Link: School 180 | 180 Days to Change How We Think About School

School 180 | 180 Days to Change How We Think About School (Via Chris Walsh of Infinite Thinking Machine, NECC Live, CUE Live, and Epoch Learning.) Chris Walsh, our innovative leader over at the ITM has started a fantastic new project. He’ll be on a daily blogging regimen for the next six months… he’s got 180 days to change how we think about school. He’s started with a few poems, and there’s plenty of video content, so stay tuned…

Link: Ian Bogost on Persuasive Games

Ian Bogost on Persuasive Games (Via Bionic Teaching.) Jim Coe posts about Ian Bogost’s new book, which had so far managed to escape my attention. This is another must buy for me… there. Just purchased it. Too bad it won’t make it in my dissertation, though.

Dr. Ian Bogost is a videogame designer, critic, and researcher. He is Assistant Professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology and Founding Partner at Persuasive Games LLC. His research and writing considers videogames as an expressive medium, and his creative practice focuses on games about social and political issues. (Via Persuasive Games.)

Walden: The Social Change Conference and Summer Residency

This may not be relevant to many of my readers, but I wanted to bring my part of this discussion out into the blogosphere for any other Walden students out there. My advisor, Dr. Nolan, recently posted this prompt in our online discussion forum:

There were many complaints by the attendees of the Minneapolis residency about being forced to attend the Social Change conference. How do you feel? Do you think WU should be hosting the SCC at all? Do you think that the SCC should be a part of the summer residency? If so, how should it be changed? Should it be shorter? Should students be more involved, less? There are no wrong answers here.

Though I wasn’t at the residency myself this summer, I did respond to the prompt and to some of the others’ responses. I’d be currious to read other responses in the comments below:

I enjoyed reading everyone’s responses just now. I wasn’t at the residency, so I can’t answer the question directly myself, but I can say a few things in reaction to what you all wrote:1. Walden’s social change mission has been one of the surprising benefits of going through this program. It has changed my perspective… the way I see what I do, what I can do, and what I should do.

2. I strongly believe that Residencies are for talking to the people who are there. Period. I often say now that information transmission is no excuse for a face-to-face meeting. I gather that residencies have changed a lot since I was attending them (I haven’t been since summer 2005), but I appreciated any flexibility offered to us at the time… and simply made my own flexibility if it wasn’t offered. (I should mention that the faculty I respect most behaved the same way.) Sessions can be good food for thought, especially if they include discussion (the Q&A at residencies is of course ideal)… and they can be a good opportunity to see our faculty in action. As much as I’ve come to love the social change mission of the university, I think I probably would’ve resented having to attend. But, if it were an option, I’m sure I would’ve dropped in – and probably gotten quite a bit out of it. I wonder if Dr. Nolan’s question was a bit of a leading question with the choice of the word “forced”… but I’m sure it was based on conversations he’d already had with students.

3. That being said, I might consider attending the social change conference in the future. ;)

If you are a Walden student and have an opinion on this topic – or if you are interested in it for other reasons – please leave your response in the comments below.

Social Change (LONG)

Back on April 16th I posted a “one page” overview of social change (with respect to video games in a constructivist learning environment). I’ve now fleshed out that one page to about 10 pages (double spaced) for my dissertation literature review. I’m relatively happy with it except that I found no better way to organize it than by author. There just wasn’t enough overlap in what they each had to say… either that or my brain was just too tired to see it this time through. In any case, here is a link to the document and to the updated reference list:

Social Change LONG – 39.5 KB doc

References – 131 KB doc

If you are interested, please take a look and leave me a comment with your reactions or feedback.

Incidentally, this marks the completion of the core sections of chapter two, my literature review. I have a few more sections planned, but they are sort of ancillary. The remaining sections are on current uses for video games in education (this is based on my recent presentations and I’m not sure how much scholarly source material I’ll be able to include), video game design (conversely I have far too much information for this and will try to keep it short and focused), and organizational change (which is even more removed from the core focus of the dissertation, but which will be required if this is to be implemented in real schools). Hopefully each of these will be a relatively short section like the one I’ve posted today. If so, I should be done within a week.

Then there’s chapters 1 and 3… and tying it all together into a formal proposal. :)

Link: Stop Disasters

Stop Disasters (Via J.D. Williams.) Mr. Williams points to a serious game I hadn’t seen yet. It looks cool enough that I almost started playing just now… until I realized I was procrastinating on my writing. In any case, Stop Disasters! aims to educate students (aged 9-16.. or anyone) about how to prepare for (and prevent loss of life during) natural disasters, such as Tsunamis, wildfires, earthquakes, and hurricanes. These are timely topics and I’d love the chance to play this with students myself. Please let me know if you try it, especially with students.

Ok… procrastination over.

Social Change (In A Nutshell)

Again, I suppose this should be titled “Social Change in a Constructivist Learning Environment.” In any case, this post follows of the format of the “Nutshell” overviews that have preceded it. Like the others references to constructivist theorists, educational technologists, and video game scholars will be offered throughout this piece. Actually I suspect that nearly every sentence in this post will eventually be a paragraph in the dissertation.

On a personal note, it’s amazing to look back on who I was when I started this PhD in 2003… the change has been gradual, but it’s hard to believe how far I was then from being someone who would write something like this particular post. I suppose my education at Walden, which was named after Thoreau’s book and where the university’s mission is to “effect positive social change”, has worn off on me.

Any thoughts to share on this subject? Please leave a comment. :)

A constructivist learning environment is not complete without explicit social goals.
Societal development is as much a part of the constuctivist philosophy as individual development. Constructivist thinkers have long focused on the cultural importance and implications of educators’ work. Modern educational technologists and video game scholars, too, are concerned with how educational technologies, including video games and simulations, can effect positive social change.

Many constructivists believe that the function of education is not only to enculturate students, but to be individually and culturally transformative. Not only is it important that the citizens of a democratic republic be well educated (in the traditional sense), but it is also important that they understand how they can each change (or create) their culture and society. Constructivist educators aim to nurture students who will be innovative and transform traditional ways of thinking. To do so, students must learn to resist (or at least critically evaluate) the dominant culture and dominant ways of thinking.

Constructivists have long placed tremendous value on both equity and diversity in education. They also look to education to provide students with windows into other ways of living, and thus help them develop a sense of empathy for other individuals and other cultures. Constructivists also hope to inculcate in each student a sense of service and a desire to contribute to a common good. Ultimately, constructivists are concerned with students developing what traditional educators might call character.

Contributing to society and effecting positive social change are not things that students engage in only after their education; in the constructivist way of thinking, schools are communities (or small societies) where students can contribute at any age. Too, a constructivist school will be intimately connected to (and contributing to) the surrounding community.

For any of this to be effective in the 21st century, though, schools must also prepare students to cope with the ever increasing rate of societal change.

Video games and simulations, particularly multiplayer games or massively multiplayer online role playing games (MMORPGs), can be a social context for cultural learning. Furthermore, video games and simulations can be used both to help students learn how to pursue social change and to inspire them to effect positive social change – as the serious games and games for change movements have demonstrated. In MMORPGs (and other similar games) it is not unusual for young students to be contributing to a adult social group, sometimes even as a mentor to adults within the game. Simulations (and games with simulation like features) can both be made to exemplify cultural ideologies, and also made to help change prevailing ideologies.