Human Tetris

Found this rather funny video on Edublogs TV.  As a Tetris fan from way back, this just made me giggle…

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Speaking of Tetris, I take a class of kids with some pretty severe learning difficulties once a week to do some computer stuff with them.  A few weeks ago, one of the girls finished her work early and since there was only a few minutes till the bell she asked if she could play Tetris online.  A moment later when I walked by she was playing the game and she was totally awesome at it!  I mean, I was blown away at just how fast and accurate she was…  this is from a student that usually really struggles with many other intellectual tasks. Tetris, although based on a simple concept, is a game that requires a good sense of spatial awareness, timing and multitasking to play well… and this girl was playing really well!

I called her regular teacher over and pointed out how good this girl was at the game.  Her teacher had never actually played Tetris before and wasn’t quite sure how the game worked, so I asked the student to give her teacher a lesson in how to play it.  It was great to watch this student, who normally struggles so much with even relatively simple learning tasks, showing this teacher how to play the game… and being quite the master at it in the process.  The teacher was hopeless at it, the student was awesome.

I wonder what sort of places our classrooms would be, and how it would affect our students’ attitude, morale and performance, if teachers were hopeless at stuff more often while allowing their students to be more awesome at the things they are good at.  Often in schools we judge our students performance based on the things that we deem to be important to us, rather than what is important to them.  I’m not suggesting that everything should always be a game, but  I suspect we should always be actively looking for opportunities to let our kids be “smarter” than us.

CC BY-SA 4.0 Human Tetris by Chris Betcher is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

5 Replies to “Human Tetris”

  1. Absolutely excellent, I love Tetris too, and even created a logo based on it. I really feel you have got to what makes a really good teacher in your closure. It was what made me want to be a teacher, being able to find the magic ingredient and teach it better than I could do it myself.

  2. Chris, that’s a fantastic ‘catch’! Kudos to the teacher, too.

    Incidentally, it seems to be pretty common for parents of kids like with Autism Spectrum Disorders WebMD Forums or Ralph Klimek to say they are obsessed with a computer game or video game. However, the commercial game* that purports to diagnose dyslexia and autism, is nothing like a real diagnosis.

    *deliberatly unnamed, not defamed and not promoted.

  3. Chris, food for thought as usual. Tetris is just too hard, Guitar Hero is worse but solitaire I have a handle on, just. Awsomticity is a topic I have reflected on this year.

    Allowing “awsomticity” to flourish in classrooms helps gain a deeper understanding of the whole learner and has many beneficial spin offs.

    Some background. Our annual campus public speaking festival focusses all students Year 7 to 10 on delivering their speeches to peers, parents and staff with a final showcase ‘event’. Public speaking becomes the ‘talk’ for the festival fortnight because the entire faculty and all students are actively participating. It results in public speaking having a higher profile and purpose. Nothing unusual in that, lots of schools do that.

    Back to awesomticity. How to choose the topic. Choose something you are awesome at, you are the expert, you are a master, you teach us and be passionate about it was the brief.

    Puzzled looks from my Year 7’s as being given permission to share publically a topic on which they are the leaders, sages, masters shook and scared quite a few. Rigid task scaffolds were unpacked, the bragging fear factor was quashed,’its Ok to have passion’ mantra was reinforced, speeches polished and rehearsed and the big weeks arrived.

    The resulting sharing and learning was awesome, not so much from the gifted speakers, these were givens, but especially from our LD, silent, shy, non speakers and school refuser. They hadn’t seen their passions as valued or valuable in a school setting.

    ‘Gobsmackingly fantastic’, students and parents commented and for many it was the first time they had shared anything outside a very limited circle. What was even more heartening were peer reactions of genuine spontaneous applause, not the feeble mandatory polite clap often associated with these events. Sure, some speech deliveries were not ‘polished’, but that’s not the point here.

    I found out my main school refuser was passionate about eastern art (zen buddhist art no less) LD special is a champion archer, aspi works with dad restoring antiquities and saving heritage whilst tiny little silent non speaker Mr 11 knows how to strip and assemble race car engines and has ‘worked’ at Bathurst with race teams. Awesome? you better believe it.
    The school refuser has not missed class since (well a few, but it’s better) and his art adorns our walls, the ‘antique dealer’ has helped locate artefacts for our faculty museum,(she buys at auction for us)the archer is in a talent development squad for next junior Olympics and Mr Silent Bathurst Man produced a slideshow on his 2008 racing experience and ran Q&A with the class for an hour.

    Non of this was ‘because’ of the speeches but allowing kids the chance to be an expert, feel empowered and to lead changed the class dynamic for the rest of the year. These ‘kids’ are 11, 12 and 13 years old and had not been confident in sharing verbally let alone ever delivering a formal speech.

    These guys are way smarter than me, good on them.

  4. Chris, Well spotted. Especially for students with special needs, this is important to ensure they feel valued as a human being. I’ve heard (and used at a basic and irregular level) the concept of “Each one teach one” where each learner has the opportunity to teach at least one other person something they either know well or have learnt within the particular learning unit. The small experience I have had with it tells me students are able to and want to learn off each other. Your description of the student teaching, and the teacher learning aligns with Mezirow’s theory of Transformative Learning – a powerful paradigm.

  5. Thanks for the comments all…

    Tony, what a great story! I love it. I did something a bit like that with some Year 10 kids when I was teaching in Canada back in ’06… this class of kids was not terribly motivated and most were happy to do bare minimum stuff. We were supposed to do some work on making presentations with PowerPoint (In Grade 10… I know! I know! Don’t get me started on THAT!) so I told them they could talk about anything that interested them. I was actually trying to get the focus away from “making the PowerPoint” to be more about conveying a point of view with some degree of passion. I told them they were not allowed to use more than a few words on each slide, just to use pictures only, and they were not allowed to have any speaker’s notes. Anyway, that’s a bit off track, but the point is that when they were invited to talk about ANYTHING they wanted, they chose things that they were genuinely interested in and that they had some deep understanding of. Even if it was just about a holiday they’d taken, or about their family history, or the computer games they play, or the music they like… getting them to talk from the heart, with passion, about something that they genuinely cared about was transformative. We need to do this more often…
    Again, great story… thanks for sharing it.

    Shane, you hit the nail on the head. The best way to learn something is to teach it. I have to say I hadn’t heard about Mezirow’s theory but I’m about to go Google it to find out more. Thanks for the info!

    Shaun and Russell, thanks for your thoughts. It’s people like you who take the time to share ideas and thoughts back to the comments of the blogs they read that make for really powerful conversations. I didn’t know about *that game.

That's all well and good, but what do YOU think?