The great game: dodging blame for the 2020 A-level results train wreck

The A-level results came out on August 13th. In the absence of exams, they were estimated from several data sources using a fairly intelligent algorithm. Results were well up on last year, yet there were such howls of anguish that the government was forced into a humiliating policy U-turn four days later. What on earth went wrong?

In retrospect, we can see the algorithmic approach was doomed from the start. Let’s walk through this, taking a Continue reading

The Game of Education

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Donald Clark is a reliably controversial blogger but a post last month took the biscuit. Based on some recently-published research that cast doubt on the claims of “brain training” software to produce learning that will generalise to other contexts, he concludes that “Gamification does NOT work!” in education. This is like finding a broken-down rickshaw and concluding that Continue reading

Our first-ever 8th Dan student

8th DanMeet Beatrice Wongsanguan, Y11 student at Patana School in Bangkok. Beatrice is the first student ever to achieve the 8th Dan belt in Yacapaca.

In case you do not know, we copied the Judo belt scheme to describe our levels. Students earn White Belt almost immediately, the work up through the colours to Black Belt. After that, they get into the Dan grades, and progress becomes much harder. Achieving each grade is 60% more work than achieving the previous grade was. 60% may not sound like a lot, but it compounds up very fast.

Belt grades are earned primarily through diligence. Regular practice, regular revision and participation in the voluntary extension activities such as peer assessment are key. Beatrice has been using Yacapaca since Y7 (I looked up her records) and is clearly a top performer even in a school renowned for its work ethos.

Congratulations Beatrice! Read the full story in the Patana magazine.

Timed questions help students get in ‘flow’

It all started one warm Friday afternoon about 12 years ago. I was observing a Y10 class in a fairly typical mainstream secondary school. They were taking a test using Paperless School, a now-defunct system that I had designed.

One pair of boys particularly caught my attention. They were lolling back in their chairs, chatting about snooker and doing their absolute adolescent damnedest to project a “too cool for school” attitude. Once in a while they would click on an answer on the screen so they could lay some vague claim to still being working.

Engaged with the task they were not.

Realisation slowly dawned that, as system designer, this was my fault. I had to take responsibility for Continue reading

A very short primer on gamification

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Yacapaca is a gamified formative assessment system. I want to discuss briefly what that means, and how we interpret it in software.

Gamification is the art of making things you want to do anyway more fun, and more motivating. To understand why this is so powerful, I recommend this 12-minute TED talk by Seth Priebatsch because it is a lot more fun and motivating than the Continue reading