I have been getting tired of the “I am done” syndrome I have been noticing more and more of with my middle school students. In November I started searching for non-academic ways to engage students to work with out them wanting to be “done”. I needed something that would engage all learners. The project would have to be easy to accommodate. Student would have to be able to work at their own pace and be challenged.
I ran across http://www.Sploder.com, an online gaming community that has a game construction platform. Students love video games right? Exploring further I found that Sploder has four different video game construction platforms and a large variety of tools to use on their platforms. After checking out their YouTube channel, I saw endless possibilities for use in my 10 week elective class. I wanted my students opinion on the site before trying it out in a lesson. My first hour advisory class were the prefect test market. After introducing the site, students were excited to check it out. In the computer lab they enjoyed making quick mini-games and playing the games others had made. “This is pretty cool” said one, “when can we get back to Sploder” said another the next day. Of course this was just an advisory trial with no learning targets or objectives but to just see if the task would be engaging.
How would it work in my class was the big question? What learning targets could I use to focus students learning?
After playing around with the game construction for a few weeks, I felt the best learning targets for my class would be “Learning how to use a new web tool” and “Create a video game that your friends would like to play.” I decided to introduce the platform the same way I did in advisory.
“Day 1: Explore the Sploder site, check out all the games you can play, try building simple games on he different platforms available.” My class was engaged. Enjoying all the games the site has to offer. Trying out the different building options. Some were frustrated at times when they could not figure out how each tool worked. We paused and I talked about learning how to play a new game, it takes time. Failure or lack of full understanding is okay. Some students were really excited after they “Created” a game.
“Days 2-6 Work on making your game. Trail an error to make it the best it can be. Make sure your game is not too easy or too hard.” Students dove into the project. Trying different platforms, attempting to make a game similar to all of their favorites. Students quickly learned what they felt was important to their game style. It was nice to see students trying so many different tools to create their games. At times students would get stuck. They would ask each other for help first and then ask me. Not knowing the all the platforms or tools, my answer was lets figure it out. Checking the help menu, frequently asked questions or consulting video from You Tube became the best avenues for success.
Anytime a student would chirp the works “I am done!” I would ask them to share the game with a neighbor and ask them for their opinion. We even created a game critique form to use with each other. I started to over hear students telling each other to add to their games and make modifications. After a couple days, students were not wanting to be done but started to become upset when the class was ending. “Just another minute Mr. Bloch, I have to finish this part!” was heard more than once.
Day 7: Self-Reflection: Reflect on what you have learned by creating the game and how do you feel about your final product.” My students had a hard time at first articulating all the different tasks they learned. So after reading their first drafts, I took the time to model the process for them. I reflected aloud about how I learned and the process I went through. It ended up taking two days, but in the end the results showed me that it was a success.
Why a success? The students were engaged for the entire time period. Since this class has ended I have had students share with me updates on their games. One student even came up to me in the hallway to tell me about how he learned to improve his game. The student reflections show accounts of how the students learned to troubleshoot problems and work on improving a product. One student compared the video game creation process to that of writing, “we started with a rough draft, kept making modifications and improvements, like my language arts teacher wants me to do with my writing.” I feel students learned the GRIT they need in life from this project. I am current working with my second class on the project, seeing similar results.
Now to figure out how to have the students maintain their grit for science class.