Classcraft and ARIS

Recently, I decided to roll out Classcraft in all of my Seventh Grade classes, and I have found it to be surprisingly effective. Not only do students take the health and experience of their characters very seriously, but they also strive to help their teams and classmates in general. One thing that surprised me was how much students crave XP (or experience points).

What I do with Classcraft has no effect on student grades whatsoever. Yet, I can attach points loss / gain consequences to my behavioral and procedural expectations via XP and HP. While these points don't matter in terms of students' grades, they do matter a great deal to students, who are ultimately more concerned with the game than their grade anyway. They get so excited about equipping their avatar with custom stuff, and many of them are becoming XP hungry. There are many students who are serious gamers and are used to being able to "grind" for XP in a game. In the way that I was using Classcraft, there were no grinding opportunities.

Enter ARIS. 

I have a lot of 8th grade students that use ARIS to build place-based games and simulations (think Pokemon Go), and I've always wanted to have a go a creating content using this tool. This last month, I created a place-based companion to the classroom gamification that I'm doing with Classcraft. I used the images and resources provided by Classcraft, ARIS, and a Google Site to basically gamify a bunch of content I wish I could teach but don't have time to. Talk about a teacher's dream. I have students who want to learn more about class content with no actual course grade incentive! I've also built in several random rewards to incentivize students to check it out. Most of these random rewards relate to the use of events in class or provides one-use powers to trigger events or help improve a character.

ARIS used to be a lot more difficult to use. For example, you used to have to "script" your dialog. Now the process is straightforward and graphical. In about a week of working during spare moments at school, I was able to create several random rewards in the form of power scrolls and a few field "bosses" (extra projects) that students can complete to earn extra XP. I plan to build a few full-blown quests that will require multiple steps to complete.

What follows is some of the sample content I've created for students to go beyond my class and gain extra XP as well as some random rewards that allow students to trigger events or help their teams in class.

A Sample Boss

So, I no longer have the time in my 9 week course to have all students make and edit a short film, so I placed this "boss" at our town library. Students who find it are encouraged to make a short film (no more than one minute) that advertises the benefits of visiting the local library for middle school students. I highlight several of the skills we discuss in class, and by linking a Google Site, I'm able to provide video tutorials and other resources to help them accomplish this on their school issued iPad.

Power Scrolls

I've placed several "Power Scrolls" around the campus community that students may randomly find, So far, I've had three turned in and used. These are digital items that ARIS allows students to pick up and put in their inventory. They then show them to me in order to activate them. I "destroy" the item so that it is consumed on use.

Here are some of the Power Scrolls I've placed around the community.
  • Power Scroll: CHAOS - (Usable once / Class / Marking Period) Activating this power will force the GM to activate seven successive random events, effectively plunging the class into glorious Chaos. This power is so devastating that it may only be activated once per marking period. Use it wisely... (I hid this one under our town Christmas tree and used a gift box icon)
  • Power Scroll: MAGE ARMOR -  Divert up to ten points of damage to another character of your choice.
  • Power Scroll: DOPPLEGANGER - When you, a teammate, or your team are chosen by the wheel of destiny to receive a penalty from the daily event, redirect it to another player or team of your choice.
  • Power Scroll: MINDWIPE - Usable once - Activating this power scroll will reset the powers of a target of your choosing, essentially allowing them to retrain and choose different powers.
  • Power Scroll: SUMMON MONSTER - Summon a boss you've already challenged and failed to defeat for a fresh chance to defeat it.

Setup and Set Backs 

Setting this up was a very painless process, and quite fun. As I mentioned earlier, I just used the ARIS tutorials and the media files from Classcraft. I added a few extra touches using Google Sites, mainly because that was easier that trying to deploy all of that info through ARIS. For a less technical subject, I believe ARIS alone would be more than sufficient. I would suggest that one could also make the web links go to your official LMS, such as Schoology, Canvas, or Blackboard. This would connect student  back to your class remotely, allowing you to apply a new level of gamification to your blended or online courses.

I have experienced a couple of setbacks is deploying this. I asked to have ARIS deployed to our school iPads, but was denied the request because the ARIS Client asks users to post a selfie with their profile. The developers at Field Day suggest taking a picture of their shoes, but that is not good enough for my IT department as we cannot tell all students to do so before adding ARIS to our app portal. They suggest using Taleblazer as an alternative. I'm not going to get into my critique of Taleblazer here, but if you love and hate Scratch, you will love ARIS and hate Taleblazer for the same reasons.


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