For a course on educational technology and gamification, I had an assignment to create a gamified lesson. I have been researching the use of escape rooms and interactive fiction (similar to choose your own adventure stories) in learning environments. I found examples of escape rooms being used to engage learners in classrooms, libraries, and museums.
My research led me to Scott Nicholson, and I read several of his papers and attended a workshop on using storytelling and interactive fiction (EscapeIF) for education. I was inspired by these examples to attempt a short EscapeIF-inspired activity. This activity does not exactly follow Scott's EscapeIF system, but incorporates elements from EscapeIF with his RECIPE model for gamification. I combined those models with some science and came up with "Mystery at the Lake." Play the activity below, or scroll down to read more about how I designed it.
The RECIPE model is described in "A RECIPE for meaningful gamification." The six elements for meaningful gamification are reflection, exposition, choice, information, play, and engagement. Unlike some gamification models, points, badges, and rewards are not essential in the RECIPE model. Instead of using external rewards, the goal is to create an engaging learning experience that provides intrinsic motivation for the learner. It should be playful and fun.
Learning objectives: At the end of this activity, learners should be able to observe and list characteristics of an organism, and then identify it using a dichotomous key.
Learner characteristics: I think this activity is appropriate for science students in middle school and up, although anyone who is interested in insects, aquatic ecology, and classification, might enjoy it.
Technology: I built this activity in Google Forms to exploit the affordances of easy availability, low cost, multi-platform and operating systems, customizable feedback within the activity, and the ability to incorporate multimedia elements (photos, gifs, videos).
Gamification: To gamify the experience, I tried to incorporate the six elements from the RECIPE model for meaningful gamification, listed above. I wrote a story to guide learners through a mystery that includes a riddle, a reference to the Dewey Decimal system, and culminates with the use of a dichotomous key to identify an aquatic macroinvertebrate. Learners get to make some choices, follow the story set in a real-world context, learn from prompts and in-game feedback, reflect on their own knowledge, and choose to learn more.
Future improvements: I would love to expand this experience with additional options for play and engagement. Perhaps I would create additional story forks to give learners more choices. Instead of offering one mystery organism, I would like to present several and allow participants to choose which one to investigate. I would also like to add some "side quest" options that could be explored just for fun. I might use another platform such as Twine or Quest to build a fuller adventure.
A note on the beginning of the lesson: The participant has a choice at the start, and one option is to quit the activity. I included this option because by definition, play must be optional, and I favor autonomy in learning.
Since this was my first try, I do not consider it perfected, but I am sharing it in the spirit of collaboration and openness in education. I welcome feedback and suggestions for improvement! Here is "Mystery at the Lake."