A dinosaur grapples with technology's place in education

Wednesday, September 26, 2012


When Max, one of the interns at Liger, suggested an all campus, all staff 'rpg', the only acronym I could call up was 'Rocket Propelled Grenade'. I hardly could see how that would work at peace-loving Liger Center! Of course, anyone less a fossil than myself would know Max was describing a 'Role Playing Game'.

More fun; less destructive.

This is how an RPG ( or at least ours) works. The kids came to morning assembly and were informed that four of the staff suffered some kind of 'problem'. It was up to the students to find out the nature of the cure and then to locate the source of the problems.

Jo had lost the ability to speak English

She understood and spoke only Chinese. Another teacher could not recognize shapes, another had lost her coordination. The students were divided into teams of four and given an initial set of bartering beans. With these beans they could buy clues to understanding what we required. They could earn more beans through several methods. The first was to gather trash from the campus and turn it in to Max, the game designer.

 Another way to earn beans was to do math problems and games with Emily.

They could also do word searches.

My 'problem' was that I had lost my ability to smile. I chose this role when I found out what they had to do to return my smile, knowing it would provide a wonderful sight. I was not disappointed.

Through a series of separate clues, they found that they had to have either a hat, oversized ears, or an umbrella, plus a tail. They had to do an original crazy dance while singing a song.

 It had to be all four members of the team at the same time. Often a team would be close and try to improvise the final clues (hence the dresses and other strange twists).

Needless to say, it was darn hard to keep a frown on when they were minus a single element, going nuts trying to push me to crack a smile so they could claim my certified signature and their allotment of 'mission-solved'  beans

It was a photographic field day, giving me a chance to experiment with the manual settings on my Canon.

All of the teams cured the teachers, and, nicely, though there was a certain competitive nature of the quest, there truly weren't any 'winners'. In our post-RPG reflections, I shared with the students an insight that hit home with me that day: How much I smiled on a given day in their company, how difficult it was not to. Also, that I felt a genuine sadness grow inside when I put on my mock sad face, a genuine lift when I could again smile.

The day did not go without a hitch. A few of the younger students became upset seeing their teachers 'suffering'. Though they knew we were acting and it was a game, a few of them just got overwhelmed and needed support. One or two groups did not quite meld constructively, and they also needed some adult 'lifts' to muster on. As I write this we are further on by several weeks, and we know them better- their tolerances and predilections- thanks to teacher debriefing on days such as this. 

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