Game Playing    Logic Class Jerry Garfunkel

Programmer Training Class (PTC)
Nearly all of the training programs (learning systems) that I developed for corporations over the past 29 years were project-based and executed in a constructivist learning environment. Twenty years ago, I wrote ". . . the way to learn a new skill is by trying it out. When the body and mind are involved in the subtleties of a new skill, real learning happens. In keeping with this philosophy, all the courses that I have designed use exercises and workshops as the primary learning tools." *
In the early 1980's, I developed a training program for a large corporation in Philadelphia. To avoid layoffs of non-IT personnel and simultaneously expand its IT staff by 800% (from 12 to 100), this Philadelphia based insurance company hired me to develop a program that sought out and trained qualified company employees to work in the IT department. The range of ages among the students was similar to the range of ages in the Ed Tech Team program. There were 6 iterations of the Programmer Training
Class (PTC)** ranging from 9 to 14 weeks long. The PTC was entirely project-based and collaborative. People were busy with productive activities all the time, just like at camp; there were few official pauses. The technological support for collaborative projects was limited in those days. I used an early implementation of today's client-server networks, known as time-sharing. This is a familiar term to anyone who has been in the IT industry for more than 20 years. The PTC was very successful. One key to the success of this CLE program, was the curriculum I designed for the first week. It taught me some lifelong lessons about the power of a collaborative CLE's. I know the value, the fun, the power of good collaboration work. The first week of the PTC consisted entirely of game playing. Game playing in the early 1980's had little to do with computers. The games these students were playing were all table games, (board games, card games, etc.). Without knowing the details of the Game-Playing class, one might think that the first week was simply used as an ice breaker. The Game-Playing class was much more than an ice breaker. The breaking of the ice and the bonding of the group over those first five days was a byproduct of the group's activities. That said, the ice breaking and group bonding was astonishing. It caught me by surprise the first time I implemented the program. The games used for this class were, as you might imagine, carefully selected and studied. The playing strategy for all selected games required analysis and deductive logic skills. It was the same analysis and deductive logic skills required of computer programmers - only set in a different context. The games varied from one-person games up to 10 person games. In some instances, I created new rules for games replacing dice-throws and other "random" factors with deductive logic challenges. Many of the games used in this pilot program are easily adaptable to interactive play between multiple handheld computers - whether the handheld computers are in the same classroom away or a continent away from each other.  It is an ideal medium on which to develop these interactive (many-to-many, multicultural) logic games The games were assigned point values based on timings I did months prior to the start of the Programmer Training Class (PTC). ** Students earned points for playing games (and small bonuses for winning); a required quota was assigned for the week. In a CLE, it was important to lay out the expectations for the entire week as early as possible, so that students could manage their own pace (with mentoring and monitoring from me). It quickly became apparent to them that the quota I had set required a lot of work - and a lot of play. Over the first two days I introduced a new game to them every 2 to 3 hours, building their "repertoire" to approximately 12 games to choose from. I administered portions of a popular Programmers Aptitude Test (SRI/IBM) on the first Monday of class and again one week later using another "sister" version of the same test. The results showed a 14% increase in deductive logic skills, well beyond the statistically significant point. The day was divided into three periods. Rules were created that enhanced student interactions both qualitatively and quantitatively. For instance, each period required new playing partners (with qualified exceptions); games could be carried across two periods, no more, etc. These classroom rules were rigid and carefully constructed. They were created to maximize the collaborative experience. The strict structure of rules that I created was in support of a very "loose" CLE.
Besides serving as an ice breaker, the
class quickly and accurately identified some students who simply lacked the required skills - deductive reasoning - for the vocation they sought. Each class, but one, identified one such person who incorrectly made it through the screening process which selected 14 - 23 employees for the PTC from as many as 300 applicants. The Game Playing Logic class turned out to be an excellent non-culturally biased means of skills assessment. The Game Playing Logic class as both an assessment tool and a teaching vehicle is blind to ethnicity and physical disabilitiesThe collaborative spirit that was created in the first week, remained with the class throughout the 3 month program and beyond. Twenty-five years later, I am still in touch with some of my students from these early collaborative CLE's.

 

* Garfunkel, J. (1987) The COBOL 85 Example Book, New York, NY: John Wiley and Sons. (return)

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Programmer Training Class (#4), Philadelphia, Pa. (1981)
 
Note the "score board" behind the students, tracking the "game-playing" points.
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