Ethnographic Description 1

On October 11, 2011 the PDI Studio 5 class, along with Professor Ron Eglash, traveled to the Arc Community Charter School in Troy, NY to observe 5th and 6th grade students in a classroom setting.  Half of the PDI students, including myself, went to the 5th grade classroom while the other half went to the 6th grade classroom. This classroom was taught by what appeared to be a Caucasian female, along with a Caucasian male teaching assistant. 21 students who I am assuming were of African American, Hispanic and Caucasian decent comprised the class, with the majority of the kids being African American. The students were required to wear a uniform; an Arc Community Charter School issued shirt, black pants, and shoes of their choosing. The children were seated in small rows of about 3 people, all facing the front of the classroom. At the front of the room was a large whiteboard where the teacher was writing down vocabulary words for the students to copy down when we arrived. On one side of the room was small rug to sit on, which is where my group did their project with the students, and on the other side of the room there was a Smart Board that the teacher used for various lessons.

The response device that my group brought in for the kids to utilize was an HTML based digital hide and seek game (http://homepages.rpi.edu/~wilsoa4/Response/index.html). The main page of the game has a list of six maps to choose from. Once a map was selected, the mouse can be moved around the screen until it turns into a hand. When the hand appears, it indicates that it is a region that can be clicked on, which are the “hiding spots” where various characters are hidden. As the user begins clicking around, if they click on a spot where there character is not hidden, they are brought to a new page that says “I’m not here! Click ‘Back’ on your browser window or press the backspace button to try again!” However, once they click on the spot where the character is hiding they were brought to a page with a small animation of a character and read “Yay – You found me! Click here to choose another map.” The maps included a bookshop, city center, under the seas, Halloween town, country farm, and fairy land. The corresponding characters included a dragon, a cat, a whale, an own, a raccoon and a unicorn. Each child, or pair of children, completed every map, sometimes multiple times.

Going into the day we hypothesized that the children would respond positively to this device. We thought they would think the game is fun and entertaining, but by the end they might be bored since they went through all the maps. We thought that if we had more maps, or were able to utilize the DDR pads are directional arrows, we could have extended the game. We also hypothesized that once they got bored by the end of the game, they would start playing with other things on the computers, especially since they are already pretty familiar with computers. However, overall we thought that the project would be successful and that the children would be entertained by the classic game of hide and seek, made digital.

The first group that we interacted with appeared to be comprised of four African American females and one African American male. When the children first sat down, the four girls split into two teams of two, with each team using one computer and the boy on his own computer. The girls immediately began sharing the computer, with one person moving the mouse around and the other clicking. As the kids started working through more and more maps, the groups and individuals began getting competitive with each other. They wanted to see who could find the characters fastest. If they got frustrated because they were unable to locate the character, they would ask the other groups for help. In response, the other group would often times just give the answers, rather than give hints. One of the girls even said “we got it mad quick,” bragging about their skills to the other group before she proceeded to help them. They also began asking us for help, wanting hints or to play the hot/cold game to narrow down their search for the characters. However, once they were able to find the characters, they would get extremely excited and the girls would even cheer. The kids also got excited when the say TGI Friday’s on the cityscape map. When we asked the kids if they liked the game, they all said yes. They said they would have liked a hint button, more maps potentially utilizing countries and states, and they wanted to be able to find objects or points. It is also interesting to note that this group finished all the maps before the time was up. Three of the African American girls proceeded to play with my computer, more specifically the fingerprint reader and the camera. The girls could not figure out how the computer knew whose finger was being swiped and could not understand why their fingers would not work. They proceeded to try to rub my fingerprint off onto their finger to make the reader unlock the computer. One of the girls even asked “Would it work if I was white?” They also enjoyed playing with my camera, taking funny pictures of themselves.

The second group that we met with was made up of, assumingly, three African American girls and two African American boys. I spoke with two of the African American girls, who really enjoyed the game. They took turns clicking around looking for the characters, with one girl selecting one spot and then the other, alternating until they were successful. This group also wanted hints because they thought that the game was tricky at times. However, they said they really enjoyed the game and were extremely entertained by it. One of the girls in the group was going between playing the game when it was her turn and talking to me when the other girl was playing. She talked to me about her pets and how her family was getting a Chiwawa soon, but her brother thought that this kind of dog was “gay.” She also told me about how she likes playing volleyball, playing SIMS, and enjoys competition. After a little while, the girls began collaborating on the maps, with one girl using the mouse and the other hitting the back button. Once they started working together, they got very excited about locating the characters and cheering when they were successful.  The girls said that if they were to change the game, they wanted the character to be in “sarcastic places,” they wanted a help button, and identified that they liked the character animations that we used.

The third group that played with our game was assumingly comprised of one Hispanic female, one Caucasian female, and two African American males. I worked more specifically with the Hispanic female and one of the African American males. When they sat down, they immediately began taking turns using the mouse and clicking to find the characters. The boy would click on a spot, and if it was wrong he would click back to set it up for the girl to take a turn. The girl would return the favor once she made her selection as well. This specific girl I remembered from the last time we went to the school. She was very shy and barely spoke at all. However, putting her in front of the computer made her open up a lot more. She seemed really comfortable with it and it gave her something to talk about. She said that she enjoyed playing computer games and played them on her laptop at home all the time. The teams in this group also got excited when they were able to locate the character and wanted hints when they got frustrated, however this happened less frequently than with the first two groups. Similarly to other groups, this group liked the animated characters and would exchange hints between teams if one of the teams was struggling with a map. Once the team I was working with completed all the maps, they started playing Purble Place and Minesweeper on my computer. The girl was more interested in Purble Place, while they were both equally interested in Minesweeper. Purble place involved a card matching game and a game in which you replicated a computer generated character based on the process of elimination. The boy lost interest in this game fairly quickly. However, he liked playing Minesweeper, even though he had no idea how the game actually worked. He liked clicking squares and seeing how large of a block he could clear before he hit a mine. He had no concept of what the numbers indicated, or that there was the option to indicate a square as a mine. I also found it interesting that as soon as he opened the game, he went right into the settings and changed what it looked like, making the background green and the mines flowers. The girl had an identical experience with the game, with the exception of altering the visuals.

The final group that we worked with was comprised of what appeared to be two African American females, two African American males, and one Caucasian male. I worked specifically with the Caucasian male, who really enjoyed the game. He said it was fun and got excited when he was able to locate the characters. Similar to most of the other groups, he wanted hints to help find the characters. Sometimes he even requested hints without even trying for himself first. After the game, when I asked him what he thought, he said the game was easy and would have liked it to be a bit more challenging. I thought this was an interesting contradiction to his request for hints throughout the game. He also said that he would have liked the game to be fully screen, have more levels and more characters, and wanted a Pokémon level. Finally, he said we would definitely be interested in the ability to create your own map and characters, as well as have a race to find the characters, potentially using wireless video game devices.

Our hypothesis was confirmed in almost every aspect; the kids enjoyed the game but once they were done with it, they got bored and distracted by other things on the computer. Overall, we were able to get a good amount of feedback and response to the game that we presented the children with. They were receptive to it and enjoyed playing it. We were also able to gather good suggestions regarding what the kids would like to change or add to the game.