Students at Fallingbrook Middle School took on the Play to Learn design challenge, which asks, “How might we create a digital or analog game that helps the player learn something new?”
Learning Studio teacher Jennifer Gunter’s eighth graders designed with kindergartner at elementary schools where many of the eighth graders formerly attended, which provided students an authentic audience and a personal connection to the users who would play a part in their designs. “…It was clear that grade 8 students understand that learning goals for each child may vary depending on a child’s experiences (both at home and school), cultural background, languages spoken at home. A large part of this discussion focused on making sure whatever games were created that they were engaging, fun and allowed kindergarten students to use their imagination,” Jennifer writes on her blog about the project.
Parallel to the students’ pursuit to personalize the games, Jennifer allowed student to choose the tools that worked best for their learning. “They had the option of using paper or the laptops (most chose laptops) and could use any format they chose (mostly charts). All students, despite the method chosen, were able to get concise, personalized observations,” Jennifer writes.
As Jennifer and her students went deeper in their design process, students collaborated in groups to create empathy maps, uncover the needs of the students, research best practices of game design, ideate concepts for their game, prototype, and test and refine their games with the kindergartners. At the end of the process, students reflected on their learning:
“Something that I find interesting is that the more limitations there are, the more creative people become, and obviously, the people who participate in design challenges (my class and I) probably don’t have the professional equipment that big companies such as Hasbro have.” – Kevin
“Overall, design challenges taught me skills that will not only be important now but in the future as well. It taught me proper communication skills and how to ask questions to different people. It taught me how to design things collaboratively, and most of all, it taught me how to use my creativity to make/create something I can show to an audience and be proud of.” – Amelia
Read more on Jennifer’s blog about the project.
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