GOBLIN Returns!

GOBLIN kicked off for the second semester this week. John and I ran four cohorts of this faculty learning community during the Spring 2016 semester and are facilitating two more GOBLIN sections over the next five weeks.

I’m really looking forward to this round of GOBLIN. We’ve fine tuned some of the content, and are continually iterating on our game, but more importantly, I’m excited to have some fun playing games and learning with this group of faculty and graduate students. One participant shared this feeling today when they said:

“[GOBLIN] may be the only fun I get to have this semester.” – GOBLIN participant

Setting aside the pressure of providing the singular fun learning opportunity for someone, I’m extremely grateful to bring some joy into this instructors life. (Goodness knows the world needs some more joy at the moment.) With every teaching opportunity, I’m adamant that learning should be fun and GOBLIN is such a testament to this philosophy.

Ideas From Discussion

To share some of my excitement, I’ll throw out some of my favorite questions and statements as a snapshot of today’s discussion:

What’s the relationship between scaffolding and a difficulty curve in the classroom?

How do relationships and emotions impact course scaffolding and a courses difficulty curve? How can we push students harder when we have a relationship/rapport with them?

We don’t want to assess students if it’s their first time performing a task.

How do we encourage students outside of our discipline to engage in our courses?

How do we design curiosity into our courses?

The character classes and skills from GOBLIN are a metaphor for our students and the variety of skills they bring into the classroom. Each student possess different proficiencies to excel in certain opportunities over others.

Can you see why I’m psyched for more GOBLIN?!

Gamifying The Writing Process With Habitica

One of the (many) side-projects that John and I have been working on is gamifying the writing process. In particular, we’re interested in gamification that seeks to reinforce and build good habits that yield efficient writing, research, and revision.

This semester, the Writing Center on our campus engaged us in brainstorming the logistics, pedagogical implications, etc. of such a writing program. From conversations with them, John and I have pursued various tools and solutions. At the moment, we’re prototyping two different applications of gamifying the writing process. John has already written about one of these ideas—using automated word-counts to engage individuals in competing against themselves to encourage writing. Now I want to address the other prototype we’re developing.

We’ve been researching and using Habitica as a platform to facilitate a gamified writing program (learn more about Habitica here and here). In fact, writing this blog post fulfills a “daily” task for me in the very Habitica system we are prototyping!

Keegan's Habitca website daily todo list that highlights "writing for 10 minutes" and "write a blog post"
Keegan’s Habitica Writing Tasks

Anyways, yesterday I met with Annemarie Mulkey, an instructor in the english department who has participated in both GOBLIN and eXperience Play. I reached out to Annemarie because she has experience with Habitca, a background in English, and is a blast to work with! Since Annemarie uses Habitica to motivate her own productivity (even more broadly than writing), her perspective was phenomenal.

Eventually, we wound up brainstorming how to setup Habitica to gamify writing an undergraduate research paper. We decided the research paper was only going to be ~5 pages and be completed over 7 days. With these parameters set, here’s what we developed using Habitica in half an hour:

Whiteboard Brainstorming

Research Paper Challenge outlined on whiteboard

Resultant Habitica Challenge

Research Paper Challenge in Habitica includes many tasks to complete

Since Habitica possesses a feature called Challenges that allows users to add custom sets of tasks to their account, we used this mechanism as the means to facilitate the gamification of writing a research paper. The Habitica To-Do list we envisioned includes tasks like outlining, researching, and drafting the paper to serve as a set of goals for students working on their research paper.

Taking this a step further to encourage the practices that produce good writing and researching, Annemarie and I used the Habits and Dailies of Habitica to reward students for tasks like 30 minutes of uninterrupted reading/writing, exploring the citations of sources, and writing 1 page for the paper everyday. Together, these three components of our Habitica Challenge (To-Dos, Habits, and Dailies) divide up the process of writing a research paper into manageable pieces for undergraduate students, and award students who complete these tasks regularly with experience points and gold in Habitica.

If you want to dive deeper into the specifics of Habitica or our Challenge, either reach out to me with questions or signup for Habitica, send me your Habitica UserID so I can invite you to Annemarie and I’s party, and then join the custom Challenge we built.

Finally, we recognize that at face value, this prototype appears very systematic and would yield standardized writing. Therefore, using this in the classroom would require more explanation and emphasizing to students the flexibility of their writing process in conjunction with the framework we developed using a Habitica Challenge.

The featured image is provided CC0 by Olu Eletu via Unsplash.

Anatomy of Slaying GOBLINs – #OpenEd16 Presentation

Last week, John and I gave one of my favorite presentations while at #OpenEd16. We spoke about our game-based professional development program, GOBLIN. During our 25 minute presentation, we combined role-play, gameplay, storytelling, and discussion to emulate the experience of participating in a session of GOBLIN.


To add subtle hype to our final-day-of-the-conference session, we distributed a few sightings of the GOBLIN via twitter:

These “sightings” aimed to invoke curiosity and set the tone for our presentation. John and I intended to paint the attendees of #OpenEd16 as warriors we’d gathered to consult and help us defeat the mighty GOBLIN. As soon as the session started, the role-play was already in full swing. John and I introduced ourselves as the Guru’s of these lands, seeking aid from valiant warriors. We were not disappointed.

One of John and I’s worries of the extensive role-play in our presentation was soliciting buy-in from participants. If role-play is not fun, coherent, or accessible, then it will not be well received—and like GOBLIN, we had crafted role-play into our presentation and staked success on this design. Fortunately, we were relieved at the laugher and feedback from Twitter inspired by our approach. We’d put a significant amount of thought and craftsmanship into how role-play would be integrated into our session and the results were fantastic:

My favorite line to deliver was about the computers, tablets, and smartphones of the participants:

These comments were not inconsequential. They allowed John and I to layer and tailor our own ideas over the real world. We were framing tasks in new light—breathing perspectives and meaning into normally trivial endeavors. In practice, John and I capitalized on the world we created with a short research game.


With our fantasy universe was established, we engaged participants in a simple game. The task was to submit open resources like images, video, or software to goblin.education/opened16. This crowdsourcing of information inflicted damage upon the GOBLIN. The more resources procured, the more points removed from the GOBLIN’s health bar:

Gif of GOBLIN being damaged by recourse submissions

There were so many people attempting to submit resources simultaneously that we crashed the website for a couple minutes! (Which was fine as we only need to demonstrate the concept of the game.) Nevertheless, thanks Lee! 😉


Cartoon campfire

Following the game, we launched into the history of GOBLIN. I framed this story in the context that John and I had encountered this menace before and needed to inform these warriors of the GOBLIN’s origin. This weaving of role-play and reality sure made for some memorable storytelling!

The birth of GOBLIN is quite simple; it arose from a single question:

This question drove the development of GOBLIN. We wrestled with it as developers/instructors and we used it as a point of engagement for our faculty.

In addition to this foundational question, John and I practice experiential pedagogies, and pragmatically, this means we use the concepts we’re teaching in the design of the instruction:

In practice, this meant we:

Once we established these two core ideas in the genesis of GOBLIN, we explained our development process and how open educational resources enabled us to build character cards for the table-top, D20 based RPG named GOBLIN.

But the GOBLIN game was merely a primer for discussion of pedagogical concepts like scaffolding, overcoming failure, and gamification (etc.). These discussions and the exorbitant amount of optional homework completed by faculty were where we engaged participants in professional development. Together, these aspects of GOBLIN resulted in the highest attendance of any faculty learning community we’ve ever facilitated (even ones where iPads were given as part of their involvement)!

However, the story is not all fun and games. GOBLIN suffered from a lack of equal representation among the characters. For instance, it was difficult to find open female artwork that was not heavily sexualized. John and I made it a point to diversify our characters as much as possible. We used labels to imply gender ambiguous artwork was female and ensured that no more than half of the characters where explicitly male. But even with our attempts, we still received feedback that greater diversity should be present. We agree and plan to keep working at improving this weakness of our program.

Slide from GOBLIN presentation showing female character and implied female character, sorceress.
Female rogue and implied female character, sorceress.


Fortunately, we concluded our presentation in several minutes of open discussion and talked about these shortcomings with the attendees. There were some great suggestions to engage art students at the university in producing open artwork for GOBLIN.

Others spoke about artwork and their fear of competing against high budget games. John and I let the discussion evolve naturally and many great points arose from these statements:

To wrap it all together, Erika Bullock gave a testimony as a student who participated in developing games for class assignments. She attested to the potential of learning inherent in that design process and her comments encouraged instructors to consider the value of games as instructional opportunities.

What a great time of discussion we had. John and I enjoy crowdsourcing ideas from the discussions we host in GOBLIN or in presentations about GOBLIN. Learning is best as a communal experience. 🙂


Presenting at #OpenEd16 was a phenomenal experience. The opportunity to share ideas and work with many of the people I look up to is a fantastic “right of passage.” Like Terry said in his #OpenEd16 reflection, “It is VERY satisfying, when you get up the nerve to tell [your edu heroes] you admire their work…to see them seem genuinely grateful for the praise and interested in who you are.” I couldn’t have asked for a greater audience and location.

One component of the presentation that folks might not have been aware of at the time, is that the entire presentation was a reflection of a GOBLIN session. We used a game to set the stage and add context to the discussion we wanted to facilitate. There were some extra components since it was a presentation, like the dive into GOBLIN history and the how the building process was impacted by open resources. But overall, very similar structure between GOBLIN and this presentation about GOBLIN. #meta

From the feedback we received and the questions following our presentation, I’d call the session a success. I made a lot of connections with folks interested in GOBLIN and look forward to the working with them.

As a reminder, GOBLIN is built using open materials and is also licensed openly for you to take it, adapt it, use it, and expand it. If you want some assistance with the materials, let us know. Be aware that we’re still building pieces of the GOBLIN  website and improving implementation and distribution.

Also, if you want a copy of our slides, here you go:

Finally, if there’s one way our presentation will be remembered, I’m glad it’s because we gifted D20 dice as swag. 😀

The featured image is included with Mark Morvant’s permission.

Teaching in Higher Ed Podcast

Recently I had the honor of participating in the Teaching in Higher Ed Podcast hosted by Bonni Stachowiak. My half-hour session with Bonni focused on games in higher education. Specifically, I spoke about GOBLIN, eXperience Play, and my use of games in faculty development at the University of Oklahoma. For more details, listen to the podcast episode here:

After listening, I’d recommend checking out the show notes for the podcast session:

Game-based Learning

My time with Bonni was a blast and podcasting was among the highlights of my week! In fact, the Teaching in Higher Ed Podcast will remain a memorable part of this semester and I will always recall and appreciate how Bonni helped me feel comfortable participating in my first podcast. Thank you Bonni!

If you’re not already, I highly recommend subscribing to the Teaching in Higher Ed Podcast. There are many great episodes exploring the work of phenomenal educators from around the world! Listen to some of my favorite episodes:

Episode #18 – AUDREY WATTERS: How technology is changing higher education

Episode #91 – BONNI STACHOWIAK: Choose your own adventure assessment

Episode #108 – MAHA BALI: Collaboration

Episode #118 – MICHAEL WESCH: Teacher Becomes Student Through LIFE101

The featured image is provided CC0 by Kai Oberhäuser via Unsplash.

#games4ed – Leading My First Twitter Chat

Last night I moderated the #games4ed live chat. Little do anyone know, this was my first time to host a Twitter chat. O.o I’ve had a lot of fun on Twitter recently. First I remotely participated in a conference and then I published my first set of open Twitter data. Not to mention joining the #games4ed live chats and meeting many awesome people: Melissa Pilakowski, Steven Isaacs, Mark Grundel, & PBJellyGames, to name a few. With all of these experiences, I felt prepared to moderate a Twitter chat for the first time.

Preparing to Moderate a Twitter Chat

1. Brainstorming topics & questions – After Melissa asked if I wanted to host a night of #games4ed, I started thinking about what subjects I wanted to do. Eventually, I decided on Open Educational Resources (OER) and Game Design. John Stewart and I had just recently finished GOBLIN, which was built as an OER table-top game to teach professors about gamification and game-based learning. All of these ideas were fresh in my mind and I wanted to hear other educators contribute to this conversation. I am glad I selected this topic because #games4ed has not covered OER yet. So, I was excited to be the first!

#games4ed QAll
Final list of my #games4ed questions shared under a CC-BY 4.0 License

2. Creating question graphics – #Games4ed uses images to showcase the questions each week. The advantages of this approach means questions can be longer than 140 characters and graphics are easier to see among a sea of tweets. Additionally, I wanted to emphasize the OER theme for the night. So, I ended up using artwork from the public domain game Glitch to build the graphics. Some of the assets were used in GOBLIN, so I was familiar with the resources at my disposal. Finally, to edit the graphics, I used Pixelmator (a streamlined photoshop-like software) and I believe the graphics turned out great!

Example question graphic shared under a CC-BY 4.0 License

3. Scheduling Tweets – One of my major concerns for moderating was getting overwhelmed by the number of tweets I felt required to produce. Therefore, I removed all of this stress by using Tweetdeck schedule tweets feature. First, I calculated how to spread seven questions across one hour—I determined to start questions at 8:05PM ET and reoccur every eight minutes. Next, I scheduled other tweets I thought were relevant for the chat including an introduction and links to OER resources. In other words, I intended to limit my focus to the tweets of the participants.

List of my scheduled tweets in Tweetdeck.

What I Learned from Moderating

Scheduling tweets is the only way to keep up with the conversation. As a moderator, I want to welcome and make as many people feel at home as possible in the Twitter chat. Between being hospitable and attempting to hold a dozen conversations at once, having my own questions and answers running in the background helped me stay on track.

Begin moderating Twitter chats in small circles. The #games4ed live chats are sizable with anywhere from 25-60 participants. (Last night included 37 users.) In contrast, there were nearly 400 participants #oklaed on Sunday evening. If you want to host a Twitter chat for the first time, I recommend starting with a smaller community. A manageable live chat let me practice moderating and I had a positive experience hosting.

Inviting friends makes the event more fun! I gave some of my friends access to the questions for the night and although they couldn’t be present, they scheduled tweets to sync with my questions. This generated more ideas and their support was encouraging during the live chat (shoutouts to John Stewart and Jason FitzSimmons).

I need to practice keeping up with the conversations. During the chat, I fell behind a couple of times as I was attending to earlier tweets. I know this is inevitable in a Twitter chat, but since hosting I want to improve my response time in future sessions.

A core group of participants helped engage more users. Since it can be difficult keeping track of everyone, I am grateful to the regular participants for helping supplement my engagement. Melissa and Steven, were especially helpful during this session as they insured participants didn’t slip through the cracks.

I enjoy live tweeting! This was an awesome experience. From brainstorming questions to connecting with educators, I discovered that I value the process of moderating Twitter chats. I can’t wait to host another!

#games4ed Open Twitter Dataset

Finally, I am releasing all of the Twitter data from last nights session as an OER! If you would like a copy check out the following link:

Open Twitter Data Google Sheet

If you want to analyze this data I suggest a tool like Voyant-Tools 2.0. For more information on collecting or visualizing tweets check out my post on Open Twitter Data.

Screen Shot 2016-05-06 at 9.47.23 AM
Tweets from this #games4ed Twitter chat in Volant-Tools 2.0.

Alternatively, check out the Participate Learning transcript from the live chat:

Thank you everyone for making my first moderated Twitter chat a positive experience. I look forward to more of these opportunities to connect and discuss with other educators from across the world!