To help students and teachers get to grips with the gaming, badges, points and rewards elements in Rockhaq, we’re posting an interview with one of our developers, Paul Gibbs. Paul is the brains behind a social gaming app we’re using called Achievements.

We’re using this in a very unique virtual and physical way, to reward students for writing reviews and engaging on Rockhaq blogs by awarding points and allowing them to win a range of Rockhaq badges. Although we’ve been securing the latest music releases to reward students with during our pilot, we’re also going to announce a number of top real-life Rockhaq missions and rewards for top scoring school and college pupils to win shortly.

Paul gives us the lowdown on why he built Achievements, what it’s all about and, perhaps most importantly, how social gaming and innovative uses of ICT in the classroom can help teachers and students improve literacy skills, build journalism skills and more in all UK schools and colleges. Take it away, Paul!

1. Why did you create Achievements?

The idea for Achievements for BuddyPress came about when I was very new to BuddyPress. For a community group I was involved with, I looked at WordPress and BuddyPress as a solution to replace our old website. I had to check that we wouldn’t lose any functionality from our old site when we moved, and also find out what new things we would get. Something that seemed missing to me was a way to keep all of our (small) community engaged and to encourage them to visit the site regularly. I couldn’t find anything available that would help us to do this, so I had to build something. At that point in time, I was an avid World of Warcraft gamer; I loved getting achievements in that game, so I thought, why can’t I get them for visiting a website?

2. What is the main concept behind Achievements?

The main idea behind Achievements is that when a user meets some sort of predefined requirement, they win the achievement badge, and some points. it’s as simple as that. It’s also really important that the users are aware they’ve won the achievement, that some are easier or less time-consuming than others, that they have some form of tangible reward, and that they have some way of finding out which achievements they (or their friends) *haven’t* got… yet!

In World of Warcraft, examples of this are “complete 50 quests” or “find a very rare creature in-game”. On a website, examples could be “write 5 blog posts” or “make 15 new friends”. It’s gotta be fun!

3. How useful do you think gaming features are to schools?

Students young and old love playing games, and while getting that effort/reward balance on a community website can be a little tricky, if you can show them that by investing a little of their time, they’ll get a lot back from (either virtually, or in real life!), they’ll keep coming back. It’s a very visual way of identifying the most engaged users on your site; you could give achievements rewards badges as progress indicators, or to highlight special effort in class or on homework. It’s a modern-day version of the gold star on your book from primary school!

So there we have it: a quick low-down from the developer about how achievements points, badges and rewards could be useful in teaching your students. If you have any questions or want to use Rockhaq blogs at your school, just get in touch.

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