Posts Tagged ‘game based learning’

The last two weeks of school flew by and the old conundrum of how to keep the juniors focussed was resolved via using game-based learning as a springboard for creative writing (see previous post).  Overall I’m pleased with the outcome. Students were engaged, problem solved, clearly enjoyed the rewards system and options via levels, built glossaries of new words, received individual feedback and most importantly – all wrote a narrative based on the game. Technically, they weren’t all brilliant but most displayed a great deal of creativity and more than a bit of black humour …

The results are now proudly displayed on the back wall ready for another year.  I’ve included an excerpt below from a student (with her permission) who excelled in the task. Definitely on my list for next year …

photoI jumped as I felt my phone buzzing in my pocket. The message read “A new murder case has opened up, Rookie. Come down to the station and be prepared, it’s pretty gruesome. – Grissom.” My first ever case in the field and it’s a murder…great. I threw a jacket on and fumbled with my keys as I unlocked the car. In a few minutes, I had arrived at the station where I could see the team packing some equipment into the car as they hurried to get to the crime scene.

“Hey!” I yelled, catching Grissom’s attention.

“We’re almost done packing the car and we’re about to head to the crime scene.” said Grissom as he jogged over to me.

I followed him back to the car and got in the back with Agent Catherine Willows, Crime Scene Investigator and Firearms Examiner.

“So what’s happened?” I asked.

“A female’s body has been discovered in the forest by a few runners. The body has been mutilated and her lower half has been severed from her body.”

I was stunned by this horrific news and sat in silence as the car started up and we began our journey to the crime scene. I was suddenly nervous and was dreading what I was going to have to see. The blurred buildings outside the car window slowly changed to tall dark trees as we began to enter the forest. The car stopped a few meters away from a fence of police tape. I sat there looking out the window as cops ran around the scene.

“You coming Rookie?” questioned Grissom.

“Oh.. um.. yeah. Sorry.”

“It’s fine. The first murder case is always the hardest. Take your time.”

His words comforted me and I slowly took off of my seat belt and stepped out of the vehicle. I reluctantly wandered over to Willows, who was standing a few feet from the body. The victim’s tongue hung loosely from her mouth in the absence of a lower jaw. Dark and thick congealed blood covered her top half and was dried into her hair. Her lower stomach and legs were completely separate from her body and had been tossed to the side. Her intestines and stomach were lying on the forest floor around where she had been split in two. She was looking up at us with dead pleading eyes. I felt dizzy looking at the horrors of the murder. From the corner of my eye I could see a cop walking towards me.

“We haven’t found any ID but we’re guessing she’s in her early twenties. The estimated time of death was around 3am.”

I looked down at my watch. It was 9:30am.

“What about the runners who discovered the body?” I asked.

“They’re over there by the police car.” He said, directing me in the right direction.

I wandered over to the vehicle. Two young men were sitting in the back of the car under a blanket, trying to hide from the cold morning air.

“Hello. I’m Agent Stefany Howard. May I ask you a few questions?.”

They slowly nodded, both of them keeping their eyes to the ground.

“Thank you. What are your names?”

“I’m Rick and this is my friend Greg,” answered the dark brunette one, motioning to the sandy blonde.

“Nice to meet you. How did you discover the body?”

“We were going for our usual morning run and Greg noticed some blood on the fronds of some ferns that surround the forest track. He followed the trail and came to a small clearing where she was lying.”

Greg seemed to turn another shade paler as Rick retold the morning events.

“Have you ever seen this woman before?”

They both shook their heads in reply.

“What did you do once you discovered the body?”

“I called the police and I guess Rick heard me yelling so he came over to see what had happened,” whispered Greg.

“I see. You two have had a rough morning, but I’m afraid you’ll have to come down to the station with us for further questioning.”

They both nodded as they stood up and followed me to the vehicle. They sat down in the back seat under the blanket, like two frightened little kids.

“I’m going to need to collect some DNA from you,” I said.

“Go ahead.”

I took out some equipment and collected both of their fingerprints, a swab of their cheek cells and some hair from both of them.

“Thank you.”

I wandered over to Grissom, “Need any help with anything?”

“Not really, Rookie, the team has everything covered. Did you collect DNA evidence from the two runners?”

“Yeah I’ve got it.”

“Ok you head back to the station with Greg and Rick, we’ll be taking the body with us for a full autopsy and see if we can find any clues on her.”

I went back to the car and waited for the rest of the team to get in. Soon we were all set and Grissom drove us all back to the station. An old man with a bad leg was waiting for us at the station. It was the Chief Coroner, Dr Al Robins.

“Take the body inside and we’ll start the autopsy. Rookie you’re coming with me.”

I followed Dr Robins inside as the others carted the body in on a gurney. We lay the body down on the autopsy table and I started to sterilize the equipment. I noticed the alcohol in the sterilising tray was shaking slightly.

“Hey! I think there’s an earthquake!”

We ducked under the table but the shaking didn’t stop. Muffled screams could be heard through the walls of the station.

“What’s happening?!”

“I don’t know!”

I sprinted through the door and out into the station lobby. A red light was bathing the empty room. I could see the rest of my team standing outside of the station, staring at something.

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It had to happen. After two years of thinking about it, I’ve finally integrated the amazing CSI web-based learning adventure into an English class. And what better time of year to trial this than the end of the year when keeping students engaged becomes more challenging than ever.

I’ve posted about CSI before. I became interested in the principles of game-based learning and decided this web-adventure could be used as a spring board for creative writing for a range of reasons. I’m acutely aware of the difference between game-based learning and gamification. I’ve probably gamified the learning process more than created a genuine game-based learning opportunity BUT I’ve attempted to balance engagement, skill development and assessment in the context of creative writing. The benefits of using games in the class include:

1. The popularity of online, interactive games  – engagement

2. Rewards-based activities incentivise learning – in CSI, students gain instruments when they complete a section of rookie training.

3. The opportunity to reinforce core values around digital citizenship introduced through our wide reading blog – managing passwords and accounts, staying on task, using several sites consecutively (dictionary.com, virtual thesaurus and CSI)

4. Problem solving – one of me, lots of you means try to work it out yourself OR ask a friend first!

My learning outcomes were also linked to the NZC as creating meaning through creative writing is probably one of the most challenging aspects of the English curriculum to teach. Through embarking on the CSI web adventure I aimed to:

1. Give students a range of concrete nouns to include in their writing through creating individual glossaries of new subject specific words.

2. Provide a tangible setting for their writing – as they explored the labs and crime scenes, they were exposed to places they could describe in their stories. If they struggled to transfer that to their writing, they were also encouraged to use settings more familiar to them (Peter Johnstone Park, the Octagon, etc).

3. Introduction to a range of potential narrators through the game – students were given the choice of writing from one of the character’s points of view OR to imagine themselves as a rookie investigator as part of the team.

4. Sew the seeds of potential narratives as they took part in the interactive case studies .

5. Opportunities for cross curricular learning – the CSI game offers resources for a range of subject areas, especially Science.

Over the past few weeks, my two Year 9 classes have completed Rookie Training and at least two case studies, created a glossary of new words (the goal was 15 words) and set up Google doc accounts. I’ve also trialled using Kaizena to give verbal feedback to several students. Kaizena enables students to share their docs with your profile. You then highlight words/phrases and give feedback on improvements needed. There’s a great introductory presentation available here. I’ve found I provide more feedback and it’s highly personalised so it becomes instantly more meaningful.

We then revised characterisation and narrative structure and, discussed a range of potential hooks to draw the reader in which I modelled on the board using the CSI theme.  I got students to complete a planning sheet of ideas (who is your main character, what happens, and then…) as like most of us, the hardest thing about writing is starting.

Every one of the 58 students has submitted drafts at varying stages of the writing process.  I’ve been blown away by some of the drafts. Given the stage of the year, I fully expected to have to closely monitor laptop usage but have only had to reprimand one student in the whole two weeks for not being on task. They’ve been genuinely riveted (and at times frustrated) with the game and have taken that level of engagement through to their writing. Given that I have students working from Level 2-5 of the NZC, I’m happy with that outcome.

I’ve got a planning unit available for anyone interested in giving this a go. Over the next few days, I’ll also seek permission from a couple of students to publish their work here. Watch this space!

Screenshot 2014-11-30 21.07.38

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