Today I was part of a DEECD Presentation at the Victorian Information Technology Teachers Association (VITTA) Conference in Melbourne. I presented on Lure of the Labyrinth, how we use it in the classroom and the effect it has had on teaching and learning. Here are the presentation slides and notes.
This year we were selected to be part of the Innovating With Technologies Serious Games Trial. We are exploring the effects on teaching and learning of the game Lure of the Labyrinth as part of the games-based learning approach we use in the 5/6B classroom.
The Education Arcade at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and FableVision in conjunction with the US Department of Education created Lure of the Labyrinth in 2009. It is an online, immersive environment where players take on the role of a mathematician in order to progress through the game. Also, it is free, requires no downloads and runs on any computer with the latest flashplayer, which is also free.
In Lure of the Labyrinth, you begin by selecting a pet (mine was an Armadillo named Pete). You then read the comic about how you are walking your pet when it is kidnapped. You follow the kidnapper through the sewers to TastiPet, a hidden factory run by monsters that produces pet food. You must go undercover disguised as a monster and work in the factory in order to find and save your pet. The narrative, which incorporates aspects of Greek mythology, runs throughout the game as you are presented with a series of codes to help you locate areas of the factory you need to work in. Each area of the factory is presented as a puzzle with three levels of difficulty to be mastered. Players must gain mastery in several areas in order to complete the game and rescue their pet. The mathematical concepts in the game include: factors, ratios, positive and negative integers, fractions and finding the common denominator, area and perimeter, number patterns and interpreting graphs.
Lure of the Labyrinth has a built in assessment and monitoring tool for teachers. I set up my grade in 5 mixed ability groups and gave them their usernames and passwords. As administrator of my grade I can monitor how students are using the message boards to assist each other and ask for assistance. I can deliver warnings for inappropriate use of message boards and suspend their capability to use them, which I have not needed to do. I can monitor how many times a puzzle is attempted and the success rates for each puzzle as a percentage, enabling me to inform my teaching.
The game can be played in narrative mode, where players can move around rooms, solve puzzles and progress through the game. It can also be played in puzzle mode, which I use for directed teaching moments when clarification of a concept is required, as I can have all students on the same puzzle at the same time.
The game website provides educators with lesson plans, graphic organisers, videos and comprehensive instructions and suggestions to help teachers use this tool in the teaching of maths.
As part of the Serious Games Project, I asked a small group of students what they thought were the most important skills for using Lure of The Labyrinth. It was really interesting that the maths skills were not mentioned by the students – they were more focussed on team work and communicating with others. With my assistance we also identified visualising thinking as an important skill, and the students could relate this to the use of the graphic organisers. To assist with assessment using Lure of the Labyrinth, a colleague and I put together this VELS Matrix, which links each puzzle to aspects of the maths continuum across multiple progression points. I use this to work with small groups of students at their point of need.
This slide shows an example of how I use puzzle mode for directed teaching moments in the game. I used observations and discussions during use of Lure of the Labyrinth and activities in our Maths Plus program to determine that there was confusion between area and perimeter among the majority of my students. The use of LOTL enabled me to devote extra teaching time to this topic while still moving into other topics with the Maths Plus program. Through repeated use of the North Garden Puzzle, along with explicitly modelling the use of the graphic organiser, students had ‘aha’ moments as they linked the concepts in the puzzle to what they had experienced in previous maths sessions. I found that once these moments occurred in a structured setting, they began to occur in general game play as the students became more practiced at linking the game to explicitly taught concepts. These links have provided the most powerful learning moments for my students, as they are discovering them in their own way and in their own time.
The data in the above slide is from this year’s Student Opinion Survey Data. This is the tracked cohort data, so the same students’ opinions are shown over 2 years, with the bottom row of each data being for this cohort’s grade 6 year.
LOTL has had many positive effects on the teaching and learning occurring in 5/6B. Students take risks and explore things in all areas of the curriculum now. Communication and collaboration is happening as an everyday part of everything the students do. Students create their own graphic organisers to visualise their thinking in non-LOTL maths sessions. As a teacher I am a facilitator for learning, not the giver of knowledge. Students facilitate the learning of other students. Our school’s attitudes to school data has improved dramatically, for several reasons, but students have named Lure of the Labyrinth as being part of their stimulating learning, and as we know, when students are engaged and stimulated in their learning, classroom behaviour is not an issue.
Lure of the Labyrinth is available here.