Just before spring break, I asked my students playing the Introduction to Computer Science course (gnimmargorp.com) to add a note in their journal in which they thought either about their own thinking or about themselves, rather than just in-game observations.  One young man wrote this:

I have learnt much from this class. This class has not only taught me the basics of coding, but how to time manage my time, and focus my attentions on my studies. In the beginning of the class I just wanted to follow the footsteps of my older brother who now studies Computer Science, and Engineering in Penn State. But a few month into the subject, and I began to actually really like it. I thought it was easy, but what was easy turned out to be both fun, and challenging. I finished all the Lullaby lyrics a few weeks ago, and had recently completed the tough quest of secrets. I have set a personal goal for myself, in which I would spend 30 minutes doing anything related to this class. I have been recently busy, thus unable to complete that goal. I have learnt that working with my classmates, especially Mohamed Abo Aiad in coding, has proven to be efficient, because we are both at the same level, allowing us to help each other in every quest and activity. I had been sick for a week, and traveling for another, so I think I might be behind in terms of the Code Academy completion, but I hope to catch up the class. I learnt that sometimes sitting near friends can cause disruption, and lack of focus. Although other times, I end up learning from them. This class I will continue working on quests, in order to earn some gold, and experience.

high-fiveHe packed a lot of stuff into 250 words!  Most of his prior posts had been about his game progress or a problem on which he was working.  Boy, was I pleased to read this.  I should have begun asking for more thoughtful, reflective posts much earlier in the year.  Lesson plans will be changed for next year.  While this is the most exciting example, several other students similarly increased the depth of their reflection.   I’m chalking this one up as a complete win.

The initial impetus for asking for more specific reflection came from a post at Mindshift: When Kids Have Structure for Thinking, Better Learning Emerges.  I’m planning on re-reading that at least a couple times this summer in order to mine it for other ideas on asking better reflection questions and eliciting more specific responses from my students when they complete their weekly journal entries for our game.

Image credit:
36 – High Five by Melanie at Flickr