Candy Crush Education, Part II

After a bit more “research,” I am finally ready to write part II of Candy Crush Education. You can read part I here. This two-part blog is focused on how Candy Crush Saga might be used as a model for education. The home screen or main page for Candy Crush Saga resembles a board game with a path that you progress along. The farther you progress in the game the farther your virtual game piece travels on the board. This arrangement gives you an immediate visual image of how much progress you have made and how much farther you have to go to finish the saga. Candy Crush Saga is integrated with Facebook, which allows you to also see where your Facebook friends are on their journey. This leaderboard serves to motivate you to push farther since you can easily see your progress and the progress of your friends; in essence, it provides an immediate feedback loop. Leaderboards can have valuable applications in the classroom. Temple University recently used gamification, including a leaderboard, in their MIS3538 Social Media Innovation course. When asked about how the leaderboard impacted motivation in the class a student responded, “The Quest Leader board was the best aspect of the social media class. Having a friendly competitive atmosphere that motivated all of us to learn as much as we could about social media was awesome.”

At each level of Candy Crush you must show mastery before you can advance. There are about 15 levels in an episode. At the conclusion of each episode, you complete a quest before you can advance to the next episode and continue the saga. Quests consist of three random levels that you have already mastered. The quests serve as periodic reviews of previously mastered levels to ensure that mastery is maintained. Most of us passed our high school chemistry course, but how many of us could take that same final exam today and pass? Not me! If I had periodically reviewed the periodic table over the past x years, I would have a better shot at that exam today. In some levels mastery is easily obtained, but others are more challenging. When one of these challenging levels shows up in a quest it pushes me to become better. Mastery-based education can be a powerful tool, but occasionally content may need to be reviewed to retain mastery.

Every once in a while, a level seems impossible. In these instances, I have the opportunity to use a booster (e.g. striped candy, wrapped candy, color bomb, jelly fish) to help me advance. I can spin the Booster Wheel once a day and get a new booster. These boosters are similar to resources that a student might use in a class. For example, my son is currently taking Algebra II with Trig. He’s been doing great all year but last week he got to the trig part of his class. This new concept really threw him for a loop, causing him to struggle. He needed a booster. So, he went to the Internet. In fact, the night that his teacher called to let me know that my son was struggling I came home to find him watching trig videos on the TV that he found on YouTube. These boosters helped him to better understand the concepts. He retook his quiz and fared much better. He just needed a boost, a new resource to help him master the material.

You may consider comparing Candy Crush Saga to good education an overly simplistic approach, but I think it’s important to look at what students are doing when they get to decide what to do with their time. Candy Crush Saga is one such leisure activity (I know this because my kids and their friends are the ones who introduced me to the game). Therefore, it’s important to look at what draws students to these activities and see how we can incorporate the best of them into our classrooms. When I was teaching, I used many of these ideas in my classroom, but how much better would my classroom have been if I incorporated them all? Being a teacher means we have to continually learn and master new methods to inspire students to learn and achieve.