If I told you we were going to play a game by stacking a bunch of smart phones and moving them around, you might get a picture in your head like the one above. But there is actually a simpler, more fun way to go about this.
Last weekend, I discovered Scrabble Flash in the toy aisle of my local grocery store :
Each of the five game pieces is a small, location-aware blockwith a screen that displays a letter. By rearranging the blocks, words are formed. The blocks are all aware of each other, so they can tell you when you have them arranged to spell a word. Several different games can be played with this remarkable little interface. Apparently, Scrabble Flash was released in time for Christmas last year, but I didn’t notice it until now. For about $30, I may have to pick this up for myself.
When I first saw Scrabble Flash, I thought it might be a commercial manifestation of Siftables, a similar interface designed by an MIT student that I wrote about a couple of years ago after seeing this TED talk. It turns out that Siftables are now Sifteo:
Both Scrabble Flash and Sifteo are block-like computers that are aware of the others in their set. Scrabble Flash is not as robust with only three games available on the monochrome display. But it is available now and the price is reasonable. Sifteo blocks are full-color screens that are motion sensitive and connect to a computer wirelessly, which means more games can be downloaded as they are developed. But they won’t be available until later this year and I suspect the price will be higher than Scrabble Flash.
Is this the future of language games? That would be a pretty bold prediction. But clearly as we all become more accustomed to using apps on our smartphones, these kinds of “toys” will begin to feel like a very familiar technology. Scrabble Flash is an affordable entry point, but I’m excited that Sifteo is actively seeking developers to create more games. They already have several learning games but there is potential for many more.
I love a good boardgame and I love a good mashup. So, when I read about the Boardgame Remix Kit on GeekDad, I had to write about it. I don’t own the kit (which comes in ebook, book, card, and app form) yet, but I did take a check out the free Valentine’s Edition download, which looks like a lot of fun.
The first game, WLTM Humpty Dumpty is a kind of madlibs game in which players create personal adds based on Trivial Pursuit cards (WLTM = Would Like To Meet). The second turns Monopoly into a game of Divorce! in which players use their money to pay lawyers to fight over property. (I have to admit, my first reaction to this game was that it might be about as much fun as going through a real divorce, but after reading the rules, there is some strategy involved that could be fun to play.) The other two games are based on Scrabble and Clue.
How can these games be used in a classroom? Like other forms of media (books, movies, music, etc.), there are several ways in which these games can be used. Students can play them and report back on their experience. This could be as simple as Was it fun? and How do you play? to evaluating whether the game accurately simulated real life. For example, was Divorce! similar to a real divorce? Why or why not? Students could also compare the original version of the game to the mashup version. Finally, students could use these mashups as inspiration to seek out other versions of existing board games or even to create their own. All of these could be fun ways to practice English on Valentine’s Day.