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In my last post I sketched out the idea of a classroom video game arcade in which groups of students design and build the game and artwork for a mini video game console (which houses a Raspberry Pi) that displays their knowledge of unit concepts. In this post I’m going to develop this project further based on theories about how people learn.

Designing a video game and an arcade console requires a number of skills. You need to be artistic, you need to program and know how to make a game, and you need to have an understanding of how to display unit concepts in this unique format. But more importantly than any of these components is the ability to work in a group. How do I train students to work on a design team?

This tongue-in-cheek graph highlights what we expect out of group work versus what students often takeaway:


Working in groups – as a student or professional – can be frustrating and difficult, and oftentimes we come away with little aside from the desire to never work in a group again. So how do I design this group activity to avoid this common pitfall?

Usually a teacher does nothing more than says “Now remember to listen to each other and be nice”. Sometimes they develop a system for weighting grades differently depending on student reflections and level of involvement. But rather than “teaching by telling” (which doesn’t result in any learning) or relying on external incentives (grades), I will use metacognition. As Bransford, Brown, and Cocking highlight in a chapter on what makes someone an expert, “[metacognitive] strategies engage learners as active participants in their learning by focusing their attention on critical elements” (2000, p68).

How will I teach students how to work on a design team? Students will examine two different design team workflow models and make a decision about which model to use before starting on any work.

Model One: ADDIE

ADDIE stands for Analyze, Design, Develop, Implement, and Evaluate. A project team first creates a clear analysis and description of their goals and product design before creating it in the develop phase implement.

I have adapted the ADDIE design for use in this project. Click on the image below to see the file:

Screen Shot 2014-01-30 at 10.21.53 AM

Model Two: Rapid Prototyping

The Rapid Prototyping model is also known as the spiral model. Rather than analyse and design every element of the final product before starting to work on it, the team creates prototypes of the final model and refines them continually, repeating the prototype / evaluate cycle in a spiral until they arrive at a final product.

Here is a draft of what this might look like (again click on the image to see the document):

Screen Shot 2014-01-30 at 10.22.01 AM

While the ADDIE model does have a number of weaknesses, it may be preferable for students to have clearly defined roles and goals in the group before they begin to actually make the game. Conversely, while the Rapid Prototyping model is generally regarded as an improvement upon the ADDIE model, it does require a level of abstraction and an ability to see the whole picture that a group may find difficult to grasp and work with. The point is not to get students to pick one model over the other. The point is to engage them in metacognition at the start of the project and force them to talk about how they each work best in a group.


I realized after getting some feedback that I haven’t clearly stated how this idea could fit into my curriculum. As a Social Studies teacher I’m lucky since you can turn just about any historical era or concept into a game. Heck there’s even a weird Great Gatsby game out there! While this Video Game Arcade could fit into just about any unit I teach, I think it would be really interesting to tie it into the Current Events exploration that I documented in this earlier post. Since there’s so much happening every week in the news, design teams would have so many options for what to place inside their game.

Since I work in an international school, we don’t have any standardized testing or state curriculum overviews. Our R-12 Social Studies standards are loosely based on those of NCSS, but it’s been awhile since our last curriculum review. Looking over the document, I think that this project would fit our Civics and Global Citizenship Benchmark 3.4, which states “Students understand civic involvement and the role of the individual, including themselves, in key local and global issues.” By giving the students this project overview, this benchmark, and the stipulation that they have to use their Current Events knowledge to address the benchmark, I am confident that they could come up with many fascinating games.



Bransford, J., Brown, A., & Cocking, R. (Eds.). (2000). How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press. Retrieved from http://www.nap.edu/openbook.php?isbn=0309070368

Culatta, R. (2013). ADDIE model. Instructional Design. Retrieved January 30, 2014, from http://www.instructionaldesign.org/models/addie.html

Culatta, R. (2013). Weaknesses of the ADDIE model. Instructional Design. Retrieved January 30, 2014, from http://www.instructionaldesign.org/models/spiral_model.html

Culatta, R. (2013). Spiral model. Instructional Design. Retrieved January 30, 2014, from http://www.instructionaldesign.org/models/addie_weaknesses.html