We have been working with Endless Ocean on the Wii for a couple of weeks now as crucial element in our Sealife topic this half term. I thought I would grab a few minutes and return to the surface to reflect on it’s impact so far.
Manta Ray by Kawa0310
The game has been perfect for our work in class as it is so open ended. There is no specific path or “levels” that need to be completed in a certain order. Once you are through the brief tutorial, which covers some of the basic controls, you are free to explore the ocean depths.
These open ended, sand box style simulations provide great learning opportunities for classes.
The currency of progress comes in the form of fish of course, or indeed any marine life you encounter. During our first week we organised a set of 5 activities in our literacy lessons that were rotated (a carousel) throughout the week. These included a teacher led (guided) reading session, some online research on the species we had already found and a group playing the game to explore it for themselves. It is important to allow children time to play it independently or in a small group.
I provided a simple factfile template (differentiated for a couple of levels) that gives the children some structure to their research and has proven useful for them to collate notes from the game. Here is a little video of some of the gameplay you would experience in Endless Ocean.
Each species that is found is recorded in the game’s Marine Encyclopedia (See 2:05 in the film above) which is proving a useful record. I also have lots of fish shaped card and written the names of what we find for display in the classroom. Children can then choose something from the display to go away and research without being tied to the game. I think it is useful to display your progress of discovery in this way. Taking the game out of the console into your room continues the engagement.
When you find a fish in the game you have to interact with it to learn something about it. In the film you will see each species has 3 facts to discover. The longer you interact with the fish and the more frequently you discover them, the more facts are revealed.
The children have been very engaged with the topic so far – we were using the Wii in our first literacy lesson in Year 5. A pretty interesting start to the year for them, not what they were expecting perhaps.
Gigantus and Sphyrnie by
Many of the children have discovered fish during their time playing the game – you may have seen from our class Tweets of our dives we have been excited to find, amongst others, the Japanese Bullhead Shark, a Red Stingray and the Leopard Whipray. The children take great ownership of these discoveries. After I remarked on a certain type of fish I had not seen before, a boy proudly turned to me and stated, “I found that yesterday!”
Their engagement goes beyond the discovery. It continues onto trying to find out about the species in more detail. I think they make a connection between their simulated experience in the game and the desire to find out more. They want to find out more as they have invested something. With a trip to an aquarium planned for later in the term we will hopefully close this loop of experience with real life examples.
The experience of using the game so far shows me that a rich, games based simulation adds an ingredient that is hard to replicate in any other way.
I said in my last post I wanted an edge to our learning that provided moments of shared discovery and we have had many of those. For example, as a group has found a species like the Scalloped Hammerhead or the first sighting of a dolphin we have all downed tools and just enjoyed that moment.
In one shared dive with the whole class we swam away from the coral reef (which we have been learning about too) and in the murky depths I could see a large grey and white tail swishing away from us. We began to realise what it could be and I had to swim to catch up with it…suddenly we were surrounded by a group of Indo Pacific Sailfish. We thought it was a shark. It was a lovely moment of discovery we shared as a class and one that captures what is possible with these games.
You can probably see that these moments offer some excellent opportunities for narrative or recount writing which we have been exploring in the last few days. There be a story in them murky depths…