According to Deci and Ryan’s Self Determination Theory, humans are intrinsically motivated. If we feel autonomous and competent on our own, we are more likely to interact and relate our knowledge with others. We are also more motivated to engage in learning activity when our emotions are involved. When we feel a learning goal is achievable and the actual “doing” is fun we are more likely to persevere and master challenges.
When planning my game lesson I reflected on a skill that is critical to learning success in the 21st Century: the ability to apply appropriate problem-solving strategies in a variety of situations. Students need to come up with alternative solutions, assist and encourage others, and be willing to compromise and move on.
I designed the game, Outposts, to give 6th grade World Civilization classes opportunities to exercise these skills in a team game activity.
Game Title: OUTPOSTS
Pacing: The game is played in one class period. Each 6th Grade Ancient Civilization class (approximately 26 students each) is divided into six Nomadic Tribes. Tribes begin the game at the same time from an Outpost to which they are randomly assigned. Tribes follow a set path from Outpost to Outpost.
Instructions: Prior to game day, the teacher instructs all students to choose a role and create an avatar on Voki.com. They may choose any role they like as long as it comes from the list: Warrior, Hunter, Healer, Gatherer, Thief/Spy. On game day, the teacher explains the rules and procedures. A copy of the rules is included in the Outpost Log folders.
Story: The peoples of earth are nomadic tribes, fleeing calamity and natural disasters. All that is left of civilization can be found in six remote outposts: Mountain, Valley, Cave, Island, Ocean and Desert. You and your tribe have just arrived at an recently abandoned outpost. There is little time to create what you’ll need to survive the unknown calamity due to strike at any moment. What tools and resources do you have already? What additional tools and resources do you need? Offer your avatar’s talents and skills in service to your tribe. Beat every challenge and get first pick of earth’s remaining outposts to start a new civilization.
Timing: The teacher controls the timer, which counts down 5-minute intervals. At the end of each interval tribes must abandon their current Outpost, drop their Outpost log form in the box, and move on to the next Outpost. The teacher can adjust timing if it becomes evident that one or two additional minutes are needed.
Controls: The game space is clear of furniture with six distinct areas marked with Outpost signs. Tribes are assigned to an Outpost at the beginning of the game and sit in circles on the floor around the sign.
There are three items at each Outpost: the Outpost Log (a folder with a copy of the rules and forms for each tribe to complete) and two stacks of index cards. One stack represents individual tools. The other stack represents the tribe’s consumable supplies which must last them the entire journey.
During the first round, tribes have five minutes to assess their skills, make their first tool selections (only two allowed per tribe) and take inventory of consumable supplies. At the end of five minutes each tribe draws a challenge card and has five minutes to resolve it. Before leaving the Outpost tribes must sacrifice one of their tools.
Autonomy and Randomization: The learner is given autonomy by choosing his role in the game and customizing an avatar. Sharing the Voki recording with the class reinforces identity. There are randomized elements in the game. Smart Notebook’s Random Group Generator tool creates the tribes. Outpost Challenges are drawn from a deck of cards. Tools left at Outposts are unpredictable.
Assessments: The first assessment is the successful creation of an avatar. Did the student customize, name and record a message? Did he post his link or embed his Voki on the class webpage to establish his identity to future tribe members? The remaining assessments are based on teacher observation of group dynamics and a review of completed Outpost Log entries.
Achievements: Did your tribe devise and accurately describe its solution to the Outpost challenge within the allotted time frame? If so, move on, but don’t forget to sacrifice one tool. Finished early? Keep both tools. Ran out of time? Sacrifice two tools.
Knowledge: Learners come to the game with a distinct identity and role to play: they know the skills they have to offer the tribe. During the game, learners expand their problem-solving skills by having to adjust their strategies based on selection of resources and available abilities in the group. Not every tribe will have all the roles represented and may in fact have duplicates, due to randomized creation of tribes at the beginning of the game. By the end of the game, learners should have a greater sense of self, beyond their original avatar identity, and a heightened awareness of how their personal contributions were vital to group success.
Endgame: Successful completion of each Outpost challenge is measured by who has accumulated the most tools. The tribe with the most tools gets to pick the Outpost to start a new civilization. They can explain why they’ve chosen that particular Outpost. A follow up activity might be Tribal Review of log entries from each Outpost with a vote for the most creative solutions at each Outpost, excluding one’s own.
Fun and Motivation: The elements of story and student identity within the story, along with time restrictions and uncertainties built into the game should make Outposts a fun and motivating activity.