|Sketchnote by Sylvia Duckworth|
A few weeks ago, a Computer Science teacher asked if I could take her classes with a sub while she was at a school competition. She asked if I could teach them research. Well, many of her students had already been in the library with me this year learning about databases and research strategy so I asked to play Breakout with them. She agreed.
I used a game off the site called "Robot Apocalypse". This computer science games was geared towards a Middle School audience, but it was a great starter for our first try. The classes were so large that I created the game time 3 and had teams race the clock and each other. In the course of five class periods, only half of the teams solved the puzzle and opened the last box.
Here are some things I observed while we played:
1. Her AP classes had more game winners than her other classes - All groups in both of the AP Computer Science classes solved the game. In fact, one team needed less than half the time allotted. The regular classes, were less likely to solve the game. It made me wonder, do students who are advanced naturally have the ability to critically think or do we foster that skill in our advanced classes more than in other classes?
2. Many students do not work well as a team - Some groups had a leader that jumped up and took charge, barking orders to other members. Some groups floundered because no one stepped up to play the leader role. Others were happy to watch a small part of the group do all the work. Should we be teaching group dynamics and team building skills in more classes?
3. Some students were looking for a shortcut - With some of the boxes, there were ways to force parts of the box open and see inside before opening the lock. Since I had the game setup for three groups, there were teams that waited for someone else to open a box then wanted to reap the benefits of their work. I was naive enough to think that students would play the game by the rules, but I often found myself telling students to do things, like not cheat, that seemed to be common sense.
4. Some students surprised me - The teacher had let me know about a certain student who has Asperger's. She told me that he would probably take a book and read instead of participating. She could not have been farther from the truth! He jumped in and led his team. When the game was over, he commented how engaging he thought the whole experience was. The teacher was amazed at how well he had played the game.
I have more teachers bringing classes down to play in the library in the near future. We have not gotten brave enough to write our own games yet, but we will.