Angry Birds Transdisciplinary Education

I was dreaming a trans-disciplinary lesson using game apps as my inspiration for fun learning experience. Everyone including kids and adults love to play games in iPad, tablets, phone and other smart devices. Why not design education using game apps? This will kindle kids curiosity as well as interest to learn everything compared with real life experiences.

Immediately game apps started running in my mind but I want to do user study and pick a famous app which everyone love. I asked my wife, Nandhini to list famous game apps. Without even thinking she said “Angry Birds”.

Yes, you read correctly. Angry Birds for trans-disciplinary education and the potential it has to help kids learn Math, Science, History, Language Arts, Music, Technology etc.

It doesn’t seem to matter what age group or demographic that I talk to, kids (and adults) everywhere are fans of Angry Birds. As I was playing around with Angry Birds (yep I’m a fan too), I started thinking about all of the learning that could be happening.  I have watched kids tell adults that “you have to pull down to go up higher”.  I have watched as kids master this game through trial and error.  Being the technology educationalist that I am, I started dreaming up a trans-disciplinary lesson with Angry Birds as the base.

Following is the trans-disciplinary learning that I came up with:

  1. Math – positional math language (above, below, up, bottom, left, right, biggest & smallest), shapes, measurement (distance), angles, quadratic formulas, trajectory, velocity, parabolas
  2. Science – simple machine (lever), force, energy, speed
  3. History – history of the catapult, it’s invention, change in its technology throughout history, how it’s used in modern inventions, people who lived during the age of catapult, their culture, food, living habits, climatic conditions
  4. Music – popular music and instruments during the age of catapult
  5. Arts & Craft – what era of art and craft was happening during the age of catapult
  6. Language Arts – reflecting the learning happened by writing and reading (blogs and websites)
  7. Photography/Cinematography – Take photos, shoot videos and create short film of the entire angry birds game based learning and associated projects
  8. Technology – Blog, create website and share learning to friends, families and community using social media (with the help of Educators and Parents)

 

Let students play Angry Birds for few minutes considering measurements, directions, angle, speed, energy, force, etc. as they played based on respective age group. Invite students for Socratic discussion to collaborate with others, ask questions and get clarity. Also suggest them to refer google or books if they want to learn more. At the end of play time, encourage every student to reflect on what they learned playing this game.

 

Next phase of the activity – Demo video on catapult and question students on what is a catapult? what can be done with this catapult? One will say it is used in war to throw fire balls (as in Gladiator), other will say pigeons can be hunted. Collect all the answer, form students into small groups of 2 to 5, ask them to come up with one primary use of a catapult per team (e.g. hunting pigeon), pitch it in 30 seconds and sell it as the best use to educator. This will help students learn collaboration, negotiation, creativity, innovation and pitching skills which will eradicate stage fear and improve language fluency and critical thinking.

Based on the pitch, next task is each team to design/draw how their catapult will look like. We encourage students to be creative and innovative in their design approach. At this point educators will give random materials (like straw, string, wood, duct tape, paper, thermocol balls, rubber bands, popsicle sticks, cups, etc.) that the team could use to build their own catapult. We offer no instructions but just let them go to town, trial & error and build working models for their proposed primary use.

Let students test their catapult and experiment with speed, angle, distance, force to list a few. They can also extend their creativity by painting paper/thermocol balls to look like angry birds and pigs. After launching their paper fire balls or birds, they can record and measure distance. We share set of question for students to experiment by changing angle, force, etc. to log varying distance and analyze the impact to learn science and math real time.

As students tested, we ask them:

  1. What makes the bird go furthest?
  2. What is speed?
  3. What is acceleration?
  4. Does mass affects the result?
  5. What happen when you adjust the angle?
  6. What makes the catapult more accurate?
  7. What are some forces that act on objects in motion?
  8. What kind of energy your catapult use?
  9. What are simple machines?
  10. What are other kind of levers?
  11. What is the relationship between force and distance?

 

Older students look at the math and science behind Angry Birds, using screen shots to determine if a bird would make it to the pigs based on parabolas.

Younger students label their catapult diagram with the language they learned about simple machines, force, and motion.  Students also label the Angry Birds diagram.

Third phase of this game based learning will be to educate kids about history, culture, music, arts and crafts associated with catapult and the age of its invention. We also talk why catapult was a necessary invention. We connect all of this with how the technology is currently being used on air craft carriers. Students will have fantastic time learning through trial and error and working together to build a game.

To wrap up, students will have the opportunity to reflect on what they learned, literally about how a simple machine works, measurement, directions, etc. we encourage them to write a blog/website on catapults and angry birds using their reflection and photos. We will help them to shoot videos of their projects, edit/create a short film and post it in social media (with the help of Educators in school/class page) along with sharing it in their project blog/website.

Who knew you could learn so much from a game of Angry Birds?

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