Getting Schooled by Flappy Bird

Screen shot from Flappy Bird
Screen shot from Flappy Bird

“Everyone’s playing this new app called ‘Flappy Bird‘,” my daughter announced from the back seat.

“So no more Angry Birds?” I asked.

“Nope.”

She tried to explain the app to me, but  a description of a bird that has to weave through spaces between pipes (which are inexplicably hanging from the sky and growing vertically from the ground) is difficult to comprehend as you, yourself, are weaving through cars on Highway 281 during rush hour traffic.

To test the “Everyone’s playing it” part of the statement, I asked one of the girls who carpools with us, who attends a different school from my daughter.

“Oh, yeah, everyone’s obsessed with it,” was the response.  Case closed.

Now, I don’t usually hop on the bandwagon of obsessive apps – I’ve never played Candy Crush, and never understood the appeal of Angry Birds.  But my daughter caught my attention when she said, “It’s really hard.”

It intrigues me when middle school students willingly spend their time on something that is hard.  So, I decided to download the app and give it a whirl.

The directions are simple:  Tap the screen to keep the bird in the air.  Keep him from hitting the approaching columns by directing him through the openings in each column.  Don’t stop tapping or he does a face plant into the ground.

It’s not just hard.  It’s downright frustrating.  I played it for ten minutes, and gave up.  I’m pretty sure my Flappy Bird has a serious concussion and should be hospitalized immediately.

“Did you play it, yet?” my daughter eagerly asked the next day.

“Yes, but I didn’t do very well.  I made it through 2 columns.”

“I made it through 17!” she declared proudly.

I almost said, “Well, I guess you’re just better at it than I am.”  But then I caught myself.  All of her life, I’ve been trying to convince her to push on through even when something is difficult.  In my classroom, I continuously remind the students of having a growth mindset, to learn from mistakes, to stop avoiding activities that you can’t do well the first time.  And here I was, ready to declare myself a Flappy Bird Failure after just one try.

So, I said, “I guess I just need more practice.”

And I kept at it.  I am now up to a high score of 5.  My daughter is up to 39.

But I’m not stopping.  Because I need to prove to myself that I can walk the walk.  And it’s doing me a lot of good to make myself continue to work at a task that is downright frustrating.  It helps me to put myself in the shoes of my daughter and my students – to empathize when they are assigned tasks that seem impossibly difficult.

“So, tell me again why you keep playing this game?” I asked my daughter.

“Because it’s so hard, but when you start doing well it feels so good!” she said.

I’ll have to remind her of that when she takes Calculus in a few years…

Flappy Bird Tweets During the Superbowl
Flappy Bird Tweets During the Superbowl
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