I got a chance to play with a really nice set of games created by the Science Museum in England. They have developed a set of really fun games called Futurecade. Some of these games are based some of the real problems of the future. For example, removing land mines using robot drones you have to program (dealing with the real issue of mine removal) or creating strains of e-coli that can clean up oil spills. Others involve teaching genetics by having students care for, nurture, and breed ‘Things’ in the game Thingdom.
Many educational games are little more than regular arcade-style games with some math facts thrown in. These games were created to promote issues in math and science, but also to develop thinking and problem-solving. These could easily be adapted to lessons on global warming, energy, genetics, food distribution, and natural resources. What really makes them great is the optimism that science can solve these seemingly overwhelming problems, and that they allow your students to stand in the shoes of the problem solvers of tomorrow. Good thing too, since they will have to fill that role in the future.
I am running into a problem with my technology classes. The problem is that I have had my current sixth grade students for three years straight now. Three years where technology has been a priority in their education. In those three years I have managed to teach them quite a bit about the Big Four: Word, PowerPoint, Excel, and the internet. Finding ways to keep things fresh has been a challenge for these kids.
One way I am overcoming this is to try and boost the creativity that I am asking of my students. Instead of my old lessons that focused on teaching a skill objectively and out of context, I am instead teaching them a skill and letting them run with it.
Take PowerPoint, for example. I hate PowerPoint because it tends to suck the creativity right out of a presentation, especially if all the presenter does is read what is on the slide. Instead, I had my students use hyperlinking in PowerPoint to link one slide to another, basically making a boring presentation into an interactive game. This hopefully teaches my students how to make a more interesting presentation, teach them what a hyperlink does and provides groundwork for computer programming, something I hope to introduce them to later this year.
Here are a few examples of ‘games’ created using PowerPoint.
Could You Be a Zombie? (PDF)
How Well Do You Know Mr. Briggs? (PDF)