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Scott Hebert is a passionate and dedicated teacher who has taught K-12 Physical Education as well as Grade 7 & 8 Sciences for the past 8 years. He is on a mission to rid the stereotype that school is boring and loves to challenge the traditional approaches to education via gamification. He aims to be innovative and is constantly challenging himself to put new practices into play.He was a recipient of the 2013 Alberta Excellence in Teaching Award and the 2015 Gamification of Education Project of the Year Internationally.
There are two different types of games in Scott’s class, which is themed as a medieval RPG. It is either tutorial days, where he actually teaches mirroring his screen on the students’ screen, or the more exciting questing. Here is where they have more game-like features!
His favorite failure jumps immediately to mind. It was once that a student proposed something for the game in the class, a jail. So if someone is not appreciative of the gamified class, we put that person in there and will have the “regular classroom” experience with books and be taking notes, etc. However what happened is that, as one of the students applied for the job “jail guard”, was something similar to the Stanford Prison Experiment. Scott had to do a debriefing of the experience, which resulted in a fantastic learning experience. No one was hurt this time :). For Mr. Hebert there is no “misbehaving” in class, based on his style, his students have days were they release stress, there is no specific time for a project, they can do their quests at their timing within the 14 days (in average) that they have on questing.
Scott thinks there is an engagement crisis in education. Everybody is asking why are they disengaged? He thinks they are plain bored. Kids in kindergarten adore school, but as you get older the elements of play are taken away from the experience. “Even bad guys have birthdays” is a book about education in kindergarten, which he has found a great grounding for his experience. When he had to move for personal reasons, he started to teach 8th graders, who couldn’t care less. The only ones who cared actually cared about grades and their parents’ reaction. Once he learned the curriculum well enough, around 2015, he started to implement gamification to crack the engagement crisis. He has seen an increase in grades, emails from parents saying their kids really care about his (science) class and a lot of excitement around this, aside from the award as the Best Gamification in Education Project via the World Gamification Congress. Oh, and yes, the kids are actually learning as well. Especially because they are really involved, even though he has gone from teacher to guide. Roughly 420 kids have gone through this and actually miss the experience.
He’s done presentations about his work all around his province in Alberta, Canada. He started getting emails from lots of people asking how to implement this in their own classrooms, especially after presenting at a conference. That is when he decided to write a book “Press Start to Begin”. The book is an immersive choose your own adventure, gamified, book about Master Heebs, which is how his kids have named him. His advice to others who want to implement this is to start with what they are passionate about. He uses the medieval theme in his class because of a game he really enjoyed (Diablo), but each person has their own passion, so start there. What do you know about? It could be music, medieval, a movie, etc. The next thing is to think of the class as a movie script, where they use their (science in this case) skills to solve problems within a story, to help people, to advance, to reach a goal, to defeat the bad guys within the gamified setting. To match the curriculum with the theme, he does each in one column and maps each other. So like battles with worksheets or homework that was already there, but tied to what is happening in the story. It doesn’t have to be expensive, he has even reused materials found in construction sites, local board game communities and others to create the themes and quests. It is important to not start huge, but rather small, also perhaps include the kids who are always keen to participate. He has a bunch of tutorials on his YouTube Channel, Master Heebs.
A best practice for Master Heebs is certainly to use a theme for the class, when they come into the class it is really useful to actually create the environment. It is important to “sell” this to them, once they are involved, and he allows them to contribute to the environment, it almost becomes easier.
His favorite game of all time is Diablo, but he’s now really into “Last Day on Earth: Survival.” Once you start with gamification, you get immersed, I’ve been connecting what I learn on games for my class all the time.
Mr. Hebert would love to listen to Andrzej Marczewski on Professor Game, hopefully we’ll have him soon. He has learned a lot from Yu-kai Chou as well. He would also recommend “Even Ninja Monkeys like to Play” book from Andrzej as well as Lee Sheldon’s “The Multiplayer Classroom.” Of course, I would also recommend to read Scott’s book “Press Start To Begin – The Complete Guide to Classroom Gamification.”
Scott claims others would say that he is relentless and doesn’t fear failure in his gamified classrooms, that is where he thrives. His final advice is that education has been the same since its inception, with only some updates of content and technology (like throwing tablets at kids). So gamification is the way he finds education can really change and break the curse of disengagement that is currently going on. It is necessary to give more control of the class to the students, it sparks collaboration, engagement, he finds it really inspiring how they get pushed out of their confort zone and learn so much! He loves the quote of John Dewey “If we teach today’s students as we taught yesterday’s, we rob them of tomorrow.” and it’s from 19717! Since the big discoveries nowadays are not about looking at the facts but rather around creativity, we shouldn’t be testing and pushing towards memorizing facts, but rather on how to use them.