Friday, April 22, 2011

How I use Angry Birds in the classroom

I've had two iPads in my classroom for sometime now and as a class we share them. Yesterday, I continued to use the iPad with Allan (not his real name), a seven year old boy who has special needs (Read: Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder).

For a few weeks now, I've had Allan playing on a number of iPad apps including a wide variety of Dr. Seuss books, logic puzzles, Pages and YouTube.

Yesterday, Allan was playing the free version of Angry Birds that I had on one of my iPads. It was fascinating to watch his initially clumsy pokes develop into very deliberate and accurate gestures. After completing all the levels on the Free version, Allan begged me to buy the full version - so I did.

It is safe to say that Allan has a limited attention span, so I was impressed to see him spend the time and effort getting better at something that he initially had very little success with.

As I watched Allan get better and better at Angry Birds, I could see him experiencing the game with a pleasantly frustrated demeanor. The game was challenging enough to keep Allan's interest but not so hard that he ever wanted to quit.

I watched him become more and more proficient at the angle of his sling shot and the trajectory of his Angry Birds.

I watched him develop a strategy where he would fling his first bird and if it did not do something productive (read: hit a piggy or knock down some structures), Allan would in one motion click menu and then restart. While it's true that I can't tell you exactly what his reasoning was for this - I saw him only ever restart the level if his first bird was unproductive. It seemed to me that he was developing a coping strategy in an attempt to set himself up for the most success.

Angry Birds was a great way for Allan to work on his perseverance, patience, focus and fine motor skills.

Watching Allan clap his hands while wearing his ear-to-ear grin after knocking down that last passively defiant piggy is something I will never forget.

For more on how Angry Birds and other video games can be used in the classroom, check out Josh Stumpenhorst's post on Angry Birds!


  1. Allan is a genius. I also restart if my first bird is unproductive. It's obvious....everything else is a waste after that. It's like playing catch-up, :-). On a more serious note, its amazing the things that we can discover once we are able to just grab the attention of a child. Glad that you are kicking at some of the traditional norms of the classroom.

  2. This is excellent, Joe. Thanks for this inspiring story that should be shared with all folks who think there is no place for games in the classroom.

  3. There is an interesting article in by Dr. Judy Willis, a neurologist, who makes the case for the Video Game Model as a Learning Tool. According to Willis, this phenomenon that you witnessed with Allan has to do with the release of dopamine in his brain. Your "experiment" appears to have proved her theory! ;) Here's the link to that article...

  4. Wow thats awsome! You totally ROCK!

  5. I'm envisioning "Angry Bird" wars in the classroom. Collecting sample data, percentage of hits to misses, etc. It would work and it would be fun! Thanks for sharing this

  6. I received my ipad2 yesterday and I'm excited to start finding apps that I can use with my students. Thanks for opening up my eyes to some of the more unconventional methods of integrating my new toy into the classroom!

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