Diddorol in the News

April 2015: Vicki Spandel, invited me to write about the second overlay I developed (The Olympics) for Six Traits Gurus in this article, "Return to Diddorol."

Mar/Apr 2015: The editor of AdLit In Perspective magazine requested that I write this article, "My Gamified ELA Class: A Fantasy World of Real Learning"
for their issue on gamification.

July 2014: In the latest issue of The Atlantic, I am quoted in an article about gamification:

Feb. 2014: Parenting NH magazine ran an article about both Diddorol and "The Federation of Inconspicuous Time Travelers," the game overlay my colleague, Diane St. Jean, used in her Reading class. You can find it here:

Jan. 2012: The NH-NEA article "Kingdom of Diddorol: A Game-Changing Concept," that ran in January 2012 is available in pdf form online here:

Nov. 2011: Vicki Spandel, one of originators of the "Six Traits" writing instructional model, posted this article, "Gaming meets the Six Traits," on her blog, Six Traits Gurus.

Nov. 2011: Dover, NH, newspaper Foster's Daily Democrat published this article, "Learning in Diddorol - Grades going up after teacher creates gaming curriculum using state goals."

Sept. 2011: A radio interview I did with Brady Carlson, which aired on NHPR's "All Things Considered".

General Information

July 2013: Back in the 2011-12 school year, I piloted an ELA-specific game overlay titled, "The Kingdom of Diddorol." Although the classroom content remained the same -- standards-based, and true to the district's curriculum maps -- delivery, record-keeping, and a few other educational components were changed. The students became players, and they created avatars. Free-choice writing became "adventuring," lessons became "trainings," quizzes and tests were recast as efforts to tame nefarious creatures, and so on.

The success of the pilot was unquestionable. In the first trimester alone, students wrote more pages of rough drafts than had been written in my class the entire previous year. Moreover, the writing was of a consistently higher quality (as judged on the "6 Traits" rubrics, which are posted on www.diddorol.org). In the second trimester, students did more and better revising of their work than I had ever before witnessed. In the last trimester, a majority of students made an earnest attempt to get their writing out to an audience beyond the classroom doors.

It was an intense and busy year. The project was featured on the front page of the local paper, Foster's Daily Democrat; on the front page of a newspaper that goes out to 17,000 NEA members in NH; and on a national blogsite about the "6 Traits" method of writing instruction. I was also interviewed on NHPR's "All Things Considered." [Links are below.] And I maintained a podcast, chronicling the experience throughout.

The students provided me with ongoing feedback and completed a lengthy survey at the end of that year. The vast majority reported learning more and enjoying ELA more.

In the 2012-13 school year, I continued using the same mythical setting of Diddorol, but piloted a series of new and different overlays, ones that were simpler in some ways than the original. My hope was that those smaller, less complex games would feel somewhat less intimidating to other ELA teachers who were curious and wanted to try an overlay in their own classroom. I ran two very different variations of one overlay, "The Diddorol Olympics," with the second being titled "The Diddorol Triathlon" to avoid confusion, and a totally unique overlay called "Diddorol Explorers." In each of these overlays, I experimented with the use of different forms of teaming in order to see how students might be able to help and encourage one another to greater successes. These overlays also put an increasing emphasis on non-fiction writing, in anticipation of the shift that will occur with the introduction of Common Core standards. I also experimented with various rewards systems, both intrinsic and extrinsic. Students provided feedback at the end of each game, helping me to refine my understanding of what worked best. At the end of the school year, I asked 7th graders if they wanted Diddorol to continue in the 2013-14 school year, warning them that I would be making it harder and increasing the workload. They voted in favor of continuing the game ten to one.

This school year, I will be running a substantially revised version of the original game. Non-fiction will again be given increasing emphasis, and elements of the storyline will be changed so that younger siblings of students who participated in the original game will not know "how it will end."

Game overlays are fairly new to education, but there is strong reason to believe that they will grow in popularity as others learn about them and what a positive effect they can have. My BMS colleague and friend, Diane St. Jean, piloted an entirely new overlay of her own devising in her reading class, and it was very well received and proved to be quite effective; she will be using . I suspect we'll start seeing overlays appear in other area schools in the coming years, as educators learn that many of the same mechanics that motivate gamers are effective with students.

Parents: Jane McGonigal has a book out called Reality is Broken. If you are curious about game overlays, I suggest you start there, as she does an exceptional job explaining how and why learning--and indeed, other facets of life--are enhanced with techniques borrowed from game design.

Teachers: If you are considering "gamifying" your own classroom, I'd direct your attention to Lee Sheldon's book, The Multiplayer Classroom: Designing Coursework as a Game. It is a clear, well-written instructional manual with case studies and specific suggestions.

Inspiration for & information about the "gaming layer" being employed in the classroom

If you are interested in the motivation for the creation of this game overlay, please explore these links to TED talks:
Seth Priebatsch - The Game Layer on top of the World
Jane McGonigal - Gaming Can Make a Better World

Slightly less directly relevant, but perhaps of interest:
Ali Carr-Chellman - Gaming to Re-engage Boys in Learning

The video that brought to the forefront the topic of game overlays in the classroom (and elsewhere):
Jesse Schell - When Games Invade Real Life
Even though the mention of the use of game design in education is brief, it created a buzz. That in turn--rather directly--led Lee Sheldon to write his textbook.

To see that textbook, which presented many of the strategies being utilized in Diddorol, follow this link to the Amazon.com listing:
The Multiplayer Classroom: Designing Coursework as a Game

To see a video that discusses strategies for implementation of gaming strategies into a classroom:
James Portnow, Daniel Floyd and Allison Theus - Extra Credits: Gamifying Education

Feb. 2013: Here's an interesting infographic a colleague shared with me:
Gamification Infographic

Created by Knewton and Column Five Media

June 2012: I completed a podcast of "behind the scenes" observations and explanations. It's primarily aimed at fellow educators, but all are welcome to listen.

If you are interested in learning more about the mythology employed in this overlay, please check out the original Diddorol website.
There is another page on this wiki with links to some of the old, original forms, handouts, and information first used in the "Kingdom." (Note: Most of those posted are now obsolete.)

Please feel free to email me with questions or comments.