Thursday, July 19, 2012

Gamers can save the world?

James Paul Gee's article, Good Video Games and Good Learning and Jane McGonigal's TED talk really didn't surprise me.  As some of you know, I live with my boyfriend who is a dental student at the University of Michigan.  What most don't know is that he is also a gamer.  He doesn't play World of Warcraft, but he does play games like Call of Duty or Tom Clancy's something something, (I try to learn the names of these games, and I apologize if my lack of title knowledge insults anyone).  He is a really intelligent, probably one of the smartest people I know and I think a lot of it has to deal with video games.  He has played since he was really young, his play time has decreased significantly in comparison to when he was in high school, but when he does play he always finishes in first place on his team by a wide gap of points.  Beyond gaming though, he always amazes me with his ability to strategize, collaborate, trouble shoot, and think critically to reach a specific objective.  Now, I'm not saying that the only reason why he is intelligent is because of video games.  But what I am suggesting is that video games have helped him become more aware of these skills, and have allowed him to practice and refine them.  I'm sure on a metacognitive level, that he realizes that he transfers the skills he learns in video games to reality, because we've talked about it.    

Based off of what we read in Willingham (2009), gamers essentially practice the skills that Gee mentioned to the point of automaticity, especially if they play for as many hours as McGonigal (2010) suggests.  And that's the whole point of McGonigal's talk right?  That we need to use video gamers as a resource to solve our world's problems.  We've seen something like this in movies before, where the gamers or computer techs are the ones who can save the world or ruin it, they're usually the ones who are still capable to function during a nationwide power outage/crisis, etc (I'm pretty much referencing Live Free or Die Hard).  This idea isn't far out there --- it's definitely attainable... right?  

This is where I think one important thing comes into play here: level of difficulty.  In Willingham (2009), we all learned that humans are natural problem solvers.  We love solving problems, our reward is that little release of dopamine ( I can't even imagine the amount that gets released once a gamer accomplishes an epic win).  But, there is one stipulation, the problem cannot be too hard.  Once a problem gets so difficult our brains shuts off, we loose our motivation, and we walk away.  That's why, as Gee mentioned, that video games are appealing when a player can stop and save their progress and return to it later.  But the problems we're facing on a worldwide level are extremely difficult! Are the global issues that we are facing too difficult for us to solve?

The other side of these things is the design aspect.  So much time and research is put into the production of a video game.  I can hardly imagine writing a lesson that has content that balances all of Gee's themes: identity, interaction, production, risk taking, customization, agency, well-order problems, challenge and consolidation, “Just in Time” and “On Demand”, situated meanings,  pleasantly frustrating, system thinking, explore, think laterally, rethink goals, smart tools and distributed knowledge, cross-functional teams, performance before competence.  With these things in mind, a video game is carefully crafted (some more than others).  The key point is crafted --- we did not ensure that our worldwide problems had the proper balance between all these things.  How can gamers solve huge issues if they seem insolvable from more than just he difficulty perspective?

And lastly, the biggest thing for me is that video game creators know the objective they want their players to reach, much like a teacher does with their lesson, but if one person can't solve such a global issue, how can we turn it into a game? [added after I wrote this in a comment]

The benefit here: as teachers, we can definitely utilize the knowledge we have about video games and what goes into them in order to create engaging unit plans.  I'm just excited to see how we can do that, and what aspects of technology we can use to accomplish it. 

Monday, July 16, 2012

July 13 Class Reflection

For this blog I decided to utilize one of the resources we learned about in class on Friday.  I wanted to show my thought process of reflecting, and how I linked together the morning and the afternoon sessions.  Also, I really wanted to make sure you guys were exposed to this resource because I think it's so awesome!!

Monday, July 2, 2012

"Get off the internet! I need to make a phone call!"

Computer lab hours were always my favorite treat in elementary school.  We each had our own floppy disc to save our files.  The paper still had the perforated edges, with tiny holes on the side to align with the printer.  During those glorious hours the biggest decision we had to make was whether to play Where in the World is Carmen SanDiego or Oregon Trail (my personal go-to).  And at the end of the day, if little Jimmy died of typhoid fever or if an eagle took Sue, it didn’t matter because we got to play on computers.

However, the article written by Bill Sheskey, Creating Learning Connections with Today’s Tech-Savvy Student really made me think --- what did I learn about technology in school?

According to Marc Prensky and Sheskey, I am a “digital native.”  I grew up during the fast pace evolution of technology.  I remember when the first Gameboy came out, when Sega stopped producing Genesis, and the glorious moment when cell phones could fit in a person’s pocket and the screens were in color.  Those moments really weren’t that long ago, ok, I confess: I still think as if the 90’s were only ten years ago.  But it seemed that after the big hurdles were made with technology (mostly in the late 80’s/90’s), it had exploded so quickly that I could barely keep up.  How did the gap between me and technology widen?

I wasn’t being taught with technology in school.  Beyond my Oregon Trail days, I rarely saw technology utilized within my classrooms.  When I graduated from high school, the entire school district was still using the old iMac G3, a model that was released in 1998.  I graduated in 2006.

Ideas mentioned by Sheskey, like bringing a computer monitor to a projection screen or using a digital camera to add an extra element to a class was never a part of my middle or high school classrooms.  As a result, if I didn’t seek out technology on my own time I was not going to be exposed to it in any other way.  And that was how the gap widened. 

As a teacher, taking the initiative to utilize technology in a classroom is crucial with present day students.  Sheskey points out, “…the young people today are digital natives,’ they will be equipped to launch the process of change in the classroom.”  Teaching is at a virtual cross roads, where as educators we need to find a better and more effective way to relate to these students who are fluent in constant stimulus and readily accessible knowledge.  Without technology, students will continue to keep the arenas of classroom and tech separate.  Gaps will continue to widen.  And worst of all, educators are missing out on a really valuable lesson on how to teach students how to utilize the web, and how to manage their ‘virtual citizenship.’

So here I am, trying this blog thing, and attempting to keep up to date on all the apps and social networking sites out there.  I don’t do this because I enjoy it; though I am a “digital native,” I’m still in the colonial days.  But I do these things in order to relate to other people, especially the younger people.