Small-group Gaming, Part 3 Use It or Lose It

Our impromptu two week vacation at the beginning of February did little for our teamwork. It seems like we need to be together to practice cooperating.
Or, really, do we? If we had a social network (or better used our existing Edmodo network) or virtual day set up, couldn’t student teams compete with one another on a FaceBook game? On a prompt or menu of activities left as a message on our class Google Voice line? I have to sit down and make a contingency plan for the next snow day, publish it, and distribute it to students, and I need to design it so we somehow have at least the opportunity to keep our classwork and cooperation rolling.

In contrast to the slide in cooperation several groups evidenced while playing together last Friday, students’ individual analyses of their group’s growth in cooperation continue to improve in quality – you know, qualitatively speaking. Here are some of our debriefing questions and students’ answers to them:


Wii by swannman

Question 1: How do you know your group’s cooperation has improved since we first started playing?

  • “We have completed more levels.”
  • “People are calmer.”
  • “We are learning from each other.”
  • “Now I enjoy playing with my group.”
  • “We know what to do and say.”
  • “We have a strategy.”
  • “We won every time.”

Question 2: What have you learned about cooperation so far?

  • “That you can’t yell at other players.”
  • “Cooperation makes things go better.”
  • “You need a lot of it to do work.”
  • “You need a leader, but not everyone can be a leader.”
  • “It’s not that hard and it helps you get further.”
  • “It’s fun and frustrating to work together.”

Ambiguity rears it’s ugly head in schoolwork. Awesome.

Question 3: What is a strength that your group has that helps group members cooperate?

  • “Confidence.”
  • “We stay on task.”
  • “We are nerds.”
  • “Talking.”
  • “Speed and communication.”

Question 4: What is an area of cooperation in which your group can improve?

  • “Not cuss.”
  • “Friendship.”
  • “Helping one another.”
  • “Strategy.”
  • “Nerdiness.”

What else can we do to make school be a place where students feel confident, stay on-task, feel good about being nerds, and participate as equal partners in communication for learning?

I think it’s probably time to hand the small-group gaming commentary off to student guest bloggers or else have students create their own blogs ASAP so they can share their learning directly with you. I’m a bit behind the times this year on the student blogging front; this could be the impetus for getting back into the swing of it.

I’m thinking about bringing in Kodu Game Lab and Little Big Planet to add a game/level-creation tier to project menus. For example, a student could create a level in Little Big Planet with platforming metaphors for the major events of the 1930s (can’t you see a series of rising platforms filled with prize bubbles representing the Roaring Twenties before the Great Depression drops the bottom out of the level?), or use Kodu Game Lab to write a game with branching paths that simultaneously summarizes a story and speculates on its what-ifs (Pac-man vs. The Maze Runner mash-up?). I hope, too, that the co-op levels of “Game 3,” a.k.a “BattleBlock Theater,” will offer opportunities for teamwork and reflection like New Super Mario Bros. Wii that can compete with the slapstick lure of its other modes. I suppose that where the learning design comes into play.