduler: How do I add a Scheduler appointment group in the Scheduler page?in the course Calendar for students to make appointments in specific time-blocks, preliminary setting them up and then "handing them off" to Debbie to fill in with her schedule blocks.
  • Figure out the amount of points that an A student should be getting, how many points a C student should be getting, and setting a Target XP for the week for each module.
  • Figure out how to set Canvas to points and make them display correctly (i.e. when looking at the Total grade after one 20 pt assignment, it should look like 20/2000 or some such, not 100%) Thanks to Randy Orwin for writing up a tutorial with helpful pictures to figure this out!
  • Figure out how to make a grading scheme (meaning the breakdown of points to percentage). The grading scheme showed me that no student would have even a B before the Final Project, because the Final Project is weighted so heavily (1/3rd of the entire course grade). Because of this, I decided to add Levels at every 300 XP, therefore letting students see how they are doing in the course. This gives us the ability to say around the midterm, "Hey, if you are at this level to this level, you are currently passing the class! Lower = C, Higher = A, choose how you will continue from here." Thanks again goes to Randy Orwin in his second post on grades.
  • Added student Character Sheets that anyone can edit. This is one place that students can post their reflections on the readings, which will show if they have read them or not, and we can see them to count them as XP. Not the best way to track XP (by hand), but it is the only thing we can think of at this time, and it is a small class, so hopefully it won't get overwhelming (setting each reading as it's own grade would have blown the gradebook up since some modules have over 15 options).
  • Added a Twitter feed for #VGL2016
    • I am hoping that this will help students immediately connect their game successes or applicable articles or videos that they find to share with other students. (very slow uptake!)
  • Made all module components have the same colored background.
    • It is a small detail, but I felt that it might help students feel like each module had its own cohesive appearance, and also letting you know if you went into the next module on accident. It also adds to the "fun" game atmosphere that we are trying to create with gamification.
  • Create a google sheet to track all XP
    • We needed a way to track the mentions of what each student chose to read/watch to award XP in the correct amounts. There are two places that students can write in that we are planning to check each week, the discussion board, and their personal Character sheet
    • I also added each student avatar pic in their respective columns, referring back to the ease of identification with icons, this time for myself and Debbie.
    • The XP Tracker sheet currently has the module separated into two parts, required challenges (readings/video, etc) and choice challenges. This needs some tweaking, since many of the required challenges have their own grade box to enter XP into, and then the rest will be dumped together in one bin per module. Still working on this.


The last thing that I have been tweaking on the Canvas site, is making it render nicely on the Canvas Mobile App. Although this is likely not even an interest to most students, I wanted to cover all of my bases. I knew that using tables is generally frowned on for accessibility screen readers, since they read the table from left to right, and if your data is laid out in columns, this will be pretty much gibberish. For the tables that I used, that wouldn't be a problem, since they were used to visually chunk information in each cell, no column or row format. After looking at the class through the app, it turns out that most of the time, the tables turned out making things look badly designed. For example, the table would push the image halfway out of the background color, or partially off the page, so it had to be scrolled to be viewed. Part of a solution for that is to Flexbox Grid tips and guides from within Canvas. This was only partially successful, and I just found out today why it wasn't working like it should have been on the smaller screen size of the app. According to this community question: Flexbox grid/design for on Canvas AppFlexbox grid/design for on Canvas App , since the flexboxs use a JavaScript library, it is disabled in the app. I spent many hours trying to figure out what was wrong with my code to make it not display correctly! This Columns Without Tables: code-snippet guide for making inline css responsive columns using only css divs (or divisions for non web coders) has been incredibly helpful. I still need to go back into all of the pages that use columns and change the code from table to divs, but at least that will fix that problem! The last problem I have with the app is that some page links go to the main modules page instead of the page they were meant to go to. That one will be tricky to track down!.


On the teaching side of things, words of wisdom from Debbie on grading at the beginning of the course, "I give students more feedback at the beginning of the course, and tend to grade a little harsher. This helps to encourage a bit better output of work for the rest of the course, develops good habits when my feedback is specific and they follow it, and it shows that I am there and involved. Also, students learn by doing, so the first grades are kind of the experimental ones for the students to probe what quality of work they should be doing, and what I value in their reflections."

Let's Play!

Posted by Oct 13, 2015

All right, so we have this awesome new Gamification Group space. And I know (from personal experience) that we have a great community of Canvas users who are totally ready to geek out together with some deep conversations and sharing of resources and strategies.


So let the games begin!


To kick things off, I offer you 3 resources to encourage some playful thinking, depending on your background.


Pleasurable. Intrinsically Motivated. Process Oriented. Freely Chosen. Actively Engaged. Sound like a description of your ideal classroom? Surprise - these are all features of play! If you want to know why educators are looking to games in the first place, check out "The Power of Play" (pdf), a great research summary by Dr. Rachel E. White. (This resource might be useful for convincing a skeptical admin to approve your game idea... ;-)


Physician, Heal Thyself. If games and play are a good idea for students, what does it look like when educators play along? Twitter vs Zombies (#TvsZ) is "an apocalyptic simulation game played across Twitter and other digital platforms. It is designed to demonstrate virtual community, to teach new media literacy, and to facilitate a collaborative narrative adventure."


Myth Busting. There a lot of assumptions you might've encountered about games, those who play them, and how they fit into the social, family, and media landscape of our students' worlds. The 2015 Essential Facts About the Computer and Video Game Industry (pdf) report captures and presents some illuminating trends in who gamers are. Prepare to be surprised!


Happy reading - and I look forward to reading about all of your game and play resources in this space.


d20-panda.pngWe hear a lot about gamification in edu, but my own experience has been that the general ideas tend to outweigh the specific applications. Especially here in the ID space, I think it would be useful to generate some conversation about the specifics! Hence this blog post, which may evolve into a running conversation/space for those of us interested in hashing out the specific design and application questions around gamifying courses. Questions like:


  • What are some go-to sources for CC-licensed graphics?
  • Which Canvas features are best suited for generating gameplay experience?
  • How well do 3rd-party game apps integrate with Canvas for feedback?
  • Do resources exist for playtesting gamified courses?


I've had 4 years of personal experience with a gamified Intro to Philosophy course, Dungeons & Discourse, which I'll be blogging about periodically here; but I believe the most interesting and useful conversations will come from crowdsourcing! I'm looking forward to participating in the conversation.