Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Rocking Biology with Guitar Hero

One of my young, energetic and extremely creative teachers recently did an exciting and original lesson in her biology class. The lesson hooked the digital native students right away and kept them interested. Why? Several reasons:
  • the lesson was creative and unlike anything the students has seen before

  • the lesson was hands-on and interactive

  • the lesson used technology to support an already-solid lesson

  • the lesson tied new knowledge to something the students already knew

I interviewed my teacher and asked her to share a little about the lesson for the benefit of others interested in jazzing up (or rocking out) their classrooms.

Why and how did you use Guitar Hero for a lesson in your classroom? What objective(s) were you trying to teach with the lesson?

I used guitar hero in the class to introduce students to translation, the process of creating proteins within a cell. To be admitted to play, students had to submit a "ticket" consisting of an analogy between video game playing and translation. As we played guitar hero, we discussed how each element related to translation and the students corrected their analogies.

My objectives were to try to help the students to understand the jobs of rRNA, tRNA, and mRNA in creating proteins in ways that stick to their minds and to motivate students to think outside the box when studying.

Where did you get the idea for the lesson?

This particular lesson is a modified version of two lessons my mentor teacher showed me during student teaching. In his first lesson, he had the students create an analogy for translation. As a class, the students chose to make the analogy to guitar hero. The second lesson was one in which he was having the students design their own experiments. The students were to play a video game with different variables introduced to see the effect. Some played with their opposite hand, others wearing oven mitts.

I felt that combining the two activities would work better for teaching translation because the students would have to think about what was happening in the video game in terms of translation, and also they would have the visual aid in front of them.

Would you call the lesson a success? Why or why not?

The guitar hero lesson resulted exactly as planned with the students gaining a better understanding of translation before we got into the minute details of it. For their last quiz, students were helping other students with vocabulary words and concepts, and continually referred to the guitar hero analogy in their explanations to each other.

What was the reaction of the students to the lesson?

The students were in disbelief when I first brought up the idea. As time passed and the day for guitar hero grew closer, the students became excited. A couple of days before we had our demonstration I assigned the students to create their "tickets" for entry to the guitar hero day. Part of the assignment was to play a video game for 10 minutes and create an analogy of translation based on the game they played. I posted the assignment on RenWeb because most students felt their parents would not believe such an assignment.

The day we played in class, the students were excited, cooperative, and helpful to each other. Some students had never played before and those that had gave instructions and encouragement. After the lesson many commented on their better understanding of the concept and said they hoped for more activities like that one.

Photo by Nancy Reynolds


Jim Brown said...

OK - Now I have permission to work in Call of Duty to my lesson on WWII. Talk to Phil about it.

In baton rouge said...

Very well said. This teacher was clearly thinking outside the box.

As educators, we need to be able to speak our students language. And from today forward, that is with technology.

The blog mentioned two key words "young" and "creative". I wonder if this activity would be possible without them.

Al said...

Great Idea! I love Guitar Hero! I may have to borrow this idea...


Valonia said...

I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


Nathan Barber said...

Thanks so much for your comment. It's nice to know that the information I'm posting is being used or enjoyed by other educators. I hope you'll drop by again, soon.