I found a new blog today, called Lost Garden. There’s not a lot of recent postings, but I found it by chance through this link to an entry to a slideshow about designing “Princess-rescuing applications.”
Otherwise called games.
One of the points that he makes is that computer games usually start players with a small number of basic skills. You have to master those basic skills in order to go on to the next part of the game. There’s a reward for success — moving to the next level — and there’s a negative consequence for failure… character death or being stuck on the current level. Games are designed to provide gradual bump-ups in ability. The starting screen of World of Warcraft is relatively simple; as the player develops skills, the screen becomes more complex until it resembles the cockpit of a jet fighter.
In a recent post, Shelly Blake-Plock reminded me that I need to consciously teach essay style, if I want students to be successful at that task. I do want them to be successful at that task, and I have taught it; but really I have to present it differently, as a skill to be mastered in order to play the game of school.
What skills need to be cultivated to be a successful academic essay writer? Well, one needs to be a good speller, and a good sentence writer. One needs to know how to put core data like dates and names and specialized vocabulary into those sentences. One needs to have a sense of what lens one is writing through. One needs to have a sense of what one’s aim is or what story one is telling…
How to teach these things through a game-like structure? It’s worth considering.