From Spanish Teacher to instructional and gamification coach with Glen Irvin | Episode 071

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Glen Irvin has been in education around 20 years and he currently works as an instructional coach in Sauk Rapids, Minnesota. Glen was previously a Spanish teacher. Glen is well known by the Schoology community as a Gamification expert, Schoology Ambassador, and he was the 2016-2017 Schoology Educator of the Year. He is an avid gamer with a passion for gamification, playful learning and game-based learning. As a teacher, his classroom was a gamified, quest-based, mastery learning environment where students were given the time and opportunity to succeed.

His days as an instructional coach are quite different from a teacher, things where quite structured and prepared. Now he has a lot more freedom and also the constant disruption of solving live problems or helping teachers to implement a lesson. Of course, he is also putting himself out there to support the implementation of games-based learning and gamification for others! Including Minecraft which is one of his great passions.

A fail moment for him was related to leaderboards, it was something that he had heard about and decided to test it out. His objective was to get students excited and engaged, his idea was that they would look at it and want to climb to the top! However, those who were falling to the bottom fell completely left out and mostly decided it wasn’t worth even trying. They were disengaged because of the leaderboard. He then scrapped the individual leaderboard and revamped it through the guilds that were already there inside of his gamified class, which prevented the negative outcomes he observed before. Leaderboards are quite controversial and are certainly difficult to implement in a way that improves outcomes when it is even possible.

His biggest success was related to a huge risk for him as well! It was something he was looking at implement for a full period, nine weeks. He wanted to pull the students from the textbook curriculum. It was about immersing them completely, where they would want to go ahead and learn more Spanish and he created “El mundo de leyendas” (World of Legends) inside Minecraft! Each week had quests to participate in, students were inside a computer lab and they were committed to the role play of becoming these characters that only speak in Spanish. They worked together to solve problems, through interacting with characters in the game and solving them together as a guild. The nine weeks flew by and the test results were his best ever! Mind you, using the same test as in previous years. The biggest learning for him was that he planned everything for the nine weeks and stressed himself out, whereas now he would have clearer objectives but not to the minimum detail to have more flexibility. It is also good to remember that each class is unique.

The first thing as far as Glen’s process is that no matter the tool you use, the main thing is to have very clear objectives, what he calls the “can do’s” and then create the process from there. With games-based learning, he feels teachers need to be invested in the game, need to be passionate about it and play the game in a way as well. He mentions as well that it is important to understand what are the specific passions and interests of your students, they come in with a new set of things and account for them in what you create. Incorporate that feedback into your design. He recommends to go on to Twitter and find one of the many communities to reach out for their expertise, there is an important amount of people willing to help and provide great feedback.

For him the most important part is to become knowledgeable in what you are doing in gamification and/or games-based learning, to interact with people who are already experts and understand them, not to copy but to be able to get ideas and options from what they do. Then he also recommends anyone who is going to implement it to be willing to do this for the full period you will have the students, so you plan for your ideas not to become a burden or something you can’t manage and implement throughout because when you stop giving feedback or something just stops, they might lose interest. Don’t bite off more than you can chew so you don’t become overwhelmed.

Glen’s favorite game could be Farm Together and probably because he really enjoys the grind in these types of games. A year ago it would have been Monster Hunter World. An all-time legendary game for him would be Galaga! Glen would love to listen to Dr. Chris Haskell and Paul Darvasi on Professor Game. He then also mentioned John Fallon and his work on alternate reality games. He would recommend the engagers should read when just starting with gamification, Teach Like a Pirate series. He also certainly recommends Matt Farber’s Gamify Your Classroom.

His superpower would be to look into learner’s eyes and tell if they’re into what you’re doing if they are engaged or not! Certainly super important in the world of education and learning. A final piece of advice is to understand that we are not alone on this gamification world and he invited us to follow him on Twitter @irvspanish and he is willing to help connect with others that would make sense. We can also find him at glenirvin [at] gmail [dot] com, on his YouTube Channel for Teaching Tips and Tricks or even check out his website.


There are many ways to get in touch with Professor Game, you can go to my Twitter @RobAlvarezB, my Instagram, our Facebook Page, subscribe to our email list and even ask a question to future guests!

Looking forward to reading or hearing from you,


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