From: Jakob Schulze
Submit: Post Field Note
Date: 15 Oct 1996
Remote Name: ss1mac-05.ucsc.edu
Sarah, aged about 7 Jakob (25)
Sarah, who was already seated in front of a geology game, told me to come and help her. It became apparent that she was discontented with the game and wanted me to help her playing it. She absolutely didn't understand the meaning of the game, because the underlying logic requires some knowledge that she just doesn't have. She only wanted to play on the surface where she could click on some things and be rewarded by some animations or sounds.
For example the task was to create some stones, by putting together given ingredients and then baking it, following a recipe. Here she didn't get what the program wanted her to do. It didn't become clear to her that she failed (in the sense of the game as it was designed) when she just put anything together. That the room was very noisy made it even more difficult to follow the comments and instruction given verbally. Another part of the game included a puzzle, where missing parts of a fossile had to be fitted in. This task is better, because it doesn't require much explanation, and, when done, the fossile turned into a colorful picture of what it might have looked like (cute!), so made clear that it was solved.
I also found it difficult to navigate through the game. I looks nice, when the game works without written instructions and can motivate kids that don't read very well. But this game didn't make it clear to me, what we were supposed to be doing. Again: this could have been caused by the noise in the room.
I tried to lead her attention to the task and explain the meaning of what she was doing there, but she didn't seem really interested in the background. So she finally got bored and went away to find something else to do.
Firstly: I like the way the kids grab us and make use of us.
This game kind of worked on two different levels. One is on the surface, with colors and anmations which entertain and motivate kids for a while. The other level digs much deeper, it requires knowledge and the interest to explore things, to read, think and work, and thus aquire new knowledge.
The gap between the levels seems to be very wide, too wide for Sarah to cross. She would have needed a game, that leads her to the next level in smaller steps. I couldn't do it.
I'm a little frustrated, because the game was just not adequate for her and I believe it is my job to help her pick the right games. I just wasn't prepared (we all haven't done our homework in this area. It wasn't even assigned).
What can help a child to get from the reward-system of animations to one of discovering things (which I believe is better)? What can I do? What can the software do?