Connecting dots for digital learning and teaching

3 Discoveries from A Gamified AP Biology Class

Paul Andersen has been teaching science in Montana for the last eighteen years.  He’s been posting a regular series of YouTube videos on all things science and education in general for the past year: including physics, biology,  anatomy, earth science, chemistry, they have become very popular. His science videos have been viewed millions of times by students around the world.  He was the 2011 Montana Teacher of the Year and he is currently a science teacher at Bozeman High School.  (For more information on Paul’s work, visit

In summer break, he re-invented his class as a video game.  He made 3 points why he started to gamify his classroom: 1) School should be fun; 2)Failure is good; 3)School should be leveled. His entire class revolves around Moodle. In his class website, 100 podcasts and hundreds of questions were offered, so his students can learn and take quizzes over and over in their own paces. Students started with zero experience level and move their way up in the system. There is a leaderboard with an avatar for everyone, and it became the most popular space. Students complete levels to acquire experience points and move up the leader board. Watch this video to understand the details of how to level the learning. Although he can lecture so well. The lecturing part in his classroom is reduced to only about 10 minutes per week, because he wanted to push his students to become independent learners. So he designed the class as a flipped classroom plus gamification elements.

In this recent TED talk he gave,  he explained how he used elements of game design to improve learning in his AP Biology classroom.  We think there is something helpful to every educator. And he shared 3 discoveries from his experience of gamifying his classroom.

  • The traditional classroom is like a school bus, but the new way is to let students drive independently, some might learn well, but some might race the cars while some others might drive into the wall. More scaffolding is needed.
  • Some kids struggle with reading when they learn independently, the importance of reading ability shouldn’t be overlooked.
  • Kids are coming to schools to be social. Just sitting in front of computers sucks. More social learning elements will make the learning process more attractive and effective.

It’s especially appreciated that he shared what he thought that he failed in the endeavor. As he finalized his talk at the end, to connect the learning with the passion and keep on fail-learn-repeat process should be the answer for better learning outcomes (including grade).


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Categorised in: Flipped Classroom, Gamification of Education, Personalized Learning

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“Tell me and I will forget, show me and I may remember, involve me and I will understand.” -------- Chinese Wisdom "Games are the most elevated form of investigation." -------- Albert Einstein
"I'm calling for investments in educational technology that will help create digital tutors that are as effective as personal tutors, educational software as compelling as the best video game," President Barack Obama said while touring a tech-focused Boston school (year 2011).
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