NZCER Games for Learning Conference: Gamification of a Junior Curriculum
St Thomas of Canterbury College and Gamification
Blog post by Tam Yuill Proctor
A very interesting break-out at the NZCER conference was presented by Brad and Hamish from, St Thomas of Canterbury College, Christchurch, NZ. They are currently redesigning the Year 7-9 junior curriculum using the principles of gamification.
Before jumping into their presentation I’ll just give a quick summary of the New Zealand Curriculum (NZC) document. This document is often talked about as having a ‘front end’ and ‘back end’. The ‘front end’ of the document focuses on: the key competencies, and 6 principles including future focused learning and knowledge building. The ‘front end’ of the NZC is about 21st century learning and skills. The ‘back end’ of the document is broken down into the different subject areas. How a school chooses to deliver the curriculum is up to them. “Both the national curriculum framework and the national qualifications system were designed to maximise flexibility and autonomy for schools as they put together learning programmes that meet the needs of all their students.” (Hipkins & Spiller, 2012, p4). St Thomas of Canterbury College are reshaping their traditional curriculum by focusing on the ‘front end’ of the NZC and trying something quite innovative and future focused. They are taking their junior curriculum and focusing on: the key competencies, the values of the school and using the principles of gamification to engage students and provide student agency.
St Thomas have been using aspects of gamification for their junior curriculum over the past couple of years. This year they applied for and have been granted a ‘teacher led innovation fund’ (TLIF). This funding is providing them with the ability to access: experts, resources and time. One online tool they are currently investigating is using Red Critter to provide feedback to students. Their project aim is to “deconstruct existing structures and routines to re-create a 21st century curriculum (with a specific focus on engagement and student agency) based on the principles of gamification for all Year 7-9 students.” (Brad and Hamish, 2017).
Brad and Hamish explained that the junior curriculum will focus on the key competencies and ‘front end' of the NZC. It will not necessarily be structured on year levels or subjects. By using a gamified approach, students can level up based on experience and ability. This type of thinking has come from asking questions such as: In games when you have the knowledge or ability that is when you level up. Why do we continue to let students move through to the next year regardless of ability?
Interestingly both Brad and Hamish don’t regard themselves as gamers but believe gamifying the curriculum is a way to engage the boys and respond to the diversity of learning needs. You can read an interview with Brad and Hamish on the NZCER Blog.
They are at the beginning of this journey and it will be interesting to follow their progress.
You can follow both Brad and Hamish on Twitter:
Brad = @bradmilnez
Hamish = @barclay_hamish
Further reading: http://www.nzcer.org.nz/system/files/NCEA%20and%20Curriculum%20Innovation%20final_1.pdf