I love the iPhone game Flight Control for all the reasons I love a good lesson plan.
- It builds from a simple, visceral premise. "Land the planes. Don't let any collide." ¶ Which packs the same clear punch as "what is the combination?"
- Harder, differentiated challenges arise naturally from that premise. Which is to say, as you get better at the game, it doesn't just double the speed of the planes or throw up concrete clouds or reverse the controls. It introduces different planes into the airspace, planes which move slightly faster. ¶ In the same way, a good lesson plan doesn't adapt itself to faster learners by doubling the length of the same problem set or imposing artificial constraints like, "what if one of the buttons was broken?" It tells the learner, "okay, we dusted the lock for prints and found out that these four numbers get pressed a lot. What can you do with this?"
- Those new challenges necessitate new skills. In its early stages, Flight Control accommodates a player's sloppiness but when you have three 757s approaching the landing strip and three helicopters holding in a pattern you have to keep your approaches extremely tight. ¶ The combination lock forces the need for permutations.
- Those new skills are assessed simply and clearly. A lesser game would assign separate point values for larger planes or include bonus multipliers. Flight Control assesses your skill along one simple metric: "How many planes have you landed?" ¶ After all the calculations in "Will it hit the can?" the assessment was simply "Were you right?"
Not every game or lesson can accommodate this aesthetic. Nor do I expect them to. But these are my favorite. These are my students' favorite. And they are too few and far between. We need more.