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Getting to Z: Part 6 - Final
We have finished, and here is the after action report:
The Good Stuff
Three of the five boys demonstrated working knowledge of the Z axis. They were involved in engaging an opponent in three-dimensional space. This opponent was moving, and they were moving as well. They coordinated helm and science information to effectively position themselves in 3D space. They demonstrated an understanding of yaw and pitch.
The other 2 boys did not demonstrate knowledge of the Z axis. They could not articulate how to best approach another ship, or demonstrate relative position using pencils as ships. They were, however, utterly engaged with this process. They would quickly type ‘sr’ (which generates a sensor report), loudly report if they saw anything. The also repaired damage, and scanned for damage on the other ship. Despite not “getting it” they continued to actively participate.
The activity was an outstanding success in terms of engagement and motivation. The boys came as early as they could, and I often had to ask them two and three times to leave when class was finished.
The textual nature of this activity should not be underestimated. Everything was in text (see a space battle for an example.)The level of engagement was really quite remarkable, especially considering some of the boys were quite reluctant towards school-related activities related to reading. They read and demonstrated comprehension very rapidly.
The administrators of the MUSH we used (Paradox) were fantastic. After dealing with some potential safety issues (all the players were minors, after all), they were encouraging, enthusiastic, and supporting. Paradox is a great MUSH which always welcomes new players. Feel free to give them a look.
The Not-Good Stuff
Our biggest problem revolved around time. Field trips, band concerts, snow days, and other school-demands taxed out short time together. Next time, I plan on arranging meetings after school, twice a week for about a month.
“What does a Klingon look like?” I made an assumption they would be able to access the Star Trek mythos. They could not. Next time, we’ll watch a couple of Star Trek movies together and maybe review some Star Trek websites.
Formalized pre and post testing. I didn’t do this, as I wanted to “sneak the learning in”. While creating a good environment for play, I would have had stronger statistics as evidence. As it stands, next time, we’ll do a formal assessment piece.
This was a tremendous activity, generating positive energy in a rarely-used milleau in education. The educational potential was clear and evident. It would be fascinating to explore other text based worlds, with different themes for the kids.
This activity highlighted the following characteristics of games in education:
1) Tremendous motivation and engagement
2) Failure is not an obstacle to learning; in fact, it encourages learning
3) Learning happens in the context of play, fun, and engagement. Students are intrinsically motivated to learn
4) Graphics, sound and “jazz” are not supremely important - it’s the essence of the game which matters
5) Suspension of time, place, and identity support learning and play