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  1. May I use something from this website (or the website itself) in my classroom?  Absolutely.  Everything I post is freely available for the taking (that’s part of being on the internet, in my opinion).  I do ask that you leave a comment to let me know what & how you’re using it.  The more information I have about how this is useful, the better I can focus my efforts on what works.
  2. How do you build a site like this? Well, let me say right up front that it is a lot of work.  On the plus side, I get to spend most of my time in class interacting with students one-on-one, so it’s well worth it, to me.  Tools and services I’ve used for this site include:
  • Siteground.com – a host for the site.  You can start at a free host, but I’ve found I quickly outgrew that.  SiteGround had a great value when I was looking and is used by educators around the world. They also have deep experience with WordPress.  I used to be with Bluehost and was pretty satisfied with them, too (Siteground offered better speed, coming from Egypt, where I currently teach).
  • WordPress – this is the content management software I use.  I’ve used Joomla, Drupal, and many others, but have found WordPress both the best supported (worldwide community of users & developers) and the best balanced between power and ease-of-use.  Almost every host will install it for free.
  • Game-on – this is a plug-in for WordPress.  It provides the gamification aspects of the site, which allow me to create the quests, track the points and gold, manage the store, assign the badges, and otherwise keep the game running with a minimum of effort.  My effort can be focused on the curriculum and the players.  There is an active and enthusiastic user group, too.
  • For video recording & screencasting, I use Screenflow on a Mac.  My colleagues who use PCs recommend Camtasia.  They’re not super cheap (about $100 when I bought it), but they’re worth it in order to record useful and professional-ish video.  A free option for recording to get started is screencast-o-matic; for editing you can use EdPuzzle.
  • If you record your own video, I highly recommend getting a good microphone or headset with mic.  I use the Bose QuietComfort headset and a Blue Yeti microphone that my wife got me for a birthday present a while back.  (Yes, she’s wonderful!)
  1. I want to gamify my course, or I want to build my course into a game.  Great!  I’ve collected some resources, examples, and links to communities on gamification, game-building, and game-based-learning over at my site, coursegame.com, where I write about my experience (during the school year).  I also co-curate a Flipboard magazine about these subjects.
  2. I’d like to learn more about you.  Ok, check out my online portfolio or review my blog site.
  3. How do the quests work? Each quest is a set of 3-5 stages:
  • I use the first one either to introduce players to the quest or just give them a teaser; there is no commitment at this level.
  • The second stage gives instruction (in the form of a video, list of instructions, links to external training, and so on) and sets up the basic requirements for completing the quest.  When students reach this stage they have accepted the quest and must then complete it or abandon it, either earning or forfeiting points respectively.
  • The third stage sometimes provides a bit of reward for completing the quest and sets out the requirements for mastery (or ends the quest, if it’s a simple 3-stage quest).  Mastery is optional for students, but it is where the bulk of experience points, gold, and other rewards lurk in each quest, so there is substantial incentive to complete mastery on a regular basis. It usually involves using the concepts from the earlier stages in additional reflection, application, or extension.
  • The fourth stage provides a bit of reward for completing Mastery.  If the quest has an option for a bonus element or is a repeatable quest (both rare), this is where any instructions for these components is presented.
  1. Can I log in as a student to see what it’s like?  Sure!  If you’d like to be a beginning student, use the player name demostudent1 and the password demodemo.  If you’d like to see a player with a few quests completed and a bit of experience, use player name demostudent2 and password demodemo. If you’d like your own account to poke around with, feel free to email me (mmiller@cacegypt.org).

Finally, I must acknowledge a substantial debt to Allen B. Downey, who wrote Think Python and generously released it under a creative commons license.  I’ve used his excellent work as a foundation for much of the sequence introducing students to Python in Gnimmargorp.

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