I released my game on my Year 9s and 10s and they got right into it! Anyway, you want to read my blog about the ARG at my school, it is here. I will say this, the students were more engaged in this assignment than i have ever seen them!

http://altrealitygameadhs.blogspot.com/

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Well Day 4 of the Institute for the Study of Traffic (Alternative Reality Game) has seen the enthusiasm continue. We have our swimming carnival tomorrow and the Japanese students have to use that time to discover the source of the next code word. Once they talk to the RIGHT teacher with the RIGHT pass-phrase they will receive this clue:


495.6
HAL


They then email the codeword to Dr Frank Tonkin - lead researcher at the increasingly mysterious Institute for the Study of Traffic. You can follow him on Twitter.
I am a bad man. My students, being teenagers, are deeply suspicious of this whole ARG exercise. They are having fun and are enjoying the conspiracy but are just as obsessed with who is pulling the strings. More on this on the blog.
That's a dance the puppetmaster plays in any ARG. The players generally know who is running the show the question is are they willing to put that knowledge aside and play along?

What has helped for me is to invent "other" puppetmasters than just myself. My kids know I'm involved in running it but they are convinced there are others as well. For example, they are quite sure my principal is someone from the game I've called "The Overseer" though he honestly doesn't even know the game is going on.
Cameron, how much are they doing independently and how much are you involved in feeding them clues?

My kids have hit the proverbial wall so to speak on the latest clue. They found it but have no idea whatsoever what to do with it. I haven't helped them at all for over a week now and I think it may be time for Agent Da Vinci to jump in and give them some hints.

I was thinking back to when I played through Prototype161. I was working directly with a partner the entire time and our team worked with 3 other teams on and off over the course of the 48 hours. The 10 or so of us were also in regular contact with the game master who gave us hints whenever we were stuck. I obviously don't want my game ending in 48 hours but the fact that the collaboration and real life hints kept us going may be a model for me to follow here.

So how are you doing it?
This issue goes to the core of using ICT in education, I reckon. Like you I want collaboration betweeen the students and a process of ongoing feedback on the production of quality work from the teacher. This 'assignment' should be, intheory, a process of refinement for the students - as oppossed to the normal essay scenario with maybe one draft timepoint and one submission timepoint. That creates a hell of a lot more work for me, it must be said.

In terms of collaboration though the students have approached the challenges along social groupings that already exisited in the classroom. On the wikis those same groups are essentially comparing notes on the compilation of material.

As for the cryto-graphic element of my ARG - I have tried to keep that to the level of Japanese the students have mastered (or a little beyond). That means that the nature of those clues are pretty shallow.....but maybe I am not thinking laterally enough!

Be well
I read your blog. We had the same concerns when we ran our ARG last semester. I acted as the intermediary and went into both classes. We had the accounting students working for the criminal justice students. The students did ask alot but I kept telling them that the client did not want to be identified and as interns they would have access.

But we did send out some tweets and also post things on blogs so if they did an Internet search they would have the idea that the person did exist.

Do you want to plant some things on the Internet. Maybe your "collaborator" could have a blog or a linkedin site or have responded to some appropriate blogs.

Then you could always say - "did you google him?"

Or wait and see if one of the students says I googled him and this is what I found.
Cool idea. I have set up a fake website
http://institutefortraffic.wetpaint.com/?t=anon

and twitter account but I don't think the kids have found it yet
I think I know what my problem is......

I lost the plot!

I was tying myself in knots trying to get the kids to be in the game and to make it 'real' - as if that was the key to engagement AND learning. But then I thought....well, people read books, play MMORPG and even though they know it isn't 'real' they enjoy it...so what is different?

The plot.

I realised that I was reducing the ARG to tasks that seemingly had no connector.

Anyway, more on my blog here

http://altrealitygameadhs.blogspot.com/
My problem is that my kids just aren't tech-savvy enough to keep the game going outside of class. They are way into it when they come to the thursday meetings but it seems to go dormant for the next week. I'm thinking next year I will have to have a physical depository for all clues that students can see/manipulate in the real world.

That or I just don't have enough students hooked to have reached that "critical mass" point.
Yeah - I take for granted that they, being young, were born with USB ports on their fingers and are streaming youtube direct to their retinas. It is an interesting feature of the so called Digital Natives is that they are NOT a uniform in their attitude, engagement or aptitude.

I have heard a lot of sooking about how wetpaint is hard to use (i kind of agree and probably wouldn't use it for this exercise again) and many kids seem helpless when it comes to uploading pics or adding sound etc. By 'helpless' I mean that they do not activcely seek to find the solution to their problem when help is staring them in the face.

For those of you who can't read my tortured Japanese in the last mission/clue it said that:
A teacher in our high school understands the code. Who? I do not know. Ask many teachers.

It has been great to see the kids ask teacher after teacher "what is the time in Brisbane?" and when the teachers, being generally a omnicient bunch, start rabbiting on about time difference etc the kids tune out because they haven't heard the right code response. Very funny for everyone - well, mostly me.

To give you lot the hint, it is a simple Caesar cypher where M=A.
Bugger and double bugger.

One of my Year 10s (15y/o) found my blog today and...well...it kinda blew the mystery wide open.

Note to all ARG-ers...do not make my mistake and allow key words to make your reporting/reflection activity discoverable by google!

Now, in my defence, the last blog post I put there was a rant about how it really doesn't matter to what extent the students know that I am running the show. But I can't help but feel a little disappointed.

Bugger number 2 - the code I created. I had lined up a teacher in the school to give the students who asked him the 'crack' for decoding. But I had considered the intelligence of my kids. They just cracked it without help. I am happy to admit that the code wasn't likely to be used by the CIA anytime soon - but HOW the kids cracked it was clever. Some used the 'common letter' strategy, others guessed short words (eg 'to' or 'on') and others used the context and numbers.

So, I am not disappointed that they used their brains to crack it but the teacher who agreed to be in the ARG is a little bummed that they didn't get to participate.

So, my learned friends - Do I blog the discovery of my blog?
The blog about my game is kept by an in-game character (agentgenghis.wordpress.nogoogle>>com, password is 87). He is their Watcher and therefore can freely comment on all that goes on. It has caused me to tweak how I'd write it a little bit but it has given me a chance to have the students read a performance review weekly without it being "me" doing it.

I don't know if that matters or not because ultimately it comes down to what you want them to take away from this experience. Personally, while it is frustrating when they break a puzzle in 20 minutes I have to step back and congratulate them for being innovative about solutions and that's what this is really all about.

Now if I could just figure out how to better deal with the puzzles that take a week...

EDIT:

Decided to add nogoogle>> to the web addy so they can't search it and end up finding this thread, lol. Dang you internet.

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