However, things are slowly getting to ‘normal’ and I am settling into my new job, including the exciting possibilities of running a game-based learning extra-curricular club! But more on that later…
This first post back serves as a long-overdue personal response to the challenge I set as part of Shelly Terrell’s #30goals back in June. It involves a game of survival called ’Limbo’ and centres around the idea of encouraging the students to help me when I became stuck.
Available on: PC, Mac, Linux ($9.99 on Steam – has been as low as $2.49 on sale); iPad, PSN, XBOX
Official website: http://playdead.com/limbo/
Suitable for: teens and adults (has some horror elements that may be unsuitable for younger kids)
Necessary materials: working version of the game, projector (for large classes), Internet access
And that is why I think we should get our students to ‘teach’ things as much as possible. Whether it’s for a presentation, a debate, or leading a group session, when students have the responsibility for passing on skills and knowledge, they spend time and effort to make sure they do a good job.
Never more so than when they get to ‘teach the teacher’.
This is a time when I like to exploit that old myth that ‘games are for kids’ to my advantage. Most of my students automatically assume I don’t know as much as them about gaming or that I just feign an interest to appear ‘cool’ and I am at times happy to let them think that just so they feel that they are schooling me in what the latest trends are and how to play various games (of course, in some cases, they do know more than I do but that only serves to make the ‘learning’ activities more realistic).
And so it was that one day, I went to teach a group of three teenage students whom, was giving extra language support to. I knew they had been focusıng on giving commands and advice in their main classes so I thought this would be a good chance to make use of a game.
LIMBO is an indie adventure game, presented in a classic platform style that has won much praise and many awards over recent times. However, despite the accolades (and maybe because of its ‘indie’ status), I have found that many of my teenage students have never heard of it. Part of its appeal lies in its simplicity – the monochrome silhouetted graphics add to the atmosphere of foreboding as do the gruesome ways the lead character can suddenly meet his end should you mistime a jump or fail to solve a puzzle.
At the start of the lesson, I explained that I had been playing an addictive game over the weekend but had become stuck. As this group were unfamiliar with the game, in the initial part of the lesson, we did a teacher-led playthrough (due to the small size of this particular group, we sat around my laptop but this could be replicated on a projection screen/smart board with a larger class). This offered a good opportunity to familiarise my students with the overall objectives, controls and feel of the game, and it also gave me time to narrate what was going on and field their questions.
- “You should get close to it and then run back.”
- “Why don’t you try to jump on it?”
- “Can you run and slide under it?”
All good language for suggestions and advice!
When none of those worked, I asked the group to find a walkthrough online. A few moments later, they had several tabs in the browser open and were scouring the pages for information about passing the spider (intensive reading, without them actually realising it!) When they thought they had found the solution, I asked them to retell it to me. This resulted not only in them ‘teaching’ me but also exercising their language skills to scan a text, locate the relevant information, and then relate what they had found out in their own words.
Their advice paid off and I successfully passed the spider (explanation coming up!) I then paused the game and asked them to work together to write the solution to this puzzle in a few sentences. We then took this opportunity to focus on the language they had used, discuss different ways of giving advice, commands, and instructions, and finally engage in some error correction until we had produced a definitive version:
“Go near the spider. When it attacks with its leg, you must run away. When its leg hits the ground, a trap will fall from the tree. You should return to the trap and jump over it (carefully!)
Next, you need to push the trap towards the spider. This time, when it attacks, its leg will get stuck in the trap. You have to do this three times and then the spider will go away and you can pass.”
I then handed the controls over, having each student take turns to play while the others gave advice. When they got stuck, they went back to the walkthroughs they hand found earlier and then directed the student at the controls past the obstacle.
By the end of the lesson, they had put the grammar that had been taught to them previously to good practical use, engaged in some language analysis, and taught their teacher and each other how to progress in the game. A sign of their engagement came the next lesson when two students informed me that they had downloaded the game to their iPads and were well on their way to completing the whole thing. :-)
- This is an interesting article about What gamification can learn from LIMBO
- From kotaku.com, a post entitled Death and Education: Learning in Limbo
- For more ideas about using walkthroughs, see my post on eltjam about different in-class approaches to game-based learning.