Sunday, September 9, 2012

Engaging Students in Writing via iOS Devices and Gaming Part #1

Even though school has only been in session for a week, it looks like I have hooked my students into an activity that has caught their attention and given them some motivation to engage in some writing tasks.

Late last school year I read a blog post by David Andrews, a grade 6 teacher in the U.K.. David wrote about "Raising Standards in Boys' Writing using the iPad for Gaming" using a game called Bike Baron on the iPad. He followed up with a post entitled "Raising Standards in Boys’ Writing using the iPad for Gaming: Outcomes and Ways Forward". David's work caught my attention because the class I had last year would have seized this type of activity - both for the gaming component and the writing task. We had worked together to improve their writing and they enjoyed the integration of technology in our classroom community. If it wasn't for the fact that the end of our school year had arrived, I would have looked further into planning my teaching and their learning.

I recently came across an article entitled "Video Games in the Classroom: Building Skills in Literacy and Numeracy" by Drs. Emmanuel DuplĂ a and Shervin Shirmohammadi. I was pleased to read such positive information about Video Games from a document coming from the Ministry of Education in the Province which I teach in. Having read this article, I decided to move forward with a plan to teach my students how to write a journal entry using Bike Baron.

I recently showed the following picture to my students to help them with a brainstorming activity aimed to assist them with an idea development expectation:
The students engaged in this activity in a way that really impressed me. I would say that it caused a rich discussion and a lot of useful data came from it. We recorded their ideas and they set off to brainstorm who this character might be and what he might be up to. As my students worked, I could instantly identify my writers and non-writers - providing me with valuable diagnostic data. The next day we revisited the Bike Baron via an interactive whiteboard lesson that was more detailed and provided the students with more information to revise their work.

5 W's to assist with idea development


More pictures of the Bike Baron with the middle one linked to a You Tube video of the Baron in action.

The students set off again to do some brainstorming - this time they had an anchor chart to refer to in order to get more information that they had discussed with a partner (elbow partners) and with the class.
The next day I came at them with a little more information to "prime" them around the writing task that we would undertake. I told them a story, made up by me, that the Bike Baron has a journal and writes in it after completing missions (levels in the game). I asked them if they would be interested in pretending to be the Bike Baron (point of view expectation) and write a journal entry (form of writing) after playing a bit of the game. They thought it was a great idea! :)
Moving forward, the plan is to create a formal learning goal and success criteria to go with it. We need to learn how to write a journal entry and have a model for what all of this will look like. The plan at the moment is to document what our goal is and how we are going to get there. We will share the experience together before I set them off to do it on their own. We will create our anchors and we will play the game and learn to document the required information to create our journal entry. My fingers are crossed and look forward to letting you know how it goes.
*I would like to note that none of my students have laid a finger on an iPad/iPod Touch and played this game in class. Everything I have written about above has been accomplished based on the pictures I have posted and the discussions we have had in class. The fact that they are as excited as they are without having even seen the game or the devices brings a smile to my face*
I welcome your comments/thoughts!


  1. Great post. I look forward to following what happens with the students and the Bike Baron. I cannot imagine higher engagement than what you have created with them. Imagine pretending to be the Bike Baron and writing a journal entry! Sure beats "daily quiet writing time." Kuddos to you Chids! Your students must be so excited to get back to school on Mondays! MG

  2. Wow! There's a lot going on here from just images alone. I'm interested in the media/digital literacy lessons that you might attach to this. The way in which games are marketed via the iTunes Store might also be worth engaging your students with. Contrast that with the way the developers promote the game on their own website. The commerce side of game marketing makes for good discussion too. I have had this conversation with student before and although many have xbox live, work they don't quite know how much a dollar is worth in the Marketplace as everything is based on points instead of money.

    You've given me several things to think about. Thanks!

  3. This is such a great activity. I am reading with high interest and thinking about how I can do something similar. :)