Monday, January 31, 2011

Angry Birds!

If you are like me you are addicted to the game Angry Birds. If not, after reading this post, go download it and join the rest of us addicts. A tweet posted over the weekend got me thinking about the connection between Angry Birds and learning. While that may seem like a stretch, hang with me as I explain.

While playing Angry Birds your goal is to try to “fling” little birds through the air and knock down various structures to “pop” the green pig-like creatures. This is a very simple explanation as some birds have extra powers and the structures get more elaborate in setup and properties. However, the concept is to throw birds and hit piggies.

If you are like me, you don’t pass each level on the first time. In reality, some of the levels took my hundreds of tries before I was able to take out all the pigs. However, I adjusted my placement of the throws and my strategy for knocking the structures down. Why on earth would anyone spend their time doing this? Well, you need to try it before you answer it. Yes, it is a game, but is requires thinking, strategy, and little trial and error. Players constantly evolve their play to master each level and move on.

So here is my question…how can we make classrooms more like Angry Birds? I am not suggesting we throw birds at pigs, although that would be exciting! What I am suggesting is that use the concepts taught in the game:

Concept One: Multiple tries to complete a goal. Give students multiple tries to meet a standard or accomplish a learning goal. Too often kids get once chance to show their learning and as humans, we have bad days. One bad day should not hold a student back from achieving their academic goals.

Concept Two: Have a worthy goal in mind. As an Angry Birds player, we want to “pop the pigs”. It is something we are motivated to do because it is engaging and involves some problem solving. How much of the stuff we ask kids to do is because we have to, or because it is in the book. Why not construct learning around motivating and engaging topics. Make their learning worthy of their time.

Concept Three: Levels become more difficult but at the player’s pace. As you progress through the game the levels increase in complexity and difficulty. There are more variables to work with including different birds with different abilities as well as the building materials around the pigs change. The key is that you have to successfully pass the level before moving on to the next. This is logical to me. Don’t move on to the next level until you’ve mastered the previous. Yet, in school we move on to the next chapter because our curriculum pacing dictates this to us. Regardless of students being ready for the next level we move on and up…

I challenge you to do two very simple things… One would be to evaluate the work you have your students do and compare it to the three concepts of Angry Birds. Two would be to go out and download this awesome game!
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