One game of Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? begins with the onscreen announcement that a national treasure has been stolen from Lima. The treasure is identified as Pizzarro's sword.

Conna is the first to respond. "Who would steal a pizza maker's sword?" she asks.

Roberto replies, "Maybe it's a sword that belongs to someone important."

"It's a clue," says Mi-sung and writes "Pizzarro's Sword" in the group's detective casebook.

"So is Lima," adds Mikhail. "Where is that? Write it down." Mi-sung writes this information in the group's journal.

Aliza, the group navigator, suggests they consult the World Almanac. A discussion ensues about how to find information on Lima---whether through the table of contents or the index---and what kind of information will provide it's location. This prompts a class discussion of research strategies. Decisions are made to use the index and look for citations of "Lima." This leads to a map. "It is Peru. The capital. Look here in Almanac," says Aliza proudly. Mi-sung writes this information in the group's journal.

Using the computer game's interactive features to "navigate" to Lima, Peru, the group gathers more clues: the suspect is female, has brown hair, and talked of eating kippers with the Prime Minister. Mi-sung writes these clues in the group's journal.

After researching kippers in the dictionary, the group combines what they learned with the Prime Minister clue, and another clue that the thief left on a plane with a red, white, and blue flag painted on its wing and decides that she is headed for Great Britain. They check their decision with a feature of the program that shows them possible destinations for the thief's flight. Great Britain is one of the choices and the one the group chooses to follow. Another choice is the United States. It has the same colored flag, but the group decides that the clues of Prime Minister and kippers point decidedly to Great Britain. "We have a president," says Mi-sung with authority, "not a Prime Minister."

They gather more clues: the thief wears expensive jewelry and rides in a chauffeured limousine. They compare these clues with the collection of police dossiers available within in the computer program and with the simulated INTERPOL computer which matches the clues they have collected with its database and, if sufficient clues have been collected, issues an arrest warrant. The warrant is necessary for the group to successfully complete the game and advance to the next highest detective rank.

The thief flees through several international cities: London, Baghdad and Budapest. At each step, the group must work together to decide their next move.

"Look at map," says Aliza. "She's headed for Singapore. It's a British colony and the thief enjoy sailing there, just like guy at the Embassy told us she was interested in."

"Yeah, and the colors of the flag match that clue we have. Look, here in Almanac," replies Mi-sung.

"Okay, let's get her," says Mikhail, and with a click of a button on the screen changes the locale of the game to Singapore.

At the airport the group spots the thief. "Captured," says Mi-sung. The other members of the group cheer.

The thief is arrested shortly thereafter, and Pizzaro's sword is returned safely to the national museum in Lima, Peru. The detectives work together to prepare their final written report. From their journal they pull notes about the problems they faced and the decisions they made to prepare a narrative analysis of their efforts to track and capture the thief. Embedded in that report is this insight into their collaborative decision making:

We often different over the right choice to make. We argue our personal feelings. But we reach a decision about our next move that is more stronger than any of us alone. And correct too! Our abilities to select information grew. We were given and select most important information helped us plan our strategy and direct our efforts to what we feel most correct conclusion. We were always able to agree our decisions with information we found on maps or books. Everyone worked together for this information.

"Improving Second Language Writing Skills with Problem Solving Computer Games" (Examples)
by John F. Barber, Ph. D.