Reflecting Allowed

Maha Bali’s blog about education

Games – finding resources

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Anastasia Salter is apparently a really big name in edu games, and she recently gave a workshop(#hilt2014) that I heard of via a post by Lee Skallerup (shared by Mia Zamora on twitter). I was jealous that many of my colleagues(like almost half the staff and faculty in our libraries and learning technologies school) attended her keynote and workshop at AMICAL last summer,while I couldn’t go. I am glad the HILT materials are available here.

My co-teacher for the creativity course (who does not teach the games module but has seen me teach it) told me afterwards that attending Salter’s workshop made her realize we were already on the right track. Looking at the HILT2014 abstract, I am already seeing her point. Awesome, last semester, I already did the three things she suggests:

We’ll look at three main ways to integrate games into learning objectives: teaching and debriefing existing games, making games for students to play, and building games with your students.

So I am off to a good start 🙂

I plan to dig deeper into those workshop resources in the coming few weeks.

Today, I asked on twitter which hashtag was best for edu games, and Lee Skallerup pointed me to #gbl – and it was juicy! I’ll call a hashtag juicy if I dip in and find a few good posts in the past couple of days, means it’s an actively & well-used used hashtag

Here are some useful things I found:

Gamification: where to begin?

I am not actually big on gamification per se, but i am big on playing and making classes fun. I thought this description of the diff betw traditional grading and gamified was interesting (but i don’t agree, actually):

The biggest difference I see between gamification and traditional grading is that in a gamified setting students start with a zero or they are a level 1 player. As students learn they get points and level up. In a traditional classroom students start with an A and chip away at that A every time they make mistakes. That seems so counter-intuitive. You are learning new things and get penalized every time you make mistakes! What? In a gamified approach students can make all the mistakes they need to learn the material. It’s when they show that they’ve learned something or successfully completed assignments that they get the XP

The author of that post, Alfonso Gonzalez provides useful resources, including his own Diigo links on gaming and his own posts

I also found this interesting post about what game designers can learn from teachers, and it was veryyyyy funny because intuitively, these are exactly the things I had told my students before they went out to design games last semester! I basically explained in about 5 minutes, these ideas:
1. Learning outcomes (knowledge, skills, attitude), Bloom’s taxonomy
2. Learner differences (multiple intelligences, interests, personalities, (dis)abilities – we had a blind student in class – etc.)
3. Recycling material to create the game – more points for creative recycling than doing fancy stuff (tho this article adds something about hacking – re-purposing a tool for other uses)
And the 4th point the author (Anna Richards) makes is one I never made explicit to my students, but which I had in mind when creating the course. She calls it ‘respect the kids’ (as in have faith in their abilities and give them room to learn). I don’t tell my students to keep it in mind when designing their games. But I myself kept it in my mind when I gave my students a lot of autonomy to create games with very little scaffolding other than the 3 points earlier plus playing some games and reflection on games.

And then there is this post by Laura Devaney that captures a key thing for me: any gaming that focuses on extrinsic rewards is problematic for me. But apparently good game design is different:

True game-based learning uses intrinsic experiences and moves away from a more simple extrinsic rewards-based system where students play the game in pursuit of a reward or achievement and are disconnected from the fundamental content.

I also found this point really powerful:

Students frequently walk away from homework when it is too difficult, but difficult games are another matter–kids walk away from games when they’re too easy. Difficult games present a positive challenge for students. A challenging task “stretches” a student’s brain, and the more a person expects his or her brain to do different things, the more pathways that person’s brain will develop.

(emphasis mine)

The author also cites Douglas Kiang on the importance of open-endedness in play. I am not 100% sure what that looks like, but I think a game like #tvsz (and the one we’re planning to play hacking it into sthg else) is like that. Most immersive MMORPG’s are like that, as are role play games in general. But not really so for things like card games, board games, sports games, etc. My students’ games are not that open, and that’s where I would like them to experience something different in order to imagine how to do it in their own games that they design.

It’s sheer coincidence that while drafting this post, I had a tab open of a presentation by Jesse Stommel and Sean Michael Morris (unrelated to gaming) and came across this quote citing Jesse:

“Content and learning are two separate things, often at odds. Content is finite and contained; whereas learning is chaotic and indeterminate. It’s relatively easy to create technological infrastructures to deliver content, harder to build relationships and learning communities to help mediate, inflect, and disrupt that content.”

And yeah, I am a big big fan of those ideas, and write about them a lot in the context of curriculum theory. The difficult thing is to help my students imagine ways of designing games themselves that are not just content/recall-focused. It’s not a straightforward thing for them. We’ll see how it goes…

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