Classroom Gamification with Andrew Arevalo (Ep 17)

March 07, 2022/ By

Andrew Arevalo, known as Gameboydrew, is a game-designer, speaker, 2019 CUE Emerging Teacher of the Year, and a fourth-grade GATE teacher in Southern California. In this episode Andrew shares how he leverages blended learning, the power of play, and design thinking to support and ignite student curiosity. You can find Andrew on Twitter @gameboydrew.

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Dr. Nathan Lang-Raad: Welcome to the deeper learning with WeVideo podcast. I am Dr. Nathan Lang-Raad, and I am so pumped to have on Andrew Arevalo today on the show. Andrew is also known as Gameboydrew. He's a game designer, speaker and fourth-grade gifted and talented education teacher in Southern California. As a former gifted and talented education student himself, Andrew is passionate about leveraging blended learning, the power of play and design thinking to support and ignite to new curiosity. Also before the show, was talking to Andrew and found out that he was a 2019 Q emerging Teacher of the Year. So really excited to hear about Andrew's perspective today. And thanks again for joining Andrew.

Andrew Arevalo: Oh, I'm so excited, Nathan. Thank you so much for allowing me to come and share my voice, and give me a platform to share some of my ideas. It's a big, big honor to be here. So thank you, thank you.

Dr. Nathan Lang-Raad: Absolutely. So in Edtech today, many teachers are hearing about gamification, and there is obviously a picture and kind of a connotation that gamification has in the classroom. And I would think, and I hear that a live teachers are excited, but they're nervous about what gamification means. I don't know. There are a lot of examples of how to do gamification in the classroom. So can you share a little bit about how you got started with gamefication and what it means to you?

Andrew Arevalo: Definitely. And I'll even take it a step further and expand on where it's taken me to at this point, right? So I started gamifying my classroom, my first year of teaching, which was about four years ago. Now, sorry about that.

Dr. Nathan Lang-Raad: [crosstalk 00:01:52].

Andrew Arevalo: And it was funny because I was gamifying my classroom, but I didn't know there was an actual term for it. I didn't know what gamification meant. And eventually I started doing some research and I got hooked up with an awesome organization called the Institute of Play from New York. Unfortunately they're not around anymore, but I took a course, an online course and it was all about gamification and game-based learning, right? So my first year I developed this card system. And essentially what it was is, it was a way to motivate my students, particularly my ELL students during math lessons, because I noticed that this subgroup was hesitant to participate, right?

Andrew Arevalo: So I said, "Oh, well, I'll try some gamification." And in doing this, essentially, the way it worked was if you participated, then you got to draw a random card from this deck of cards that I created with the kids. And they got like X amount of points, right. There was a value attached to the cards. And the great thing about this was it, as the game started to progress, we started to develop the game together. So their ideas got infused into the game and eventually, it turned into game-based learning. So it was no more extrinsic motivation attached to them participating and them gaining a card, but it turned into an actual math game. And that was the real beauty of this. Because I remember I had this epiphany and it was so funny, I remember telling myself, "I've been playing my own game wrong for all of these months."

Andrew Arevalo: I was like, "Oh my gosh, why am I the one doing all the math on the whiteboard, every time a student gets a card?" And so it transformed into game-based learning. And eventually, I was able to find a company to actually print out the cards. And then shortly after, I did a soft launch, and I had a couple of neighboring districts reach out and before I knew it, my game was being shared somewhat on a national scale. So it was-

Dr. Nathan Lang-Raad: Wow.

Andrew Arevalo: ... pretty awesome. And actually I shared it not long ago, but I want to say maybe three months ago now, a local doctor actually partnered with me and he was on a mission. He was going on a mission to Fiji and he actually was able to take some of my decks to a classroom over there. And as they played they were developing their number sense. So it was pretty awesome.

Dr. Nathan Lang-Raad: That's fantastic. I love it when teachers are able to not only make an impact in their classroom, but the work they're doing has an influence on not only the surrounding community, but in your case, obviously across the ocean. So that's fantastic.

Andrew Arevalo: Yeah. And so, at this point I've kind of transformed to... I've kind of on the spectrum, right? You have gamification, you have game-based learning, but my next step is always trying to go.... Always trying to enrich the learning segment in my classroom. And so now I've essentially coined this phrased game-infused learning. And what it is, is it's a combination of gamification game-based learning, but also connected to the sustainable development goals, right? To the SDGs. So to illustrate, right? To give you an example of what this might look like in my classroom. So last year students had to research a disability or any disability that they wanted. And then after they researched the disability, they had to go back in time and look at game consoles from the last 50 years. And they had to go back in time and say how they would essentially take that game console, and take the game control for that game console and make it adaptive to fit the needs of somebody with that specific disability that they researched.

Andrew Arevalo: And then in doing this, they had to actually, in the research report talk about how they were reducing inequalities, right? So connecting the SDG 10. And the awesome thing about this, was that after, I actually had them use cardboard and they actually made their game console to scale with their actual new adaptive control. And we showcase that actually at one of our big back to school night events. So it was really awesome. And that's kind of where the journey has taken me to. At this point it's, yes, using games in the classroom, but doing so in a way where it's connected to our global world and helping kids understand that they can learn and that they can transform their own education, their own learning with games, but also connecting it to our world.

Dr. Nathan Lang-Raad: And I think that's remarkable because a lot of what we should be doing in the classroom, is so that students feel supported and equipped to make a difference. And I think many times we get trapped into curriculum and standards and assessment, and without thinking about how are we preparing students to communicate and create and design. So I'd love to hear your thoughts about... It sounds like with the game-infused learning and game-based learning that students are definitely more motivated and excited to learn, and their creations are obviously valid beyond the classroom. Have you seen evidence of students learning at a deeper level? They are thinking at critical levels with higher complexity, they're being more creative, are you seeing learning outcomes, being transformed by using game-based learning?

Andrew Arevalo: Absolutely. I'm removing this extrinsic motivation. And essentially, it's evolving into this intrinsic motivation, into this deeper learning where kids are just curious, and they want to know about our world and I'm trying to help them navigate our world, but doing so in a way that's connected to the SDGs that's fun, that's connected to items that are relevant to them such as games. And yeah, they're really able to dive into our curriculum and also just understanding that this is connected to our standards, which is a big one for me. Right? So yes, I want students to see the world, explore the world, understand the world, but also I want them to connect that and attach it to learning that's relevant and meaningful for them. So, absolutely yes.

Dr. Nathan Lang-Raad: Oh, fantastic. Okay. Last question of the day. If a teacher... There are listeners today they're pumped and excited. You've inspired them to move to maybe a game-based approach, but they don't know where to start and maybe they want to try something new for the first time. What advice would you give to a teacher who would like to start using and supporting students learning with game-based learning?

Andrew Arevalo: Absolutely. I would say the very first thing that I would do is, literally go to the United Nations website. And you're like, "Wait, what? United Nations website for games? Let me explain. What you're going to do is, you're going to go to the United Nations website. You're going to Google or look up under their database for the STGs. And you're actually going to print the icons, right? After you print those icons, you should post them somewhere in your classroom. And then you're going to start to ask students, basically what their interests are in terms of some of the games, some of the levels that they explore in games and things like that. And then you're going to try to connect those experiences to the SDGs. And it's really not that hard. Sometimes people ask me like, "Oh, you must be like this hardcore gamer that's able to make all these deeper level connections to the SDGs, because you do it so well."

Andrew Arevalo: And I'm like, "I've never been a hardcore gamer. The name Gameboydrew is somewhat deceiving. So just keep that in mind." Start small, but really and truly connect it to the SDGs and you can do so much with games and it's pretty simple. And also, reach out to me. I'm a big proponent of all of this. So, I'm always willing to help and I'll literally give you my number so you can call me and we can talk about it. But yeah, hopefully that helps and kind of understanding that it's not an intimidating process. It really isn't.

Dr. Nathan Lang-Raad: Well, on that sentiment, Drew, how can teachers connect with you? I know that you blog for STEM Supplies Company. I know that you have a great website. I just checked it out. Prior to today, I follow you on Twitter, but give our listeners a way that they can contact you.

Andrew Arevalo: Absolutely. So my number is [inaudible 00:11:41]. So obviously you guys can connect with me on Twitter, right? My Twitter handles @Gameboydrew, as Nathan mentioned. In addition to that, I have my own blog, which is And lastly, I also do blog for STEM Supplies Co. And in addition to that, I am typically speaking at conferences, right? So you can always connect with me at different conferences. The big ones that I have coming up next month, I'll be in San Gabriel Valley for the Q event there. I have three sessions. And one of them is about games in the classroom, after that I'll be at the Teach Better Conference. And yeah, those are kind of like within the next month and a half or so. So yeah, you guys can always catch me in person there as well.

Dr. Nathan Lang-Raad: Well, I know I am looking forward to staying connected with you and I already have some homework to go check out some. [inaudible 00:12:42] and more the resources that you shared, because I'm excited about seeing where gamification goes now and in the future. So thank you, Andrew. Again, is such a pleasure and looking forward to staying in touch.

Andrew Arevalo: Nathan, same here. Thank you so much. It was an awesome pleasure to be here with you. So thank you, thank you. And definitely looking forward to staying in touch.

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