Thursday, May 21, 2009

Session Three. Guided Thinking.

We opened the class with the question, “what do you think this whole game thing has to do with the food chain and ecosystems?”

Students sat quietly, appearing to be thinking deeply about the different connections between the game and ecosystems.  Students then threw out different answers, attempting to hit pay dirt.  Some of the answers were pretty insightful.  However, I have to admit my favorite answer came rather straightforwardly: “I don’t know, you haven’t taught us that yet.”

After the class brainstorming session, Jenkins prompted the class to think about what the words international, interact, and interracial have in common. The students singularly responded with “inter.” With more prodding, the students came to the conclusion that they all have to do with something happening “between” other things.  Now, the lights seemed to 
go on in a few more heads.  There is something to do with "between" in both the video game and in ecosystems.

As a review of the last lesson, we had the class replay the Little Big Planet level.  This time, though, they were asked to make observations about what was happening during the game.  Some of the comments included “I see player one doing his job,” “I can’t see because of this dude,” “That smoke is in my way,”and  “I’m not getting on that thing because if they press that, it could kill me.”  In a more comical exchange, one of the students gave directions to another player to “move the fish.”  When that student failed at the task, the first student exclaimed “I told you to pick up the fish, not electrify yourself!”

When asked later what they think was a major theme of these comments, students began to see that a lot of it has to do with how what one person was doing was affected by what other people were doing.  One step closer to interdependence.

Once the gameplay was finished, the discussion began with, “do you remember what you were supposed to be thinking about while we were playing?” Interdependence.  Since our goal is to get the kids thinking as much as possible about interdependence, we asked another question, "When do people depend on each other?"

-“When have we ever depended on other people?”
-“Jail”—no explanation provided.
-“When I’m sick” “My mom has to cook food for me.”
How is this similar to a sports team?
-“Like on the track team, we have to pass the thing off to each other.”

We ended the class with an activity: "We have a long roll of green paper, and you are going to draw pictures of a time in real life when people depend on each other. We’ll roll the paper out along the floor and sit on the floor to draw with some markers."

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Day Two. Gameplay First Run.

Today, we brought in the Playstation for the first run. As the students came in, they saw the system set up. We let them take a few minutes to imagine the potential fun that could take place during the lesson.

After Ms. Jenkins finished introducing the setup of the game to the students, we invited a few students to try it out. They had the opportunity to modify their characters, then the level began.

After it loaded, the students saw a pretty basic level that Ms. Jenkins had designed. On the screen, the characters materialized out of a pipe, wearing jet packs and tethered together. The first group of students flew around a bit, until the hazards claimed them one by one. Through this experience, the students were introduced to what gameplay in LBP looks like.

The second set of students got a little further. They realized that there are tasks to attain in the level. These students also found that if they want to win the level, they have to manipulate buttons by standing on them to cause a change in movement of one of the level’s elements. Two of the four characters died off right away. The remaining two characters worked together to move a big electrified object out of the way, so they could stand on a button that was being blocked by this electrical hazard. Unfortunately, both players went to do one character’s job. The other buttons needed to be pressed for the team to win. There weren’t enough characters to finish the task because they died before they could find any more out about the level.

The third team of students who played completed the level, having learned from their predecessors. After much struggle, they worked together each to complete one of the required tasks. Through these tasks, they pressed buttons which moved hazards, released rewards, and enabled them to make space to stand on various buttons. Success in the game required team work, each player had to do something different that enabled another student to complete their own task.

Once the third team finished their level, Ms. Jenkins led a discussion about the meaning of the events in the level. The students were asked what role teamwork played in the level. A foreshadowing of the next lesson on interdependence.
Ms. Jenkins then revealed what she did to make the level. She opened a version of the level that had green strings running between the different mechanisms and interfaces on the level. The first button, for player one, had to be manipulated before the next player could do her job without being electrocuted. Player two’s job, jumping on the next button, stopped spikes from pounding on character three while he tried to do his job. Player three’s job caused fishes to be dispensed from the wall near where player four’s electrified button was placed. The fish could be carried by player four and plopped onto the last button. As Jenkins showed the class, the level revolved around a set of hazards, tasks, rewards, cause and effect, and connections that could only be attained through teamwork. The players depended on each other in order to reach their goal.