In the 1983 film WarGames, Matthew Broderick stars as David, a precocious teen, who has computer skills beyond most of his contemporaries and adults in his life. David hacks into a military computer system named Joshua, where he is challenged to play a nuclear war game. America and Russia go head-to-head as the real military system begins to launch a countdown to start World War 3.
It was fun rewatching this film with my own children recently, where they were confused that a computer system took up the space of an entire room. As an educator contemplating learning in the digital age, I noticed the subplot. The audience gets acquainted with David’s student profile, a kid who blows off school and finds himself pretty bored in general. At first, he pings the computer system, exploring which doors are open (which is humorous to my kids, as he uses an old-fashioned telephone to connect). After researching the designer of the system, he makes contact by uncovering a password, which eventually engages the entire computer.
So what does WarGames have to do with digital badge learning and project-based learning? Let’s first frame the story through the lens of David’s actions. He begins his learning journey from a “need to know.” His quest is passion-based and interest driven. His curiosity takes him down multiple paths. He is engaged in game play and finds it invigorating. He seeks out an adult mentor, Dr. Falken, who can assist him in stopping inevitable war. He researches Falken, his contributions to computer science, and he discovers clues about the computer system, Joshua, as well as how to make face-to-face contact with his mentor. He continues to seek out more information to solve his problem. He is fully engaged, intrinsically motivated, curious and steeped in a real word experience. Read more