I’m embarrassed to admit, but two weeks ago I didn’t even know anything about Angry Birds. It looks like this addicting little game has been around for a while. I know … Where have I been? I guess I’ve been spending time with a less angry little bird … I’m really not the angry type! I guess I see Twitter as better use of my time and professional collaborative learning than shooting birds out of a slingshot.
A casual conversations with my hairdresser a few weeks ago about the game led to a quick demonstration on her phone. Another reference came last Friday while attending a session on Instructional Coaching for principals. Some areas that Instructional Coaches can assist schools with are referred to as the Big Four: Classroom Management, Content, Instruction, and Formative Assessment. While the presenters facilitated dialogue around the topic of formative assessment the analogy was made to video gaming; and specifically Angry Birds. This piqued my curiosity.
Sunday afternoon I added Angry Birds to my i Pod Touch. Good-bye $0.99. While I doubt I’ll ever be an Angry Bird Pro, but I definitely can see the link to quality formative assessment.
I recently ran across the Assessment for Learning Guidance Booklet Key Stages 1 & 2 developed by Northern Ireland Curriculum. “This booklet aims to help teachers understand the role of Assessment for Learning within the curriculum and recognize its principles and key elements. The booklet also details some practical Assessment for Learning strategies.” The Rationale and Overview (p.2) of the booklet starts out:
“Assessment for Learning is based on extensive research conducted by Paul Black and Dylan William. In their 1998 study Inside the Black Box, they refined the term ‘formative assessment’ by emphasizing that assessment is only formative when:
- it is an integral part of the learning and teaching process; and
- assessment evidence is actually used to:
- modify teaching to meet the needs of pupils; and
- improve learning.”
The Rationale and Overview goes on to state that “Assessment for Learning involves the following key actions: sharing learning intentions; sharing and negotiating success criteria; giving feedback to pupils; effective questioning; and encouraging pupils to assess and evaluate their own and others’ work.”
So where does Angry Birds fit in? Let’s breakdown the key actions [above] and compare them to Angry Birds. (Disclaimer – I’m only on level 15. My apologies if I misrepresent the game!)
Here’s what I’ve noticed:
Sharing learning intentions – At the beginning of each “launch” the player is shown the formation of the structure and the placement of the little pigs. (I think that’s what they are.) A player can sweep back to this area of the game at any time. This gives the player the clear intentions of what needs to be accomplished in that specific level.
- Learners need a clear understanding of what they are learning as well as why and what’s expected of them. This can take on many forms in the classroom such as, but not limited to: clear learning targets and shared rubrics and expectations prior to the learning. Including students in the development of the rubric creates even more ownership. Providing students experiences using the rubric with sample materials (exemplars and non-exemplars) to identify key components can lead to a deeper understanding of the learning intentions.
Sharing and negotiating success criteria – Once an Angry Bird is launched from the slingshot, the path of the bird is clearly marked for future reference. These marking stay throughout the level. I’ve found them useful in negotiating my success, even though I have not perfected this!
- Learners need a way to show their learning throughout the journey. The above mention rubrics can also assist with sharing and negotiating success. One idea is to have peers work together to identify alignment to the success criteria (rubric). The use of small check points (formative assessment) along the way can provide both the student and teacher a shared understanding of progress being made.
Giving feedback to pupils – When playing Angry Birds, I know right away if I did not complete a specific level. (Right now I’m stuck on Level 15.) While the wording “Level Failed” is not exactly appealing to me, it isn’t harmful. Nothing bad happens. I just have the opportunity to try again, and again, and again until the level is complete. I’ve also noticed that the other Angry Birds waiting their turn seem to be cheering on the bird that is being launched. I’ve just noticed another feature – The Mighty Eagle. He is there to help a player get out of a tricky level. But, at this time, I choose not to add the additional $0.99 expense.
- Feedback for learners can come in many forms. In keeping with the rubric idea mentioned above, the feedback can come from teachers, peers, or even from a larger/global learning community. This feedback needs to be immediate. The feedback should help students see the quality of their work and potential suggestions for further investigation. In my blog post, Opening our Eyes, I described how using electronic responders can be one way to provide immediate feedback and engage students in thought-provoking dialogue to increase the level of understanding.
Effective questioning – I know there are many places I could go to ask effective questions in order to improve my Angry Bird skills. I’ve found online communities of like-minded individuals and groups to be extremely helpful when professional questions arise. This sense of belonging provides me a chance to ask my questions in a non-threatening environment. I’m sure there are groups formed to discuss Angry Bird strategies. Right now I have many of Angry Bird questions. Have I said I’m STUCK on level 15? I’ve played the level unsuccessfully more times that I would like.
- Creating learning environments where learners feel safe to take risks and ask questions, where they are encouraged to come up with their own ideas and where they are asked to think aloud in order to explore their understanding leads to success. If we carefully listen to their questions and thinking, we can gain a sense of their understanding. The level of their questions is quite revealing. Lower level, literal questions can relate to lower level knowledge. Where as, rich, thought-provoking questions may relate to a higher level of understanding. [Right now my Angry Bird questions are quite low-level. All I want to know is how do I get to Level 16! I know there must be strategies involved.]
Encouraging pupils to assess and evaluate their own and others’ work – Right now, I’m attempting to evaluate my work on Level 15. I’ve been able to successfully get the two pigs on the sides, but the one – in strong middle structure has me stumped. As an adult, I know to assess and evaluate my work on this level. I could also probably find some online tips from other players. I can’t be the only one stuck at this level.
- Our learners need to be encouraged to take an active role in the learning process. Explicitly teaching them how to take on this ownership is important. They aren’t just going to do this themselves. Modeling is key! Ample opportunities to engage in recognizing success in their own and the work of others will assist in guiding their focus on how they are learning as well as what the are learning.
The above key actions provides some details of Assessment for Learning. “This is a process of seeking and interpreting evidence for use by learners and their teachers to decide where the learners are in their learning, where they need to go next, and how best to get them there.” (Assessment for Learning: 10 Principles The Assessment Reform Group, 2002)
Now if I could just get past level 15. Any suggestions?
I think I need to ask these kids for assistance! I have a feeling they are way past Level 15!
This may help as well – but it conjures up a whole new set of questions. Think I will just stick with Twitter!
Note: The above video did help (even though I was unable to get 3 stars). After re-watching it I figured out a few strategies I did not know before. I was able to complete Level 15, 16, 17, and 18! Way to go, huh! Now I’m stuck on Level 19! I can only imagine what much higher levels look like. The scaffolding of my learning is beneficial, but right now I’m thinking I should avoid this game so I don’t get hooked!Opening Photo: cc licensed flickr photo shared by Jared Cherup Twitter Bird: cc licensed flickr photo shared by SerGe’s Insanity Twitter Convention: cc licensed flickr photo shared by ChunLum’