My Classroom Angry Birds Experiment

After watching Paul Anderson’s TED talk about game design and classroom design, and his experiment about setting up Angry Birds on his computer with a sign that said “play” and nothing else, I got interested in what would happen if I did the same thing in my classroom. So, yesterday, for morning work, I put Angry Birds Space on the interactive board, and pinned a huge “PLAY” sign on it, and just watched as my sixth graders came in. I purposely gave them minimal directions and very little input.

Here’s what I was expecting: a mad rush to play the video game first thing in the morning, particularly when they were expecting some math morning work. I figured we would have a crowd of kids up in the front of the room, all clamoring to play (I also hoped that the interactive pen would work for pulling back the birds, but it didn’t, so they had to use my computer.) I even had my camera ready, to capture the scene as it unfolded.

I was, therefore, surprised by what did happen. Not at all.

Only three or four of my students sat down to play. A few watched, but then milled about to chat with friends. They sort of kept the game in view out of the corner of their eyes. But mostly, it was a small handful that played. And they weren’t dominating the game. They would play, walk away, see no one else playing, go back, play, etc.

I did notice some teaching going on, as the more experienced Angry Birders showed another student how to play the Space version (which uses physics and gravity), and there was some interesting cheering going on.

But I was surprised it wasn’t much of a hit. Certainly not like Paul Anderson showed in his video. (Maybe they are already bored with Angry Birds? Maybe the social interaction with friends was more important? Maybe they didn’t know what to make of my “PLAY” sign? Maybe they need explicit instruction from the teacher? Or maybe they were tired on a Monday morning.)

Peace (in the experiment),


  1. Hmm, this is so interesting, Kevin. My students (5th grade) are very much on the immature side this year. I believe as you did, that they would do a mad rush to plan. I might have to try this and see what happens.

  2. I love reading about your experiments. Makes me wish I taught across the hall from you. Thanks for sharing. I’ve had “play” on my mind lately…thinking how this should play out in our classrooms.

  3. Interesting behavior. I wonder if the concept of play in school has been drummed out of the kids by sixth grade, therefore they thought it was a trick of some kind. I like the way this turned out, says something about your kids and interacting.

  4. Hmmm… I’m curious how my students would react. I see kids of various ages (1st to 5th) and I wonder if they would have different responses based on their ages.

  5. Perhaps Angry Birds might have already “peeked” and is starting to wane. I do so the Pokeman trend coming back among the 2nd grade set! It’s hard to be on top of what’s hot and what’s not!

  6. I am surprised that they didn’t seem that interested…how old we’re the kids in the Ted talk.? Same age as yours?
    Also on another note, my son got a stop motion animation app put out by Lego for his iPod touch… He has made 2 movies so far, he is definitely playing around and learning how to space the pictures so they look more animated…

  7. Hmm… now I want to go try it with my own students! I can’t imagine them not being completely interested… very interesting…

  8. This is a curious situation. Just when we think we have them figured out, our students continue to surprise us. I wonder what their thinking was? Thanks for sharing your experiment!

  9. Thanks for this post. What a great experiment to conduct. Reading this makes me wonder how students would react to other such invitations.

    What would they do with a simple simulation, for example?

    Or an interactive story?

    Or, what if the game was Scrabble?

    Your process of replicating the Anderson’s experiment is an inspiration because the students are the relevant data. It communicates to them that the way they work, think and tick is of great interest.

  10. I’m with Ruth, wishing I taught across the hall from you! Interesting how your students responded. I wonder how an experiment like this would have gone over in the GED classes I used to teach.

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