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A Teacher’s Journey with Gamification and Game-based Learning feat. Melissa Pilakowski – 68 (Teacher and Blogger)

Episode Overview

In this episode of Board Gaming with Education, Dustin and Melissa talk about game-based learning and gamification, Melissa’s twitter chat, #Games4Ed, how she applies the techniques from other educators to her own classroom, her entry into gamification, and some of her favorite board games. Melissa Pilakowski teaches English/Language Arts to 11th and 12th graders at Valentine High School in Valentine, Nebraska. She uses games in her classroom to motivate and energize her students to not only learn but build relationships with each other. She launched the Twitter chat #Games4Ed to connect and help enthusiasts of games-based education share stories and ideas.


Email: mpilakowski@vcsbadger.net and mpilakow@gmail.com

Twitter: @mpilakow

Thank you to Purple Planet Music for the wonderful contribution of their songs “Retro Gamer” and “Mumbai Mood” for our interview and desert island segments. These songs can be found in full on this music archive.

Our Facebook Group for Educators: Games-based Learning, Gamification, and Games in Education

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Episode Topics

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WorldsXP is a streamlined gameful experience for your learning environment to increase engagement, develop class culture, and reinforce positive behavior. By implementing WorldsXP you will be able to enhance the learning experience for your adventurers through different gamification elements. As the Kit Master, your Adventurers (students) will choose characters, give them their own unique personalities, go on thematic RPG adventures, and earn XP and achievements all while accomplishing three main goals in your learning environment.

The kit includes two decks of 27 unique character cards, 27 item and achievement cards, 108 XP cards, and a 40-page Teacher’s Handbook loaded with tips for implementing the kit and using gamification and game-based learning for your learning environment.

With WorldsXP you will have a gamified curriculum as a part of your learning environment with the core components of characters, an RPG Adventure Story, and XP. This can be “laid on top of” an already designed classroom management structure and curriculum. You will be able to use the XP system as a behavioral management system, and you will be able to integrate learning objectives into the RPG Adventure Stories. It will help to encourage engagement and motivation, develop culture, and reinforce positive behavior in your adventure space. These are the core components of WorldsXP. Be sure to sign-up for the email list below to receive updates about the advanced features and to know when WorldsXP launches on Kickstarter.   

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Melissa Pilakowski – 3:06

Melissa has been teaching English/Language Arts to 11th and 12th graders at Valentine High School in Valentine, Nebraska. She is working on her doctorate at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. She’s been using gamification and game-based learning in her classroom since 2015.

Gamification and Game-based Learning – 4:47

Melissa explains the difference between game-based learning and gamification and how she grew to use one more than the other. She mentions Michael Matera of the WellPlayEd podcast as an example of a teacher that uses both. Be sure to listen to Michael’s Episode with Board Gaming with Education (Well PlayEd feat. Michael Matera: Author, Podcaster, and Teacher shares insights into game-based learning and gamification- Episode 65).

Learning through Gaming – 8:17

Dustin asks Melissa to recall her first experiences using games in education. Melissa explains how she began to seek as much information on gamification as soon as she started hearing about it. She talks of using various educational game platforms before starting the #Games4Ed chat.

#Games4Ed Twitter Chat – 10:08

Melissa explains the history behind her collaboration with Steve Isaacs and Dr. Matt Farber in creating the #Games4Ed Twitter chat to fill a need for an online forum on games and overall play and engagement in the classroom. The process to engage and participate with the chat is explained with mentions of the accessibility of using Twitter as the platform.

Relationships through Games – 13:54

Melissa gives her insight into how games help students build relationships with each other. She explains how this can be used as a tool to break the ice at the beginning of the year, or even create a healthy way for students to get to know each other.

Challenges of Game-based Learning and Gamification – 15:24

Melissa explains her challenge of using leaderboards and individual competition in games. She goes on to tell of the backfire she received as some students are more equipped to learn by setting their own pace. Melissa explains the benefits of choice and the chance for mastery when setting up games for education.

Breakout Games – 22:55

Melissa explains the benefits of breakout games and their collaborative elements. She continues to discuss the basic rules and her own use of breakout games.

Vocabulary Games – 27:52

Dustin asks Melissa what the most useful resource from her site (https://technologypursuit.edublogs.org/) would be for an educator. Melissa brings up the vocabulary-based games that she has recently been including on her blog. Dustin brings up Trapwords as a good example for Melissa to include on her blog. Melissa goes into describing the vocabulary game Just One.

Not Everything in your Classroom Needs to be a Full-Fledged Game – 32:38

Melissa describes a talk by Greg Toppo at the Serious Play Conference, where he brings up how the main goal of games in the classroom should be to make learning fun and playful. Melissa gives the advice to not get caught up on what is defined as a game.

Games from the Episode

Throughout the episode, several games are mentioned. If any of these games sound like something you might enjoy playing yourself or in your class, you can help support our podcast by purchasing these games through our Amazon affiliate links. We will earn a small commission at no expense to you. Check out the games below:

Melissa’s Desert Island Questionnaire

Codenames Pictures

Apples to Apples


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