Key Takeaways:

  • Introducing gaming mechanics for fun will deliver an immersive interactive learning experience to a class where students, especially young students, tend to lose focus as well as interest.
  • A strong use of storytelling and appealing game will create emotional engagements that make students excited about learning.
  • As shown by the Úbeda pilot success, appropriate use of gaming can make otherwise mundane class entertaining and rewarding.

In a classroom of 45 students, we are having our first Create@School tutorial session in one of our pilot school in Spain, SAFA Úbeda. Together with a group of pupils around 14 years old, we embarked our journey to explore the potential of gamified learning.

The Challenge

Pupils are easily distracted and bored from the process of problem solving. Because the process starts from inquiry, investigate a top to use a variety of resources to find solutions and answers. As students explore the topic, they draw conclusions. As they continue exploring, they need to revisit the conclusions that they have drawn before. To explore a question often ends up leading to more questions. The process is usually hard and boring for pupils, which will cost their attention and interest to learn in the end.

Our Angry Bird Mission

In order to avoid the normal mundane learning process, we introduced the mission of disassembling Angry Birds. The mission is expected to deliver a memorable and engaging learning experience about problem solving.

Angry Birds is a well-known mobile game where funny aesthetics, combined with physics based game mechanics, create awesome game dynamics that keep engaged millions of players all around the world. It presents a perfect scenario for Create@School to fit in, as Create@School is an interface development environment (IDE), based on Pocket Code and developed within the No One Left Behind project, which allows pupils to create games and applications by dragging and dropping blocks of functions that can be associated to parts of program called “objects”. One of the functional blocks included into Create@School is the physic model of the gravity field.

The objective of our Angry Bird mission is to provide, to the pupils, the necessary background for them to be able to develop a sandbox game where they could experiment and understand how gravity works and how it is applied to Angry Birds in order to create the behaviours of the birds, rocks, woods, ice, etc.

Design Your Own ¨Angry Bird¨

Following a constructivist approach we posed questions and problems to the pupils:

  • Why the birds follow parabolic trajectories?
  • How these trajectories are created inside the games?
  • Why rocks, woods and ice have different behaviours when birds collide with them?

Obviously, students were instantly intrigued by the fancy idea about cracking the code behind this fancy game, and being able to reproduce a similar one by their own. They were soon immersed in the process of solving problems. We guided and helped them step by step.

We led them into disassembling the Angry Birds game mechanics, inciting problems that can be solved with specific functional block within Create@School IDE. Very soon, they were able to design their own scenario and their own version of ¨Angry Bird¨.

What We Achieved!

By the end of our class, all the students have created their own sandbox game where they tested how gravity works; found the right functions and parameters to recreate the requested behaviour of the elements of the Angry Birds games.

They know how to bounce of birds with gravity and collisions, decompose bird’s trajectory by applying forces on different axis, how to simulate particles of rocks, woods and ice with their mass, use the right friction when a rigid body falls, describe the influence of the shape of the objects on friction and bouncing, and many more to come.

All of them were able to understand, by using variables and random functions, how to create “intelligent” game opponents with stochastic behaviours that is one of the pillar of game design process. Even some students made it to understand through their experiments within their sandbox complex concept physics like moment, rotational speed, forces applied to rotating objects that were not requested and that are not evident into Angry Birds and in a 2D simulated physic space.

Upon the end of the class, all the students felt their time had been flying away and they haven´t had enough. They started to beg their professor, ¨One more session, please! ¨ ¨One more class please! ¨

We had so much fun together! But the most important is how the collaborative and constructive learning process has helped students to engage, to ask, to explore, and to keep the motivation of learning in the days to come!