The Dark Secret of the Timer: a Goose Chase App Case Study

A couple weeks ago my school decided to celebrate Read Across America with a rumpus of a competition using the Goose Chase App. For those that haven’t used this game based system a user (the challenge designer) creates a list of challenges and assigns a point value for the completion of each action. Once completed, players can log into the game and compete against other players by completing as many challenges as possible within a given amount of time. The app allows players to record video of themselves, take pictures, and type answers so the variety of activities is fairly open ended. When I first played a Goose Chase game I could see its value for engagement. In our Read Across America Goose Chase we had to draw and take a picture of a book mark, record a poem that finished an initial 4 line stem, make the letters of the word “read” using only our bodies and take a picture, write out the answer to several riddles, and more all within a 15 minute game time. The winning team was rewarded with an ice cream party! Needless to say my 10th grade advisory class was highly engaged!

I am fairly competitive and I had played Goose Chase once before so my team had an advantage. We had a point maximizing strategy. When time runs out the team with the most points wins. If more than one team completes all the challenges then the fast team wins. We started with the most valuable items and broke up out 14 person team into 2-3 squads that worked on different missions concurrently. Then it was a matter of recording as each team completed a task. We finished all of the tasks a full minute before any other group!

I’m not going to lie… I fully enjoyed the victory and definitely rubbed it in to the other group that wins nearly every challenge but here’s the thing…

we didnt win because of superior strategy or because we are smarter or more talented. Nope. We won because I know the dark secret of timed challenges…

Quality doesn’t Matter.

That’s right… In a timed challenge where there is either a ‘complete’ or ‘not complete’ standard the bare minimum is enough to score the point. It is a raw calculus of quantity over quality. If we were to make a pro/con list of this gamified mechanic that definitely falls in the con category. There are pros – this was by far the most engaged my students in the class have been all year. It also forced us to think strategically and to creatively adapt. As a classroom teacher though we need to weigh the pros and cons carefully because timed challenges only brimg out the bare minimum of content and skill demonstration. Many of us have used Kahoot or Quizlet Live which also have timer mechanics and I am sure that you have noticed a similar dynamic – a lucky fast guess in Kahoot is more valuable than an answer arrived at through a good process.

Deep thought and a reasoned process are not always valued in a timed challenge. It doesn’t mean the timer doesn’t have value but the mechanic might not actually be assessing the intended content or skill. Speed, a resonable guess, dumb luck might be just as important as knowing the skills and content. Use timers to engage students… just be aware the trade-offs.

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