Gaming in the classroom

I was recently interviewed on gaming in the classroom by WHQR radio. It was about a teacher implementing classcraft in their classroom. You can read the full interview here

Here is the transcript:

In a Wilmington classroom, students transform into some surprising characters—healers, mages, and warriors. WHQR’s Isabelle Shepherd reports that a virtual game is preparing fourth grade math students at Alderman Elementary School for the realworld.

Toth: “Alright, let’s take a seat real quick because we have a busy day.”

Students: “Yay! Yay! I like busy.”

Classcraft is a role-playing game, designed to be used as a classroom management tool. By working game mechanics into an educational setting, the virtual program has real world consequences and rewards for students.

Brian Toth, the math instructor at Alderman, recently implemented the game in his classroom.  He’s currently the only teacher using it at the school.  Toth becomes the Game Master in Classcraft.  When his students answer hard questions and do well on homework assignments, he can grant them experience points, which kids can use to cast spells.  These spells are rewards for the students, providing various perks, such as going to lunch early, using their notes on a test, or protecting their teammate from damage caused by bad behavior. Damage hits can lead to consequences like silent recess.

According to Toth, Classcraft takes up minimal time—about three minutes at the beginning of class and one or two minutes at the end when he totals up the students’ points.  The day’s lesson begins with a random event.  Toth says this engages the students immediately:

“They sit there, they cross their fingers, because some of the random events are positive, some of them are negative where people can lose health points or people can lose experience points. So, they never know; it’s just a random event.  They look forward to that at the beginning of the day. Right after that, they get to use their spells that they can get from leveling up. So they all raise their hands and I’ll go one by one, and they can use a spell, whatever spell they have. So they’re looking forward to that.”

Toth: “We are going to, uh, do our Classcraft stuff first. So we’re going to do our random event of the day. Alright, ready? 3, 2, 1… Human Shield: A random player takes all the damage for the class but gains 300 experience points.”

Students: “What? Yay! That’s a good one. That’s a good one.”

The random event does more than help focus students. It teaches them a life lesson. That’s according to Dr. Raymond Pastore, a UNCW professor who researches computer-based tools and gaming in education:

“Well, it teaches them that things aren’t always going to be equal, that there are random things that are going to happen. And that’s no different than real life. And that’s what happens when you’re playing a game. Sometimes things are going to happen that are out of your control, that are unlucky, and what it teaches you is, “How do I deal with this? How am I going to come back from this?”

Patrick Harrison, the technology assistant at Alderman, has a tattoo of an autobot from Transformers on his arm. He says he’s seen this life lesson about bouncing back play out in the classroom:

“There’s one student that is a perennial complainer that got silent recess as his random event.  It spun up, that’s what he got.  Even him, as a kid that will complain if you look at him funny, he just sat and was there for recess, and didn’t complain, didn’t get upset, just did it.  Later, he said, ‘That’s part of the game.  That’s how it works.’”

Individual rewards and consequences are just one component of Classcraft.  In order to succeed in the game, the whole team has to work together.  Instructional technology professor Pastore says Classcraft promotes cooperation, which is valuable in a corporate context:

“If you go into any corporate, large company, any Fortune 100 company and you ask them how important teamwork is, it’s going to be at the top of the list, way at the top of the list because playing politics, learning how to deal with people, learning how to pick up the slack for people is huge. Learning how to communicate with all kinds of people is a huge skill that, I don’t want to say it’s not taught, but it’s only taught through teamwork and experience.”

But students will inevitably move on to classes without Classcraft.  Will they still be motivated to succeed without the game?  Harrison says it’s like any other strategy teachers use; they just have to hope that some of the lessons stick:

“That’s your hope with anything that you’re teaching. Any teacher has got their methods and their ideas and their things that they’re going through, that they’re pushing. And all that we can do is hope that some of it will sink in.”

Instructional Design Hourly Rates

Many students (and former students) ask what they should be charging clients when they do contract work (and I have to figure this out when I am working on a proposal). Hourly rates in instructional design can vary widely (and they should). Rates should vary by task and client. First lets start with some of the  numbers then lets get into more specific reasons to choose an hourly rate.

First, the average instructional design salary is around $78,000 a year in the US. So if we were to calculate an hourly rate based on that it would be $36 and hour (which is 78k a year) but we would add 30% for benefits and retirement, which means that the average instructional design hourly rate should be around $47 an hour. However, given that contract work is not guaranteed and sometimes part time, this rate should be around $50-$60 an hour.

Now there are some other statistics. reports that instructional designers typically charge anywhere from $20-$90 an hour. And this will vary based on task, quality, and speed. They report that most of the foreign companies charging $20-$30 an hour purposely take longer on tasks and do not provide the quality that someone charging $50 and hour would do. Additionally given the role instructional designers play, outsourcing to a foreign country has not worked well for many that have tried it due to the language and time barriers – its very tough for a subject matter expert at your company to have meetings with someone who has a 12 hr time difference and doesn’t know how to put american culture into the training.

Finally, and most importantly elearn Magazine has created this image which shows some numbers by task. Keep in mind this is from 2007 but it does show how different tasks and clients should demand different rates.

So here is a list I have comprised based on stats and my own experience. These should vary based on the task at hand, the quality expected, experience of the contractor, location, and client:

1. Business strategy, proposals, needs analysis, needs assessment – $100-$250 an hour

2. Simple Design (articulate, captivate, PPT) – $60-$100 an hour

3. Advanced Design (simulations and games) – $75-$150 an hour

4. Development with Articulate, Captivate, or other authoring tools -$35-$70 an hour

5. Development that includes programming, Flash, HTML5 – $60-$125 an hour

6. Implementation – $50 an hour

7. Evaluation – $75-$250 an hour

Evaluating Computer Based Instruction

Here is a guide for evaluating computer based training – CBI. *Please note that this is a general guide for CBI. In reality this guide would need to be modified for each project so that it meets the clients needs, goals, etc.


What is the topic:

Software used:


Delivery method (i.e. PC, Phone, etc.)

File type:

Compatibility issues:

Instructional Strategy

What is the instructional strategy/theory guiding this instruction? (i.e. gagnes, PBL, etc).

Is it used correctly?

Go through the strategy and state how each part/section is applied


Is there a task analysis available to see that all content is being taught?

How many learning objectives are there?

What are the learning objectives?

Do they teach (have content for) each learning objective?

Do they asses each learning objective?

Multimedia principles

Are they following the multimedia principles?

What multimedia principles are being followed?

Simple and natural dialogue

Do they speak the users’ language?


Are buttons in the same place on each screen?

Are the colors and layout consistent throughout?

Colors/fonts/layout – across the site/app

How many colors are they using? (should be 2-4)

Are fonts legible?

Does the layout make sense? (using a grid) Do they follow the rule of thirds in most cases?

Is it easy to navigate?

Are images clear, easy to see, make sense on each screen?


Do they provide feedback to the user for assessments or interactions?

Provide clearly marked exits

Can you exit the program if you wish?

Provide shortcuts

Is there a button for a menu or to get back to beginning at any time?

Deal with errors in positive and helpful manner

Is there a help/FAQ button? Or directions at beginning of tutorial?

Develop for the output technology – resolution, colors, golden ratio/rectangle

Is the tutorial a good size? Resolution? (i.e. for the PC)

User friendly layout

Buttons/links easy to find/use

Other Suggestions

Any other suggestions?


How to save time and money in computer based instruction delivery

The answer – Time compressed instruction. Look here for a what is

Here is what we know:

– žaudio can be compressed up to 25% in a multimedia environment without sacrificing comprehension of factual and problem solving knowledge or increasing cognitive load (Pastore, 2010; Pastore, 2012)

This means that an hour of instruction could take 45 minutes. Lets put that into perspective, 1 hour of compressed instruction (25% so 45 minutes) vs 1 hour of regular paced instruction would save your company:

  • 100 employees who make an average of 50k per year ($24 an hour)
    • Savings of 25 hours and $600
  • 1000 employees
    • Savings of 250 hours and $6,000
  • 10000 employees
    • Savings of 2500 hours and $60,000

So yes you can actually save a lot of time and money by using this method of delivery instead of regular paced audio instruction

Master’s of Instructional Technology Faculty Position at UNCW

Assistant Professor – Department of Instructional Technology, Foundations, and Secondary Education

Vacancy # 15F059
Position # 6020

Opportunity to join a 64-member faculty in a growing college of education recognized for quality and leadership at the local, state, regional, and national levels. The Watson College of Education (WCE) ( enjoys strong support from our Chancellor, Provost, Dean, and from our university/school partnership that includes 12 school districts in the region.

The University of North Carolina Wilmington (UNCW) is a dynamic and growing campus of the 16-campus UNC system situated on 640 acres in the historic port of Wilmington, five miles from the Atlantic Ocean (Wrightsville Beach). The University is rated as one of the top six public universities in the south by US News and World Report. Current enrollment is 14,000 undergraduates and graduate students. UNCW and the Watson College value and reward undergraduate and graduate teaching, encourage and support faculty research and sustain a high level of service to public education and the profession. The school is accredited by NCATE and all programs are approved by the state of North Carolina. The WCE is housed in a new state-of-the-art education building. The Instructional Technology program offers a Master of Science degree in Instructional Technology. It also sponsors two certificate programs, one in Online Learning and Teaching and another in Instructional Technology Specialist, as well as the Instructional Technology Endorsement program for P-12 teachers.

The Watson College of Education seeks a Tenure Track Assistant Professor of Instructional Technology to join the Department of Instructional Technology, Foundations, and Secondary Education in Fall 2015 to:

  • Design, Develop and teach web and/or classroom-based courses in the Master of Science in Instructional Technology (MIT) department as well as teach undergraduate face to face and online courses in instructional design and instructional technology. Sample topics of courses could include multimedia design and development, human performance technology, program design and evaluation, interactive learning systems, and mobile/web design and development.
  • Maintain an active research agenda
  • Advise graduate students
  • Assist in ongoing program revision and assessment
  • Provide leadership and service to the department, WCE, UNCW, state and the profession (active participation in regional/state/national/international associations)
  • Provide service to area schools and businesses

Required Qualifications:

  • Doctorate in Instructional Technology or related field
  • Established or emerging research record in instructional technology or related field
  • Demonstrated expertise in areas such as online learning, interactive courseware, and instructional design and development
  • Experience teaching students with a range of occupational backgrounds including education and private business
  • Demonstrated  collaborative working skills and commitment to diversity
  • Experience with multiple authoring software technologies

Preferred Qualifications:

  • Experience in corporate, government, or consulting settings
  • Experience teaching online in both synchronous and asynchronous environments
  • Experience in K-12 settings

Priority consideration will be given to applications received by December 15, 2014 but applications will be accepted until the position is filled.

To apply, please complete the online application process available on the Web at A letter of application, curriculum vitae, and contact information for three professional references should be addressed to the Instructional Technology Search Committee and attached to the online applicationNo applications will be accepted by email, mail or fax. MS Word or Adobe PDF attachments are required. For questions regarding the online application process, contact Linda Register at 910-962-7539. Transcripts are not necessary for initial review; they will be required of candidates invited to participate in phone interviews. Please direct questions about the position to Ray Pastore, Chair, Instructional Technology Search Committee,

UNC Wilmington actively fosters a diverse and inclusive working and learning environment and is an equal-opportunity employer. Qualified men and women from all racial, ethnic or other minority groups are strongly encouraged to apply.

Career benefits of being a trainer

Here is a decent article from mashable describing some of benefits to being a trainer. What they forget to mention is that in order to be a trainer you need a Master’s in Instructional Design/Technology (or equivalent education – work experience does not count here). You don’t just become a trainer without extensive education on ADDIE and how to actually apply it. One of the reasons there is so much bad training out there is that we have people in the field who were just promoted to trainer without a formal education in training. This is also why I see so many people telling me they are replacing ADDIE (its because they do not understand it).

*I am taking the word trainer to mean instructional designer. A trainer that has an ISDer developing the content is would be ok (i.e., TTT).

Rapid E-Learning

This is the topic we are talking about tonight in one of courses. First, what does this mean? Well that depends who you are talking to. I have it broken down into 2 parts – tools and process. Some people are referring to quick development tools and some are referring to a modified process and some are referring to both.

Tools: There are many many tools but here are the most basic and common:

  • Captivate

–To teach software

  • Articulate

–Anything but software (as I would use captivate)

  • HTML (web)

–Simple for computer, tablet, phone

  • HTML5

–Advanced for computer, tablet, phone

  • PowerPoint

–Simple, limited interaction, external testing


  • How do you cut the ISD process?

–Process is ADDIE

  • Cannot cut a step out of ADDIE

How do you change the ISD process?

  • First – you cannot replace ADDIE
  • Second – you cannot replace ADDIE
  • Third – There is no ‘defined’ way to do ADDIE
  • ADDIE describes a generic process that should be modified for every single project/client. If you believe ADDIE is only linear or there is one official way of doing it then you learned it wrong and probably have been doing it wrong all along
  • For rapid elearning you are going to create a short design/development cycle to push out your products faster.

–Keep in mind this usually means less interaction, lower quality graphics/interaction, etc.

Are there already modified processes out there?

  • Yes, There are 1000s. The right one is the one that works for your project.
  • One of the most popular is AGILE.

  • Another one is SAM
  • They do not replace ADDIE. And these are two of a 1000 different ways to do it. In fact, I would never use any standard process but create one that works best for my current project and situation.

How do you do this?

  • 1. Analysis should be completed – without a proper analysis the project will fail. 70% of projects fail and poor analysis and management are usually the cause. This doesn’t mean analysis needs to be completed every time you are running a new project – You might know these clients and have done other projects with them so you can take some/all of that original analysis and use it.
  • 2. Constant access to SMEs, Developers, and Graphic Artists (and person who signs off – i.e., client)
  • 3. Project can be rolled out in sections – for instance 1 module can be rolled out by itself without the other 10 modules
  • 4. Already have learning objects from other projects (optional and very helpful – cuts time) – this is not required though but will save a significant amount of time
  • 5. Very limited interactions, graphics, and instructional strategies

See video for details: