ATA Magazine

They sunk my battleship

When tradition takes a back seat to technology

A dusty light blue background with thought bubbles in yellow, and red with exclimation and question marks within. A few cartoon lightbulbs and grid are drawn over the background. There is also two cartoon plastic battleships.

... I shared my best example, then waited for the light bulbs to come on.

The challenge of letting go when a lesson takes an unexpected turn.

On a warm spring day in the early 2000s, I had a computer studies lesson on spreadsheets that was going very well. My students had carefully keyboarded their vocabulary terms, attached matching graphics and we’d discussed our progress. The class had then viewed an animated spreadsheet featuring the terms and concepts they’d just learned, while racing to be the first to guess each feature.

Now, all that remained was to give them one more example before we created our first spreadsheet together. It was time to bring out the Final Analogy—the one gem that I always saved to link student understanding with what we’d begun. Even if a student had never seen or used a spreadsheet before, this always worked to spark their understanding and welcome them to the wonderful world of spreadsheets.

Thus, I shared my best example, then waited for the light bulbs to come on. They would rejoice as they realized that the theory we’d just worked on matched a game they already knew and loved very much. But why was my class suddenly so quiet?

With a slow raise of her hand, and an absolutely earnest, innocent face, little Kyrra asked: “Mr. Suchow, what’s Battleship?”

I was stunned. How could they not have played that classic game? It’s a staple of childhood. Everyone’s played it! What was I to do? The lesson hung in the balance as I grasped for a new way to communicate the similarity between the easy-to-use co-ordinate system found in spreadsheets to the same simple (and fun) system used in the great game of Battleship.

Mercifully, another young voice came to the rescue.

“Mr. Suchow, I just found a Battleship website!”

And in that moment, I was forced to let go of any thoughts I had of saving the lesson with the analogy that had always worked before. As one, the whole class looked at the student’s monitor, lit up and declared, “Oh, that Battleship!”

They all found the website and proceeded to have all the fun and learning I’d hoped for … just not in the way I’d planned.

A person in glasses with short hair standing in front of a window and smiling. They are wearing a dark suit with a dark tie
Roy Suchow

Computer science and religious studies, Christ The King High School, Leduc

Got an Idea?

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