The third and final game we tested in our fall experiment is about organizing data in ways that facilitate easier retrieval later on.
Computer Science Concept
How we organize data can affect how easily we can retrieve it later. For example, if you throw playing cards into a jumbled mess in the middle of the table, it will be difficult to find one particular card (you have to check every card until you find the right one). If you instead sort the cards by suit and then rank, finding that card will be much easier.
Learning objective: Students should understand that well organized data can achieve an easier and quicker search result for any one data item. Different organizations of the data are useful for an efficient search, depending on the problem being solved.
The full set of game rules used in our experiment is available as a PDF.
Players compete to be the first one to isolate (single out) their unique target card from a deck of standard playing cards by organizing, dividing, and merging the cards into piles according to rules spelled out on Action Cards.
To set up the game, place a standard deck of playing cards (minus the jokers) in the center of the table, face-up and spread around in a single large pile. Before the first round of play, deal each player four Action Cards from the Action Card deck. Players should keep their Action cards hidden from other players. Place the rest of the Action Cards face-down to form a draw pile.
A summary of the rules for playing are as follows:
- The youngest player goes first and each player takes a turn, clockwise (to the left) around the table.
- To take a turn: A player selects an Action card from their hand, reads it aloud, and does what the card says to do. Example of an Action Card: “Divide the cards in one pile to form two piles of an equal number of cards.”
- The player then places the used Action card in the discard pile and draws a new Action card from the top of the deck to end the turn.
- If the player cannot play any of the four Action cards in their hand, they may discard any two Action Cards from their hand into the discard pile and draw two new ones from the top of the draw pile. The turn ends.
- When the stack of Action cards is depleted, shuffle the discard pile and turn it face-down to form a new draw pile.
- After players have taken two turns (twice around the table), each player picks a Target Card at random from the second deck of playing cards, looks at it, and places it face-down on the table to hide it from the other players. From that time forward, the players are now searching for an organization of the piles of playing cards, that would enable them to obtain their their target card from the piles on the table..
- Winning: Each player has a Target Card that the player is trying to isolate from the rest of the cards that are in play. The first one to do so is the winner. The other players continue to play for second place, third place, and so on.
The “villains” of the story are illegal wildlife Poachers and Sellers (traffickers). Players are individual agents skilled at catching these villains. Each player receives a random case—a specific villain to target—and competes to solve her case first. To solve a case, a player must isolate their Target (card) from the international data pool (the rest of the cards).
A custom Action Card deck is a reworded version of the abstract Action Cards.
A custom data card deck holds basic information—the data to be sorted, searched, and singled out—but no other narrative.
For example, a 7 of diamonds is the equivalent of:
A POACHER in Asia, who has snagged 7 tiger pelts.
On the back, in narrative story form, we might give the poacher a villainous name/ID and a description of the crimes he/she committed, last known whereabouts, weapons in possession, and so on.
The story version of the facilitator’s script is available for download.