Program: Crash Zone Year Level

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What’s in a Game?



Program:

Crash Zone

Year Level:

Year 5 to Year 9

Curriculum Study Areas:

English; Health and Physical Education; Humanities and Social Sciences

Themes/Topics:

Narrative Structure; Ethics, Values, Justice, Technology, Critical Literacy

Description:

These lesson ideas invite students to explore some of the ways of 'reading' computer games and interpreting their possible effects by examining storylines and other characteristics of selected games.

Resources:

Games People Play Crash Zone 2 vol 4 ep 5

Other: Super Mario Brothers: what's the story? Worksheet and activities sheet.

The Real Pocahontas at

http://www.geocities.com/Broadway/1001/poca.html

The Lost Colony at

http://www.coastalguide.com/packet/lostcolony01.htm and/or Manteo & Roanoke Island History at http://www.outerbanks.com/manteo/history/
Australian Explorers at http://www.davidreilly.com/australian_explorers
If computer and Internet access is not available the web resources needed for these activities can be downloaded and printed (one set per group of students).
Teacher prepared worksheet as shown below.
Materials for students to make a poster and/or hardware/software for students to develop and present a slide show, for example Powerpoint.
Teacher References


Purpose of these activities

Computer games are among the most visible texts of the new information and communication technologies. For many parents, teachers and other adults, computer games have become a focus for their fears about social and technological change, including the changing nature of childhood and the threats to Australia's national and cultural heritage and identity posed by the multinational (and predominantly American) products that saturate the market. However, there are several alternative ways of 'reading' computer games and interpreting their possible effects. These lesson ideas invite students to explore some of these alternatives by examining the storylines and other characteristics of selected games.


Through these activities students will:

  • experiment with alternative ways of 'reading' selected computer games

  • explore issues of gender, violence and cultural values in selected computer games
  • discuss and debate the fears held by many adults about the possible effects (both good and bad) of computer games on young people


  • cooperate with others in justifying a position.

straight arrow connector 1

Lesson plan:

Do a quick survey of the class to find out the following information (summarise results on black/whiteboard):



  • how many students have played one or more versions of the Nintendo® game, Super Mario Brothers, or one of its many successors?

  • if this is a mixed class, what proportions of boys and girls have played Super Mario Brothers?

  • what aspects of the game did boys/girls find most challenging or interesting, eg. fighting, getting to next highest level, etc?

If this is a single sex class, elicit anecdotal information about the above issues.

Super Mario Brothers: what's the story?

Distribute the worksheets, Super Mario Brothers: what's the story? and activities to students. Students should work in small groups, preferably with at least one member of each group having had some experience of playing Super Mario Brothers (or one of its successors).

This worksheet has been trialed with a number of year 7 students. With younger students it might be advisable to discuss the Super Mario Brothers example with the whole class and to elaborate a little on the key questions. For example, the last question in particular (is there more to the story?) invites students to think about abstract ideas that adults might call 'values' or 'ideology', but it is not necessary to use these terms. For example, you could draw attention to the use of terms such as 'discover' and 'conquer' in the worksheet and in the stories of exploration (why did the Europeans speak of 'discovering' America?), or they could be reminded that what Europeans saw as wilderness the native Americans called home. You might also ask: what is the difference between exploring, exploiting, conquering and colonising a 'new' world? Which terms suggest 'good' and/or 'bad' actions?

Depending on the age and maturity of the students, you might need to encourage students to work out some division of labour in their group when making the poster and/or Powerpoint slide show about the game they choose. Also encourage students to be creative and imaginative in suggesting what 'more' there might be to 'the story' of their game. The aim here is to encourage possible readings of the game.

When groups present their posters and/or Powerpoint/Keynote slide shows to the rest of the class, encourage other members of the class to agree or disagree with the group's findings and conclusions.

Computer games: witnesses for the prosecution

Each of the following statements is quoted or paraphrased from statements made in submissions from members of the community to the Parliament of Victoria's Inquiry into the Effects of Television and Multimedia on Children and Families in Victoria held between 1998-2000. Most of these 'witnesses' were arguing that computer games should be subjected to greater regulation and censorship and some were arguing that parents should restrict the amount of time their children spent on playing computer games.

'Computer games are very time consuming and absorbing pastimes. They often displace other, more worthwhile activities in which young people should engage, such as sport…'

'Many computer games are solitary and antisocial activities. They diminish the development of young people's social and interactive skills-not only among one another but also between young people and other members of their communities.'

'Playing computer games clearly requires a lot of skill. But they aren't really the sorts of skills that young people need…'

'Most computer games are multinational-and usually US-products. They threaten Australian national and cultural values and identity.'

'Computer games are weakening young people's inclinations and abilities to read books…'

'Many computer games are very violent. They encourage young people to see violence as an effective problem solving strategy and as a desirable characteristic of being male.'

'Many young people take on the values and ideologies of computer games uncritically, and then reproduce those values in their own lives'.

Divide the class into seven groups (this number can be varied by omitting some of the 'prosecuting statements' above or adding to them).

Give all members of each group a worksheet headed with one of the above statements as follows:


Worksheet for What's in a game?


Group number/name:


The statement your group will investigate is:

Many computer games are very violent. They encourage young people to see violence as an effective problem solving strategy and as a desirable characteristic of being male.'

Evidence for the above statement in Games People Play, Crash Zone 2, vol 4, ep 5, ACTF 2001:

· Mike playing the game 'BLOOD FEUD'


· etc.
· etc.
· etc.

When you distribute the worksheets, tell students that each group is receiving one example from submissions that were made to the Parliament of Victoria's recent Inquiry into the Effects of Television and Multimedia on Children and Families in Victoria.

Instruct students to watch Games People Play, Crash Zone 2, vol 1, ep 5, ACTF 2001, very carefully. Ask them to note down evidence that supports the statement they have been given. This should be done individually in the first instance.

View Games People Play, Crash Zone 2, vol 4, ep 5, ACTF 2001.

After viewing the episode, ask students within groups to compare their individual notes with one another. Ask each group to develop a response to the following questions (you might want to put these on a second sheet or on the reverse of the worksheet referred to above):

1. Which aspects of the young people's behaviours depicted in Games People Play supports the 'prosecuting statement' your group was given?

2. In what ways did the Games People Play episode illustrate how young people themselves deal with the concerns about computer gaming voiced in the 'prosecuting statement' that your group was given?

3. In the experience of members of your group, in what other ways do young people deal with these concerns?

4. Imagine that your group is called before a Parliamentary Inquiry into the Effects of Television and Multimedia on Children and Families as 'expert witnesses' (you are expert in being young!) and asked to respond to the 'prosecuting statement' your group was given. What would you say?

Provide opportunities here for students to put forward an argument effectively: evidence, using modals such as could, should

5. Develop a short (1-2 minutes) skit in which each member of the group acts as one of the characters in Crash Zone 2. This could be an outtake (a missing or lost scene from the Games People Play episode) and should illustrate one of the points you have made in response to questions 3 and/or 4 above. That is, the skit or outtake should illustrate one way in which young people themselves deal with an example of some adults' concerns about computer gaming. For example, consider the following dialogue from Games People Play:

BEC: BLOOD FEUD! Tried it. Totalled it. No brains required!

RAM: Wrong! I hear the Special Forces are using it to train guys how to kill.

MARCELLO: Yeah, right, Rammie! And they're using TOMB RAIDER to design bras, right?

Imagine that the next speaker isn't Mike, as in the episode you've seen, but that some of the other characters-Penny, Pi, Virgil or Alex-enter the argument.

When the small group work is complete, ask each group to perform their skit for the whole class.

Teacher references


Fuller, Mary and Jenkins, Henry (1995) Nintendo® and New World travel writing: a dialogue. In Jones, Steven G. (ed.) Cybersociety: Computer-Mediated Communication and Community. Thousand Oaks CA: Sage Publications. 57-72.
Parliament of Victoria (August 1998) Discussion Paper: Inquiry into the Effects of Television and Multimedia on Children and Families in Victoria. Melbourne: Parliament of Victoria.
Parliament of Victoria (October 2000) Report No.49: Inquiry into the Effects of Television and Multimedia on Children and Families in Victoria. Melbourne: Parliament of Victoria.
Critical Literacy in a Primary Classroom (PETA publication)


© Australian Children's Television Foundation (except where otherwise indicated). You may use, download and reproduce this material free of charge for non-commercial educational purposes provided you retain all acknowledgements associated with the material.




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