A lot has happened since I wrote on my dream of teaching C# using a system where my students could earn achievements (previous parts: Part 1 intro, Part 2 survey). In fact, my dream is actually nearing completing thanks to the hard work of Jonas Swiatek who is building exactly what I need, with a little help of myself. In a next post I’ll give a full overview of what this is (if you’re anxious to find out, go check out the Strokes Project on googlecode). Expect this review in a couple of weeks. Consider this post an interlude to the post where I present the Strokes project!
So, in the meantime, allow me to quickly summarize what other projects and sources currently exists (besides the earlier mentioned Ribbon Hero) and which can be used as inspiration both for the Strokes project and for others going the same ‘achievement-based’ learning path. Oh yeah, and if you think that Negative Achievements don’t exist, think again and check out part 3 of the excellent “The cake is not a lie” articles. Speaking of lying cakes, you definitely should check out this comic on achievements and portal 2 (click image for the full comic)!
One of the original projects that should be a must-see for anyone seriously thinking about teaching a programming language is the PexForFun project by Microsoft Research. This, free to use, project is a series of programming challenges (C#, F# and VB) both extremely easy and stupidly hard to solve. Users can randomly start a challenge or, more wisely, solve them in order. Basically the user is presented an in-browser code editor with per challenge a few lines of code and usually a title that hints to what needs to be done. The nice thing is that no additional help is given. Instead, the user simply needs to guess what needs to be done by adding some code and then hit the ‘Ask Pex!’ button which will results in the current code being compiled and tested for correctness of the challenge, followed by feedback of why the current test failed. So bit by bit you, usually, get closer to the solution and in the meantime hone your algorithmic thinking skills. If you are on the road, PexForFun also has an excellent Windows Phone 7 application that does exactly the same, but on a way smaller screen (more info). Though PexForFun won’t win any prizes in the looks department, it is definitely worthwhile to check out.
What will win prizes in the looks department is Jira Hero. This plugin for Jira , a bug tracker, does exactly what we are aiming for in the Strokes project: achievement-based learning with an online part that allows users to compare each other’s progress. The user, in a playable manner, learns how to use the Jira systems and earns badges by performing specific tasks. Leaderboards allows a user to see his progress compared to other user. The project ended on third place in a plugin programming contest, Codegeist V, by Attlasian, the makers of Jira. Even if you’re not into Jira, check out the postmortem of the Jira Hero project here.
A small blogpost with not much additional information but a brief paper (that’s not very exhaustive in my opinion) describes commonly used game mechanics. This particular posts is on achievements, more posts are promised but to be honest, don’t way for them because it appears that the author(s) have moved on to other interests, still, check out the paper for some inspiration here.
For real, scientifically backed, inspiration and papers, several high-ranked journals exists:
- Wiley’s “Journal of Computer Assisted Learning” (link)
- Elseviers “Computers & Education – An International Journal” (link)
- “Journal of Educational Technology & Society” (link)
- “Journal of Research on Technology in Education” (link)
Many other journals in fact exists which sometimes focus on parts of game-based learning but the aforementioned can be considered, in my opinion, to be prime resources. For a complete listing of what is out there, and more, check out the following site (WARNING: contains a lot of adds!).