Archive for August, 2005

Answers.com – Online Dictionary, Encyclopedia and much more

Monday, August 29th, 2005

Answers.com – Online Dictionary, Encyclopedia and much more

Looks like a good resource for teachers and students… trying it out.

Nanocoating could eliminate foggy windows and lenses

Monday, August 29th, 2005

Nanocoating could eliminate foggy windows and lenses

This is more like it!

NASA – Bright Lights, Big Cities

Monday, August 29th, 2005

NASA – Bright Lights, Big Cities

OMG, what have we done? I know this is probably an enhanced composite where the lights are exagerated and the clouds are removed, but this looks shockingly like Coruscant, the capitol world of the Galaxy in Star Wars… or Trantor, it’s predecessor in Asimov’s stories.

James Paul Gee, Video Games, and 21st Century Skills

Monday, August 29th, 2005

Still drawing from What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Learning and Literacy, the more conservatively titled Situated Language and Learning, and the more iconoclastically titled Why Video Games are Good For Your Soul here is my discussion of Gee’s work in relation to the 21st Century skills I’ve mentioned here before. This is only addressing ideas that did not already find their way into my previous posts last week.

Gee has discussed many potential benefits of video games in education which are not neatly categorized within the framework of context, inquiry, and collaboration, yet are also too significant to be described merely as support. These additional benefits may, however, be described as helping students to develop twenty-first century skills such as digital age literacy, inventive thinking, effective communication, and high productivity (North Central Regional Educational Laboratory and the Metiri Group, 2003, p. 5).

Twenty-first century skills include a variety of digital age literacies, such as basic (reading, writing, and calculating), scientific, economic, technological, visual, information, multicultural, and global literacies (North Central Regional Educational Laboratory and the Metiri Group, 2003, p. 13). Gee (2003) touched on several of these. He described the way that video games can help develop a student’s multimodal literacy (p. 14). This idea reappeared in his semiotic principle, which expressed the way in which students understand “interrelations within and across multiple sign systems (images, words, actions, symbols, artifacts, etc.)” (p. 49).

Gee (2003) also considered the metalevel thinking involved in mastering a semiotic domain; he felt that “learning involves active and critical thinking about the relationship of the semiotic domain being learned to other semiotic domains” (p. 50). This principle concerns many of the same values as the twenty-first century skill of inventive thinking, including curiosity (North Central Regional Educational Laboratory and the Metiri Group, 2003, p. 38), “thinking about problems from multiple perspectives” (p. 34), and “higher order thinking and sound reasoning” (p. 44). Gee (2003) also explained that through playing video games and reflecting on the experience, students can learn to become self-teachers, an inventive thinking skill called simply self-direction by the North Central Regional Educational Laboratory and the Metiri Group (2003, p. 33). Later, he discussed the appropriateness of video games as a way to teach systems thinking (Gee, 2005a, p. 28), a skill that helps students to be adaptable and to manage complexity, both of which constitute twenty-first century skills (North Central Regional Educational Laboratory and the Metiri Group, 2003, p. 33).

Gee’s (2003) Semiotic Domains Principle touched on the importance of learners being able to participate in an affinity group associated with a domain of study (p. 49). This includes elements of effective communication (a twenty-first century skill), such as “teaming and collaboration” (North Central Regional Educational Laboratory and the Metiri Group, 2003, p. 48), “social and civic responsibility” (p. 54), and “interactive communication” (p. 56).

The design principle discussed by Gee (2003), explains that students “learn[ing] about and come[ing] to appreciate design and design principles is core to the learning experience” (p. 49). This is also a part of the twentieth century skills of high productivity, particularly those of “prioritizing, planning, and managing for results” (North Central Regional Educational Laboratory and the Metiri Group, 2003, p. 60), but also “effective use of real world tools” (p. 62) and the “ability to produce relevant, high quality products” (p. 64).

Gee (2003) was particularly interested in games that challenge learners’ thoughts and values (p. 56), that help them develop a sense of ethics (p. 79), and to come to a greater degree of self-knowledge (p. 67). These interests are not only related to the digital age literacies of multicultural and global awareness (North Central Regional Educational Laboratory and the Metiri Group, 2003, p. 15), but also to the personal, social, and civic responsibilities of an effective communicator (p. 47). The alignment of these concepts is even more clear in Gee’s (2004) discussion of affinity spaces (p. 98) and networks (p. 99).

Thanks for reading.

-Mark

Cobb superintendent resigns in laptop flap

Monday, August 29th, 2005

Cobb superintendent resigns in laptop flap

This is downright sad. One small step down for Redden, one giant leap backwards for humankind. ;)

Getty And Whyville Parntner

Sunday, August 28th, 2005

Getty And Whyville Parntner

This should prove an interesting partnership.

James Paul Gee, Video Games, and Support for Learning

Saturday, August 27th, 2005

Here is the bit I’ve composed today on what Gee had to say about using video games as learning support.

In addition to be interested in the way good games can provide a context for learning, opportunities for inquiry, and a framework for collaboration, Gee is also interested in the additional support games can offer for active critical learning.

Motivation is one of the key support elements games can provide, and Gee (2003) called good teaching and learning a matter of three things: enticing the learner to try, to put in lots of effort, to achieve some meaningful success (p. 61-62). He began Why Video Games are Good for Your Soul with a discussion of the motivating pleasures even simple games such as Tetris can bring a player (Gee, 2005, p. 13). He went on to say that “cognitive science… has shown quite clearly that feeling and emotion are not peripheral to thinking and learning” (p. 30), and that “if learners are to learn… deeply… then they need to feel and care about the world… in which they are playing” (p. 30). An interactive game space can offer “rewards from the beginning, customized to each learner’s level, effort, and growing mastery and signaling the learner’s ongoing achievements” (Gee, 2003, p. 67).

A game space, as opposed to a real space, may also allow learners to take risks where consequences are lowered (p. 67). Gee wrote about a “Regime of Competence” (p. 71) when he explained that good games allow learners to “operate within, but at the outer edge of, his or her resources, so that at those points things are felt as challenging but not ‘undoable’” (p. 71). Later he reverted to Vygotsky’s term, the “Zone of Proximal Development” (Gee, 2004, p. 66), and illustrated how games can “help learners (players) pull of more than they could on their own and yet still feel a sense of personal accomplishment” (Gee, 2004, p. 66). Gee even expected a game to be “pleasantly frustrating” (Gee, 2005a, p. 26) such that “learners feel – and get evidence – that their effort is paying off in the sense that they can see, even when they fail, how and if they are making progress” (p. 26). Also, because “people don’t like practicing skills out of contest over and over” (p. 27), good games allow learners to “see a set of related skills as a strategy to accomplish goals they want to accomplish” (p. 27).

Gee (2003) was also interested in the ability of games to provide early learning situations that lead to “generalizations that are fruitful for later stages” (p. 137). He later wrote about the need for well-ordered problems that lead learners “to solutions that work well, not just on [the current] problems but as aspects of the solutions to later, harder problems” (Gee, 2005a, 26). In contrast, he also expected good games to allow learners to practice skills “until they are nearly automatic, then [to have] those skills fail in ways that cause the learners to have to think again and learn anew” (p. 27) in cycles of expertise. In addition, virtual contexts can provide a greater amplification of input for the learner; in other words, “for a little input, learners get a lot of output” (Gee, 2003, p. 67). Because of these elements, and because of the tireless replayability of a game (as opposed to a teacher who may quickly tire of explaining things more than once), games can offer learners “a context where the practice is not boring” (p. 71) so that “they spend lots of time on task” (p. 71). Learners should also be given “ample opportunity to practice, and support for, transferring what they have learned earlier to later problems, including problems that require adapting and transforming that earlier learning” (p. 138).

Though one of the benefits of games is that they can provide an authentic context for student tasks, they can also provide support within this context, such that “learning even at its start takes place in a (simplified) subset of the real domain” (Gee, 2003, p. 137). This Gee (2003) called the Subset Principle (p. 137), and later “fish tanks” (2004, p. 61 and 2005a, p. 27), “supervised fish tanks” (2004, p. 65), “supervised sandboxes” (p. 66), “unsupervised sandboxes” (p. 70), and simply “sandboxes” (2005a, p. 27), but this might have been called a microworld by Papert and others. In a well-designed microworld, learners will see, “especially early on, many more instances of fundamental signs and actions than would be the case in a less controlled [context]” (Gee, 2003, p. 137).

Because “human beings are quite poor at using verbal information (i.e. words) when given lots of it out of context and before they can see how it applies in actual situations” (Gee, 2005a, p. 27), perhaps the most obvious form of support a game world can provide learners is the availability of “information both on-demand and just-in-time, when the learner needs it or just at the point where the information can best be understood and used in practice” (Gee, 2003, p. 138).

Thanks for reading.

-Mark

Marc Prensky, Video Games, and Support for Learning

Saturday, August 27th, 2005

Here is another selection from last week’s lengthy write up on Prensky for the depth portion of my human development KAM. If all goes well, I will finish the coresponding section on Gee’s work later today.

Much of what Prensky (2001) discussed related to how games (and teachers) can provide the necessary support for effective teaching and learning to take place. For instance, games have rules that give players structure (p. 106). Also, in order to focus on player experience, good games must “mak[e] the game accessible to their entire audience, including new players who might find challenging what has become trivial to the designers” (p. 134). Not only must good games be easy to learn, but they must be hard to master, thus “providing hours, or even lifetimes of challenge” (p. 135) In order to be successful, games must have a strong structure that is well thought out in advance, yet they must remain highly adaptive and “fun for a variety of players” (p. 135). They must even remain fun by “walk[ing] that fine line between not too hard and not too easy, and do it for a variety of players” (p. 135). Ideally, a good complex game “adapts to each player’s skills and abilities through highly advanced artificial intelligence programs that sense just how a player is doing, and then change[s] the game slightly whenever the player leaves the ‘flow zone’ in order to move that player back into it” (Prensky, 2005a, p. 8).

Good games can also include “frequent rewards, not penalties” (Prensky, 2001, p. 135). In fact the motivational and engaging elements of games can be considered part of their support structure. Prensky identifies “fun the great motivator” (p. 107) and suggests that “the principal roles of fun in the learning process are to create relaxation and motivation” (p. 111) Similarly, he considers play “the universal teacher” (p. 111) and reports evidence that “people enjoy difficult tasks more when presented as play rather than work, and their minds wander less” (p. 115). The win states inherent in many games can also be motivating and gratifying (p. 106). In “Evolving Instruction,” Prensky (2002a) challenges academy to find new sources of motivation in order to capitalize quickly on new virtual environments; naturally, he suggests games as a solution (p. 6)

Another support element that might be considered rewarding is a concept that Prenksy calls “mutual assistance – one thing helps to solve another” (p. 136); in other words “clues about one puzzle or task can be embedded into another puzzle or task” (p. 136). In good games, the things that players learn early on, help them be successful later in the game.

Several logistical considerations can provide support as well. The game interface must be useful (Prensky, 2001, p. 136). Ordinarily this interface must provide “the ability to save progress,” thus allowing players the flexibility to continue a game from the point at which they stopped and saved (p. 136). Of course, the content must also be meaningful, but Prensky (2001) projected that future games will have many “new game forms and subject matters” (p. 405), many of which will be suited to intentional formal learning. He also predicted that games will become “even more engaging” (p. 406), which will support student learning. In terms of developing these games, Presnksy suggested an open and collaborative model not unlike that of the existing open source software movement (2002b, p. 3)

Games used in formal education must provide support for different cultures and individuals. Games must support the needs of those who are not digital natives (including teachers), allowing them the privacy to practice in order to overcome any embarrassment (Prensky, 2001, p. 138, p. 386). In general, games will need to provide support for the needs of non-gamers of any age (p. 387). Naturally, learning games will need to address the issue of violence in video games in such a way as to avoid offending (or harming) students from various cultures (p. 139). Most importantly, games used in schools must address the needs of both genders, despite the traditionally male dominated history of commercial video and computer games.

However, the role of the teacher can be more important than any element built into a game. Prensky (2001) laid out a variety of other new roles for teachers, including being a motivator, a content structureer (integrator/reformulator), a debriefer, a tutor (individualizer, steerer, selector, adjuster, guide, facilitator), and a producer/designer (pp. 374-353). Of these, the role of the teacher in facilitating debriefings following game play may be the most vital (p. 240). Furthermore, Prensky (2002) reported that the difference between results of one-on-one tutoring and classroom learning is two standard deviations (p. 10). However, video and computer games can offer more one-to-one learning time – more student-to-computer time, and, because many students are engaged with the computer, more student-to-teacher time. Applied strategically, computer games and teachers can be a powerful combination.

Thanks for reading.

-Mark

Want to make your own MMO?

Saturday, August 27th, 2005

Want to make your own MMO?

Seems like an interesting model for teacher (or student) created games… I wonder how technical it is.

Wikimedia needs your help – Wikimedia Foundation

Friday, August 26th, 2005

Wikimedia needs your help – Wikimedia Foundation

Wikipedia needs your help, too.