Angry Birds for Forces and Motion and other Existential Quandaries

One orthodoxy in education is the view that using real world examples makes it easier to learn. Today, looking Forces and Motion with year 4, our real world example was the popular app-come-game Angry Birds. We were looking at how Gravity and Air Resistance effects these malcontented birds as reap vengeance upon their green porcine foe.

After talking about forces, prompted by some car advertising and a BBC Bitesize simulation, we asked students to design and build there own angry birds level using toilet rolls and card. They then fired their birds, constructed out of balls of paper, using an elastic band.

After giving the students some time to play, we handed iPads and asked pupils to use the Puppet Pals app to design a video explaining what they had learnt.

Keen to get some feedback on this new workshop we asked the pupils to give us their thoughts.

The pupils all seemed to enjoy using Angry Birds as their ‘real world’ example. However, it did leave us with a curious feeling. Is there something wrong with taking a ‘real world’ example from a virtual game? Does illustrating natural laws with a computer simulation somehow miss the point? Surely these doubts emanate from our occasional and very grown-up dissatisfaction with the digitisation of modern living. It harks back to Newton, discovering gravity by observing an apple fall from a tree as opposed to watching a mouldy tangarine tumble off the discount section in Tescos. Surely this nostalgia has nothing to do with education.

Fortunately, our year 4 pupils agreed. Immune to such existential quandaries, they were much more interested in playing and learning.

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