Monday, April 27, 2009

Day One. Introducing the Project.

Today, we introduced the project to the students. When they heard that there never before has been a class who has used Little Big Planet for learning, I saw proud smiles visit some of their faces. They were excited to hear that they were the class who would not only pilot the learning experience for the school, but for the world as well.

The reason we’re doing a project using a Playstation 3 game, they learned, is that the next unit for science class, Unit 9--Food Chains and Ecosystems, is all about connections and interdependence, just like the game. The game, we hope, will reveal principles of interdependence and connectedness, the central idea of food chains and ecosystems!

Games are not opposed to content. Fun and learning are not mutually exclusive. These sound like slogans for the latest (and cheesiest) educational games. Our goal is to provide the students with a thoroughly enjoyable and engaging experience that provides a lesson at every step. Today, we made clear to the students that we’re not throwing science out the window. Even so, this message was sandwiched between a description of LBP and a viewing of some Super Mario Brothers gameplay. The bottom line is LBP is connected to science, science is all about real life, and LBP connects to real life through practical concepts.

The aim for the first lesson was for students to see that behavior and actions by characters in a system are affected by outside factors, which is the basis both for interaction and even interdependence. To illustrate this, Ms. Jenkins presented a few scenes of the Mario Brothers gameplay mentioned above. She asked the students to focus on specific things each time she showed a level. The first level, the students were supposed to figure out all the reasons why Mario jumps. The second level, they observed all the rewards that Mario could receive. The final level, students were on the look-out for hazards that Mario faced.

Each of these sets of observations allowed students to see an example of a character reacting to outside influences. In my opinion, this was a great illustration of interaction with outside forces. The students are well on their way to learning about the principles of interdependence.

All in all, my assessment after this first day is that the dotted triangle formed by LBP, Science, and practical life is a fitting project for the Dot-to-Dot expo.