Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Awesome videos to inspire epic classrooms

Okay, so I realize that everyone and their sister, at this point, has posted their own curated roundup of videos on Game Based Learning and Gamification in the classroom. I'm certainly not doing anything new here. Occasionally, though, I want to share with a colleague or fifty, during workshops or conferences, my cannon of inspirational videos of gaming goodness. It's just more simple to put them all in one place, so here they are.

Ultimately, these videos speak for themselves. I'll keep my commentary to a minimum. I will say that these videos actually started me down the path of actually taking games and game design seriously in my classroom. If I hadn't seen Chellman & Mcgonigal's TED talks one fateful day in 2011, I never would have attended break out sessions on games and gamification with Jeff Mummert at the first or taken an online course called, "Simulations and Gaming Technologies for the Classroom". I certainly wouldn't be as passionate about this topic today. 

Ali Carr-Chellman: Gaming to re-engage boys in learning

"Should we send this child to the psychologist?" And the answer is no, he's just a boy. He's just a little boy. (Ali Carr-Chellman)

Friday, May 17, 2013

Is Twitter Keeping you down?

Back on October 17 of 2011, I posted a bit of a guide for my tweeps and colleagues on building your PLN. In that guide, I shared Jeff Dunn's post from earlier in the month, The A-Z Dictionary of Educational Twitter Hashtags, that shared some general points about hash tags that I've applied myself and shared with most of my friends and colleagues over the years. Some of that information is no longer true. Mainly, I want to look at this quote from Dunn's post:
The # symbol, called a hashtag, is used to mark keyword or topic in a Tweet. Any Twitter user can categorize or follow topics with hashtags.Those hashtags (usually) mean something and are a great way to get a tweet to appear in search results or discussion monitoring. (Dunn 2011, emphasis mine)


Hashtags & Top Tweets

In order to follow a hashtag, users must complete a search, then save it (typically using a thrird party app, like Hootsuite). This used to provide users with a running timeline of everything anyone posted with that hashtag. This was a good system for consumers and creators because it allowed a way for Jo Schmo teacher to share resources from his classroom with anyone, even if he wasn't a famous published author and speaker. This helped build a Personal Learning Network. This is no longer the case.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Games, Fun Failure, and the Learning Process

Last week, Dr. mentioned on Twitter that this coming week's #GBLFriday topic would be, How Games Help Students Learn Failure. Failure is a topic I've been thinking a lot about lately and hitting on in previous posts. Alas, I have decided to to tackle this topic a bit here and put in my two cents worth...

Failure shouldn't be fatal


There are a lot of popular articles out there that say students should be failing regularly in school and activities (just Google "failure good for kids" or something similar), that point to various studies into the benefits of failure. My conservative crotchety old windbag friends love these articles. The driving idea is that children benefit from plenty of experiences with frustration, failure and defeat.
Without a doubt, this will motivate them to "pull themselves up by their bootstraps" and try even harder the next time. It will give them grit and prepare them for the "Real World". Clearly, today's students don't get enough of these experiences because we, the helicopter adults, coddle and protect them. Yada yada yada... when I was a kid, they didn't even have children! (Standard conservative crotchety old windbag diatribe)
The thing is, in my experience, our students are not coddled at all. Sure, there are plenty of botched "self-esteem" initiatives out there that promote fake success in meaningless activities (everybody wins at kickball!), but when it comes to actual learning, our students are being allowed to fail in epic numbers, some of them in ways that are fatal to their education. In a previous post, I said that Kids are only motivated by failure if it isn't actually fatal. Here I hope to unpackage that statement a bit more.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Scaffolding Portal 2 for Game Design Thinking.

As mentioned in earlier posts, I've been using Gamestar Mechanic to facilitate technology fluency and systems based thinking in my Computer Information Technology class. Gamestar Mechanic is an online tool from my heroes over at the Institute of Play, that gamifies the process of game design, which is essentially game based learning (for more on those terms click here). Game design is just as it sounds. It's is the process of planning the components, goals, mechanics, environment, and rules of a game, as well as considerations, in many cases, of storyline and characters. Its the consideration of user interaction with your design. It is the process of responding to user feedback and creating iterations on your design. [Video] Game design can also include coding, programming, and digital art, but in this case, I'm simply focusing on game mechanics and user experience.

My Classroom Door Sign
At the 2012, Jeff Mummert introduced me to Teach with Portals, an initiative of Steam for Schools. I was able to register my class for a free educational version of Portal 2 and the Puzzle Creator (sometimes referred to as Puzzle Maker). In terms of approaching Game design from the perspective of game mechanics, particularly the five elements discussed in Gamestar Mechanic, Portal 2 with the Puzzle Maker is a natural extension of the activities begun in Gamestar. It simply requires some additional scaffolding. I'd like to share some of the scaffolding resources I created with you here.

Making Connections

Okay, so the first task I found to be necessary, particularly for middle school students, was making the connections obvious between the lessons learned in Gamestar Mechanic and students' experience in Portal 2. As a prerequisite for beginning the Portal Project in my class, students must earn the Apprentice Badge in GameStar Mechanic. As a part of this badge, students have the opportunity to analyze the 5 elements of game design as a system, evaluate games for balance (flow), participate in the iteration feedback loop, and consider end user experience. I wanted to extend this experience to Portal 2. Steam for Schools is quite limited in that it provides no method for sharing projects between students or community for students. In order to provide some opportunity for community, I've had to use blogging and Edmodo.  First, I require students to blog throughout the project during play and Test Chamber creation. Students may blog as an analysis of game play (focusing on the 5 Elements) or as fanfiction from the perspective of Chell.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Gaming the System & The Epic Quest for Professional Development

This month, I am re-reading What Video Games Have to Teach Us about Learning and Literacy, by James Paul Gee and Reality is Broken

Seriously, If you haven't read What Video Games Have to Teach Us about Learning and Literacy, by James Paul Gee and Reality is Broken