Gamifying Assessments- The Easy Way

During a recent team meeting we discussed students’ lack of excitement about both existing formative and summative math assessments (which we now call “Celebrations”- because who doesn’t like to have a party?!)

Thinking critically about what we can do to increase student motivation and involvement, the answer came immediately to me- Make it a game! I looked back at an earlier blog post  I wrote while attending Boise State’s Master’s in Educational Technology, which dealt with, and highlighted the benefits of gamifying our classrooms- “games make us feel good, motivated, inspired to collaborate and cooperate, feel like this is the best version of ourselves, and help us find the motivation and courage to get up and confront obstacles.” I decided to share this idea with the team, and show them how the use of technology is not really reinventing the wheel, but rather it can take an existing activity and with a few simple technological innovations and creativity, make it unique and engaging.

So… How did I do this? Here are the eight steps you need to go through in order to gamify an assessment (or pretty much any other activity…):

  1. Figure out what you want to assess
  2. Categorize the different topics/skills, so that later you will be able to create challenges
  3. Under each category, come up with a number of challenges.
  4. Choose an interesting game theme
  5. Come up with a backstory (an interesting one!!!)
  6. Create a reward system and a set of badges
  7. Create the specific challenges
  8. Create a record sheet and print the badges

Here is a more detailed explanation with a concrete example:

1. Figure out what you want to assess

This is a simple one. What is the skill (or preferably set of skills) you have already planned to asses that you would like to improve? We wanted to assess pure computational skills, so we decided to assess students’ understanding of the four operations (addition, subtraction, multiplication and division of fractions).

2. Categorize the different topics/skills, so that later you will be able to create challenges

The four skills we decided to use are a good starting point because we will later come up with specific sub-skills under each area.

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3. Under each category, come up with a number of challenges.

You can decide to organize the challenges in a descending order according to difficulty, according to theme/sub-topic, or to just create a list of  challenges without any particular order. Keep in mind that some adventures require team work, which could require its own category. You could even create a different set of (both individual and team) challenges for different roles within a chosen topic (such as challenges for the team’s “Engineer”, ” Builder”, “Scholar”, etc.) I decided to keep it simple and organize the skills according to topic and difficulty levels. This is what the challenge hierarchy looks like (ignore the ninja theme. We’ll visit it later):

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4. Choose an interesting game theme

In my class, we play a fun game called “Ninja”, where students try to “tag” each other, and at the same time they learn about becoming more mindful, attentive, resourceful, patient, and creative. So the decision to come up with a Ninja theme for this gamified assessment was not random…

Ideas for game themes would sometimes depend on the subject you wish to gamify. You can consider anything like “Conquer the World”, “Are you smarter than Einstein?”, “Become a skilled pilot” and more. Start with thinking about what your students are interested in.

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5. Come up with a backstory (an interesting one!!!)

Choosing the Ninja theme had forced me to do a bit of research into the history, culture, weapons and moves used, and to find a specific historical event that would lure my students into the world of the Ninja…

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6. Create a reward system and a set of badges

I decided to force students to work through all 4 operations, and to pass challenges in all levels before they attempt the ultimate duel with Lord Rokkaku. So if they don’t win at least one badge per level, they are not allowed to challenge the Lord. If they fail the challenge, they need to go back and collect a second badge by winning all challenges in a particular level.

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Screen Shot 2017-04-14 at 1.00.11 PMNeed badge-making resources/ideas?

7. Create the challenges

Initially I was thinking about creating our own task cards, like this one:

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But then I decided to use a resource I have already been using, which is a set of ready-made Fractions task cards. I chose two cards for each of the levels, so that when students are ready for the challenge, I can pull them quickly. Please note that you do not necessarily need to create task cards. Some activities, like this Gamified Field Trip I put together, could be done using technology.

Another resource

8. Create a record sheet and print the badges

How are students going to receive their badges? Where are they going to store them so they (and you) can keep track of the great work they have been doing? I created mine on Google Docs

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Student Track Sheet
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Badges to print and cut











And… You’re done!

Here are the resources I created for this project:

  • Google Slides of the game, rules, badges, etc.
  • Google Doc of the ideas for challenges (and some free to use ninja images)
  • Google Doc of the student track sheet and teacher badges

*** Feel free to use as is or modify any of these resources!

And here are some more professional books you may wish to look into/ purchase:

  • The Gamification of Learning and Instruction: Game-based Methods and Strategies for Training and Education (First Edition) by Karl M. Kapp.
  • The Multiplayer Classroom: Designing Coursework as a Game by Lee Sheldon.
  • Digital Game-Based Learning (First Edition) by Marc Prensky.



Jazzing Up Our CVs

This morning I decided to have a look at my CV and give it a tune-up. I did not expect to be shocked at how boring it looked. It made me wondering when these CV designs came into place, and when their final hour of death would arrive… So I decided that tonight I’m going to do something about the way I advertise myself.

I debated between creating an interactive image (a FDF, perhaps?!), and working on Photoshop and inserting images and graphs. I started with thinking about what my professional history would look like in numbers and images. 13 years of teaching experience, 3 degrees (AA, BA, and MA), 6 countries I taught in, my personal information, activities I took part in since 1999, and so on. I began working with Google Sheets to create some graphs and charts, started a new Photoshop canvas, turned to PsPrint to create an interesting-looking business card for my personal information, looked for transparent and free to use images of flags, and imported images of my credentials. That’s about when I realized things are going quite slowly, which made me think about the 21st century and all the available tools we have in place to do things…

A tedious process involving Adobe Photoshop CS6…

The word Infographic suddenly popped into mind. A quick Google Search revealed many different tools to create infographics. Since I already had an account with Canva, and have been quite impressed with their articles about design and simple yet powerful tutorials, I decided to give it a try.

The interface was simple and intuitive, and I very quickly found a template I found appropriate for my educational technology “Infographical CV” (I coined the term!) I replaced the original images and numbers with some of my own and some free-to-use ones off the Web, made sure there’s some variety in the way I represented my professional experience, and voila! A new way to look at, and share my teaching journey with friends, colleagues, and potential employers. Is it perfect? By no means, but it’s a great place to start thinking about the need to break away from the traditional way we’ve been doing things.

The results are below. If you have any comments or suggestions, please share them!

My infographical CV:


Guide: Become a Google Certified Educator


As educators, no matter if we are teachers, teaching assistants, coaches, or administrators, we use technology every day. We send and receive eMail messages; share assignments with students or communicate with parents; schedule appointments; create presentations; create, analyze and share data; and so on. Google for Education is a leader in the field, and the Google for Education suite includes all of these tools for us to utilize.

In this blog entry, I share information about, and resources for two of the four certification processes Google offers to educators:

  • Google Certified Educator- Level 1
  • Google Certified Educator- Level 2
  • Google Certified Trainer
  • Google Certified Innovator

The Google Certified Educator levels 1 and 2 are quite similar (the difference is the number of Google tools and the depth of questions and assignments). The Google Certified Trainer and Innovator are quite different, and so I will leave it for a different time (although I will share some resources at the bottom of this entry.

The Exams

Once registered for the Google Certified Exam (“GCE”) (currently it costs $10 for level 1 and $25 for level 2), test-takers  receive a personal and temporary GAFE account, and are instructed to log in using an incognito window. Once logged in, test-takers are asked to sign some privacy and other agreements, are asked to take a snapshot of themselves (the webcam must stay on for the duration of the exam), and the 3-hour test begins.

Both tests are composed of two-parts. The first includes about 20 multiple choice questions about being an educator in the technological age, as well as questions about the use of Google products (Docs, Sheets, etc.). The second part include a number of authentic scenarios in the lives of teachers in which you must decide which Google tool/s to use and why, and more hands-on “assignments,” such as to create and send assignments to students using Google Classroom, organizing spreadsheets, scheduling appointments in Calendar, and so on. You have a maximum of 3 hours to complete the exam, and are not allowed to stop or pause once the exam started.

Preparing for the Exam

There are several different ways you could prepare for the exam. From experience, I would recommend that in addition to using Google products on a daily basis, you do take the time to at least go through the tutorials. The reason is that Google continuously add new tools and features, which are not always easy to figure out. Getting exposure to them prior to the exam would increase your chances of passing!

The first place to go to is Google’s Training Center, where you will find general information about the certifications Google offers. Once you understand and decide what you’re going for, it wouldn’t hurt to explore the Resources tab where you can find useful and interesting information about different tools, what innovative educators are doing with Google tools, or a place to join one of the many community of Google educators.

The next thing to do is to click on the Training tab, which will take you to the place where you choose which certification to begin training for. you can choose from the Fundamentals (GCE level 1), Advanced (GFE level 2), Devices training (for Chromebooks and Android tablets), or the Trainer training (to become a Google Certified Trainer).

If you are ready to begin studying for the Level 1 (or level 2) exam, click on the Fundamentals Training box to log in and begin the training. Alternatively, you can choose to click here to get more information about the exam, begin training, or register for the exam. All in all, for the level 1 exam, you have 13 units, and for the level 2 exam you need to go through 9 units. At the end of each unit you get a short multiple choice (or fill-in the blanks) assessment to test your skills.

Google’s Training Center is not the only place to get training for these exams, but definitely the place to start!

One last thing. Before you begin, make sure:

  • You have prepared for the exam using one of the GCE preparation tools (if you fail, you can take it again after a month, then after a year);
  • You have a working webcam (don’t have someone else take the exam for you…); and,
  • Your internet connection is adequate (I am teaching in Ethiopia where the connection is quite slow. When my connection timed-out, I was still able to refresh the page and get back to the exam with little time lost)


That’s it. See the resources I complied below to get more information about the certifications and more!

I hope this is helpful.


Certification-related resources:

  • Google has recently acquired Synergyse– a training service. Now you can get a free and innovative, interactive Chrome extension that trains you in Google Apps products.
  • Eric Curtis is an experienced technologist, blogger and trainer. His blog post about the two certifications can give you more information.
  • Kasey Bell‘s ShakeUpLearning blog offers several guides, tools and “cheatsheets” that will help you to get certified. All you have to do is sign up to receive these freebies instantly (by signing up you will receive occasional harmless eMails about technology and education). This is an “all-about-the-certificates” Google Slides presentation she used at the Texas Google Summit.
  • Information about becoming a Google Certified Trainer and Google Certified Innovator.

Other related resources: