Mike Skocko

FTW! Turnkey Online Gamification System

Technical Tutorial Published 2/5/13 Last updated on 5/16/18
Complete instructions explaining how to set up your own WordPress-powered interactive gamification system. You (or your school district) supply the hosting and the rest is free. (Well, it's free if you don't count all the time you'll spend weaving your curriculum into your own gamified learning environment.)

I'll get to all the instructions, features, perks, pitfalls, etc. in the comments (there's a lot to say and show) but first, some questions and concerns you might have...

>>> UPDATE <<< The step-by-step instructions begin at the bottom of the comments.

Full or Part-Time? You could use this as a fun way for players (students) to earn extra credit or run one or more of your classes using the gamified system. Take it as far as you want.

Full Disclosure: The WordPress set-up is fairly straight-forward but unless you're a techie with access to a server (I'm not and I don't) you'll probably want help with the initial server-side configuration. Our district IT guys have been ultra-helpful. Without support from your own IT department, you'll either need the knowledge and resources to set up your own server with WordPress or pay for commercial hosting.

The System: WordPress is very user-friendly but the gamification system adds a layer of complexity. Nothing outrageous but it'll take some time to feel at home with the requisite steps. Luckily, there's a lot of repetition involved in getting up and running so you'll have plenty of practice. :)

Support: I'll record step by step instructions (both static and video) for everything you'll need (after WordPress is installed). As I tell my students, if you follow the instructions and just connect the dots, you'll get the picture. Unless...

More Support: I'm active in this community (178 posts and counting) and willing to help whenever I can but a few other teachers are already using this system and I'm certain they'll also be willing to come to your aid. Not only will you not go it alone, soon you'll be the one answering others' questions as well as suggesting modifications and/or improvements. For now, please post questions and suggestions in the comments because others will surely benefit from the ongoing discussion.

History: The idea began with Changing the Game: Assignments as Quests (June 2011), its evolution was documented in Gamifying the Learning Environment: The View from Level 80, (Feb 2012), and an epic discussion ensued (more than 400 comments) after posting Gamified Curriculum Delivery System (Sept 2012).

IMPORTANT UPDATE: The video on Gamified Curriculum Delivery System was recorded at the beginning of the school year. Our plugins are now more responsive, feature-rich, and compatible with any WordPress theme (so long as the theme is comparable with BuddyPress and bbPress) . BuddyPress now works with any WordPress theme.

Moral Imperative: You and I both know that our education system is in need of something like this. Actually, the kids deserve more but this is the best we've got... for now. (I'll share what we're working on for the 2014/15 school year in another post).

Test Drive: If you're a teacher and want to see how the system works from a student's perspective, leave a comment with your email address and I'll create an account for you and email the login credentials.

Getting Started: If you want to give this a try, you'll need a website with WordPress installed and configured. You control features and functionality via the WordPress admin panel (I'll share all my plugins and settings). As I said back at the beginning, our district folks set WordPress up for me. Since I don't have access to the server, I'm clueless about the back-end configuration but I know Rob and Ryan (gamified teachers) have both done it on their own. If you want help with that, leave a comment and I'll round up the posse. If you're a do-it-yourselfer, here's how it's done.

Next Step: I'll get to those in the comments. Maybe a mix of features, functionality, ideas, as well as a series of step-by-step instructions would be most helpful. The district is setting up a fresh WP install in a test domain so I can record the steps in an authentic manner. Like I said, they've been ultra-helpful.

Final Word: This is time-consuming but it's worth every minute. If you want to go the distance, you can set up an asynchronous, student-centered, gamified learning environment. No more Goldilocks classrooms! Nothing moves too fast or too slow for the majority of students. With online curriculum, the kids access the material at their own pace. Of course this opens up a new set of challenges. Well get to those too.

Game on!

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Comments (122)

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Carly Manhart

Posted on 4/6/19 6:26:31 AM Permalink

​Awesome thank you!!!

Aziz Soubai

Posted on 6/15/18 8:50:31 PM Permalink

​I love using games in the class. Thanks for sharing these great resources

Mike Skocko

Posted on 7/15/14 3:04:37 PM Permalink


Some of the info in the comments (below) is out of date as Game On, our WordPress plugin, has evolved quite a bit in the last year and a half.

This resource is the most current but the Game On Group is where in-depth discussions take place. The Feature Requests page is where you'll get a look at what's about to roll out and it's the place to contribute ideas on how the plugin could better serve your needs.

Game On's best features come directly from your requests, suggestions, and critiques. It's an amazingly organic process. Come join the fun!


Joan Hoffman

Posted on 7/15/14 1:14:46 PM Permalink


Matt says he is attending a panel discussion you are on about gamification next week. I will be out of the country. When it is archived can you post the link here?

Also, is there somebody's wordpress 'test class" I could join to get an idea of how it will look? Thanks!


Mike Skocko

Posted on 7/15/14 2:44:49 PM Permalink

Hi Joan. I think you're referring to this:

3:00 p.m. – 4:20 p.m.Creativity in Education Session
Fishbowl on Assessment, Accreditation & Gamification in Education—Panel / Discussion

Ian Usher, Buckinghamshire County Council; Greg Hodgson, The Wycombe Grange; Kelly Kermode, Eastern High School; Rob Schwartz, Sheridan Technical High School; and Mike Skocko, Valhalla High School

Explore the various strategies AELs use to motivate and recognize learning for different audiences—through games, certification, open badge systems, and more. Do these efforts help students better demonstrate what they learn and showcase that learning outside their classroom? Participate in the discussion yourself in a Fishbowl session and help refine the ways AELs can implement such approaches.

It's being streamed live and will be archived. Info here.

Check out the new look and functionality of Game On in the Feature Requests section of the Game On Group.

Leisa Wheeler

Posted on 5/10/14 2:12:57 PM Permalink

I'd like to test drive the system.

Mike Skocko

Posted on 7/15/14 2:13:44 PM Permalink

Yikes! So sorry to have missed your request, Leisa. Either Adobe's notification system was on the fritz or my brain was.

I'll email the credentials but meanwhile check out the Game On Group because we're on the verge of something very cool as we approach v2.0. The Feature Requests page has the most relevant info.

Lea Smith

Posted on 1/22/14 8:41:22 PM Permalink

Mike, I'd like to test drive the system. I have a game idea (social studies, technology) that could work digitally, but I don't know how to put it together.

Mike Skocko

Posted on 1/23/14 12:05:11 PM Permalink

You're all set, Lea.

For more info be sure to check out our Game On Group.

Matthew Miller

Posted on 12/19/13 8:27:26 AM Permalink

Donis Krohmer

Posted on 11/14/13 7:49:59 PM Permalink

I am very interested in gamifying my digital art & animation class. I would like to do a test drive.

Mike Skocko

Posted on 11/15/13 11:12:12 PM Permalink

Hi Donis,

Our district is suffering the third straight day of DNS attacks and I can't get to the site to set up your account right now.

I will as soon as it's back up though. :)

Meanwhile, why don't you check out this thread? It contains current info about a whole lot of new features. Cool beans!

Mike Skocko

Posted on 12/19/13 1:20:50 PM Permalink

Yikes! I can't believe I forgot about this. I've set up the account and emailed your credentials, Donis.

Please excuse my poor manners!

Rob Huddleston

Posted on 8/1/13 10:43:34 PM Permalink


Thanks so much for this fantastic resource. I have it up and running as a test right now, but I do have a basic getting-started question that it confusing me.

I get how to create a new page as a quest, and how to use the short codes to get the quest working. That was shockingly easy. However, I get stuck after that. So I create a page as a quest, and then student completes/masters the quest ... but what then? How do they get to the next quest? Is each quest its own Page in WP?

It's possible that I'm approaching this the wrong way. I was working on the assumption that each quest is an individual lesson of sorts. Is that right?

What I'm thinking of trying to set up as my test of the system is a section from a class I currently teach on the basics of PHP. I already have a set of "challenges" - quick items students need to go through, such as "set up a PHP testing environment" and "create a page and save it in the proper location so that the server can access it" and "add and display a variable on the page". I was thinking each of those would be a quest ... is that right? I want to lead them through it - they have to complete the first step before they can get on to the next - but again I'm not at all clear as to how to set each of them up and how to guide the students through them.


Mike Skocko

Posted on 8/2/13 12:01:04 AM Permalink


You do realize that our plugin is written in PHP, right? (With some JavaScript and Ajax.) Sounds like your kids might contribute to the model.

We have a new system and you might want to take a peek. Check out these two videos and see if that answers your questions. If not, leave another comment and I'll take care of the problem.

Seriously, let me know, okay? This is beginning to shift into high gear and I want early adopters to be comfortable so they can help others. (You're about number 75. Crazy!)

Nathan Scherer

Posted on 8/2/13 2:58:28 PM Permalink

And if I may be so bold Mike - If you take a look at the way Mike does it on The Mac Lab it's my impression that it works like this:

1. Mike makes a blog post for each week and then updates that individual blog post every day with more content. The content is links to each quest or "challenge" that they have to complete. So, when the students finish a challenge they just come back to the original blog post and click on the next challenge. The next day, the students just come back to that blog post again and see the new stuff that Mike has added.

Also, if you wanted to make it a sequence, you could make the link to the next quest appear in the message that shows up when you hit the Mastery button. So, when the students master the challenge, they know what to do next.

Am I way off Mike?

Mike Skocko

Posted on 8/2/13 3:17:00 PM Permalink

No, you're right on, Nathan. Thanks!

I am, however, rethinking the blog posts as the centerpiece. Whatever happens, there has to be a way to set up sequential quests as well as providing opportunities for choice. Whether those are quests with multiple options or building a quest hub, I'm not sure.

Part of the fun is in trying to design an engaging user experience. Working together we may arrive at solutions we'd not previously considered.

Rob Huddleston

Posted on 8/2/13 3:25:00 PM Permalink

Thanks, Mike and Nathan.

I did upgrade to the new version, and it appears that the task/quest system pretty much solves this. Looking forward to testing this out, but I'm very excited about rolling this out to some of my classes.

Mike Skocko

Posted on 8/2/13 4:04:46 PM Permalink


Please share any strategies you think the rest of us might benefit from. After all, we're all figuring this out together.

Mike Skocko

Posted on 7/29/13 9:38:09 PM Permalink

T-24 Hours...

I have 70+ test domains for anyone interested in trying out our new gamified plugin. You may use the domain for a few weeks to test the system to see if it's right for you.

If you're interested, join the AEE and leave a comment IN THIS THREAD expressing your interest.

C'mon, lurkers, join the club, make a comment, then email me and I'll send your admin credentials.

First come, first served :)

Mike Skocko

Posted on 7/26/13 11:49:39 PM Permalink

Y'know those big ol' long, complicated installation instructions way down there in the comments? I've been playing with our new plugin. The whole system takes about three minutes to set up.

WordPress + BuddyPress + Game On = Epic Win!

Mike Skocko

Posted on 7/25/13 11:42:38 AM Permalink

You're all set, Albert. Login info in your email.

Albert Tucker

Posted on 7/25/13 10:53:10 AM Permalink

Mike, I too would love to see this in action. Could you create an account for me? Thanks for all you do here!

Mike Skocko

Posted on 7/24/13 10:47:48 AM Permalink

Account set and login info emailed. If you like the system, be sure to check this resource for info about our newest version (debuting next week at Adobe).

Fire away if you have any questions.

Bruce Gurnick

Posted on 7/24/13 7:04:34 AM Permalink

Mike, I would love to take a closer look at this. Please create an account for me.

Mike Skocko

Posted on 7/21/13 12:14:42 AM Permalink

You're all set, Carol. Login info in your email.

Carol Pearsall

Posted on 7/20/13 2:47:36 PM Permalink

I'd love to test drive this system. Can you hook me up?

Mike Skocko

Posted on 7/19/13 12:23:09 AM Permalink

Remember when Apple cut the cord on PowerPC and Mac users had to move to Intel? That worked out pretty well in the end, didn't it?

Well, CubeGold is now the OS 9 of Gamification Systems. You can still use it, and it will still work as promised, but we now have something light years better.

Announcing GameOn | Gamified CDS 3.0

Coming soon to a classroom near you.

Mike Skocko

Posted on 7/12/13 12:04:52 AM Permalink

If anyone's interested, I've begun a new thread to reflect on wins, fails, and meh from the past year and have also begun sharing my plans and strategies for the upcoming year.

Gamifying the Learning Environment: The View from Level 90 is the resource and you're invited to share your ideas as well.

Mine are still somewhat sketchy but perhaps we can help each other avoid pitfalls and forge new trails in this uncharted land. :)

Mike Skocko

Posted on 7/10/13 3:29:53 PM Permalink

Hey Tony,

Others have automated the process of setting up user accounts but I do it manually (for a couple of reasons). Before activating their accounts, I require the students (and parents) to sign forms agreeing to district and classroom policies (you can find these on my home page). Then each student has to email me, with Mac Lab in the subject line and their ID number in the message. I trash any email that doesn't have both. The kids learn my email address and that I expect them to follow instructions. This also allows for spreading out the initial logins. We've all learned that the very first time anyone logs in, a lot of data is written to the database. If everyone hits the server at once on day one, it crashes or freezes. Subsequent days aren't a problem.

Send me an email and I'll set up your student account. (

Tony Martinez-Malo

Posted on 7/10/13 3:13:23 PM Permalink

Mike I posted on the FTW thread. I'll Copy paste here.

"This is awesome. I have been Lurking for some time, and just finally got around to testing this out on our server. Installed everything as it is in the instructions. I do have one quick question. Does the admin create the accounts, or do the students have the capability of going to a part of the site and create their own account? I am sure Ill have more questions, but will first review all the comments.

Thank you for this, I think its what we need right now in our field.


Also, I would like an account to mess around with it too please.

Thank you for this, I am sure it will work out great for my class.


Mike Skocko

Posted on 7/10/13 2:54:39 PM Permalink

Hey John,

Send an email to and I'll get you set up with a student account. (WordPress requires an email address to set up new accounts then I'll forward the login info to you there.)

John Scott

Posted on 7/10/13 2:58:08 AM Permalink

Would love to take a tour of the student experience. Very interested in using this in my classroom.

Mike Skocko

Posted on 7/8/13 4:27:02 AM Permalink

Donald Peters

Posted on 7/8/13 1:31:04 AM Permalink

Mike Skocko

Posted on 7/1/13 9:59:16 AM Permalink

You're set up, Ryan. Login info has been emailed. Don't hesitate if you have questions. Fire away!

Ryan Archer

Posted on 7/1/13 5:56:43 AM Permalink

Mike - could you please add me as a student so I can explore? Thanks!

Mike Skocko

Posted on 7/1/13 3:56:59 AM Permalink

Everyone (especially you lurkers who keep emailing me): I'm going to set up dozens of temporary sites on the MediaTemple Grid hosting service I've just purchased. On those sites you'll be able to test the validity of the gamification system and play around a bit to see if you want to take the plunge.

It'll take me a week or two to get everything set up. Meanwhile, be brave enough to add a comment to reserve your spot. First come, first serve.

AELs: These test domains will be available during our Summer Institute at Adobe so you'll be able to participate in our hands-on workshop without springing for a domain and hosting in advance.

If you want to gamify your classroom using this system during the 2013/14 school year, out of pocket expenses will run $200 for hosting for the year (from MediaTemple) and $15 or so for your domain.

None of that goes to me (unless you tell MediaTemple I referred you, then I get a discount on my own bill.)

More info to follow.

Mike Skocko

Posted on 7/1/13 12:45:09 AM Permalink

Hey, just because I'm on vacation the next two weeks doesn't mean I'm going to stop playing with this. I'll be in touch.

You should post that Meaki site as a resource!

Donald Peters

Posted on 7/1/13 12:25:28 AM Permalink

Research I've been gathering on 'gamification':

Donald Peters

Posted on 7/1/13 12:24:31 AM Permalink

sounds good Mike.. can wait until you get back from your vacation. =D

Mike Skocko

Posted on 7/1/13 12:11:44 AM Permalink

Should have a demo of setting up the student blogs in the next day or two. Hang in there and focus on developing your curriculum delivery system strategies for now. :)

Mike Skocko

Posted on 6/30/13 1:33:31 PM Permalink

Just had a D'oh! moment.

If I even have a hope of helping people do this, we need a common point of reference. So, I just bought a year of Grid hosting from MediaTemple.

We get 100 sites, right?

The first one is (or whatever we've registered).

Why not use for the kids? (You don't have to register that -- it's free.) That way you can use MT's one-click WP install to get started. Follow the instructions MT provides and name the database xxxxxx2 (or 3 or 4) for additional sites so you don't overwrite the original DB.

We're off for two weeks on the road tomorrow morn so lots to do before leaving. Will try this myself if I get a chance (but I'm certain it will work).

IMPORTANT: Don't install the gamification plugins on the student blog site.

Donald Peters

Posted on 6/29/13 3:48:14 PM Permalink

Thanks for all the help so far Mike,

next in line is trying to figure out how to configure the secondary install of wordpress for student blogs. The research I've done says I have to alter the .php file, but I have been unable to figure out to do that inside of the media temple hosting.

Any pointers?

Mike Skocko

Posted on 6/25/13 11:08:43 PM Permalink


Vincent says he'd be happy to help you with #3. I'll connect you two in an email next.

Here's his site. (He'll be a senior next year. Good kid.)

Mike Skocko

Posted on 6/24/13 11:18:13 PM Permalink

1) WP Admin: Settings > Reading

I've chosen a static page for the Home page and Posts for blog posts.

2) Many ways to accomplish this. You could have 3 additional static pages (one for each class) or 3 sections to each blog post. The former is probably simpler for the kids to follow. Best to keep things as simple as possible the first year.

3) That's a PageLines feature but Vincent (one of my students) is working on something that will let you mimic the appearance/functionality. I'll be seeing him tomorrow morning and will update you then.

4) Hey, I just made this up as I went along. One big suggestion though: Sketch out a hierarchy for your site. Designate your parent pages (mine are in the menu bar). Organize your child pages in advance. Use what will work for YOU (and your students).

Organization is key!

In the past year—my first with this new system—I generated 40 (weekly) blog posts (with daily updates) and over 1,000 pages of content (380 of those are Quest pages). If you don't stay organized, things get overly-complicated quickly.

Oh, and have fun. If this isn't fun, don't do it. :)

Donald Peters

Posted on 6/24/13 10:42:30 PM Permalink

Ok trying to figure some stuff out...

1) how to set it so that the 'home' page always comes up as the default page when going to the website

2) how to write quests and make sure they are only visible on the correct page (I am doing 3 classes - graphic arts, ceramics and art 1)

3) how to add the cool image tag/links on the bottom of the pages like on your setup....

Any good links on setting up buddypress/wordpress to get it to look like the way you have your setup?

I'm sure more will come as I set up...

again thanks for all your help!

Mike Skocko

Posted on 6/23/13 4:47:28 AM Permalink

Deeds. Not Words. (Engraved on Thor's hammer at Valhalla High School.)

The blogs serve a function but the real test is in how the students follow through -- specifically, their actions. Contenders and pretenders are easy to recognize.

That being said, here are a few good blog examples:

You'll have to navigate to early posts.

Donald Peters

Posted on 6/23/13 3:25:15 AM Permalink


I've begun digging through your setup at

Are there any student blogs we can view to see how they expressed 'Mastery'?

In particular I would really like to see the first few weeks, especially the 'mastery' of the classroom rules.

Mike Skocko

Posted on 6/16/13 9:52:32 PM Permalink


Donald Peters

Posted on 6/16/13 6:25:04 PM Permalink

Mike Skocko

Posted on 6/13/13 3:00:21 PM Permalink

Timed Quests: In the past, I've handled this manually (changing XP and Gold as the deadlines passed) but when I asked this morning, Semar said he could set it up so we could specify dates in the new Quest Panel (coming soon). It's on our wish list spreadsheet under Calendar Buffs.

Feel free to add items to the wish list!

Clan and Epic Quests: Not sure how this could be coded into the game. Will think on it.

Hidden Quests: Already exist. There's a checkbox in the current Quest setup that prevents the Quest link from appearing on the players' Stats page. (That's how some students were finding the hidden quests. Cheating!) Password protecting a page is a WordPress feature. Change the visibility to password protected (right hand side in the Publish pane).

Donald Peters

Posted on 6/13/13 3:13:55 AM Permalink

Ok, want to get these thoughts down while they are fresh... excuse me if they ramble.

Timed quests? like projects that are only available to complete for a limited amount of time...

Clan quests? new way of saying 'group projects'

Epic quest: something that would take the whole class working together to complete

Hidden quests - have to have a password or some other special way of knowing where to look to get access to the quest.. (I'm thinking of having a 'hidden' twitter feed (clues interspersed in other projects) that once found would give them extra 'back story' and quests to complete)

Going to plow into your setup next to see how you have things setup and then start trying to write some quests. I have what I think is a pretty good 'setup story' in mind to build everything around.

Mike Skocko

Posted on 6/12/13 2:17:34 AM Permalink

Hey! You were doing NOTHING wrong!

We're all figuring this out as we go. Think of how many teachers will benefit from your diligence, Donald.

Job well done and game on! :)

Donald Peters

Posted on 6/12/13 12:58:42 AM Permalink

Installed for something like the 7th or 8th time.. set up using only wp_ for database name. Made it all the way past Cube Gold with no errors! Thanks to Mike and his amazing students for figuring out what I was doing wrong!

Mike Skocko

Posted on 6/11/13 7:41:15 PM Permalink

Semar says this is going to take some time.

Short-term Fix: If asked when configuring WordPress, leave the table name prefixes: wp_

(That's an underscore after the wp if you were wondering.)

Adding a custom name generates errors at present. But like I said, Semar's working on it.

Mike Skocko

Posted on 6/11/13 6:58:27 PM Permalink

Houston, we have a solution.

It's neither BP or URE (as I thought); it's a problem with database table names (as I've been informed). The kids are re-coding so the plugin is agile enough to deal with variable user-generated table names (which is the problem with this particular install).

100% of the credit to the dynamic duo of Semar and Vincent.

Mike Skocko

Posted on 6/11/13 6:32:10 PM Permalink

Error in Step 22 confirmed.

The progress bar shows up (which didn't on the the brave soul's prior attempts) but the errors he encountered show up too. Luckily, exact lines of code in Cube Gold are identified so debugging shouldn't be a problem.

But... since Cube Gold works on my site but doesn't on this one, there seem to be two very suspicious variables: BuddyPress and User Role Editor.

Both of those plugins have been updated with new interfaces and functionality since I wrote the instructions (below). And I've updated neither of them recently on my site. Both of mine have the old interfaces and functionality.


Diving into code with Vincent and Semar next. Will reports ASAP...

Mike Skocko

Posted on 6/11/13 5:15:47 PM Permalink

Cool News: I'm currently setting up Donald's site from scratch, trying to determine why he was having so much trouble.

Step 7 in my instructions contains wonderfully out-of-date information. BuddyPress now reports (and I quote):

"BuddyPress is now compatible with any WordPress theme."


I'll test this by using WordPress' 2012 theme. Will report good/bad news next...

Mike Skocko

Posted on 6/6/13 10:19:26 PM Permalink

FYI for lurkers (I know you're there because you continue to email me): Donald confirmed that Semar was right. No Ranks had been created.

Cube Gold looks for a table in the MySQL database that's created after establishing Rank settings.

No table = errors.

Thanks to Donald for diving in. Round two begins shortly.

Mike Skocko

Posted on 6/6/13 9:30:26 PM Permalink

An immediate reply from Semar, and I quote:

Create Ranks.


(Did you create Ranks?)

Mike Skocko

Posted on 6/6/13 9:25:00 PM Permalink

Donald: Deep breath.

Step 1: Simplify. Forget the Multisite setup for now. Focus on the primary.

I see the errors at and have sent off an email to my coders. Will touch base when they reply. But... we're using the same MediaTemple servers so this should work as advertised. Double check the instructions with your setup. Cube Gold will need to be deactivated and reactivated if you skipped any steps.

I'll be in touch.

Donald Peters

Posted on 6/6/13 9:11:39 PM Permalink

grrr... btw I HATE the fact that I cannot copy and paste into this box...

WPMU is no longer in play. Now, I was told, to create the blogs you change the .php file.

'To enable the Network Setup menu item, you must first define multisite in the wp-config.php file.

Open up the wp-config.php file and this line above where it says /*That's all, stop editing! Happy Blogging! */ If it doesn't say that anywhere, then add the line somewhere above the first line that begins with 'require' or 'include':



define('WP_ALLOW_MULTISITE', true);


you will need to refresh your browser to continue'

Now, I have NO idea how to open the .php file or even where to find it.

I have the main install at ''

and the secondary install at ''

Mike Skocko

Posted on 6/6/13 9:05:56 PM Permalink

There are a number of steps that MUST be completed in sequence prior to installing CG. My demo install was done on the same MediaTemple setup as yours. No variables. Are you sure you connected the dots in order?

Email the screenshot if you're sure.

Donald Peters

Posted on 6/6/13 8:50:31 PM Permalink

Immediately after installling Cube Gold I received a slew of error messages. I've tried to copy and paste them here to no avail. I have a screen shot, but of course cannot paste that here either. =/

Mike Skocko

Posted on 6/4/13 1:39:47 AM Permalink

Yes. Seen it. We've been working on Badges and achievements but haven't wrapped ourselves around a strategy yet. Still pondering.

You originally registered under and I've got an email on the way with your password. Enjoy!

Donald Peters

Posted on 6/4/13 12:53:39 AM Permalink

another random question: have you looked at Mozilla's Open Badges?

I think there is a WP plugin that adds them.

I've used Edmodo with my students and like the ability to award badges to them that they could display on their page.

another specific question.. back when I was talking to you about this last fall, you gave me access to your system so I could try it out. Suffice to say I have lost that email. Would you be willing to let me back in to play? ''

Thanks for all the help and attention Mike.

Mike Skocko

Posted on 6/3/13 9:57:13 PM Permalink

1) Yes. Easy.

2) We could make that happen with some new code but experience tells me you'd be complicating things for yourself. Better to rely on a Code of Honor (or penalty system) to guide students to their respective quests. If that fails, you can always use the Bounty Hunter option. Very effective (and fun to watch).

P.S. Slow is the best speed when setting this up.

Donald Peters

Posted on 6/3/13 9:10:26 PM Permalink

more questions about content (getting ahead of myself I know, but I'm excited) -

1) Can I set it so they have to reach a certain 'level' before certain quests open up?

2) Can I set it so they can select a 'class' (warrior,mage,etc - not art class - I was thinking Illustrator, Designer, etc.) and then certain quests are only available to that 'class'?

p.s. I'm slowwwly working my way through your configuration directions..

Mike Skocko

Posted on 6/3/13 5:32:41 PM Permalink

None of us have any idea what we're doing when we begin something new. That's half the fun!

The instructions begin here. Luck is not a factor. See the Calvin and Hobbes comic (above) for the most important instruction. :)

Have fun, oh adventurous one!

Donald Peters

Posted on 6/3/13 5:20:32 PM Permalink

ok, I posted a help topic at MT to hopefully help me create the /blogs subfile and install WPMS into it as I have absolutely no idea what I am doing. =P

Now I guess I just have to dig through the comments to find the game settings for the main install. Wish me luck. =D

Mike Skocko

Posted on 6/3/13 2:17:35 PM Permalink

Click (but only if you plan on asking your students to blog).

No worries. In many ways, I'm still a noob, too.

Donald Peters

Posted on 6/3/13 1:30:13 PM Permalink

ok. WordPress installed. Do I need to do a secondary install of WP MutiUser now?

sorry for all the noob questions. =/

Mike Skocko

Posted on 6/2/13 11:02:52 PM Permalink

MediaTemple has a one-click WordPress install. Most hosts have something similar. If you have to install it yourself, the folks at WordPress have their famous 5 minute install guide so turn that frown upside down. :P

Bravo, btw, for jumping in!

Donald Peters

Posted on 6/2/13 9:34:31 PM Permalink

Ok. I've purchased hosting and a domain name. Now I just have to figure out how to install Wordpress.... =/

Mike Skocko

Posted on 5/31/13 7:31:38 PM Permalink

Semi-random answers...

1) D'oh! Forgot about that. Yes (if you're paying for hosting). That's an added expense I forgot about. Sorry!

2) 100% free from

3) No coding necessary. It does help, however, to be able to peek at the HTML tab in the editor when the visual editor can't deal with occasional glitches. (I can provide quick how-to videos.)

4) Mostly for gross violations of our Code of Honor. But that's really dependent on the culture of the classroom. This is really a season to taste issue.

5) I don't really have a recommendation. I used Custom Community for the demo site I built to write the step-by-step instructions (below). It worked fine. I'm sure there are better themes out there. Anyone else have a favorite free BuddyPress-compatible theme?

6) Keep the questions coming. :)

Donald Peters

Posted on 5/31/13 6:07:28 PM Permalink

oh, also... what buddy press theme do you recommend? I have no idea in the differences between them...

Donald Peters

Posted on 5/31/13 6:05:24 PM Permalink

(more) random questions (in no particular order)

1) Will I need a domain name?

2) Are the WP installs free (from what I have read I believe they are, but it never hurts to double check)

3) Do I need to be a 'coder' to be able to use this with my students?

4) Example(s) of infractions you have used the 'hammer' for?

I'm really thinking I might attempt to install this next week so that I can have it set up to work on in my free time over the summer.

Thanks Mike.

Mike Skocko

Posted on 5/31/13 4:59:56 PM Permalink

Copied and pasted from the GCDS thread:

I'm not sure if this has been documented on any of our multiple threads, but to anyone having issues with WordPress Multisite (WPMS) installs (for student blogs), here's a proven, safe solution (as suggested by my IT guru at the district): Use two WP installs.

Our primary install is at the root level (but yours could be in any directory) and our secondary -- the student blogs -- are in a sub-directory.

The primary does not use the multisite functionality. All the plugins for the gamified environment are installed on the primary.

The secondary does use the multisite functionality for the student blogs. None of the plugins for the gamified environment are installed on the secondary.

Our primary install is at:

Our secondary install is at:

Our IT guru says this strategy adds a layer of insulation for the primary to protect it from bad guys (but nothing is bullet-proof). As an admin, you'll have two separate WP installs to manage (and that means a little extra work). One thing to remember: Change the name of your admin accounts. Do not use the name admin as that's the first line of automated attack for hackers.

I hope that helps.

Mike Skocko

Posted on 5/30/13 8:27:32 PM Permalink

You can have over 40 simultaneous connections. We have over 200 players on the Mac Lab server. I imagine the number of total users is only limited by the server's horsepower.

The Clipboard feature allows you to separate the kids by period and computer number and allows for single players to be aligned with up to three classes (for those kids in multiple periods).

The system is available 24/7 so it doesn't matter what computer they use. The system does, however, exhibit visual glitches in IE. Everything works in Explorer, some things just look weird.

Donald Peters

Posted on 5/30/13 7:30:49 PM Permalink

another question... on the 'student account' feature, does this matter if they are accessing from their own laptops?

Donald Peters

Posted on 5/30/13 7:26:32 PM Permalink

so by 40 users, that is at one time, correct? as in one class period? Is there a 'maximum' number of users that they system can use overall (as in I have approx. 100 kids a semester)

Mike Skocko

Posted on 5/30/13 5:40:26 PM Permalink

Hosting: I'm interested in hearing your views on options. So far, MediaTemple's Grid System ($20/month) looks like a pretty solid solution. We ran a test recently with 40 users hammering the system and it worked fine.

If you know of better options, I'm all ears. Lots of educators have written me indicating their intention to implement this in the fall and I'd like to point them to the best bang for the buck. One thing's certain though: the server needs some horsepower.

Mike Skocko

Posted on 4/15/13 9:58:31 PM Permalink

Alright! I got an email notification regarding Nathan's last comment. We may be back in the loop!

Nathan: Good questions and don't worry about posting multiple questions if more occur to you. I'm happy to help! (As are others.)

First Up, Security: According to the article, the attacks target an admin user named "admin" then unleash their evil. So, for now, we shouldn't ever activate an admin account so named. Thanks for the heads up.

Next Year: I'll leave the posts up and create new ones each week. The first Week's post this year was titled Week 1 (1213). Next year it will be Week 1 (1314). I've tried to append the (1213) to quests as well. I'll reinvent the wheel for a couple of years as I learn to write more interesting and engaging quests. (This is one of the critical components I've yet to master.)

EDIT: Forgot to mention that leaving the posts up will preserve a record of things that worked well or crashed and burned. In these early days, it's good to have a map of sorts to help guide us as we figure out how to implement this potentially epic system. I'll be writing a reflective piece discussing wins and fails by early summer.

Multiple Classes: This would be your call but I would advise using the KISS system. One install, four separate class pages linking players to their respective quests. If you use an honor system, you can just direct the students to limit questing to their class quest lines. This way you can direct all classes to common quests such as class policies and expectations and keep others separate. However, this is definitely a subject for broader discussion.

Student Account: Just set it up. Let me know if you have questions. You're in Period 7 and you sit at computer 22. (Love this feature!)

Nathan Scherer

Posted on 4/15/13 3:01:47 PM Permalink

Nathan Scherer

Posted on 4/15/13 12:19:36 AM Permalink

Hey! Here's another question (sorry everyone):

When you start over next year or semester (we are semester classes) will you delete all your posts (Week 1, Week 2, etc.) and start over? Or will you just keep going and have the students disregard what's already there?

Nathan Scherer

Posted on 4/14/13 11:19:11 PM Permalink

Here's a quick question:

I teach four different classes: Web Design I &II and Digital Design I & II - should I set up four different installs of this (I have my own hosting with unlimited space) - one for each class? Or can all of my classes use the same system with each user only able to access certain quests?

Nathan Scherer

Posted on 4/14/13 11:05:28 PM Permalink

Can't wait to get this going in my class. I've been doing a couple of little tiny things in my class with leveling up and "money" but this is going to blow them away (God, I hope so).

Can I be a student in your class to see how it works for them Mike?

Mike Skocko

Posted on 3/20/13 11:24:57 PM Permalink

My hunch was right. The blasted thing changed the text! See for yourself. if the link glitches.

Mike Skocko

Posted on 3/20/13 11:20:24 PM Permalink

Crud. Is this thing changing my post each time?! I'm taking a screenshot this time.

Java needs to be enabled.

That's J a v a S c r i p t -- NOT Java.

Mike Skocko

Posted on 3/20/13 11:14:47 PM Permalink

Really need that edit function!

Not Java. Java needs to be enabled.

Mike Skocko

Posted on 3/20/13 2:45:28 PM Permalink

D'oh! I forgot to tell you that you have to enable Java for some of the cool stuff to work.


Mike Skocko

Posted on 3/20/13 12:15:40 PM Permalink

And reloading the page fixed it. Just so no one thinks I'm crazy, here's what I saw.

Mike Skocko

Posted on 3/20/13 12:09:38 PM Permalink

Mike Skocko

Posted on 3/20/13 11:58:28 AM Permalink

Edit: Duplicate comment deleted.

Mike Skocko

Posted on 3/20/13 11:54:01 AM Permalink

Man, the only notification of new comments is when users email each other. Looking forward to that functionality returning!

But on the bright side, I see we have formatting and paragraph breaks! (Retroactively, so older comments lamenting the loss are confusing. Tech happens.)

Adam: Are you using the latest version of Cube Gold? The Codex is currently pointing to 1.0.6 (not sure what's up with that) but we're using 1.0.7 and I believe 1.0.8 is just about ready. I'll continue to post the latest version at (just in case).

As for hosting and responsiveness on third-party servers, I just presented in Sacramento and we had 40 old PC laptops slamming the server all at once with no issues. The site was hosted on MediaTemple with the $20/month option. Important: I set the site up using the instructions posted below. Did you follow the steps with OCD-like dedication?

[questpage] Quest info here. [/questpage] is how the quests work. The shortcode must be the first and last things on the page. Is that how yours are set up?

If you're doing all that and it still doesn't work as expected, deactivate then reactivate Cube Gold. Maybe it's not seeing the database clearly. This is really odd because I've replicated the steps on two different servers and both sites function.

Idea: Set up a new quest and paste this code into the text field -- NOT the visual editor. I just tried and it works. That quest uses some cool shortcodes so everything changes depending on if you're logged in or not. Go here and see for yourself. Heck, here's a short video of how it works. And a follow-up video covering points I forgot to mention.

Hope that helps.

Ryan: You're probably right about the PHP issue but I'm at a loss to understand what the problem might be. Hosting your own site is a task only for techno-geniuses like yourself. That's way out of my league. Sorry. Wish I could help, but...

Adam Coulson

Posted on 3/20/13 3:18:14 AM Permalink

Hey Mike

I have couple questions that maybe you, Semar or Vincent might know about. One is do you know what might be different about my quest pages from your that is causing the pages to be fully visible even before being accepted? I thought it was because I am using Chome instead of safari because mine works in safari, but I just noticed that your's still works correctly when open in chrome as well. You also have a strage little votes thing visible at the top of each quest. Is there some quest options somewhere in wordpress that I am unaware of? The quest scoring works otherwise, I just really like that fact that students have to accept the quest before even seeing anything.

2. Do you know if anyone else has implemented this same program utilizing a standard public host server? I am getting super frustrated with the extreme slowness of the site. Students have to regularly refresh pages many time to get them to load. If they do if after adding minutes they double, triple quadruple numbers on accident. I know that was a known issue so not surprising but they are only refreshing because they have to when the page get the "unable to load/reach database". I can't remember exactly what it says but I know its because of the massive amount of database queries. I already changed servers once and it was really difficult but I survived. I am on Bluehost now, as Schwartz had recommended. Its better than GoDaddy but still not effective. I might have to go really expensive with a virtual private server or make my site only internal at school which defeats a major purpose of student access outside of school.

Ryan Hayes

Posted on 3/10/13 3:45:21 AM Permalink

<p>Tip to everybody, NEVER, ever, ever update your Webserver in the middle of the school year unless you know for sure you have a solid backup. Don't ask me how I know.</p><p>Outside of that, multi-site enabled Wordpress installs do seem to be working. I have a test environment setup on my MacBook Pro using MAMP. Everything appears to be working. It definitely simplifies some things. Students only have to update one profile, for example. </p><p>Here are some very useful plugins for importing large numbers of students: <a href="">WPMU Batch Create</a>. Batch create users and sites from a CSV/XLS. Huge time saver. Couple with <a href="">Add Multiple Users</a>. This will bring all the users you just created into your main class site as users. Very easy.<br><br>Anyhow, I still can't get the Cube Gold plugin to work correctly on my Xserve that I use to host my sites. Mike and I thought initially it might be because of Wordpress multi-user. That is not the case as I mentioned above. Maybe something to do with PHP versions? I am not willing to experiment anymore until the summer. It took 2 days to get my class site and all of my students site (this year and for the past 4-5 years) back with no data loss. That was a nightmare.</p>

Mike Skocko

Posted on 3/8/13 12:51:02 PM Permalink

Mike M: Have setup your account and emailed credentials. Please don't hesitate to ask questions or offer suggestions. We're all figuring this out together.

Mike Skocko

Posted on 3/8/13 12:36:31 PM Permalink

Thanks to Adam for notifying me of the EPIC WIN he had for (1) blowing the socks off his evaluator, (2) having the courage to play the risk/reward card in a high stakes hand, and most importantly, (3) giving the kids a chance to have fun while learning. New experiences for all parties. Gratz! Oh, the settings. Since we can't embed images (yet), Compare your Settings > Discussion against (what I'm currently using).

Adam Coulson

Posted on 3/7/13 9:23:32 PM Permalink

Nope no email notification updates! As always new systems taking a step back before they go forward.

Adam Coulson

Posted on 3/7/13 6:08:08 PM Permalink

I just had my first full 90 minute class with fully Gamified success. The site ran with no flaws and all the student blogs were successful for them to show mastery. AMAZING. Get this; I was bold enough to have my official yearly evaluation in this class today. It was an all or nothing thing that I knew would blow her away if it worked. IT DID! Can you tell I am really stoked! One question though Mike. When the students we working on claiming mastery on their blogs they would link back to the my quest page like you said you did however I believe you said that was how you got all the notification that you had to work with for each link back. I didn't get any of those notification/comments. Is that normal? Is it a setting somewhere? Does it matter? I thought it seemed helpful but is it valuable enough to even pursue correcting.

Mike Morabito

Posted on 3/7/13 4:29:42 AM Permalink

Looks like I have a lot of work to do. After 26 yrs of teaching not sure I can pull it off but worth a try Would like to try student end and will try to start the process. Word press huh. Dinosaurs do exist

Mike Skocko

Posted on 2/26/13 6:00:06 PM Permalink

Forgot the closing tag. <p>Paragraph</p> (Not that I think it will work now.) Off-topic: Is anyone else getting email notification of discussion updates?

Mike Skocko

Posted on 2/26/13 5:54:24 PM Permalink

??! No paragraph breaks? No edit button! Grrr. <br>Testing line break. <p>Testing paragraph break.

Mike Skocko

Posted on 2/26/13 5:51:32 PM Permalink

Sorry for the belated reply. I guess the email notification system isn't working yet (or I haven't found that preference). Had no idea others were commenting. Ryan (Feb 20): Have been agonizing (in a good way) about the structure of the game and how it will function next year with multi-year students. There's no "right" way. We're all going to invent our own strategies (and that includes consequences of dishonest self-assessment). Am certain my veterans will reboot from zero next year as we'll be testing a new approach in the fall. However, if they know their stuff, they should level rapidly. Adam: Thanks for catching Ryan's second question. Right you are! Shortcodes are sweet. Kelly: You're smart to plan ahead. We didn't have a functional system until the Friday before school started and I've been playing catch-up ever since. Have been plotting next year's game plan for months now and am excited to have a second chance.

Kelly Kermode

Posted on 2/24/13 4:26:28 PM Permalink

Okay, Mike - Now that I am delving into these possibilities, I am very cognizant that this will have to be for next school year. I am going to need at least six months to set this up the way I'd like - and the way from which the kids would benefit the most. Thank you for all of these details posts/comments. This is what I needed to get me moving in the right direction.

Adam Coulson

Posted on 2/21/13 4:14:51 PM Permalink

Ryan i asked those exact same question about a month or so ago. Both Stats and Blogs are just shortcodes that you add to the page you want them on. [statspage] or [gamerlist] The discussion was on the old thread a few pages back though at

Ryan Hayes

Posted on 2/21/13 6:30:40 AM Permalink

I am missing something . . . easy I am sure. How do I create the stats page? Also, I like how you did the "Blogs" page. Is that a table plugin? I have my test site up:

Ryan Hayes

Posted on 2/20/13 4:04:42 PM Permalink

I may do a mashup of the analog (Design Dojo) and digital (Mac Lab) when I do a full route next year. How do you account for students "claiming" false mastery? PvP days? Also, I have been trying to figure out how to implement a "gamified" or ladder system in a film/video class. I was thinking of incorporating "skill trees". I could have four skill categories: director, cinematographer, editor, and ?. As they complete a video project as one of the roles and score a 4 or a 5 (on a 5 scale system) then they earn XP towards that skill class. So, if they are a cinematographer on a music video and the music video gets a 4 in cinematography that student gets XP towards movie up the cinematography skill ladder. They could choose to focus on one skill or spread their skill points around on different projects. Have you thought about multi-year students? Do they reset at the beginning of the next year or do veterans keep building from where they left off?

Mike Skocko

Posted on 2/14/13 9:57:20 PM Permalink

Since I mentioned Shortcode Buddy in the last comment, it seems only fair to get to it now.

You should know how to do this by now but I'll say it one last time:

In the WordPress (WP) admin panel, navigate to Plugins > Add New. In the text field, type shortcode buddy, click the Search Plugins button, then install and activate it.

Okay, now what?

Vincent (a sophomore at the time), originally built this so I could address students by name within the gamification system. It does a whole lot more but it's worth the price of admission for this one feature:


After activiating Shortcode Buddy, [get_displayname] returns one of two results:

If you're not logged in, you're addressed as Visitor.

If you are logged in, you're addressed by the WP nickname you selected for yourself in Users > Profile.

This adds a level of personalization not normally found in the body of most websites. And if that's not enough, how about content that's only visible to those not logged in? Or content that's only visible if you are.

[visitor_only_content]Text/Media Here[/visitor_only_content]

That shortcode only loads the content within the bracket sets if the user is not logged in.

[user_only_content]Text/Media Here[/user_only_content]

That shortcode only loads the content within the bracket sets if the user is logged in.

This type of personalization is golden and gives you an unprecedented level of control over who sees the content. And like I said, it does a whole lot more (much of it not covered in the current ReadMe file). We'll get to some of that later.

Mike Skocko

Posted on 2/13/13 11:22:18 PM Permalink

Creating a Quest

1. In the WP admin panel, navigate to Pages > Add New.

Aside: There's a whole other discussion about file structure, child pages, etc. Being organized from the beginning and having a plan of sorts is very helpful. I'll record a video about my WordPress experiences. For now, this is just a straight demo of a basic quest. Fair enough?

Here's the new page with a few fields filled in:

Demo Quest JPG

That's it right there. Pretty straight forward, eh? But remember this from the last comment:

I have NOT mastered the art of designing engaging Quests. This is the missing link in this system, one that's filled with the art of teaching rather than technology.

Have to run. Will be back with a demo video and step-by-steps.


More to follow. I'm updating this comment as I write so I don't lose the info if something goes wrong (like it did here).

Mike Skocko

Posted on 2/11/13 7:20:06 PM Permalink

This is where it gets really exciting because the next three plugins were developed by my students. You've been patient so I'll spare the details (for now) and cut to the chase.

Look at the dark bar at the top of your WordPress site. Do you see a progress bar? You will in a moment (along with manual add or subtract fields).

22. In the WP admin panel, navigate to Plugins > Add New. In the text field, type cube gold, click the Search Plugins button, then Install and Activate Cube Gold.

Look at the left side of that dark bar at the top of your WordPress site. Pretty cool, eh?

Here's a look at two examples (you'll probably have 5 XP at this point):

Admin Bar JPG

Note: I originally encountered a glitch at this point but the problem seems to have been related to a server issue no one else should encounter. Since I've subsequently followed these same steps on two different test sites without encountering the same problem, I believe it's in our best interest to eliminate the long-winded explanations and get on with the instructions.


23. In the WP admin panel, click on Cube Gold (it's toward the bottom of the WP nav). My settings are in the image (below). You can name the fields anything you want. I'll explain each setting below the image.

Important: Use the Lite Version

Cube Gold Options JPG

24. Version: Click on Cube Gold in the WP admin panel (if you're not there already) and click the Lite radio button. Important: Use the Lite version. The Full option adds a time and date stamp to everything which is wonderful but that feature drags the server down by making too many queries. It needs to be rewritten (and will be). Will advise when it's ready for prime time. The Lite version has everything else (and isn't really Lite at all but we needed to differentiate between the two).

25. Minutes: Think about how you might want to use this. I use the X minutes in a semester method but you might use it for extra credit (for time spent outside of class) or any other system that you think might motivate students. There's several built-in leaderboards, including one for minutes. Since many kids fight to be atop the leaderboards, this can be used to your advantage. Or just turn it off if you want. Your call.

26. Buttons: Each Quest (or Mission or whatever you want to call your assignments) has four phases (players don't see the first one as it's triggered by reaching the page -- by clicking a link or simply following instructions). You can see the terms I'm using in the image (above) but you're free to invent your own nomenclature. I'll describe each phase below. Just remember that you can assign differing amounts of XP (or Credits or Dollars, or whatever) for each phase. I reserve the largest rewards (extra XP and Gold) for the final phase but you can use your own system.

First Stage: When a player first encounters a page, several things happen at once. The content, momentarily visible, folds up (very cool -- you have to see it), leaving only the teaser or primer or whatever you want to call the prompt for the Quest (from now on I'm going to use my nomenclature to simplify the explanations). In the upper right hand corner, a Growl-like notification informs the player of the XP awarded for encountering the page. Behind the scenes, the data is logged and a new link is created on the player's Stats page indicating this Quest has been encountered. The XP is collected but the progress bar won't update until visiting a new page. Lastly, a button which will trigger the next stage awaits.

The purpose of this phase is to encourage students to follow instructions. Fun things happen right off the bat. I doubt you need to be told that research confirms that players like constant and immediate feedback from their games. The lack of an instant update for the progress bar is something we're working on.

Second Stage: When a player clicks the button to trigger the second phase, the same dance happens (except the content unfolds via AJAX), the XP flashes again, another link populates the player's Stats page, this time in the second column, and XP added to her account. (The same issue remains with the lack of progress bar activity. The XP's there, it just hasn't registered until the next page load.) The button changes to reflect the name of the third phase.

The content typically explains the Quest -- what it takes to complete and what it takes to go the extra mile. Think of this as a two-stage assignment.

Face it. We all want deep understanding but what we get most of the time is just the third phase -- just enough effort to get credit for the assignment.

Third Stage: When the player self-assesses that she's put in enough effort to complete the Quest (according to your instructions), she clicks the button. The same actions happen (sans the folding/unfolding of content) and the name on the button changes to reflect the fourth stage.

Fourth Stage: You face a choice. You can (a) create an open-ended Quest -- one that a player may choose whether or not go the distance to claim the extra loot, or (b) create a Quest with instructions to go the distance (removing a player's choice to some degree), or (c) create a Quest Line -- a series of Quests that only reveal the next Quest upon going the distance (a link to the next Quest appears after the player clicks the final button, or (d) create the ultimate Required Quest(s) -- one that locks all other Quests until the Required Quest (or Quest Line) has been "Mastered."

I have NOT mastered the art of designing engaging Quests. This is the missing link in this system, one that's filled with the art of teaching rather than technology.

Sorry for getting verbose but it's important you understand that these four stages are the essence of the system. Plugging your curriculum in is child's play -- time-consuming child's play to be sure, but there's nothing complicated about it. How we frame, package, and present the curriculum, however, can make a world of difference.

27. Stats Page Title: This is the visible portion of the automated record-keeping system. Sync the naming convention to your button names. Since it's historical info, I just used past-tense. The numbers for rows and leaderboards are just how many you want visible on pageload. The rows have a more button at the bottom to reveal additional data. (I've encountered 303 Quests. If they all loaded at once, the wait would be painfully slow.) There's no more button for leaderboards because I didn't want to embarrass the bottom dwellers (though a few of 'em could use the prod).

28. Level in Comments: We had to call it something. If you game assigns Karma or Credits or Dog Bones, it will be visible in the comments. My comments currently say Boss Level 66. Switch the radio button and it would say Boss 27472 XP. Yours might say Guru 12th Celestial Sphere or Guru 1600 Karma (or whatever system you designate).

Bottom line: Most players LOVE this feature (and most gaming communities employ it). When stats change, the comments update. (All of my comments Say Level 66 right now. When I hit 67 they'll al change.)

29. Required Quest: In an asynchronous learning environment, it can often prove difficult to ensure that all students have followed through with required tasks. This feature enables you to designate Quests (or Quest Lines) that must be completed to access any other material. (I mentioned this in the Fourth Stage of step 25. It locks all other Quests.) I wish I had this at the beginning of the year. Will definitely be using it in the fall. We tried it a few weeks ago and it worked like a charm. Can be put into play at any time. The + button allows you to add additional Required Quests. More control is offered via Currency Options, shown in the next comment. More on this feature later.

There's much more to say about Cube Gold and we'll get to that as we explore it's functionality. How about we begin with a Quest? :)

Mike Skocko

Posted on 2/11/13 5:04:46 PM Permalink

Just so we're clear, this is only the second time I've ever configured a site for gamification. We'll encounter many variable from this point forward. I'll share the settings I've been using and you'll be free to season to taste. Just don't be too concerned about making decisions because you can always change settings later.

17. Notice CubePoints doesn't have a Settings option in the Plugins panel. For that, you have a new item in your WP admin panel along the left side navigation (toward the bottom). Click on CubePoints > Modules. (If you don't see it, you need to Activate CubePoints and CubePoints BuddyPress Integration in the Plugins panel. Steps 15 and 16.)

18. Activate (look at the right side for Activate link): Daily Points, Limit Logs Display, Notify, and Ranks (BuddyPress Integration is activated by default). When finished, your CubePoints Modules panel will look like the image below:

CubePoints Module Settings

Points Multiplier is a great example of something I don't have active that might be uber-useful. But like I said, we can always change things later. Now to something that must be dealt with...

19. I shared my settings (and background info) for CubePoints Ranks in this comment (just scroll up to find it). You can always change these settings later but you need to establish a few ranks to get started because Cube Gold (which we haven't installed yet) will need ranks of some sort. If you're at a loss, just copy my first few "levels" to get started. (I just copied the settings for my first 5 levels.)

20. Notice the dark bar at the top of your WordPress site. Look to the right side. Do you see the dollar sign? If you want to award money, you're all set, but if you want to award something else (XP, Credits, Karma, whatever) you need to set it in CubePoints > Configure. It can be either a prefix ($100) or a suffix (100 XP). I like the latter so I deleted the $ and added (space)XP for the Suffix for display of points.

Not that I think you need it, but here are my settings (click Update Options when you're finished):

Configure CubePoints JPG

Aside: If you're interested, I reduced the points per comment because players were spamming for XP. I want kids to comment but kept the reward low (and penalty for deleted comments high) to encourage thoughtful replies. Now, I see that changing the settings to 10 and 50 (or maybe 5 and 25?) might be better. It made no sense to give new members points so I zeroed that out. I changed the time interval to two hours to encourage players to revisit the site after class.

21. I'll admit I've not really used or thought deeply about the CubePoints > BuddyPress integration. Oh, I've changed a few numbers but my reasoning is not defensible. Suffice to say, I have much to learn about these leveraging settings to improve the players' experience.

For what it's worth, here's what I've been using:

Configure BuddyPress JPG

The one plugin I've not included is the BuddyPress Template Pack. When I initially clicked Install I encountered, Warning: This plugin has not been tested with your current version of WordPress. Since it hasn't been updated in a year, perhaps it's no longer necessary. Well find out as we proceed.

Please chime in if you know something I don't.

UPDATE: I'm not sure what I was thinking when I wrote this. Our theme is already campatible so we shouldn't need (or want) the Template Pack. As we'll soon see, this plugin crashed my initial demo install. On a semi-frightening note, it is active in my primary site. Why? I have no idea. I might even be wrong about the need for it. (Just being honest. I'm learning right along with you.)

Note: There are a number of other plugins I use (and will get to) but I don't think they're necessary for our next step: Getting the gamification on!

See the next comment for details.

Mike Skocko

Posted on 2/11/13 1:32:06 AM Permalink

I'll add to this comment over the next few days as time permits. Most of this is quite forgiving. Nothing is going to blow up if you make a mistake so don't worry. Tech happens. Mistakes happen. Life moves on.

The trick is to keep moving with it. :)

Disclaimer: I will undoubtably make repeated mistakes, give erroneous advice, misspell words, etc. Will correct as we go along. Your help is both welcomed and requested. Correct away!

Getting Started:

1. You must have a domain for your website. My test domain, courtesy of our school district, is (my primary domain is NOTE: sites won't work for our needs.

2. You must install WordPress. Mine was installed and configured by our superb district IT fairy godmother. If you're going to DIY, instructions are right here.

3. In the WordPress (WP) admin panel, navigate to Plugins > Add New. In the text field, type buddypress, click the Search Plugins button, then install BuddyPress.

4. Repeat for bbPress. (Enhances BuddyPress forums.)

Aside: I played around with Twenty Twelve, the new WordPress default theme, but discovered it's not automatically compatible BuddyPress. After a little searching, I settled on Custom Community for our demo since it seems to be responsive and fairly well reviewed. We can always change themes later. It is, however, nice to find a theme you want to use and modify right from the start to suit your needs. There are plenty of free themes out there. I use PageLines (a premium theme $97). That being said, I'm a big fan of ThemeForest for premium themes but there are thousands of other options available. Search and find what you want.

5. Search for your BuddyPress compatible theme (responsive is almost a must nowadays). When you find what you want, go to the WP admin panel, navigate to Appearance > Themes, and click Install Themes at the top of the page. Type your theme's name in the search field, click the Search button, and click Install Now. Then click Activate.

Aside: After activating Custom Community, BuddyPress was already clamoring for me to configure it (the nag appears at the top of the admin panel in a yellow background -- you can't miss it). I think I activated it when testing Twenty Twelve but I can't be sure. Either way, do step 6 (if necessary). UPDATE: Am repeating these steps (on 02/13) with a different site (hosted by Media Temple courtesy of one my students) to verify this process. BuddyPress will not be active at this point.

6. In the WP admin panel, navigate to Plugins > BuddyPress and click Activate (if it's not aleady activated -- it's probably not).

7. Outdated info in step 7 follows. BuddyPress is now compatible with any WP theme! Skip to step 8.

At the top of the screen you'll see a yellow bar: BuddyPress was successfully activated! Please run the installation wizard. Click the installation wizard link (on your site, not the link in these instructions) and accept the default settings in the first three tabs. (The Save & Next button is on the upper right.)

In the 4th tab -- Themes -- you should have an option (second one down) that says: You have some other BuddyPress compatible themes available. Pick one from the list to use. (You've got to pick a theme that's compatible with BuddyPress.) Click the radio button next to the theme you chose in step 5 (above). Do not choose the BuddyPressTemplate Pack option! (It crashed my original demo site, as you'll see after step 22.)

As with virtually everything else, you can change your theme later if you want.

Aside: Presently, BuddyPress is telling me: The following active BuddyPress Components do not have associated WordPress Pages: Search Page. (I'm leaving it for now because, as I said at the top, nothing is going to blow up. We can fix settings later.) UPDATE: Verified in second install. No big deal right now.

Interruption: Dinner and a movie await with the family. I'll return tomorrow to continue. As always, if you see an egregious mistake (or two or four), call me on it. You'll save your peers grief and I'll be thankful for that. We need to work together.

If you'll pardon the indulgence, here's a couplet from something I wrote last century that fits perfectly right here:

Footsteps blaze the trail taken, a path that we’ll create

Just because you’re following, don’t mean I can’t relate

Hey, we're in this together. I promised to make mistakes and I always try to live up to my promises. Mistakes -- lots of 'em -- will surely happen. I'm learning right along with you.


8. In the WP admin panel, navigate to Plugins > bbPress and click Activate (we can always deactivate later if we want).

Aside: The first plugin in the list is Akismet. It works wonders. It's not necessary at present but you'll want to activate it before you go live. (More on this later.)

9. In the WP admin panel, navigate to Plugins > Add New. In the text field, type cubepoints, click the Search Plugins button, then install CubePoints. Wait to Activate. (But it's not the end of the world if you did. We'll activate and configure it in a few steps.)

10. While you're there, install CubePoints Buddypress Integration too. Wait to Activate.

11. In the WP admin panel, navigate to Plugins > Add New. In the text field, type user role editor, click the Search Plugins button, then install and Activate User Role Editor.

12. Beneath the User Role Editor plugin, you'll see a link to Settings. The settings are also located at Users > User Role Editor. (It's good to begin to become familiar with your WP admin panel. Patience, Grasshopper.) Click either to get to the settings page.

13. New User Role Editor Interface: Click Add Role button, type Student in both text fields, select Subscriber from the Make Copy of pull down, and click Add Role.

14. Click the Default Role button, select Student from the pull down, and click Select New Default Role. New users will now be identified as Student. (This is critical for the gamification plugin.)

15. Now we're ready to acivate CubePoints. Go to the Plugins panel and click Acivate.

16. Activate CubePoints BuddyPress Integration too.

This is getting long so I'll add a new comment for the CP settings and include some screenshots for clarity.

Mike Skocko

Posted on 2/7/13 7:25:52 PM Permalink

Know Issue: A brave soul testing this in his classroom today just reported that his site crashed when all the kids tried to login for the first time. My first reaction was: Yeah, that happened to us too.

Wait a minute...

Then, it occurred to me to ask Semar (lead coder for Cube Gold) how much info is written the first time a user logs in.

It turns out that there are a number of plugins writing info to customize the user's experience during that initial login. After that, only specific changes are written. (Pretty obvious in retrospect.)

Since none of us has a bank of servers to draw on, we would be wise to stagger those initial logins. It might even be fun to go one by one and see how fast the class can complete the relay race that first day next fall. Cumulative time divided by total users equals time to beat.

Moral: Tech happens. Roll with it. (...with it, not in it :)

Known Issue #2: Would you believe that our system exhibits visual glitches when using IE? (Every Web developers' favorite browser.) Since we're all Mac, we've only tested with Safari, Chrome, and Firefox. Maybe we'll partition a hard drive and try Windows next fall. Till then, IE is not supported.

Apologies if that's your favorite browser.

Mike Skocko

Posted on 2/6/13 3:29:14 PM Permalink

A word about Levels.

I use Levels because World of Warcraft was the model I built my game around (long story). Rob uses a Star Wars metaphor for his gamification system. What I call Level 1, he calls Jar Jar. What I call Quests, he calls Missions. You are free to use your own terminology, establish how many "levels" you want, how much XP, Credits, Honor -- whatever you want to call the points you award -- players need in order to advance.

I'm offering a system that you can mold in your own image. Does that make sense?

Heck, Kevin McMahon (whom I was lucky enough to co-present with last year at Adobe's HQ) gamified his classroom using an analog system. He's the Sensei of the Design Dojo.

Bottom line: There's no single "right way" to do this. Does that make sense?

Okay, now that that's out of the way, here's how I set up my system using CubePoints -- a plugin that takes us half-way to the gamification promised land. Our Cube Gold plugin, which leverages CubePoints functionality, makes the rest happen. (I'll link to it as soon as the latest version is uploaded.)

My Levels emerge from a CubePoints feature called Ranks. I've set 99 Levels (and can add more) but I don't expect anyone will get there. Just playing it safe. Here's a spreadsheet with the points distribution I settled on and here's a look at some of the settings:

CubePoints Ranks

The first rank, whatever you decide to call it, always begins at zero. The next rank is the threshold that marks the upper limit of the first. You decide where the rank begins, not ends. (I had trouble with that concept at first.)

Anyway, sorry to belabor the point but I just want it clear that you're free to bend the system to your will.

Mike Skocko

Posted on 2/6/13 12:56:34 PM Permalink

Ack! You'd think I'd learn. Never compose a long comment in a text field!

Albert: Your username and password are in your inbox. Have fun!

Credit: Rob Schwartz deserves full credit for convincing me to move the system away from templates (which tied it to a specific theme) to shortcodes. One of my students developed Shortcode Buddy (one of the plugins you'll want to use if you try this) for custom functionality).

>>> UPDATE: The videos (below) are kind of scattered and rambling. I'll rerecord for clarity.

What the Player Sees: How it works from a student perspective

What the Boss Sees: How it works from an admin perspective

I'll edit and add to this comment as time permits.

Albert Tucker

Posted on 2/6/13 10:38:14 AM Permalink

Mike - again thanks for sharing your world with us. I'd love to see how this works - is my email address.

Mike Skocko

Posted on 2/6/13 2:10:27 AM Permalink

Hey Judy,

Will you be at Adobe in July? (If not, it won't be the same without you. Be there, girl!)

Don't worry about going in circles. We were working out the bugs before -- in real time -- now it's dialed in and working like a charm. "Getting it" really will be like a kids' menu at a restaurant -- just connect the dots and the picture will magically appear.

If you can get WordPress set up, I'll guide you through the rest of the steps. That would be much better for others than a sterile A-B-C how-to canned set of instructions.

Let's run head-first into problems together and slay them like the dragons they be. If you can do it on the other side of the world in Taiwan, surely we can make it work for others anywhere!

Heck, you'll be gamified before you know it. :)

Judy Durkin

Posted on 2/6/13 12:12:45 AM Permalink

Whoa horsey - that's a lot of information. I am going to plow through it over the weekend. I REALLY want to do this gamified system, but when I tried I kept going in circles. I need to calm down and take it slowly. You are amazing. Thank you.

Mike Skocko

Posted on 2/5/13 9:26:41 PM Permalink

Benefit: Here's a look at asynchronous learning via my email inbox:

email inbox image

Structure: Each of my players (students) has a WordPress blog. The final step in each quest (or mission or cage match or whatever you want to call assignments) requires documentation to demonstrate and claim Mastery (that's where the bulk of the XP and/or Gold is awarded, hence the motivation to go the distance). Along with the imagery and/or explanation, players are required to link back to the quest. (WordPress automatically generates the alerts.)

As you can see, this series of notifications provides pretty clear evidence of kids working at their own pace. It also includes feedback from the new kid, added a few days ago, working on Week 1 quests.

Bonus: I don't assign homework but I do receive after-school notifications virtually every day -- kids choosing to level-up (work) at home.

Time Investment: The Boss (me) adds a new post each week with new quests. The players add a new post with new claims of Mastery. The trick is to require the players to synchronize the content of their week's post to mine. It's currently Week 20 but if a player is working on a Week 19 quest, she documents it on her Week 19 post, not Week 20. That way I don't go insane trying to keep up.

Grades: Unlike other gamified classrooms, I don't tie grades to XP (eXperience Points -- used to level-up) or Gold (used to buy privliges and/or resources). Instead, the game is simply a way to make the learning more fun. I handle grades with the World's Simplest Rubric.