Inspire and Engage Learners with “Play, Hack + Share”

Play Hack & Share

In the 20+ years I’ve been teaching I’ve watched our UK education system become increasingly focussed on results. It’s clearly going to be difficult to persuade teachers to step out of their comfort zones to be more innovative and creative in their pedagogy, when their performance is subjected to high levels of scrutiny by somebody judging their performance with a clipboard of criteria.

Now that the actual content of the curriculum has changed from ICT to Computing from Sept 2014, there is a danger that teachers will put too much effort into what to teach rather than how to teach it.

One of the advantages in organising (and attending) events like Raspberry Jam, Hack Jams etc. is that it affords opportunities for teachers like myself to experiment with lots of different ways of teaching, but in a lower risk environment than the school classroom. I’ve treated the Raspberry Jam events I’ve led as a sandbox to enable me to refine the approaches I use to engage and inspire children into the creative potential of computer science.

One particular approach I’ve developed has now become an embedded feature of my regular teaching, I call it ‘Play, Hack & Share’. I’ll describe a typical lesson using the “Play Hack & Share” approach.

Play

We start with a game that already exists, for example the Marble Racer Game in the examples provided with Scratch. It’s often preferable to start with a game that has limited interest or features. I ask the learners to consider while they’re playing the many different ways the game could be made more interesting, entertaining, captivating, addictive, competitive, or surprising. After playing and then asking them to share their ideas in pairs/groups, I ask each group to suggest their most creative proposal and we share these with the whole class.

marbleracer

Hack

In this context, ‘hack’ is to change or modify something with the goal of improving it. Once we have shared a list of proposed features that could improve the game experience for the player, I then ask them to choose a feature to develop in the game. Working in ‘Driver – Navigator’ pairs adds an extra dimension to this as it forces them to communicate with each other on one level and nurtures creativity on another.

Share

Later in the lesson I ask the learners to share their developments with other learners. One way is to ask one partner to remain in their place, while others come to visit for a one-to-one presentation on the game. Another way is to pick a particularly interesting development to share with the rest of the class, either by asking the child who has conceived it to present or by demonstrating the feature working to the class, and asking them to consider how it has been constructed.

The result:

When I was formally observed teaching this lesson, my colleague noted the high levels of engagement witnessed from all learners and how willing they had been to support each other.

pupils

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