Student group work is TRICKY.

Well, you can’t go from zero to 100 with people, can you?

I really wanted to get the coding club working on real projects, have them create a portfolio deliverable/accomplishment they could be proud of. Something beyond achieving level 72 in Code Combat, which was getting a bit repetitive…maybe building a computer game together? Yeah!

 All the students said they were keen to do this. Imagine, building a decent game, not just a sprite/block level game…And I was keen (imagine the collaboration, teamwork, ideation skills they’ll get to develop).

But hold on a minute..

Here’s the short version of what happened:

  1.  C. found a good game creation platform (RPG Maker),
  2. We got the game maker software to all the students…
  3. They organized into 2 teams
  4. We went over step 1 = create a game story
  5. Agreed on weekly milestones
  6. Got them into their groups and said GO!
  7. Left them to talk, discuss, brainstorm.

Ehhh…fail. They talked a bit, ended up two club meetings later with everyone wanting to work on their own. No parent showcase… I know all the teachers are rolling their eyes at our approach! Here’s my takeaways as to where we went wrong:

  • I assumed they were comfortable brainstorming in a group.  Went from 0 to 100 too fast.

I’m a grown up used to group work, no problem pulling a group together, grabbing a whiteboard, asking questions, focusing. I could do it all day. I think that I expected these 13 year olds to be comfortable doing something I wouldn’t have been at their age.

They were comfortable with EACH OTHER, being in the club and interacting a lot, but that didn’t mean they knew how to communicate, compromise, draw out ideas, or agree on anything.

There’s an #Agile Game I’d use – a simple 30 minute simulation activity that can introduce students to group work. If you run it correctly you can help students understand a) what role they like to take, b) how to collaborate and communicate, c) how to handle issues.

  • Too wide a topic

‘Create a game story that’s interesting to your audience’ may have been too wide a topic. Maybe Space Adventure? 3 character quest? Silly spoof of a popular cartoon? Could have given them a few more seeds…

  • Not enough structure or coaching

I think our biggest mistake was not enough structure – in hindsight I would have put aside 45 mins for the next 2 club meetings to get them into groups, provide some tools – questions to answer, visual maps to complete, coach them on these and encourage them on progress so far! 

We lost momentum and the projects are pretty much on hold, apart from two students who’ve gone ahead each ON THEIR OWN, building their story and now characters, etc.

Project-based Learning can be about ANYTHING.

I love the Genius Hour and 20% time approaches to PBL, where students start with their own interests. Why not? You could do something around gardening, baking, drawing, writing, building, sports, video games, Pokemon Go…I have a daughter who’s getting a lot of “success reference points” right now from baking – I’m thinking of a ‘create your own recipe’ group challenge.

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