After seeing Dawn Hallybone speak about using Nintendo Wii and Nintendo DS at Learning Without Frontiers 2011, I have followed her work through her blog From Dawn till Dusk where she writes about her experiences using Games-Based Learning in her classroom. When organising this trip I got in contact with Dawn, and she was more than happy to have myself and Adrian Camm visit her school to see her students in action.
Firstly we visited Dawn’s Year 5 class, which is equivalent to a Victorian grade 4 class, for a maths session. Dawn began the session by getting students into pairs and distributing the class set of Nintendo DSs with the game Dr Kawashima’s Brain Training in them. The students worked together in their pairs on the Time Lapse mini game, where players are presented with two analogue clocks and need to figure out the time difference between the two. Dawn reminded students that they needed to be discussing how they were working out the answers to the questions – this was clearly something the students do when they use the DS in pairs. The students engaged in some really great discussion about how they worked out each answer, and were able to clearly articulate their thinking for each question. The grade remained focussed and engaged for the 10 minute warm-up on the DSs.
The student discussions included some great peer reflection, peer teaching and self-correction as the students discussed any errors made, or how they reached the correct answer through their working out.
The next part of the maths session involved an activity that both Dawn and I have run in our classrooms – Mean, Median and Mode and data creating using Wii Sports (Bowling).
Students were moved into four table groups and three Wii remotes were shared. One student at a time from each table took their turn to bowl, while the rest of the grade recorded the results on a table Dawn provided them with. At the end of each round, students had 1 minute to work as a table team to work out the mean, median and mode of the data they had just collected. After that minute, the teams compared their answers and discussed why they might have gotten different answers (the table I was working with somehow recorded a 6 as an 8, so there was some discussion about how this affected the results).
By using this format, Dawn’s students were all engaged and on task for the entire session, even though only one student at a time could bowl, and everyone got one turn each. By giving students one minute to analyse their data and find the mean, median and mode for each set, and by repeating this at the end of each round of bowling, Dawn gave her students the opportunity to work out different things each time, to gain confidence through the repetition of the activity, and to work as a team to collaborate on all three required answers. The use of small white boards on each table was of particular interest to me, and has me thinking I might try to raid the P-2 area of my school next week and get some of these – students were asked to use these to record the definition of mean, median and mode in their own words for the group to refer back to throughout the activity. Such a simple idea but so effective for students, and something I haven’t used in my middle-years classroom before. I agree with Stephen Heppell‘s thoughts on writing surfaces in learning spaces, but in the absence of tables and walls my students can write on, I think the whiteboards are a good start (and they’re portable!).
Here’s a video on Stephen talking about writing surfaces and learning spaces.
At the end of the session students were able to define and explain how to find the mean, median and mode of a set of data, and identify the learning focus of the lesson. It was a fantastic lesson and I will be running it again. Last year I had small groups of students work on this activity independently as part of a rotation of activities, but I liked how Dawn’s session kept all students engaged and encouraged group discussion and collaboration to analyse a set of data they themselves had created. The whole group activity also allowed for more teacher support for students than the small group rotation did, which is another reason why I will run the whole group session next time.
A big thank you to Dawn Hallybone for welcoming us into her classroom and organising a great school visit for us to see GBL at Oakdale Junior School!