[MUD-Dev] Re: Real-world skills

J C Lawrence claw at 2wire.com
Tue Jul 24 21:23:56 New Zealand Standard Time 2001


On Tue, 24 Jul 2001 16:13:57 -0400 
Travis Casey <efindel at earthlink.net> wrote:

> Yep.  I'm on a mailing list that discusses RPGs for children, and
> one topic that's come up there is using RPGs educationally.
> Here's an excerpt from a post from a while back there:

This sort of learning is both wonderful and remarkably easy to do.
In a prior life I taught at a small private school (Math and
Computing FWVLIW).  I ran a series of courses with 5 and 6 year olds
using Logo.  The basic pattern was fairly simple:

  -- Have them rotely type in a set of Logo commands and watch what
  the turtle draws.  Ask then what they thought the commands meant
  and how they worked.  Repeat with new rote programs until they
  have it figured out.

  -- Give them a pre-drawn picture of a simple regular geometric
  shape (square or triangle to start with) and ask them to draw it
  with Logo.  The goal is success through experimentation and
  Newtonian approximation.  Don't worry if they don't get it and
  absolutely do NOT tell them how to do it.  A surprising number of
  kids will "invent" that technique for themselves as they go along,
  and will then busily and happily teach it to all the rest).

  -- Repeat with increasingly complex regular geometric shapes (ie
  more sides).  Just keep them busy experimenting and playing.
  They'll figure out the rest.  Some kids take 15 or so shapes
  before they catch on.  Some less.  

  -- Encourage them to work out a system for guessing what the
  correct turn angle is for a regular shape of N sides.  Most of the
  kids at that age won't know multiplication and division, but they
  will know how to add numbers and to then add repetitively.  From
  there's its just another Newtonian approximation question.

  -- Repeat and continue with no right/wrongs until they've figured
  out for themselves that the magic total is 360 and they know how
  do the arithmetic for various shapes.

  -- Now try fancy things.  Houses.  Pictures.  Etc.  

At every stage whatever they come up with is perfect colouring
material for art periods and is typically gleefully carted home to
the parents and the fridge door.

Form there its a small step, in the same
do-it-and-figure-out-what-you-did manner to introduce flow control,
looping, repetition, and most of the other basic concepts of logical
flow and programming -- with kids of 6 or 7 years old.

Good stuff.

> The whole point of this is that I used this to teach about the
> laws of supply & demand, marketing and so forth plus a healthy
> dose of percentage mathematics and the idea of "relative value." 
> Plus "caveat emptor." Not bad for a four-hour game session.

Which is part of the approach I explicitly avoided: telling the kid
the answers and what they mean.  I've found discovery much more
effective.  I never told them any answers or what anything meant.
Occasionally (not often) I confirmed something they'd discovered,
but the brunt of it was all their's and stayed their's.  

You might know, you'd better know -- you're the adult -- but that
doesn't mean you have to tell them.  Just set them up in a position
where discovery is easy and then keep them in that position, using
repetition, variations, and all the other forms of play until they
do discover, then move on.  MUDs are great for creating play
opportunities.

I had kids determining that 720 was the magic number, and so busily
made all their turn values add up to 720.  As we didn't have a real
Logo robot turtle, just a triangular phosphor blip on the screen,
they couldn't see that this actually turned around twice -- which
was just fine.  The fact that it was 720 instead of 360 (I didn't
introduce the concept of or word "degrees" as it was unnecessary and
would have been distractive at that point) didn't matter a hoot --
what they had worked and was __sufficiently__ accurate for them at
that time.  Later, with other shaped in every case they would notice
and figure out that 360 was also a magic number and that the
arithmetic was easier with that number.

They'd figured out there was a magic number, that they knew what it
was, and how to use it.  That was far more than good enough.
Refining that magic number was an easy step for some later
discovery.

ObNote: A similarly-run class in Texas had some slightly older kids
independently derived Pythagorean formulae without any adult
guidance (after-school play).

  That's actually an amusing exercise: proving Pythagoras given
  only a right triangle and a compass.

--
J C Lawrence                                    )\._.,--....,'``.	    
---------(*)                                   /,   _.. \   _\  ;`._ ,.
claw at kanga.nu                                 `._.-(,_..'--(,_..'`-.;.'
http://www.kanga.nu/~claw/                     Oh Freddled Gruntbuggly
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