Scribblenauts in the classroom
There's nothing wrong with arriving late to a party as long as you have a good time when you get there.
I dropped off from portable gaming after the fall of the original Gameboy. As such, though I was aware that a game called Scribblenauts existed on the Nintendo DS, I'd never played it, seen it or even had any idea what it was about. This week I found out what I've been missing - a slice of utter genius.
We have produced two ebooks and delivered numerous presentations on the theme of constructivism and constructivist apps but in some way Scribblenauts is the ultimate constructivist application in existence. Why? Well we're talking about an app that allows you to think of something, write it down and watch it pop into existence on screen. Take a look at the footage to the right to see what I mean...
It has absolutely entranced me this week - trying to find something, ANYTHING that this thing couldn't create. Giant Viking? Yep. Rainbow unicorn? Easy. I though I had it with walking table when the object dropped gently to the floor. Then about ten seconds later it got up and walked away! I showed it to site co-founder Luke Rees and he soon joined in the quest to create the impossible.
We started thinking that there MUST be ways to harness this slice of awesome in the classroom. There are and in fact the more we thought about it, the more an innovative educator, confident in the use of gamification strategies could really go to town with Scribblenauts - without even leaving the menu screen!!
You see, the main game involves using the creation of objects to solve the unique puzzle set in each level. The objective is to reach a star. So for the first level it's in a tree - you could write a chainsaw, an axe even a beaver to chop the tree down. Or you could solve it in a completly different way - build a ladder or a jetpack and reach the star that way. The range of metcognitive skills being harnessed here is amazing when you think of it: planning, evaluating, reasoning, prolem solving...
I could write a whole other article for each level. That first one alone could compose one outstanding lesson with the simple objective: How many different ways can you reach this star? You don't even need to go into a level though as you have a freeplay area built into what is essentially the menu screen. You can choose from a small selection of backdrops and then create away to your hearts content.
So here are just a few of our suggestions for literacy-based activities you could carry out just on that menu page:
REINFORCE THE PARTS OF SPEECH
Objects are nouns. Nouns can be described using adjectives. There's a whole word level lesson right there! ("Can we make a quickly cat? Why not? What type of word is quickly?")
Start with a cat. Then challenge every student to create a unique cat by adding some adjectives. Compare, contrast then use the cat to write a descriptive sentence or two!
DEVELOP UNDERSTANDING OF SYNONYMS AND ANYONYMS
A natural step from the previous concept - if someone makes a HUGE cat, can anyone use a different adjective and make an exact copy? How about a cat that is the opposite size? Combine this with the sentence writing idea and you;ve got a great opportunity to practise using high level connectives like "whereas" or "although."
Objects only get created if spelt correctly. As such Some simple spelling tests could be carried out in the app. The student knows if they spelt the word correctly because the item appears before them - how cool is that! a great tool for the SEN speller.
While you can;t use Scribblenauts in the same way you might apply Puppet Pals or Toontastic, the ability to create practically anything makes this a valid choice for digital storytelling. Students could design a setting and populate it with relevant objects before describing the scene they have created. Images could be screengrabbed and exported then narrated in apps like Sonic Pics or even iMovie.
Ok that's a few to get you started! I'm off to try and make a talking silver gecko...
Download Scribblenauts Remix from the App Store here.