Researcher’s Log 2007-12-28

Due to the holidays I have extended the deadline for Round 1 of the study. I have sent a reminder to all participants and asked them to complete the survey by Friday, January 4th (if they haven’t already). I currently have 9 responses. However, posting on my blog a reflection on the process prompted many other potential participants to come forward, and prompted my existing participants to suggest colleagues who might be interested in participating. At this point I now have 18 participants who have returned a consent form, 2 more who intend to do so, and the 1 dropout. So, I am hopeful that I can reach at least 12 responses, if not as many as 20, by January 4th. This will give me greater confidence that as I proceed I will be able to finish the study with the minimum number of participants that I recommended in my proposal. If, however, this is not the case, I am sure that the data I am collecting will still be valuable. My early analysis turned up a variety of meaningful perspectives already, and it still remains for me to code the most recent four responses.

It has become less likely I will finish collecting data before the baby is born. I now project finishing data collection sometime between Feb 1 and Feb 15. The baby is due on the 5th. I am also concerned about making the March 1st “deadline” for having a draft of my results ready. Hopefully I can push that back and still be able to graduate in May.

Researcher’s Log 2007-12-19

This has been posted after the fact (on 2008-02-08) in order to protect the integrity of the study.

Further early analysis on the first five responses has generated additional material for existing codes, and additional codes. Much more has been submitted related to collaboration and social elements of games, and I am now seeing more mentions of the creative or expressive benefits of games. Also, more was written about the ability of games to be differentiated for various learners. In addition, I’ve seem more related to 21st century skills, and new material that has introduced the potential of MMORPGs to effect positive social change, which also came up in the literature review. Again, this analysis is related to the first question, which covers the potential benefits of MMORPGs as constructivist learning environments.

Question two asks about the potential drawbacks, and my early analysis has also resulted in more codes than I expected. A good deal has been submitted about educational organizations’ resistance to change, a topic that was cut from my final proposal. Some has been written about the drawbacks of constructivist pedagogies in general, as well as additional ways learning in an MMORPG might be difficult to assess (at least in the eyes of traditional educational establishments). In addition, of course, the issues of addiction and anti-social behavior have come up, as have concerns over the amount of time the games can take to play (particularly in an educational setting) and the lack of necessary infrastructure in schools. Also, several respondents have mentioned that videogames are not for everyone and that not all games are attractive to all gamers.

Researcher’s Log 2007-12-18

In the methods chapter of my proposal, one procedure I stated I would follow during the data collection and analysis phases of my study was to keep a research log. Because I am not revealing any sensitive data or sharing results that might skew the study, I have decided to share my experiences here as well. (Entries will appear in an edited form in order not to influence the study if participants happen to read this blog.)

UPDATE: It’s now 2008-01-02 and with the conclusion of data collection I am now adding back in a paragraph that does discuss specific results below. It begins with the word “Specifically”.

The first round of the study was originally scheduled to conclude tomorrow. However, I have only collected five responses. Out of more than sixty invitations to participate there are now fourteen confirmed participants, with a potential for two to three more. The good news is that their levels of expertise are very much what I had hoped for, which will add to the credibility of the study, though of course their identities will remain anonymous. However, the minimum number of responses I called for in my proposal was twelve, so I plan to send out reminders today and extend the deadline to Friday the 21st at least. It is a difficult time of year to conduct surveys. I knew this would be the case and I know I will need to be flexible in order to finish in time to graduate this May.

Nevertheless, once I received my first three responses I began to organize and prepare data for analysis. Also, I began early data analysis, using Tams Analyzer for OS X to create an initial coding scheme from the first three responses. Already the categories (and thus potential questions) I may include in the second round of the Delphi have already grown beyond my original six. I’m sure I will need to synthesize and condense the results to allow for a manageable and productive second round.

Specifically, there has been a focus on active learning, depth of learning, and differentiated learning, all of which may fall under my category of constructivist learning, as problem solving might, too. There has been some focus on hard fun, as well as the expected discussion of motivation and engagement. The importance (and inherent educational value) of gameplay has also been mentioned. There has been little mention so far of social benefits, other than some discussion of the natural marriage of games and the ZPD. One category discarded during the proposal stage was 21st Century Skills, but those issues are making an appearance in participant answers, particularly risk taking. Role playing has also reappeared in participant answers as well. Note that this early analysis has focused on question 1, which focuses on the potential benefits of MMORPGs in education. I have not yet begun analysis on question 2, which focuses on the potential drawbacks of MMORPGs in education.

This morning, I will be sending an email to the participants thanking those who have completed the first round and prompting others to complete the survey. A few participants who joined later will be receiving their round 1 questions this morning. And finally, a few others I expect might still want to join will receive an invitation or prompt for response.

I also plan to add two most recent responses to my Tams Analyzer project and add their content to my coding scheme for question 1. I will also begin reading and analyzing responses to question 2.

In addition, as I review my methods chapter I am looking ahead to identifying a colleague familiar with the subject matter to serve as a devil’s advocate to the results, and to identifying a colleague familiar with the method to serve as an external auditor.

An Answer To The Tough Question (About Walden University)

I might also have called this post A Defense of The Quality of My Education at Walden University (And My Interpretation of Vygotsky).

In my frustration over the unnecessary length (and cost) of the dissertation proposal approval process at Walden I wrote a purposefully negative post yesterday. I was expecting that it might kick up some controversy, but I didn’t expect the comment that Chris Craft left. I have no delusions about the approval process being any better at most traditional institutions (I’ve heard plenty of horror stories), and I certainly wasn’t insinuating that the quality of education at Walden was any less. In fact, the outcome I’d most like to see from a post like that (however juvenile it was in title and in fact) is that Walden might exercise it’s freedom to be something new, different, and better. There is no reason for Walden (or Walden students) to labor under the weight of outdated bureaucratic systems. In any case, I feel compelled to respond to a few of the points Chris made in his comment.

First of all, Chris wrote the following:

I’ve been working on my Ph.D. here locally and been reading tons of research and hearing loads of names tossed around, not one is from Walden.

I think it is important to note that Walden is not a research institution. In California this is the difference between a UC School like UCI or UCLA, and a State University like Cal State Long Beach or even Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. The UC schools are research institutions where the faculty’s first priority is to conduct and publish original research (I know many of the professors at these schools for whom this is undoubtedly true – some just plain hate to teach and aren’t shy about saying so). At these schools the students often come second and are likely to be handled by TAs. At the state schools, though, the first priority is educating the students. In my experience at Cal Poly, this was a benefit. Classes were small. I was usually in a room with about 20 students and a Ph.D. Things were very different for my friends at UC schools, where lecture halls often held hundreds of students. In this respect, Walden is like the state schools here in California. The faculty’s priority is educating the students. For the most part Walden does not facilitate research by the faculty; the school pays them to teach. Again, I count this a benefit. Online classes were small and access to the Ph.D. was easy and frequent. At the residencies the ratio of students to faculty was around 10:1 – or better (I was told at one point that they shoot for 9:1 at the summer residency). That was fantastic access to the Ph.Ds.

I can understand the criticism that Walden is not a research institution and so grad students do not get the same experience that they might working with a professor who is conducting original research. But, what you give up in exposure to that culture you gain in freedom to pursue your own original research rather than merely working in support of your advisor’s career, which I’ve often heard students complain of at UCI for instance.

Also, most Walden faculty are also associated with other institutions, and if they are doing original research, they are most likely publishing under their other affiliation. So, while our professors may very well still be publishing original research themselves, others would not recognize their affiliation with Walden when reading the results. Regardless, we have access to these professors.

Finally, I think this argument is relevant in this case: in the field of educational technology we are going to need experts with new experiences – experience with online distance education on a global scale, not just experience with a traditional research institution. And I don’t think the names being tossed around in traditional institutions are necessarily the ones that will be important as we forge the future of education.

The next point I’d like to respond to is this passage that Chris wrote, which I suppose hits a bit closer to home for me:

I have to wonder about the quality of education. A prime example is your dissertation regarding Vygotsky when you mention that Vygotsky says learning is all social. I think this might represent a misunderstanding of Vygotsky. I’ve been working my way through him this semester with a noted Vygotsky scholar and I’ve come to entirely different conclusions.

I need to first distinguish between what Chris typed here and what I actually wrote in my proposal. Here he says “learning is all social” (which I would agree ignores a good deal of Vygotsky’s perspective), but what I wrote was that “all learning is social.” In my final paper this statement is not even directly attributed to Vygotsky, though I don’t think it would be a stretch to do so, considering the excerpts from Vygotsky’s work below:

“From the very first days of the child’s development his activities acquire a meaning of their own in a system of social behavior” (Vygotsky, 1978, p. 30)

“Every function in the child’s cultural development appears twice: First, on the social level and, later, on the individual level… All the higer functions originate as actual relatinos between human individuals.” (Vygotsky, 1978, p. 57)

“Human life presupposes a specific social nature and a process by which children grow into the intellectual life of those around them” (Vygotsky, 1978, p. 88).

“Directed thought is social” (Vygotsky, 1986, p. 16) Based on Piaget’s definition, directed thought is thought that pursues an aim.

“[Piaget proposes that] social speech is represented as following, not preceding, egocentric speech. The hypothesis we propose reverses this course.” (Vygotsky, 1986, p. 34)

“The earliest speech of the child is… essentially social… egocentric speech emerges when the child transfers social, collaborative forms of behavior to the sphere of inner-personal psychic functions” (Vygotsky, 1986, p. 34-35)

“In our conception, the true direction of the development of thinking is not from the individual to the social, but from the social to the individual.” (Vygotsky, 1986, p. 36)

“With the development of inner speech and verbal thought… the nature of development itself changes, from biological to sociohistorical.” (Vygotsky, 1986, p. 94)

“Education, in every country and in every epoch, has always been social in nature, indeed, by its very ideology it could hardly exist as antisocial in any way” (Vygotsky, 1997, p. 47)

“Experience is ‘socially impregnated’ through and through” (Vygotsky, 1997, p. 53)

“Ultimately, for man the environment is a social environment, because even where it appears to be a natural environment, nevertheless, in relation to man, there are always definite social elements present. in his intreraction with the environment, man always makes use of his social experience.” (Vygotsky, 1997, p. 53-54)

“Education… is possible only on the basis of an appropriately guided social environment.” (Vygotsky, 1997, p. 210)

“The nature of man’s education… is wholly determined by the social environment in which he grows and develops.” (Vygotsky, 1997, p. 211)

“The mechanism of social behavior and the mechanism of consciousness are the same… we are aware of ourselves, for we are aware of others, and in the same way we know others; and this is as it is because in relatino to ourselves we aer in the same [position] as others to us” (Vygotsky, 1979, p. 1, as quoted in Dixon-Krauss, 1996, p. 78)

“The adult, even in his most personal and private occupation, … thinks socially, has continually in his mind’s eye his collaborators or opponents, actual or eventual, at any rate members of his own profession to whom sooner or later he will announce the results of his labours. This mental picture pursues him throughout his task. The task itself is henceforth socialised at almost every stage of its development.” (Vygotsky, 1923/1974, p. 59, as cited in Tryphon & Voneche, 1996, p. 146)

“All higher mental functions are internalized social relationships’ (Vygotsky, 1981, p. 164, as cited in Dixon-Krauss, 1996, p. 113)

Though I can’t know what the “noted Vygotsky scholar” Chris is studying with this semester would think of my interpretation, it would seem that despite my admittedly cursory exposure to Vygotsky’s work (it was very peripheral to my study) I am not alone in my assessment of Vygotsky’s theories:

“Vygotsky (1962) stated that language and all other learning are centered in social interactions… children gradually come to know and undersatand the content knowledge that others in their environment know and understand.” (Dixon-Krauss, 1996, p. 79)

“[Vygotsky thought that] personal and social experience cannot be separated. The world that children inhabit is shaped by their families, communities, sociaeconomic status, education, and culture.” (Mooney, 2000 p. 82)

“Vygotsky… showed that children’s cognitive development is affected not only by their physcial development, but also by their social surroundings and interactions” (Mooney, 2000 p. 85)

Bruner on Vygotsky: “thought is often an internal version… of dialog.” (Bruner, 1966, p. 19)

Update: At this point I should interject and say that I’d love to hear what other conclusions Chris has come to, especially if they contradict (or compliment) these ideas.

Ultimately, to answer the tough question about the quality of education at Walden (or any school), I believe that individuals make much more of a difference to the quality of education than institutions.

In every educational institution I’ve been a part of (as an educator and as a student), there have been teachers or professors who have been fantastic – and others who have been appalling. There have been students who made the most of every opportunity – and those who systematically wasted them… which is to say nothing of the students who seemed to be geniuses – and those whose acceptance to the school was mystifying. In my experience, people I’ve spoken to from other institutions of all reputations and calibers share similar stories.

There’s no doubt my experience would be very different at a traditional school, especially those with a culture of research focused on the field I’m exploring: the University of Wisconsin – Madison, Indiana University in Bloomington, or even MIT. But, I don’t think it significantly impacts the quality of my exposure to Vygotsky’s work – or to cutting edge theories about videogames and learning… and I believe that the distributed global network of faculty and students I have worked with is a benefit that I would not experience in a traditional school, to say nothing of the distance learning experience during my coursework. Also, of course, we should acknowledge that I would not have been able to continue pursuing my career here in California if I had attended one of the schools above.

On the other hand, my experience researching and writing my dissertation has been no different than my many of colleagues getting doctorates in education at UCI, who also read and write 99% of the time working from their own homes here in Irvine. The difference is I am plugged into a global network of faculty and students – and I still have access to the UCI library for a nominal annual fee orders of magnitude less than their tuition.

In short, I believe that the individuals I’ve had the opportunity to work with (and have chosen to work with) at Walden – and the efforts I’ve put into my work there myself – have amounted to a high quality doctoral level education… and there’s more to come. I’m still several significant steps shy of earning my degree.

So that you can draw your own conclusions about what I’ve said here (should you care to), below is a link to the current draft of my proposal, which has been approved by an international committee of Ph.D’s (and educational technology experts) and by the university research office, which reviews all proposals to ensure academic rigor. IRB approval is expected, but still pending.

Wagner_Mark_Proposal_Revised.pdf

Also, here is a link to a more exhaustive list of references I’ve used, which should allow you to locate the source of all quotes shared in this post, even those that do not appear in the proposal.

References.doc

Of course, if you see any problems with this post or have a reaction to anything I’ve argued or suggested, please let me know. If I’ve proven myself a fool here, I’d like to hear about it. I’d also love to hear from others at Walden or other institutions who might be able to support or contradict any of these positions. Thanks, Chris, for the excuse to think and write for a purpose other than “work” today… and for putting me in a better mood. ‘Turns out it feels better to defend my school than tear it down. ;)

Now I’ve spent far too much time on this and it’s time to start my Thanksgiving day vacation. Blogging about “the strangest workshop I’ve ever been involved with” will have to wait.

Walden University Exploits Students for Money

UPDATE 04/23/08: It turns out I didn’t actually want to bring people out of the woodwork who have had troubles with Walden. I know the issues you’ll read about in the comments below can happen at any University. Also, though this was a frustrating time for me, I know I might have been as frustrated or more in a traditional Ph.D. program. Since that time my committee has been heroic in their efforts to push my submissions through the system – and just last night I had my dissertation approved with minor edits following my oral defense. If I can complete all the form and style revisions quickly enough I expect to graduate next month and to walk this summer. I’m thrilled. And I say again unequivocally that Walden was an excellent learning experience for me over five years, despite this one quarter of frustration. I know other individual’s experiences may very, but I can whole heartedly recommend the school and the Educational Technology Ph.D. program. In keeping with good blogging ethics, though, I won’t be removing this post or the comments below. I’ll let this update set the story straight.

Here are my last three posts on twitter about what happened today:

WOO HOO! Got approval from the research office to proceed with my study! Oh wait, that’s not IRB approval. ARRRGGGG! Are u kidding me!?????

The IRB office has had my docs since August 15th… but couldn’t review them in the meantime, or even concurrently with the research office.

I understand working with bureaucracies, but I feel as if I’m being exploited for $. That’s not good education & it’s not good business.

At the earliest I might get approval from the IRB next week (though it will more likely be in ten business days… plus some). If I get approval next week, I will have spent an entire quarter’s time and tuition waiting for approval to proceed with my study. I’ve done less than 40 hours of work on my dissertation in three months time (this was mostly minor – often contradictory – revisions). I don’t even feel like I’m in a Ph.D. program anymore.

Yes, this post is more emotionally charged than most I share here.. particularly the title. It borders on being unprofessional. But, this blog is my forum for my voice to be heard, and as I clearly have no other recourse with the university (and I’m not going to quit and stop paying them at this point), here is where I will voice my criticisms of Walden University. (That phrase should be Google-able.)

Incidentally, I’m looking forward to the end of the quarter evaluations, too.

In any case, I hope this post matters as much as the times I’ve posted about the benefits of Walden’s program. I’ve lead many prospective students their way. I hope this sends others looking elsewhere. I will need to see evidence of change in the approval process to re-endorse this program. I understand I am not alone in these frustrations.

I hope my feelings on this matter level off in the coming months, especially after I’ve finally completed my study. If not, I will be sad that my long journey ends with this sort of experience.

Note: For more details on much time I’ve spent waiting for approval, see my post from the 17th.

Disappointed With Walden University

I’ve often sung Walden’s praises here on this blog, so it wouldn’t be right not to speak out when I am disappointed by the University. In short, though I have tried to remain patient (in action and in mind), I have been extremely frustrated with how long it has taken (and thus how expensive it has been) to gain approval to begin my dissertation study. I understand that many of these steps are necessary and that I would have had at least as frustrating an experience at a traditional university (if not more so), but it seems that in a few specific cases I could have experienced better service – and that in general there must be a better way, especially for a new generation of universities like Walden.

Here is a brief rundown of the timeline behind the approval of my study:

September 15 – This was the second week of the quarter. I completed a major rewrite of my proposal. This was the last week I completed significant work on my dissertation. I waited patiently two weeks for the committee to read the new version and nearly another two weeks until the Oral Conference was scheduled on October 10th.

October 13 – I completed a few minor revisions (which took only a few hours) following approval from the Committee during the oral conference. My advisor sent this version of the proposal to the Research Office on October 15th. Unfortunately the file he sent was infected with a virus (from his computer, not mine) and was thus not received. I waited patiently presuming I needed to wait two weeks to hear back. Sadly, the error was not discovered until I followed up and heard back from my advisor on October 29.

October 30 – The virus issue was finally resolved between my advisor and the Research Office. I was notified that the materials were due back from the reviewer on or before 11/12. My appeal for an expedited review due to the virus issue was denied because “other proposals were received before mine.”

November 14 – After following up with them myself on the 12th (following another two weeks of waiting patiently), I finally receive feedback from the research office… two days late. Contact your advisor is all they say. My advisor is out of the office for the week. I get a response back from him anyway, but without the reviewers’ comments. Luckily, the next day I convince the research office to forward me the comments. I finish the requested revisions (which contradicted recommendations from my committee) that night and returned the proposal to my advisor (again, this only took a few hours). The following day (now the 16th) my advisor informed me he’d look it over and pass it back to the Research Office… on Monday (the 19th). Though the reviewer promised a speedy response with the resubmission, I am not optimistic about getting it back before the Thanksgiving break. :(

November 17th – Today. The quarter ends on November 25. I don’t expect to have approval by then. It’s been exactly TEN WEEKS since I completed the major rewrite of my proposal. Of this, about six weeks of waiting would’ve been understandable. Two weeks were lost to the virus issue and another one due to this week’s difficulty getting the reviewer’s responses from the Research Office. Since September 15th I’ve worked all of 8 hours on my paper – and I’ve paid full tuition.

Waiting on the university is always painful, but the unnecessary delays make it worse, especially since I am racing the clock to finish my study before my first baby is due in February. My study is only eight weeks long, but with the holidays at this point I am not even optimistic about being able to complete my write up to get my final dissertation submitted (and started jumping through hoops) by March 1st, the deadline to graduate May 25th! If I miss March 1st, I won’t be graduating until August, which means another quarter of tuition. This is made all the more painful by the fact that I’ve now reached the lifetime limit of student loans from the federal government and am now paying for each quarter, which is a serious impact on my finances. Note that Walden stopped offering a reduced dissertation rate to students who are ABD just before I completed the last of my other requirements – so we now pay full price. :(

I always heard that the waiting was the worst part of Walden University, but I never understood that. My instructors and my advisor had always been responsive. Now I see, though, that dealing with the larger institution is the issue.

Also, Walden did away with the 4th “blind” reviewer on the dissertation committee about the time I started. This apparently cut down on the amount of miscommunication, conflicting advice/requirements, and general bad feelings associated with the dissertation process. Dissertation proposals, of course, still required review by the IRB for ethical reasons, but I noticed that this review by the Research Office is now called an “Academic Review” and more or less amounts to the 4th “blind” reviewer. The intent of the review (at least in part) is to ensure academic rigor throughout the organization regardless of the committee or committee chair. I think it is counter productive, though, (and not the intent of the review) for students to receive conflicting advice from the committee and the Research Office. The committee chair is in place for this very reason – to resolve conflicts between committee members who disagree, however the chair has very limited power to resolve a conflict with the research office.

Ultimately, there is no ONE BIG ISSUE for me to address here, but clearly this system does not serve the student well. I should not spend 10 weeks of a 12 week quarter waiting on the University bureaucracy while I pay full tuition. When I was taking classes I could understand how I was drawing on university resources. However, I have been a VERY minimal drain on university resources over the past two years of independent researching, writing KAMs, and preparing my dissertation. It is disappointing and frustrating that when I do need university employees to work for me the system performs so poorly.

I’d love to hear others’ thoughts on this… Walden students, Ph.D. students in other schools, prospective students, people who sympathize, and people who think I’m acting entitled. It’s why I’m sharing. ;)

UPDATE 04/23/08: It turns out I didn’t actually want to bring people out of the woodwork who have had troubles with Walden. I know the issues you’ll read about in the comments below can happen at any University. Also, though this was a frustrating time for me, I know I might have been as frustrated or more in a traditional Ph.D. program. Since that time my committee has been heroic in their efforts to push my submissions through the system – and just last night I had my dissertation approved with minor edits following my oral defense. If I can complete all the form and style revisions quickly enough I expect to graduate next month and to walk this summer. I’m thrilled. And I say again unequivocally that Walden was an excellent learning experience for me over five years, despite this one quarter of frustration. I know other individual’s experiences may very, but I can whole heartedly recommend the school and the Educational Technology Ph.D. program. In keeping with good blogging ethics, though, I won’t be removing this post or the comments below. I’ll let this update set the story straight.

UPDATE 04/29/09: It’s been over a year since I wrote anything on this post, and it’s still attracting comments from people having their own negative experiences at Walden. While I’m sure these things happen at Walden as they do at any school, I’m no longer interested in this post, or my blog, being a magnet for them and I’m no longer interested in reading them. I consider the frustrations I had to deal with a challenging part of the process, and as I’ve said many times now, I fully expect they would’ve been worse (and more expensive) at a traditional institution. My frustration was at least in part due to my desire to hold Walden to a higher standard. And as I’ve said many times here and elsewhere, my doctoral experience at Walden was of a rigorous academic program – heavy on research and writing – and lead by amazing faculty from all over the world. Like any school I’ve attended, I know the individuals are more important than the institution and I understand that this therefor might not reflect everyone’s experience. I tend to believe the best a student can do is take responsibility for that, deal the best they can with professors and staff they’re having trouble with, and then do their best to control who they choose to work with more closely – it does no good to point the finger elsewhere. So for the record, I think I was acting entitled when I wrote this, and I’m not proud to have hung this dirty laundry out in public. But I’ll stick to the blogger’s ethic of not deleting a post. As a compromise, this will now be the first post on which I’ve turned off comments. Please email me if you think I can help with your problem… but if you want to vent publicly about your own frustrations, please do so elsewhere – maybe on your own blog. I just hope you don’t wind up regretting it too. ;)

Massively Multiplayer Schools (NECC Submission)

Finally, here is the fifth of five submissions I made for NECC 2008. This is also a presentation I’ve never done, though I’ve submitted it once already… it’s the second time I’ve submitted to present my dissertation, which I hope to complete by the time my baby is born in February. (I also submitted this for the 2008 CUE Conference, though it seems I didn’t post about it here.) This one for NECC will really mean something, though, if I get it. I submitted it as an academic paper and it will undergo double blind peer review. :)

I hope I’ll get to give the talk, and I hope some of you will get to join me. In the meantime, let me know what you think of this approach to sharing it.

Title:

Massively Multiplayer Schools: Do MMORPGs Have a Future in Education?

Description:

Massively-Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games are engaging and motivating. Can they also support context-embedded, inquiry-driven, and socially negotiated learning – while encouraging reflection and metacognition?

Abstract:

Formal K12 education remains much as it did a century ago, but in the era of the Internet, cell phones, and videogames, students have changed. Videogames and simulations show potential as engaging and motivating learning environments. MMORPGs in particular have social and cooperative elements that might be valuable for educational purposes. However, despite a breadth of research about videogames and learning in general, the potential uses of MMORPGs in formal education are poorly understood. Therefore, this study aims to inquire into potential applications for MMORPGs as constructivist learning environments in formal K12 education , and to understand related benefits and drawbacks. Two pillars of theory support this study: constructivist learning theory and digital game-based learning theory. The study will employ a grounded theory paradigm of qualitative research and the Delphi method of inquiry. The expert panel will consist of 12 to 24 adult experts drawn from the field of videogames and learning. Both industry professionals and academics will be represented in the population. The concensus of the panel’s predictions, and any outlying or dissenting perspectives, will be reported in the final paper.

There isn’t really an outline for this type of session, and I don’t want to post the entire length of the submission here, so please check out the complete archive of the submission if you are interested:

Massively Multiplayer Schools (NECC 2008 Submission)

As always, I’d be thrilled to receive any feedback on this. Please leave a comment.

Videogames in Education: New Reading

Since I wrapped up my literature review a few months ago, I’ve been collecting (and putting off reading) new books related to my study. There are at least three I’m dying to read (two of them sit on my shelf, and the third – the Gibson, Aldrich, Prensky book – I’m having trouble getting a hold of):

Also, I’m dying to read these two game design books, especially the first one (and both sit on my shelf):

And this is to say nothing of the steady stream (well, trickle still) of videogames and learning articles that have been released, including one in ISTE’s most recent Journal of Research on Technology in Education: Digital Games in Education: The Design of Games-Based Learning Environments by Begoña Gros.

With any luck, I’ll be able to dig into some of these at times like this when I’m waiting for my committee to get back to me… or when I’m waiting on data from the participants. Who knows, these things might make a (brief) appearance in the final dissertation. :)

If anyone has read any of these and has some thoughts or opinions on the books, I’d love to hear them, too. It’s always good to have some context going in… and it’s always more fun to read something your friends or colleagues are reading, too.

Dissertation Proposal Draft #2

On Friday night I drove up to the Walden residency in Los Angeles to meet with my dissertation committee chair, Dr. Joe Nolan. I finished my residency units in the summer of 2005, but I’d been using this particular event as a self imposed deadline for finishing the second draft of my proposal (chapters 1-3 of the dissertation, including the literature review).

In my case, this second draft was a lot of work. I turned in a 423 page first draft. My committee really tore into it and left me a lot of good feedback and suggestions for tightening it up. (Dr. Jose Quiles highlighted every paragraph to indicate whether it should be kept, severly shortened, or cut altogether… and Dr. MaryFriend Shepard inserted comments throughout, catching far more APA errors than I thought possible.) In the end, I managed to get it down to a much more reasonable 89 pages. I cut half my research questions (sub-questions actually) to make this possible, so the study is now strictly focused on how games can support constructivist learning. There is also a section on social change, of course. I cut all the game design and organizational change sections. I also cut every single block quote (except for one), and cut most direct quotes in favor of very succinct paraphrasing. Some whole subsections were casualties as well.

As usual, I’m interested in any feedback anyone can offer on this draft. Not that I’ll be making any more changes (if I can help it), but all of this will be rewritten again for the final dissertation – and of course, I’m passionate about the topic, so I want to get it right… and hear dissenting opinions. So, here is the new proposal:

WagnerProposal2.pdf

I’ve also updated my IRB docs:

WagnerIRB2.zip

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.