- March 22nd, 2008
- Derek Robertson
- Comments: 12 Comments »Tags: Aberdeenshire, Consolarium, games based learning, Nintendo, Nintendogs
What was the name of the first dog in space? You don’t know…well the children in a P.2 class in Aberdeenshire do and they were able to tell me all about him. (Answer at the end of this blogpost!)
A previous blogpost talked of the Nintendogs project that we initiated in two P.2 classes up in Aberdeenshire. I managed to arrange a visit there in order to capture (video, audio and image) all the practice that we could for case study presentation. Unsure of what we were going to find, we made our way up to that beautiful part of Scotland full of hope and anticipation that the practice that we would see would be something special.
To say that is what we found would have to be one of the biggest understatements ever. I can’t wait for the case study to be shared with everyone because the learning that we captured, saw, experienced, in both these classes, was incredible.
First of all we went to Elrick P.S. and found ourselves in a class that was bursting with life and learning. The class teacher had used the context of Nintendogs to create a rich mix of cross-curricular activities that had the concept of dogs at its very heart. The main thrust of the game is to look after your puppy and to ensure that it is healthy, happy and well exercised. You can also train your dog and take it to dog competitions, kind of like a virtual Crufts, and win money that you can then spend in the virtual shop on toys, clothes, brushes etc for your dog. What learning has been happening in the class:
- Children making stop motion animations of dogs playing together
- Children role playing in the class Veterinary Surgery. You can imagine the writing and talking activities inherent in such a context: appointments, role playing as a vet, dealing with money etc…
- Exuberant approach to writing stories about the life of their Nintendogs and how they were getting on in the virtual competitions. Children with gleeful and proud faces desperate to show the ‘new adults in the room’ their writing and paintings.
- P.7 children helping P.2 children type up blogposts and scanning in their drawings so that the children’s learning could be shared beyond the classroom. Mum, dads and grannies and other people offering formative and encouraging comment on what they were reading. A great way of developing structures that allow children to become the co-constructors of knowledge.
- Who says that children won’t read or become interested in books because they spend too much time playing games? The topic bookshelf was packed full of books about dogs and it was apparently hugely popular.
- A vibrant wall display about Hairy Maclary. Writing and paintings associated with this text
- An informative wall display about Crufts. This became a topic of great interest to the children because of the competitions that you take your dog into in the game. The teacher had made stickers for 1st, 2nd & 3rd places in the virtual competitions and these were worn with pride by the children in the class.
- Some of the children already had Nintendogs and so were pretty skilled in understanding the menus and the narrative of the game. They became the Top Dogs in the class (a name chosen by the children) and with this title came the responsibility to be a peer tutor, someone who could help develop players new to the game so that they too could reach the level of top dog. Tremendous self-esteem being developed here but also an approach that creates an ethos that sees the learner as an active agent in the learning process in the class. Superb idea!!!
- A dog walking service has been initiated, not Nintendogs but real dogs. Parents involved and safety issues all taken into consideration. Children have learned to understand dogs a bit better and some children who were frightened are much less fearful and now more confident around dogs.
- The local dog warden paid a visit to the school and helped the children understand the six rules of keeping and being around dogs. These rules were all acted out to us by the children with gleeful abandon.
At the heart of all this was a very good and creative teacher who has approached this project in an imaginative yet thoughtful and structured way. For me a first class exemplification of how to use a good resource to help develop good learning.
We then went to Banchory P.S. where we saw another class of children doing a range of very similar activities. Again here we had an imaginative teacher focusing on the learning that could be developed through the context of this game.
What I couldn’t help notice in some of the talk that was happening was the children’s very impressive ability to recognise place value in to the hundreds and thousands of pounds. Remember, these children are 6/7 yet they were reading out how much money they had accrued in the game with apparent ease. One young lad took great in delight in reading out his bank balance which was£4228.22!!!
We also managed to interview some parents about their attitudes to the idea of games in the class and this turned out to be a great session. We really could not have scripted their responses any better in terms of convincing those who may still be sceptical. Comments made included:
“I wasn’t too happy when I heard about a computer game being used in the class at first. But it’s been great…my son talks about school and what he has learned now.”
” My son has had his confidence boosted because he needs a bit of extra help with his work but because he’s very good at the game he is now in the position of helping others for a change.”
“I’ve heard on the news about other schools in Scotland using computer games and I now think it’s the way to go. I mean, the children are really excited about school and my child tells me all about her day at school now where before she really didn’t.”
We also had Graham Brown-Martin from Handheld Learning as a guest visitor on the day and I think it’s fair to say that he was rather impressed by what was on view in both schools. A full case study of this initiative will appear on the Consolarium’s website in due course but in the meantime some clips can be viewed on Handheld Learning TV.
- Parents talking about the project
- Learner voice
- Headteacher comments on the project
- How to engage teachers
- The children animate their dog
- Derek Robertson talks about the project
- The game as the contextual hub for learning
This for me was an exceptional day. It’s great to be passionate about learning and to use this passion to argue the case for games based learning in the classroom but when you see teachers actually making the learning come to life and such rich, dynamic and varied ways then it only reaffirms what we are trying to do.
Very well done to all associated with this excellent project.
By the way, the first dog in space was Laika.