Saturday, April 27, 2013

Gamers Making Games for Gamers

Image Source: OpenClipArt
I've recently asked my grade 8 History groups to design a boardgame related to colonization. In writing the plan and assignment, I discovered just how complex the task is. Details such as the path (or even the existence of one), hazards and bonuses, and how to determine a winner vary greatly.
To begin the assignment, the whole class suggested board games they'd played. We got the classic examples that I'd had in mind when conceiving the project, like risk, monopoly, and candyland, but I wanted students to expand their ideas of what constitutes a board game.

So we went further.

Students are coming into classrooms with a wealth of gaming experience, but in my opinion, it's unlikely that the majority of it is board games. Card games (like poker or Magic the Gathering), games like Jenga that use no cards or boards, and especially video games are all valid examples of how a game can be designed.

So we discussed examples. I wrote down things like "Angry Birds," "The Sims," "Poker," and "Jenga" on the board. At first, students were confused as to why I had written those examples when we were clearly talking about board games. But I wanted them to look at how games were designed: is there a set path that players must follow (like in Monopoly or Angry Birds), or is the game more free-form (like Risk or The Sims)?

We concluded the discussion by talking about how increasing the number of variables - both in game pieces (such as cards to draw from) or by giving players more liberty to make choices - results in a more complex game. That's good for keeping it interesting for multiple plays, but I hope they can strike a balance.

In a few weeks, we will be having a "Game Day" where students will play the games they've created. I'm hoping the rules will be simple enough for each game that students will be able to quickly discover the purpose of the game, and get right into playing it.

I will update when we've gotten further with the project!

Thursday, April 25, 2013


After a particularly inspiring morning, I've decided to bring back my blog, in a shiny new format! While I still fully support the open-source concept of idea sharing, collaboration, and dissemination of information, I will now be using this blog to share my thoughts and experiences. Especially in how I relate to technology in the classroom.

I have found a big piece of the teaching puzzle to be missing. We, as teachers, suffer because we must work hard on low-level tasks that are not thought intensive, but merely time intensive. An example that springs to mind is correcting multiple-choice tests. This task requires a significant investment of teacher time, and only asks students to demonstrate recall, rather than higher level thinking such as application or synthesis of information.

If we as teachers are able to change our methods, we can devote more of our time to higher level tasks. Assessing application, developing individualized plans, or coming up with creative ideas to implement in our classroom. If you're a teacher, chances are good you're heavily invested in your students' success. I'm not talking about reducing that investment - merely off-loading some of the work onto tools, and investing our time into other beneficial activities.

As always, I encourage comments, responses, and the adoption of any or all of my ideas for your own use. I only ask that you volunteer your changes and improvements in the same open fashion. We teachers need to work together and support one another, and I believe strongly that we can do this effectively through digital tools.

With utmost sincerity,