I don’t think I had ever thought I would spend a Friday morning designing a digital game for a 66 year old Grandmother to play. But I guess that is what you end up doing when you sign up for a workshop called “Gamestorming” – A way to generate transformative educational thinking!
Game based learning is an area that researchers are looking at more carefully because of the way that the process of learning occurs and also how it engages students (KQED, 2013). Game design fits well with Design Thinking, the process or mindset of generating ideas to help create solutions to real life problems. Gamestorming is a creative way to generate and explore ideas and innovate with others. Rachel Bolstad and Dan Milward used a combination of design thinking and gamestorming to get us designing our own games that Friday morning.
My reflection on the process of designing a game is that it was incredibly fun. I was fortunate to have a wonderful team to work with and we spent quite some time creating our play profile. “Raewyn” became a real person, she was someone we wanted to hang out with, and we wanted to make her the best game we could. Using the process that Rachel guided us through we unpacked games, looked at elements of games we knew Raewyn would enjoy and looked for what she still might be missing… in the end we came up with a community based social action type game utilising Raewyn’s guerrilla knitting background and love of pictionary and bananagrams to help shape our thinking.
So… as all excited educators do… I got my class to do some gamestorming of their own. The task being to design a new fitness game. This was actually an idea I had suggested last term as we were exhausting our repertoire. So in random groups of 5 they got ready for their challenge!
They started by using 3 different post-its to write down a digital game, a non digital game and a fitness game that they enjoyed. These got stuck round the room under those headings. So instantly that is 75 ideas to work with…
Then they needed to in their groups choose 2 of those post its from each category and unpack what you actually do in those games which makes them fun and challenging. They found this bit quite hard and I had to ask lots of questions to help them get thinking.
The next step was to combine some of those elements to come up with their own game. One team got their idea right away while others carefully thought about their game and took a bit longer.
The 5 games that were then pitched to the audience were as follows:
- Plants vs Maths
- Crossy Surprise
- Hunt and Kill
- Clash of Uno
The students then spent time sorting out the data – which I quickly linked to our statistical inquiry from last term. They needed to use the feedback to make any modifications to their game. Again this was challenging and needed much discussion and filtering and negotiation.
So then it came to actually playing the games…Before we started I mentioned the idea of “fail faster” which I had watched in this YouTube clip that Rachel had shared with me. It fits well with growth mindset, which the students are all well aware of. Basically I told them that there was a high chance of the game failing on first play but that was ok, we almost needed it to fail in order to improve it. An interesting concept in itself that I would like to explore more.
So with the only requirement for this game being that it was for fitness, 3 of the games were maths based and 2 were actual fitness games. This was an interesting surprise. I think that they were using a game that we play outside called maths chess and interpreting it as a fitness game because it is played outside (concept #2 to explore further).
The teams trialled their games on half the class to begin with and modified as they went. I was luckily enough to have Marianne Malmstrom (Knowclue) visiting me that day and it was a great chance for me to reflect with her on our observations of the process the students were going through. She noted that all of the students used positive feedback to help the team improve their game as well as noting the level of negotiation that occurred within each team but also with their players. Student leadership was also noted.
The two fitness games proved to be the most successful in their trial runs with students asking to play them again and students who weren’t playing them asking if they could play them too (they looked fun!). So after a democratic vote the students decided to play “Hunt and Kill” as a whole class.
This game according to the students has elements of Monopoly, Black Ops, Minecraft and Hide and Seek in it. It is played in our school gully playground which is multi-levelled.
For me the process lent itself to a powerful learning experience. They had to be creative thinkers, solve problems, negotiate, work as a team, communicate, accept feedback, adapt, be flexible and be resilient to failure. I am reluctant to link it with any particular curriculum areas because I am trying to break down the subject silos. I do wonder how this experience will shape our future learning experiences and where we might end up next. Oh – I also better remember to get some more post-it notes!
I went to ULearn15 with this question in my head:
After waiting over 2 years to go to Ulearn I am pleased to say that it was worth the wait. What an amazing opportunity to connect and collaborate with other teachers. I am going to have to unpack my learning and aspirations over several blog posts as the amount of learning I am processing right now is actually quite phenomenal. I thought I might start with a list for new players:
1. Start connecting now. You don’t have to wait until you get to go to ULearn to connect and engage with leading educators. Twitter is full of them. You can create your PLN (personal learning network) so easily from your living room.
2. Core Education made a wonderful effort to provide live streaming of the ULearn conference and you can watch those breakout sessions now on their YouTube channel. There is even one about twitter for beginners (see point 1).
3.This month (October) is Connected Educators Month. But even if you are reading this and it’s past October you can still make use of this google doc “Starter Kete” to help you engage with the digital world.
It was bound to happen.
I try my very best to keep up with what is happening in education right now. I’ve read a few things about maker culture and coding and identified that they would be next steps for my own development. I have enrolled in workshops at ULearn to help me get a firmer understanding of what that would look like in my classroom (and to give me hands on experience).
Both these things are sneaking their way into my classroom. It’s like I have left the door open wide enough that students have enough agency to share what their aspirations are.
The first time I noticed something was when I “caught” some kids hiding behind my teacher station writing their own version of code. Then there were bits of paper with coded messages. Then there was something written on my whiteboard.
And then a student said to me “I want to know how you make the internet and websites! How do you create all that?”
Perhaps the most powerful question I have had this year.
This lead to an amazing learning conversation with my student looking at me for the first half of the conversation like “do you actually know what I am asking you?” and then with high raised eyebrows and a whopping big smile when I showed him code.org and scratch websites.
The next day he came back to school telling me that he had already created a game using code.
The moral of the story is that you can’t stop the inevitable from happening. Our learners are consuming, filtering, modifying and exploring ideas at an amazing rate. Bring it on I say!