Michael Matera Inspiring and Showing the Path to Action in Gamification | Episode 155

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Michael Matera is an engaging, fun and inspiring nationwide speaker and author, delivering keynotes, workshops and small group professional development to teachers and administration. Additionally, he is a practicing teacher. He ignites both his classroom and professional development audiences with interactive play, passion and purpose-driven learning. He helps us all focus on finding the joy in the journey of life both professionally as well as personally. He is the host and creator of the Hive Summit. As a gamification guru and moonshot thinker, Michael transforms the traditional classroom into a high-energy environment where active student engagement is paramount. Michael is an energetic trainer, who broadly shares his research, teaching methods and technological applications for the advancement of learners, teachers and administrators.  As a consultant, he works with educational institutions and businesses to define the needs and build solutions that inspire and lead to effective change. Discover his most recent pioneering endeavors by visiting his website, mrmatera.com, listen to his podcast Well Played or have a look on his YouTube channel and remember to connect.


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Full episode transcription

Rob (5s):
Welcome to Professor Game Podcast, where we interview successful practitioners of games, gamification and game thinking, who bring us the best of their experiences to get ideas, insights, and inspiration that help us in the process of getting the students to learn what we teach. And I’m Rob Alvarez. I teach and work at IE Business School in Madrid, where we create interactive and engaging learning materials. Want to know more? Go to professorgame.com/subscribe, start on our email list and ask me anything!

Rob (39s):
Engagers. Welcome back to another episode of the professor game podcast. And we have as usually very special guest today, we have Michael who has been already on the show, but before we get started this time, Michael, are you prepared to engage?

Michael (52s):
You bet!

Rob (54s):
let’s do this because if you don’t know him, I don’t know what world you’re living. We have to pay Michael Matera, who is an engaging, fun and inspiring nationwide speaker and author who delivers keynotes workshops and small group professional development to teachers and administration. And of course, he is a practicing teacher. He is igniting both his classroom and professional development audiences with interactive play, passion and purpose-driven learning. And he helps us all focus on finding the joy in the journey of life, both professionally as well as personally is also the host and creator of the Hive Summit, is a gamification guru moonshot thinker.

Rob (1m 32s):
He transforms the traditional classroom into a high energy environment where active student engagement is paramount. He is an energetic trainer. He broadly shares his research, his teaching methods and technological applications for the advancement of learners, teachers, administrators, and as a consultant, he works with educational institutions and businesses to define the needs and build solutions that inspire and head to effective change. He also has a podcast here, which is also transmitted with video. You can find him on YouTube and many other places as well.

Rob (2m 5s):
He has a webpage and you can discover his most recent pioneering endeavors visiting mrmatera.com. The podcast is called Well-Played, or you can look at the YouTube channel that I mentioned before. Always of course, remember to connect with him. So, Michael, is there anything that we haven’t mentioned that is missing from that intro?

Michael (2m 23s):
I don’t think so. That was pretty robust.

Rob (2m 27s):
Looks good. It looks good. So Michael, when we start these interviews, we always like to think of what does a regular or a normal day looks like for our guests. Of course, we are nowadays in the midst of a pandemic. So the regular days now are not necessarily the same that they were nine, 10 months ago. Right. So what does it look like? Maybe? I mean, these ended up being some sometimes funny stories of, of the, of the different things that have changed so much, these days.

Michael (2m 53s):
Yeah. So definitely in the middle of a pandemic here, the regular day looks way different. I sort of joke with people That I feel like we’re trying to figure out how to do 1950s teaching, you know, in like rows and desks and that kind of thing. Like we’re trying to figure out the better way to do that because at our school I’m teaching in a hybrid model. So I have kind of Zoom up with like some of my online kids and then I have in-person kids and trying to figure out the best way to do that. So my day looks way different than how it used to where I usually have like five tables in my room and kids are always working on collaborative things together and creatively like working together.

Michael (3m 31s):
And now they find themselves six feet apart with masks and then some kids over zoom, so wildly different day. But I happy to answer what my regular day looks like nowadays it gets to school. I’m going, I mean, I’m going to start right at the beginning here. I have like a 20-minute commute in which I listened to typically a book on tape. And I am training myself up to listen to books on tape at higher and higher speeds. That’s a super nerdy thing to admit, but your ear reading, yeah.

Michael (4m 1s):
Your ear can get used to it and you can end up taking in more information. So right now I, I’m up to 2.2 speed and I can hear, hear and understand it took a while to get to that level. But pretty much means I can read a book a week in my, in my commutes. And yeah, so that’s how I start my day, get to school. Boom. And I like to get there about 20 minutes early, so I can kind of set things up a little bit. And in my pandemic teaching, I have definitely found kind of organization matters way more in, in this situation than it did before.

Michael (4m 38s):
For me, before I had, I have taught world history at my current position, this is my 13th year. And you know, like I know good ways to deliver information. I know really great strategies to use on the fly. So if like something erupts in my class and it’s like, that’s a teachable moment in which they need to work in groups. I could just do that on a fly, whether that uses some Legos or ask, you know, challenging questions or structure a discussion a certain way, that makes it really interesting and engaging for students.

Michael (5m 8s):
Now, you don’t have access to all of those teaching methods. And so like, I feel like I, it really does matter now that you have kind of a well detailed like a lesson plan, like, what am I doing in this time with these kids? Because you can’t pull something out really quick and on the fly and just be able to do a really engaging lesson quickly. So now what I have them do is the first things first, they come in and they go to my website where I use Google Sites and each lesson is detailed there.

Michael (5m 41s):
So it’ll say like lesson five, cause that’s the next lesson. And it walks them through exactly what we’re going to do. So there’s a quote of the day, they end up having to write down the, what the quote of the day is and their sort of thoughts about it. This is like my bell ringer this year. I usually do this. It’s less formal usually, but I usually do it at a quarter of the day. Then we discuss it as a class. And I find it a really good time to sort of infusing SEL social, emotional learning skills, right along with your lesson because we’re looking at these like powerful quotes about, you know, doing your best leaning into the experience, these kinds of things.

Michael (6m 14s):
And so that starts my lesson. Then after that, on the webpage, it’ll tell you like what our coursework is. And we’ll kind of go through that. And I have tried all sorts of things, which we can kind of get into here if we want, but we kind of do the coursework. Then, I call my homework independent expeditions. So then we have an independent expedition. I kind of tell them what that’s going to be. And I teach in middle school. I teach usually like I have five classes overall. And so I do that kind of throughout the day, and then I’m an advisor, so we have lunch in the classroom.

Michael (6m 49s):
So I got to like feed the kids. That’s always an interesting thing that I’ve never thought I would, I would be a, a lunch staff member in my, in my career. But yeah, there you go. I’m, I’m whipping up lunch and serving that for the kids. I gotta wipe desks in between classes. I gotta remember to like close down my zoom meeting and reopen a zoom meeting. So there’s a lot, there’s a lot going on in my day. But what I take solace in, is the fact that kids had, so again, I teach middle school, I teach sixth grade and I think any K-12 teacher will say they got, one of the reasons they got into teaching is to help students sort of achieve help students become kind of the best they can be.

Michael (7m 30s):
And while this is an incredibly difficult year and, you know, I wish we could go back to pre-pandemic sort of teaching that that’s just a wish. But when I focus on my purpose, like why did I join teaching as a profession? And I’ve key reason is that I wanted to shape the future today. And there hasn’t been ever in my career, a bigger need to do that. So when you focus on the purpose, my purpose has kind of doubled or tripled at this moment to help sixth graders in the midst of a global pandemic, still learn and still like be passionate learners and excited learners to explore.

Michael (8m 10s):
And that’s where I find my work, my other passion, right? To present about gamified experiences and using game mechanics and truly like engineering a classroom experience. So that’s the greatest it can be for your students. I find these times to be even more important to do that.

Rob (8m 28s):
Wow, exciting, inspiring. I love that introduction because it lets us in not only into, you know, all the, all the perks, all the things that you’ve done, all the fantastic stuff, but also, you know, a bit more into your passion and what it looks like and why you’re there and how you’re you’re, you’re keeping yourself inspired. Even in these difficulties that all of us who are teaching weave in some way, shape or form have definitely experienced to a certain extent. So, Michael, we’ve talked about difficulties as well. We’ve talked about some of the new challenges you’re facing, but I want to talk about specifically about a story of a time in which you had what we like to call a favorite fail or first attempt in learning one of those times when things, you know, you were going North, say things went South didn’t go as you expect that we want to be there.

Rob (9m 11s):
We want to be with, in that story. We want to be there exploring with you. I know that’s one of the keywords here. So we want to be there, we wanna learn with you.

Michael (9m 18s):
Yeah. So one, I gotta admit, like I have had my fair share of fails over the years in my teaching career. And I guess advice for any new teacher out there or someone that’s considering becoming a teacher is sort of pay attention to what works in your classroom. I know this sounds like really silly, easy advice, but my point is like over time, you’ll build sort of this satchel of quick ideas that you can pull out. This is almost what I was sort of referencing earlier in the podcast that like I can build a pretty good experience on the fly because I have these little ideas I can pull out and use because I know they’ve worked in my like 15, 16 years of teaching when you pay attention to those.

Michael (10m 1s):
And I mean, I’m still doing some, some little quick activity that I figured out my second year in teaching, but like I chose to sort of catalog that and keep that in my repertoire. And, you know, obviously, add to that repertoire. And now 16, 17 years in the teaching, I got like 30 little ideas that I can sprinkle in at any point. And part of that, where it connects to failure is, you know, try new things, but then also remember to sort of document and keep the ones that work so that you can sprinkle those in.

Michael (10m 33s):
But one of my favorite failures I talk about is a friend of mine, Carrie Baughcum, who is big in the sketch noting, she does gamification as well. We always joke that we have these bulletin boards in our classrooms that we say it’s where good ideas go to die because we’ve, we’ve tried to use these bullets from wards in some sort of gamified capacity. So for those of you that don’t know me, I do pretty extensive gamification where it’s like, it’s, it is a year-long story, you know, with little vignettes happening here and there.

Michael (11m 6s):
And kids are getting power-ups and these kinds of things, and much like a video game, they’re gaining experience points and they’re getting these little power-ups that let them break some rules in the game or maybe even into my classroom. And then I look at these bulletin boards and I’m like, there’s gotta be something I can do with these in the game. And I have tried like idea after idea each year, like trying a new twist, like, you know, I’ve done like little tournament brackets there and they were good for like the unit, but like, I couldn’t sustain it longterm. And again, I have a longterm game.

Michael (11m 38s):
I eventually thought, well, you know, um, my game is in the realm of Nobles. It’s this medieval society. I thought, you know, we gotta have like a map, you know? And like, we’re going to put a map there and we’re gonna like, let people sort of travel to various cities and various cities, we’re going to do things. And I had this complex structure where they could like to move so often and do this stuff, but it was too heavy. It was too weighty. You know, like the reality is as a middle school teacher, I don’t see my kids every day. I don’t have them all day. I’m not an elementary teacher that sees them that maybe could have that big of an experience because they could move in their English class.

Michael (12m 10s):
And then when the teacher teaches them math, they could like to move in the math class. Right. They would see them enough times that they would, this would work. This was a total failure. Like in like they didn’t get enough moves. It didn’t make sense. Like, I couldn’t really explain all the rules quickly enough. So it was very top-heavy.

Rob (12m 27s):
What would you say in, in, in that experience in, sorry, sorry if I’m interrupting, but there isn’t, there’s like many things there to sort of deconstruct and I think it’s a very good example, but what would you say is one, two, maybe even three key elements that you say, well, I think what I’ve learned from this experience is this and this, or I wouldn’t repeat, not only doing the map in the bulletin board itself but some, you know, sort of trying to generalize from that experience, if there is anything that you can draw from.

Michael (12m 53s):
Wow. So like the end of that story is I do have a system that I really like on this bulletin board, but I gotta tell you, like, I think that was after like five years, I was like, it was the fifth iteration, fifth, the 10th. It is no longer a map like that’s been removed, but like continuing to sort of stare at that. And I guess I think a good visionary teacher is also somebody that has the strength to see it through. Right. Like I stare at those bulletin boards and I, I was, I choose to be bothered to become better.

Michael (13m 27s):
Right. I think other people might just say, I got some bulletin board I’ll just throw up work or I’ll put a little, like welcome to my class, sign up there. I saw it. And it’s like, I know through my work that gamification is powerful that applying these mechanics are powerful and I stared at those things and I chose to be bothered that those weren’t a gamified element. To answer your direct question of what is something that sort of, I learned through that failure experience. One is to have that fortitude, but the other is don’t get lost in the game. I mean, obviously, I could, with all that I know about game mechanics, I could make the most complex, awesome game ever, but I don’t know how much world history you’d learn.

Michael (14m 7s):
Right? Like, cause I’ve dedicated so much time to like, well, you have to do this and you’d have to roll that dice and you’d have to write, it would be like super nerdy, super complex. It would be a really good game, but not necessarily a really good learning experience. And so a proper pruning of a game, you know, like take the mechanic and try your best to strike that right. The balance between them is motivating. It is inspiring. It is intriguing. It produces like a, a rub for the student that makes it interesting for them to move through this experience with the least amount of game weight on top of it, there is going to be some game weight.

Michael (14m 44s):
Right. You’re adding something to the experience. So I’m not trying to minimize it to it’s like zero point. I’m just trying to strike that perfect balance. Right. Think of it like seasoning and food. If you put none in, it’s not seasoned, you put too much, it’s terrible. Right. Like, but what does that perfect balance of that seasoning that makes the entire dish sort of come together? Some of those maps were too weighty. It was way too much seasoning. Right. And just striking that right balance is so important.

Rob (15m 12s):
Very, very nice. And I think it’s becoming sort of a topic in the past few weeks, like how much, how much complexity you want to add. And I mentioned it last time as well. I’m going to very quickly say it again. There’s I have a friend in gamification she’s more sort of in the corporate world more than an in education. And one of the things she likes to say is think of when you’re adding in another game mechanic thing that each of those game mechanics costs 10,000, whether that’s dollars, she’s, she’s working in the UK and British pounds, euros, whatever that looks like.

Rob (15m 43s):
It has to be a relatively big number. So you consider that your budget is not unlimited, right? Your time is not unlimited. So, you know, how much can you prune out of that as you were saying until that point where you reach what you actually need to make it the most engaging in as well. It’s not going to be less good if you have less of these things, actually, it can be a lot better if it’s two weighty as you, as, Michael was saying, I think there are a lot of opportunities to improve there. So very, very, very good learning. I love that experience as well. And Michael, we’ve talked about failure.

Rob (16m 13s):
We’ve talked about some challenges, but I’d like to know of one of the many things that you’ve had success doing in your classroom using your gamification strategies. Like, can you tell us a story of one of these things? And of course, if we can know of any sort of, you know, ideas that you think were, were that sort of let you to, that would be delighted as well.

Michael (16m 32s):

Rob (16m 35s):
So again, this is a story of something that went well for you that you’re sort of proud of in, in, in, in your, maybe in your, your, the game that you apply in your classroom, that your long game, some of the elements you introduced and sort of maybe what inspiration took you there, or maybe what were some of the keys to the success? If I may

Michael (16m 52s):
No, a hundred percent, it was more like just a, I mean, not, not to pat myself on the back. I mean, I hope anybody that’s done gamification and realized it’s like, there are so many like moments like there’s just a flood of moments in my head that are proud moments with students, proud moments with other teachers. So like, I don’t know to choose one of the successes. I think that I will, this is going to be a kind of general experience, but it is one of the things I’m most proud of is gamification. When you’re applying game mechanics, you are making the experience in some respects, more difficult.

Michael (17m 27s):
You’re, you’re adding intentional sort of roadblocks or hurdles that kids have to sort of contend with while interacting with the content. And I didn’t necessarily set out for this outcome, but what happens? And it has happened time and time again is I’ll get students that come back to my class, you know, whether I teach six. So whether it’s the seventh year, eighth grade year, ninth grade year or whatever, but kids come back and they really sort of speak to my class, which is a history class is one of the things that they felt best prepared them moving forward, because it just put them in constant sort of challenge mode and like how to overcome that challenge with a constant aim at like doing your best, because a game has kind of that endless, you know, you can gain more and more points in the game, not in my grades, by doing better and better.

Michael (18m 17s):
So like where school sort of tops out, like there’s a diminishing return, like to try to get like an, a plus from an a, it’s probably not actually worth your investment of time to try to get the a plus cause like you’re either that talent that comes naturally or you’re gonna have to spend like 20 more hours on the project just to make it go up two percentage points, right? Where gamification it’s an endless expanse and kids then get into this mindset of applying their best, doing their best. And then they get empowered by doing their best.

Michael (18m 47s):
And then they literally that empowerment makes them move into the next experience with a broader horizon. They see things they couldn’t see before. And then they rise to that challenge, you know, and then again, broaden the horizon. So this history class, which arguably like the content itself fades into the background and what they leave with is truly like just a, a way more equipped student to sort of kind of handle any challenge. And I don’t know that always, that, that is my favorite success that not an English class, not a math class, this history class is what truly like armed them moving forward.

Michael (19m 28s):
And it allowed them to sort of walk with a greater stride. I think in all the educational challenges they face,

Rob (19m 34s):
Well, Engagers, if you were not inspired by that, I don’t know if you, you have to check your pulse or something. I think if you’re if you’re in any capacity interested or into education, I think that kind of experience is what we’re always aiming for. I would say. And definitely knowing that that has, has come through using those, those game experiences. And, and it makes sense, as you were saying, like in games, you can just give it a bit more and give it a bit more and you give it more, you get a little bit more, you put a lot more, you get a lot more as well from the game.

Rob (20m 6s):
It’s that constant feedback. It’s one of the things that keep people engaged then and hooked if you may, in the, in the best of senses and Michael, I mean, there’s, there’s a lot of inspiration I know as well that you probably have a lot more details of this in your book, but do you have any sort of series of steps? What is your process look like? Let’s say you’re, you’re introducing a new game mechanic or you’re, let’s say you’re helping even another professor, which, or a teacher, which I know you do as well to introduce gamification into their classroom. What does that look like? What do you tell them to do? What do you tell them to explore, to think about?

Michael (20m 36s):
Well, I mean, the first thing you want to like look at is like, what’s the scope of where you’re going to try to insert this gamification and it truly, these are scientific like principles. These are tried and true. Like we have data on these. You could sprinkle these mechanics into just a lesson. So on one hand you could be just saying, I want to see some of this in action. And if that’s all that a professor or teacher wants, we might look at something that’s an easy mechanic that you don’t have to teach kids about, but I could teach the educator about a, so I’m thinking about something like the time mechanic like there are ways to use that different than we use it in the traditional sense in school, that can be way more engaging.

Michael (21m 17s):
So I teach them about like the time mechanic and how they could apply to adjust just a lesson, just see how this changes the feel in your classroom, right? If they were like, no, no, no, no. I want to make like a more immersive experience that might be for the unit, right? So we might be doing this experience for two weeks, four weeks, whatever. Or like I do the whole course. If we’re talking about those kinds of things, then I usually have a conversation with them about, I like to break it down into theme, team and task these three, I think do a nice job of summing up the experience at least lightly.

Michael (21m 52s):
Like if this is the opening conversation, if they’re like, I want to do what you do, you know, without getting super into the weeds about it, what’s like a theme that we could center this experience around and it doesn’t have to be your actual course. Right. So I teach world history, we just finished up Egypt. It doesn’t have to be like a theme about Egypt. Like in fact, mine isn’t right. Mine’s a realm of Nobles in some sort of European, medieval society, yet we were learning about Egypt. Right. So I can, it can really be different, but what’s the theme that they would like, or that they think would work really well with their students.

Michael (22m 26s):
One of those two. So you got a theme…

Rob (22m 29s):
When you say they you’re talking about the teacher

Michael (22m 31s):
the teacher, I tend to say like, there’s a lot of teachers that do like my kids like Minecraft. So I centered it around Minecraft that works. The cautionary tale. I always tell teachers though, is so much of what I’m telling you to do is through the power of language. Like you go to my class, it’s not cobblestone walls. Right? Like I don’t have tapestries hanging to show that it’s like the medieval time period. I don’t dress up in like armored suits and stuff. So much of it is the power of language. Like we are creating an imaginary space in which yes.

Michael (23m 4s):
I refer to that group instead of being a group one. They’re my, you know, they’re a Guild, but like, again, I don’t have tapestries on the wall. Like, you know, there it’s just language. So the cautionary tale, if you choose a thing that the students like because you’re trying to like get them to like it, that to me becomes a little more chocolate-covered broccoli because you don’t know the thing that, well, like I don’t play, for example, I don’t own an Xbox. So like I don’t play Halo, but if I knew my kids loved Halo and I tried to theme my game around Halo, how much language could I bring?

Michael (23m 40s):
How much like, could I carry that experience? I really couldn’t. You know, like it’s important that it’s important to you. Like I like medieval times. I think that’s a cool age in history. Sort of, for me to think in that space, bring that language. I don’t forget to call them guilds because like, yeah, this would be a cool place. Like I wish I could make this a medieval society. I wish I could have tapestries on the wall. So I don’t forget to bring that language. But when I find teachers that try to gamify around what the students like and that what they actually like as teachers, it potters out, right.

Michael (24m 14s):
They’re not able to carry that theme for the full four weeks. You know, they do a great launch. We’re doing Halo. This is awesome. We’re going to, you know, they use some of the Halo language and then, you know, three days into the experience, it’s just a regular English class, you know? And they’re like, don’t forget to turn in your assignments. Like, no, all those aren’t assignments, they’re missions, you know, like what, you know, like you’ve got to use the language, you got to apply that theme with your words, with your language and you have to be excited about it. But if I don’t play Halo, how excited can I be? I can’t build this experience up, but, I would totally love to have medieval experiences.

Michael (24m 46s):
So yeah, I can sit here and talk about having a grand, you know, like town gathering and stuff like that. I can have like sword fights or whatever. I can say those things because like I can conjure those up in my mind because it’s an experience I, I like, and I care about.

Rob (25m 1s):

Michael (25m 1s):
But again, plenty of teachers do it on what they like. So that’s the theme. The team is I try to get them to think about what are ways a big, big area in gaming is the social aspect. Like it is, is doing things together, having some social status. So things like badges, those kinds of things. Working together collaboratively. So what could you do in your course? How could we change an element of your course that would allow for a greater collaboration together with the students so that they have that game element, where they did something together, they banded together and defeated something?

Michael (25m 36s):
They, they worked together on this project, but again, remove the language of the project and apply your theme. So this is why start with a theme, then team then task. Cause you’re rolling in one level into the next. So when we talk about the team aspect, how are you applying your theme to that team? Right? And then the task is what teachers are ultimately really good at. It’s what you are going to do anyways. Like what’s the project you have the kids do in your class. What are the assignments? Do you have your kids doing in class? What quizzes and tests you have your kids doing your class.

Michael (26m 7s):
How can we now apply that theme, apply that team into those tasks? And then all of a sudden you have this cohesive, immersive experience that is far more engaging. And with the right mechanics sprinkled in, you’re actually going to get some scientific sort of boosts in engagement and outcomes. Ultimately,

Rob (26m 26s):
That is absolutely exciting. Just a quick break before we continue, are you enjoying this podcast? If you’re listening through a podcasting app, please subscribe and rate us on the app. This will be of great help to reach more Engagers so we can change the world together through gamification. And Michael, what would you say is if there’s, I mean, you’ve done talks, you’ve done workshops, you’ve done so many things in this world of gamification, especially in education, but would you say, is there, there is some sort of best practice not to call it a silver bullet, but something that if you think of these things, if you introduce these, this strategy in the creation of your game, of your gamified strategy that you think it would all like almost always improve that project, that idea is, is there such a thing that you could, that you could name?

Michael (27m 13s):
Specifically, like within gamification? So what’s an aspect of gamification or game-based learning.

Rob (27m 19s):
Yeah, Gamification itself. I would say both of us are convinced then that would be one of the best practices in education. So if we can take it one step further, that would be amazing.

Michael (27m 30s):
I will be happy to take it one step further. Before we take it one step further though. I do just want to say, you know, I have been gamifying now for over 10 years.

Rob (27m 42s):

Michael (27m 42s):
And there are some times I wish that the title could be different. I think that what keeps gamification in it is growing. We are doing more and more of it in school. And I love that, but where it hasn’t reached like the same sort of every school doing it, every classroom sort of doing it is I think that name, the game piece something I absolutely love. I love games, but educators, rightfully so, take their classroom very seriously again, rightfully so that they do.

Michael (28m 12s):
So, so sometimes I wish gamification could have had a different title because it is, as you said, in my opinion, humble opinion, probably horribly biased, but it is such a powerful pedagogy because it encompasses all aspects of the student experience, all aspects of the teacher’s experience. So I don’t know another thing we can talk about like doing project-based learning. That’s great, but that doesn’t hit all aspects, right?

Michael (28m 42s):
Like there’s nothing to me that like fully encompasses the student experience fully puts the learner in the center of all design choices. Like I don’t know another thing that does it to that level. And then at the same time allows so many interesting entry points. Like you don’t have to get the success I’m talking about. You don’t have to have my fully immersive year long. You don’t have to go that far. You could literally do something just today and you will see it again. Like, I don’t know, another pedagogy that lets you have that easy of an entry with that long runway if you want it.

Michael (29m 17s):
Like Holy cow, like, I don’t know. I just, I’m blown away at like how powerful this experience is and you know, whatever listeners out there that’s still on the fence, you know, give it a try, give it a try. But to answer your question to go like one step further inside gamification, what is something that approaches silver bullet status? I guess I personally one of my favorite mechanics to use that I think we all could apply and it would make our classrooms at very least more interesting, which interesting is a level of engagement, right.

Michael (29m 55s):
Would be the Easter egg mechanic. Not hard for us to create Easter Eggs, just like the name implies it’s hidden things around that you don’t need to find. So I don’t, you know, I even in your college class, like it would take you a little bit of extra time to add sort of a hidden thing to a document, right? Like type the text, like in a shared Google doc in which they’re reading, they’re like project requirements put down below like a cryptic message and then change the font color to white.

Michael (30m 25s):
So they don’t see it unless they literally like to highlight it. Even if the message is just like, whatever, give me a high five on their way that class, which you can’t do now. So that was probably a terrible example, but it would just make you more human. It would make the experience more human and this idea of random payout, like not knowing like, Oh, so does he hide other things? Like I wonder what’s on that next assignment. And maybe there isn’t anything on the next assignment, but that like variable payout much like a slot machine is engaging.

Michael (30m 56s):
Right? Like we don’t know what that next experience is going to bring. And you can do that so easily with Easter eggs. Like why not add that to your class? Why not sprinkle that in? Or like I said, the time mechanic’s another good one. If you start to read about how to apply the time mechanic to experiences in your classroom. Oh my gosh, there’s so many fun and engaging ways that would be so quick to do. And it doesn’t add really any like setup time to your lesson. You’re not going to, it’s not going to cause you to like spend weekends, you know, making this experience like you’re adding a time mechanic, you’re adding a light Easter egg mechanic, but it would change the experience and the relationship between you and your student.

Rob (31m 36s):
Very, very exciting, very useful. And as you said, it’s something that could give you some sort of a small dip, into the whole gamification experience for your classroom. I love Easter eggs as well. And Michael is there… You’ve been already we’ve spent already quite a few minutes together. You were as well in the previous interview when you were talking about the Hive Summit, is there, when you, when you hear these questions, the vibe of the podcast, is there somebody that comes to your mind, somebody you’d like to listen to? And an episode like this one, another guest in Professor Game,

Michael (32m 5s):
I would absolutely love to have you have on Stefanie Crawford. She is somebody that has experienced gamifying in her classroom. And then she has moved from her classroom to being sort of a tech integrator, if you will, and then eventually switched from there to like a district-wide sort of best practice sort of coach if you will. And she gamified the whole experience. So like a district, multiple buildings, you know, she put teams mixed teams.

Michael (32m 39s):
So you’re on teams with other educators in different buildings and built-in all the mechanics. We’re talking about inspiring teachers, to gain pedagogy and learn and level up in the district system. And I have never heard of a better system. Like hers was just fantastic. I’d love to hear an episode with her.

Rob (32m 59s):
Sounds super, super exciting. So, Stefanie, I hope you’re listening and we will have you in the show very, very soon, Michael, we know you’re an author. We know, Explore Like a Pirate is a fantastic book. So if you had to think of somebody, you know, who already has your book, is there any other book that you would recommend maybe to sit right next to your book as well? Right next to Explore Like a Pirate.

Michael (33m 20s):
Yeah. I, well, this was, this is tough. I gotta admit like there’s uff I’d be honored to have my books sit next to several others. One of the ones that I think I’d really like you all to read. So there’s a bit of a book suggestion as well as a book by Todd Rose called the End of Average, how we succeed in a world that values sameness. I obviously, we all read things through our own lens, with our own experience, our own backstories. And so for me, so steeped in gamification to read a book that is talking about kind of how average doesn’t actually exist.

Michael (33m 59s):
Yet we as educators tend to build our classroom experiences around an average, we tend to say like, this is what a sixth-grader can do. So I’m going to build this sixth-grade experience. The reality is there is no such thing as average. And when you design for average, you’re actually designing for no one because no one is the average. Like the average is an amalgamation of, you know, the low and the high, but no one is actually the average. So you’re kind of wasting your time designing experiences for no one. And then when I attach that to my own work and the book has so many examples that at least I couldn’t help, but read and think of gamification where, Oh my gosh, gamification would solve that answer.

Michael (34m 36s):
Right? Because you are differentiating a ton, you are building experiences for the low of the middle of the high, right. But you’re actually thinking of your students, you’re actually personalizing it and not just generalizing it to some generic average that doesn’t exist.

Rob (34m 51s):
Absolutely, absolutely. We’re where there are so many differences. And it’s funny because I used to be teaching quantitative methods. So a lot of statistics, a lot of averages and forecasting. And one of the things that we always say is that even when we make a forecast, forecasts are always wrong because there’s, I mean, what you forecast is not going to be what actually happens in the end. Right? So it kind of blends in, in a more sort of nerdy and math way than they would expect them. It makes a lot of sense. I haven’t read the book, but it sounds like something that I should definitely take into account for future reading.

Rob (35m 24s):
It’s so good. It’s so good. I think we all should read that as educators, again, even if you’re not gamified, it does give you a lot of thought around like how we, what, what and how we create things in the industry and then obviously our industry of education. Absolutely. Absolutely. And what would you say, Michael, when you were talking about gamification, gamifying your classroom, you as well being, you know, one of a great speaker nationwide. I know, I, I think you’re, you’re one step if you’re not already into not being only nationwide, but worldwide as well, being a speaker in many places, what would you say is your, is your superpower when talking about these topics when, when, whether it’s inspiring or whatever that looks like for you.

Michael (36m 3s):
So as a that’s hard, right? Like I’m blushing here. You can’t see it on the podcast, but that’s hard to talk about yourself in that capacity. What I’d like to think my professional development offers teachers and educators alike is I try to blend inspiration because I think we have, we have to understand where we could get to, right? You have to, you have to sell the vision a little bit, but at the same time being a practicing teacher, and I really am proud of that over the years I could have given up that.

Michael (36m 35s):
Like, I, I, I definitely get asked to speak enough that I could have gone full time speaking, but I don’t ever want to lose the practical. Like I think when you go full time speaking, you, you lose a bit of that practical. And that’s what I love about my professional development. I think it’s a mix, a healthy mix of inspirational selling you, the vision, letting you see a little window into what your world could be like, and then helping you get there.

Rob (37m 0s):
Wow, absolutely. A superpower. And that’s exactly what, at least when I go to a talk, that’s exactly what I, what I’m expecting to be, you know, inspired if it’s something that I’m not already inspired by, but also as well, to be able to see how that kind of works in the real world. Absolutely fantastic. And this is going to be probably the most difficult question of the day, Michael, because I saw your, your, your Ikea or whatever place you had your games there. So this is going to be a, not only for you, but for many other guests, difficult question, and they’ve already said it, what would you say, Michael is your favorite game?

Michael (37m 33s):
So I’m going to dodge this question. I’m going to give you a political answer. There are so many great games and it really depends on the experience you want to have or who you’re playing with. So an impossible question to answer, but I, what I will do is give you like one of my new favorites, like, so people that are looking into getting into the game, playing games with friends or family, one that I really like works found this year. That is a great entry point for anybody. And if you happen to be a gamer, still a great game to pick up.

Michael (38m 5s):
So just works for everyone is a small two-player card game called Air Land and Sea. It’s a microgame. So there are only 18 cards I believe. And it produces just such interesting. I can’t believe 18 cards. I could play that game over and over and over again. And it always feels a little different, a little different it’s quick. And as I said, it’s 18 cards. So it can fit in your pocket. So someday when we are able to go out for a coffee, you and I could easily like, just take that to the cafe, play it right there.

Michael (38m 36s):
And it’s, you know, 15, 20-minute game. And if you have more time, it is one of those. That’s so fun that you’re like, Oh yeah. Let’s like, let’s load that up again and play it. Like, like you would a video game. Like, Oh no, no, we’re doing that one again.

Rob (38m 48s):
We’re getting better at this for sure.

Michael (38m 50s):
Yeah, exactly, exactly.

Rob (38m 53s):
Constant improvement, all that feedback that you get, all that excitement that we get from games. And it’s, it’s where we gather all of that, all those lessons and all those things that we want. We want to see our students as, as excited with, with, well, or almost as excited with their learning as they are with playing those and many other games as well. So, Michael, we’re running out of time, but of course, I want to give you any, you know, any final piece of advice you want to leave our engagers with this, this audience that is interested in gamification, in games, especially in education and learning anything you want to leave us with.

Rob (39m 25s):
Of course, let us know where we can find you or, or reiterate that we mentioned your webpage if there’s anything else. And then, you know, once it’s all said and done, we’ll say that it’s game over.

Michael (39m 35s):
Nice. So everyone again, contact me or connect with me and I can see all the things that I’m up to on mrmatera.com. I think that’s a great spot. Cause yeah, I have podcasts. I have YouTube, I got blog posts. I got Twitter, Instagram, right? Like, so it’s just best to go there. If I, if I come up with a new thing, it will be there. So going there is really good. The other thing I want to leave you guys with, and truly not a pitch to my book, there are many books in this space that would be good to pick up.

Michael (40m 8s):
Obviously, I’m being humbled. That’d be honored if you ended up picking up, Explore Like a Pirate. It is a book that I truly tried to write in the same way that I do my PDs, right? So there, there is some inspiration. There, there there are things that are trying to get you to get through this experience. But at the same time, it is chock full of practical applications. Things that you could sprinkle in, be honored if you pick that up, but ultimately I want to help you create an, a great experience for your classroom. And if that means picking up some of the other great books out there, John Meehan has a great one.

Michael (40m 57s):
EDrenaline Rush, definitely pick that one up. Quinn Rollins Play Like a Pirate, not really gamification, but these are great things you could sprinkle in your class again, to be a little more playful dynamic there. Like I said, so many great things in this space. I just want to encourage you to check it out. Don’t be discouraged by the name like this is powerful pedagogy.

Rob (41m 0s):
Absolutely, absolutely. So we can find you all of those, those contact mediums at your page, mrmatera.com. Very, very powerful advice to pick up a book and find all that practical advice from many, many different authors. And of course, Michael Matera’s is definitely Explore Like a Pirate and that could be a good, good, good, very good starting point or midpoint or, you know, wherever you’re at. I’m sure it can, it can help you. And thank you very much, for all the advice, all the experience, all the value bombs that you’ve dropped in this episode, Michael, however, at least for now and for today, it is time to say its Game Over.

Rob (41m 35s):
Hey Engagers, thank you for listening to Professor Game podcast. And I hope you enjoyed this interview with Mr. Matera, with Mike and as you know, every now and then we have these random questions and they come directly from you. The Engagers, is there a question you’d like to make? All you have to do is go to professorgame.com/question and ask your question there in the fields. If it is selected and you have a pretty good chance, it will come up in a future episode and you will get your answer live in an episode.

Rob (42m 9s):
And of course, before you go on your next mission, remember if you haven’t to subscribe using your favorite podcast app and listen to the next episode of Professor Game, See you there.

End of transcription

3 Replies to “Michael Matera Inspiring and Showing the Path to Action in Gamification | Episode 155”

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