Blow Up The Gradebook

If only I had the courage to blow up my grade book.

I loath point gathering learning; where the students’ motivation is not to learn but to get the points. I loath grading; where I am the bean counter, and the motivation to do work for me or not is determined by if I give points for it or take points away for not doing it.

It’s a rare student that wants to learn, who values knowledge, growth, and ability above the grade they get. But it’s all our fault. We continue this system of assignments, points, and grades and we send our bean counting drones to colleges who look more at the student’s ability to collect the beans, as reflected in their GPAs, than who they are, what they can do, and what their potential is. Truth is, the potential of a 5.0 bean counter is so much less than a thinking, feeling, artistic human being who excels sometimes and fails miserably others. I’ll take a group of 2.o students who care about issues, are excited about learning, and probably don’t do their homework very often because skateboarding after school is more important. And I agree that it is.

I think the grade book, the bean counting, and the GPA only survives because everyone in education is overworked. It’s the perfect solution for conveyer-belt, mass produced, assembly-line education. When I think of moving to a game-based classroom like Rezzly ( for my students, the thing that holds me back is all the work it looks like it will take to do it. I need to write up every lesson and make it available? Well what do I do when kids whip through it all and collect enough points to ace the class in the first week of school? All these questions keep me from taking the steps I know I should take.

But so called game-based learning, like Rezzly, spoken about in the video above, seems to be point gathering also. It’s just point gathering with a web interface. I’m in Mr. Haskell’s course at Boise State right now gathering points in Rezzly by watching the above video and writing this post to my blog. I do feel like I’m doing much more right now than the assignment requires, so that’s one consideration in favor of game-based learning.

I’m also learning on my own. This knowledge is mine, and my path through the class is determined by me. There are assignments (quests) I can skip if they don’t look interesting. I like that part of it. I’m also hoping there is a way to show a certain set of skills and earn a badge. I see it in the program but I have not done that yet. I’ll keep you posted because skills based learning with certificates, badges, and actual demonstration of skills is where I want to move my teaching to. Another ten years of bean counting seems like teacher death to me. Maybe I died inside long ago.

I’m hoping that my experience with using game-based learning through this course will give me the confidence to blow up my own grade book and then help others at my school do the same.

What are your experiences with grades in school? Do you think you need something like a grade hanging over your head to do your best work? If you are an educator, what is your opinion of grades, the gradebook, and game-based learning?

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1 Response

  1. Erin Head says:

    I love following teachers continuing their own education! I moved into the library in part to get away from the gradebooks and standardized tests and am so much happier to be in a place where I can help support students in their class work And help them pursue their own interests by stocking books like Minecraft handbooks and other things they won’t find in their classrooms. I loved the book Innovator’s Mindset by George Couros – one quote has stuck with me – “if students leave school less curious than when they started, we have failed them.”

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