Good luck getting that out of your head!
What is GPD? Gamified Professional Development. Microcredentialing, badging, gamification… these seem to be the latest and greatest buzzwords in education. Normally, I am immediately turned off by buzzwords. For example: “21st Century Learning”… y’all, it’s 2018 – for the love of everything holy, let’s move on from that one, please! “Innovation”… putting a worksheet in Google Classroom is NOT innovation, it’s a digital worksheet. “Project-Based Learning”… doing a class project at the end of a unit does not merit the label of PBL. I get frustrated because the buzzword becomes a “thing” and everyone rushes to do “the thing” without giving “the thing” any real thought or due diligence.
With that small rant behind me (I’m sure it won’t be the last though), I have to say I’m a huge fan of the move toward gamifying professional development. For the first 8(ish) years of my career, professional development was the one thing I dreaded more than any other. Give me all the paperwork, grades, conferences, faculty meetings, or any other <insert educational acronym here>, and I’ll do it with a smile on my face. Give me some ridiculous professional development where I sit through an hour workshop of something someone with a higher pay grade than me thought I needed to know, and I was immediately rolling my eyes and mentally checked out. I had numerous CEUs from professional development I’d attended, but hadn’t learned a single thing, other than how to refine my ability to pass notes more stealthily. Then, Lucas Gillispie was hired by my district in 2014 and his first PD with us was #Education, in which I learned what I was missing in professional development. I realized that I needed to personalize my professional development. I immediately started using Twitter professionally and following the folks Lucas recommended following; my Twitter PD exploded from that moment.
I continued to learn from Lucas as a pilot participant in the gamified professional development he created called “EPIC Academy” in 2015. I was immediately hooked by the aspect of a leaderboard and earning points! Above all else, the learning that happened here was RELEVANT! If the quest didn’t pertain to what I needed at the time, I just dropped the quest and chose something else. I had CHOICE in what I learned. The quests in EPIC Academy were designed to be bite-sized pieces of information. Showing mastery of each bite led to another bite, and before you know it, you’ve created a product that shows mastery of something much bigger.
In 2016, Lucas asked me to come onboard as a quest designer for EPIC. I was terrified as this was “his baby” and I wanted to be sure to maintain the level of awesome he had precedented, while keeping the “buzzword” aspect out of it. I wanted to give each quest I designed the forethought it deserved, and have participants create a product that was relevant and useful to them and their learners. I designed the quest chains for Augmented Reality and Digital Formative Assessment that year. Since then, I have been privileged to design the quest chains for Digital Storytelling, BreakoutEDU, Digital BreakoutEDU, Teacher Productivity Tools, Classcraft, and BreakoutEDU 2.0.
EPIC Academy has taken off exponentially since 2016. Lucas applied for, and was awarded, a Digital Learning Initiative Showcase Grant from the NC Department of Public Instruction to expand EPIC Academy, to connect and share the content to educators from across the state. As part of this grant, Lucas designed a model for mentors to assist those in EPIC Academy. As an EPIC Mentor, we support and encourage educators new to the gamified professional development world.
I have watched this model flourish under Lucas’s leadership. There are no educators in EPIC that were required to join; participation is completely optional. With some of the latest buzzwords being “microcredentialing”, “badging”, “gamification”, I am thankful that EPIC Academy is untarnished by the effects of buzzwords thus far. Through EPIC alone, I have gained over 8 Digital Learning Competency CEUs, but more importantly, my students and staff have been exposed to the benefits of Google Drive, Coding, Skype, Augmented Reality, Digital Formative Assessment, YouTube, Virtual Field Trips, BreakoutEDU, Flipgrid, Appsmashing, QR Codes, Game Based Learning, and much more. My teaching has been taken to the next level, and my desire for continuing learning is piqued. GPD is the way to create life-long learners of educators; the days of one-hour professional development is ancient history for me. So… who’s down with GPD?