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Tag: Edutopia

3D ‘Gee’-lab

“It is paradoxical that many educators and parents
still differentiate between a time for learning
and a time for play without seeing
the vital connection between them.”

~ Leo F. Buscaglia

 

You might not think it but I’m at Summer Camp right now. Amidst the usual daily activities a teacher engages in – enthusing, encouraging, counseling, creating, critiquing, cleaning, scheduling and caffeinating I’m also playing computer games alongside some friends old and new and learning about game-based learning through Boise State University’s 3D Gamelab initiative.

I’m not new to game-based learning thanks to Indiana University’s Quest Atlantis and some dabbling with Second Life. This Summer Camp is an opportunity to Beta test Boise’s CMS that has some striking features. In the image below you will see my scorecard which charts my progress though the course. I earn experience points in learning the design tools, understanding the pedagogical approach of game-based learning whilst also gaining points in my stumbling forays into World of Warcraft for schools and other online games.

Milarepa's 3D Gamelab score card

One of the key champions of Game-based learning is the visionary James Paul Gee. A task on the Mechanics of  game-based learning asked me to view an interview he gave to Edutopia and comment on three key areas. But first I’d like to share four of the salient points from the interview.

  • Future focused education needs to allow students to solve problems, think creatively, create collaboratively and innovate rather than churn through standardised tests.
  • video games are one significant way that young people develop skills in problem solving
  • video games are a continuous assessment that provides immediate feedback and a sense of progress
  • School textbooks are really game manuals that need to be used to support game ‘play’ but we tend to implement them as if they were the games themselves –

Clearly, Boise has listened to Gee’s passionate call for game-based learning to be taken seriously.

These are the three questions I was asked to reflect upon.

1. How might a teacher apply even ONE characteristic of games and game environments (choice, progress bars, etc.)  to a typical unit or module of instruction?

Choice is essential, particularly when working with adolescents. They crave ownership of their own lives. Also, choice can pertain to choice of one might learn a concept of skill, so we can cater for different learning styles here. For example, when teaching about figurative language one could write clear instructions or provide diagrams or embed Youtube videos or even ask students to create their own understanding to be shared with others.

2. What reflections or thoughts do you have about Jim Gee’s notion of the paradigm shift?  How will it change your school or institution?

I am an early adopter of game-based approaches. The greatest challenge is to have teachers see the value of games as means of sharing content as so many teachers are sadly content driven. Games also require flexible completion times given that one can play and replay to achieve mastery. Schools that have set hours for curriculum might struggle with this notion. It would certainly change the school if we were asked to make time for games across the board.

3. What unique insight can you take away from this discussion?

The consideration that text books are game manuals was a radical notion. Having just started playing World of Warcraft for this course I completely agree with Gee’s ideas on this. I baulked at the game-manual when presented with it despite its glossy appearance and reading it was a nightmare of technical language that bored me. Playing the game gave me a reason to refer to the book when I got stuck which caused a wonderful shift in my thinking.

The 3D Gamelab has a lot of offer. More on this later. But right now, having completed this Blog post I’m off to submit it and claim my prize of

a) knowledge

b) enthusiasm for the methodology and

c) 50 experience points!

 

eLearning about eLearning

“A liberally educated person meets new ideas with curiosity and fascination.

An illiberally educated person meets new ideas with fear.”
— James B. Stockdale

 

As if there wasn’t enough for me to do at the moment, what with preparations for heading off on the Churchill Fellowship, I’m now enrolled in an Elearning course jointly run by my school and Lisa Dawley from Boise State University. Actually, its pretty intriguing stuff and immensely useful (not to mention pertinent to my research) but the timing is putrid. And there is aso the risk of me running away in terror at the thought of more articles to read. I mean, I can only change my thinking just so much in a short period of time!

Anyway, kvetching and anxiety aside, I’ve had time to explore Edutopia’s ‘The Brave New Breakthrough of Online Learning’ and ‘Going Virtual – Unique needs and Challenges of K-12 Online Teachers.’ and found much of interest. The first online resource makes a clear case for the necessity, validity and effectiveness of online courses whether they are delivered in entirely virtual schools or supplementary programs in ‘bricks & mortar’ schools.  A wake-up call was the reminder that teachers both in physical and virtual schools need a significant paradigm shift from thinking about ‘what you are going to teach and how’ to a model that has its focus on what the kids are or are not learning. Teachers know this. We try this. We forget this. Well, I do from time to time. So, some questions arise from this –

  • How do we make sure that online learning does not become a showcase for our own creativity but rather a vehicle to allow our students’ creativity to shine? (A revealling question, it must be said!)

The greatest challenges raised are how do we promote collaboration and also supply emotional support at a distance?

  • What do distance education experts, who have been teaching this was as their bread and butter for years, have to say about these areas, I wonder? Have they been consulted?

‘Going Virtual’ raised more questions, not the least of which being the fact that the conclusions are drawn from a relatively small set of sample data in which not all respondents answered every item. Virtual world learning is personally very appealing – I’ve been doing it for over 4 years in Quest Atlantis with some degree of success however, there are legitimate concerns about student’s time management and the integrity of assessment.

  • How can we know that a task was actually completed by the student in question?

The following additional questions arose from my reading of the report. They are of interest to the content of my Churchill Fellowship proposal.

  • Why are teachers less interested in developing their skills in facilitating better peer review and student self-evaluation of tasks?
  • Why are virtual world teachers not inclined to see online safety as a reportable concern for their future professional development?
  • Why is there is a direct correlation between a disinterest in developing online communities for learners and the length of time a teacher has been teaching?

 So there are my questions (in italics above) Anyone able to help me with them?

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