News from Room 402 / Mid-October 2011

Game Design: We’ve spent the past couple of weeks examining the difference between chance and skill elements in games, and in particular looking at the effect those elements have on “fun” and engagement. We’ve created variations on Battleship (largely a game of luck; we added elements of skill) and Tic-Tac-Toe (a game of skill, albeit a simple one), and we’re now in the middle of Game Design Challenge #3, which is due on Thursday, October 20.

Cartography: We’ve spent the past two weeks attempting to make scale models of the earth. This has been challenging for a number of reasons, not the least of which being that we began with balloon-shaped paper mache bases. Some chose to continue with the globe project, and those will be finishing up on Monday, October 17; meanwhile, several students chose to adopt alternative projects. Eli chose to map US military bases around the world on an inflatable globe, Kijon chose to map the sites of the modern summer and winter Olympics, and Brian chose to map the birthplaces and chronology of the 44 US presidents. These maps each raised their own questions: How does the United States decide where to maintain military bases? Why have the Olympics never been hosted in South America or Africa? How does one map time? We’ll be moving toward digital maps this week, with Google Maps, Google Earth, and Google Fusion Tables.

Design: We’ve spent the past two weeks working on Jamie Oliver’s food/design challenge on OpenIDEO: How can we raise kids’ awareness of the benefits of fresh food so they can make better choices?Read the challenge brief We began by doing interviews, making observations, and identifying both an audience (preschoolers? teenagers?) and a user need statement. Then, we brainstormed solutions ranging from games to toys to outfits to experiences, and we’re now in the prototyping stage. We’ll be continuing with that this week, and will be finishing the week on Thursday, October 20 with a trip to MoMA’s Talk to Me exhibit on interactive technologies.

Sixteen: Sixteen spent the Rosh Hashanah weekend participating in the cultural probes project, which asked them to photograph their meals, their bedrooms, their outfits, and document other aspects of their lives as they engaged in a digital ethnography project on themselves. The cultural probes activity led to their “Life in a Day” documentary, which was inspired by the YouTube project that asked people around the world to document their lives on July 24, 2010. The YouTube project culminated in a documentary that will be released online on October 28; our version resulted in 3-5 minute documentaries about the friends and family of our Sixteen students. We’re launching our next project later this week!

And miscellany >> “Veterans” from Sixteen and other classes joined me, Ms. Fay and Ms. Berger at the MobilityShifts conference at The New School on Wednesday to talk about how we use social media in our classes. Lianna, Amanda, Chanel, Celina, Alexis, Bria, Sharon and Maksoom all shared their work – click here for a photo. >> Dana designed the logo for the iSchool’s Breast Cancer Walk shirt, above, and we printed 20-30 of them after school this week.

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