Last Summer during the now defunct PA Governor’s School for Information Technology I used a little bit of custom code on my Drupal powered site … I was teaching pieces of Information, People, and Technology to a group of very smart high school kids. I always put students in teams and make them compete against each other to solve a large real world challenge. In and of itself, this is usually enough to get the kids really motivated. During the Gov School I decided to put every single point into play as part of the competition, so we created a module for Drupal that we called the Leader Board. It was essentially a dynamic point calculator that kept track of who was in first, second, third, and on … it also worked like a golf leader board in that the leader was zero points back, the second place could have been five points back, and so on. It was interesting to see how much more energy they seemed to put into the class just to see their teams climb the Leader Board. It was interesting and very cool to listen to hall chatter, “we are in first place” during the 5 week program.
I used it again last fall with my IST class and it seemed to work there as well. I am not using Drupal this semester as I am engaged in some formal research related to the use of WordPress for teaching so I can’t plug it in. This is where things get even more interesting for me … in my new role as director of education technology services at the University, one of the first things I wanted was a place where the entire teaching and learning with technology group at PSU could contribute in a protected area. What I wanted was an Intranet … one of my colleagues created a Drupal space that has become the center of communication almost overnight. The space is heavily used … what the hell does this have to do with the first paragraph you might ask?
So when the site was developed he put a little piece of custom code at the top that pulls out the top contributors and commenters. I have fallen victim of my own motivational tricks! I can’t tell you how much seeing my name in second or third place on that bugs me — in other words, it somehow drives me to participate. I doubt everyone feels that way, but I am intensely competitive and this little constant reminder pulls at me to write, contribute, comment, and be a more active member of this community. This stuff has been going on for a long time, it is just interesting that when the tricks we use to help motivate students get pushed back at us. Take a peek: