Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Mark Piper Interview Melbourne community radio station SYN FM (90.7)

Melbourne community radio station SYN FM (90.7) Panorama program features Arts, culture and education on Wednesdays 9:00 to 10:00 Australian Eastern Standard time (GMT+10).

Today's program interviewed Mark Piper of the Games in Learning group on computer games and education. The station streams on the internet and with Audacity it was easy to save a recording at

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Gamemaker PD for teachers

Roland Gesthuizen and I held another PD session for teachers on Gamemaker on 21 September 06. I would like to thank Roland and Westall Secondary College for making their computer lab available. The PD was made possible by the ASISTM scheme.

The session was well attended with 20 enthusiastic teachers.

We trialed Bill's Space Invaders tutorial. This was quite a success and a marked improvement on the clickball tutorial.

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Review of “Digital Game- Based Learning It’s Not Just the Digital Natives Who Are Restless"

The original paper is by Richard Van Eck, Associate Professor at the University of North Dakota and published in March/April 2006 EDUCAUSE review

This review is a discussion paper for Games in Learning Symposium - ACEC, Cairns, Tues Oct 3, 1:20 - 2:25, here is the link to abstracts of all Games in Learning and Games Programming Cairns papers)

In a thought provoking paper, Richard Van Eck suggests that proponents of digital game-based learning (DGBL) should move from the promotion of DGBL to a critical analysis of DGBL. “Like the person who is still yelling after the sudden cessation of loud music at a party” we now have the world’s attention and its time to do critical analysis of what exactly we are promoting.

He identifies three kinds of DGBL:
  • have students build games;
  • have educators and/or developers build educational games; and
  • integrate commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) games into the classroom

He believes that student built games are not likely to be widely accepted because:

  • not all teachers have the skill sets needed for game design,
  • not all teach in areas that allow for good content,
  • not all can devote the time needed to implement this type of DGBL,
  • and many teach within the traditional institutional structure, which does not easily allow for interdisciplinarity.

The skill sets needed for game design

I believe that student built games are the kind of DGBL with the most promise.

Though teachers may not have good game design skills, it is wrong to assume that teachers need to have strong game or IT skills to run an effective class. Many of today’s and tomorrow’s students will have IT skills which surpass their teachers. In a world where content has an ever decreasing half life, an important role of the teacher is to provide an environment where students can engage in constructivist self-directed learning. The teacher has in important role in providing and maintaining this environment and in teaching higher order cognitive and metacognitive skills but is less and less a teacher of content down a one way pipeline. The teacher can no longer expect to be the expert in the content but is still an expert in learning.

Areas that allow for good content

Though not all areas of old curriculum fit easily with game creation, many do. Games: student made, edugames or COTS will never cover all areas of education.

The skills which have been identified as necessary for a digital age are not necessarily those of the old curriculum. The Essential Learning Standards recognises that:

In our rapidly changing and globalised world, with the pervasive influence of high speed, interactive information and communications technology (ICT), knowledge is a major resource. ….. This is accompanied by the realisation that students can no longer prepare for one career in life and therefore need to develop a commitment to life-long learning in all occupations and facets of life, and a capacity to manage change…The Essential Learning Standards consciously seek to reduce the crowding of the curriculum to give students time to explore the underlying concepts of tasks and problems they are set, to process information they gather or receive, and to make connections to other information they already possess.

Though student game creation may be a poor match to some areas in the old curriculum, it is a good match for the kind of learning needed for the future.

The time needed to implement student game creation

With a game programming tool like Gamemaker students are creating their first game within an hour. From the outset, they are highly motivated and are involved in deep learning which spans literacy, numeracy and generalised higher order cognitive skills.

The traditional institutional structure does not allow for interdisciplinarity

Interdisciplinary learning has been identified as one of the key features of education, see the Essential Learning Standards. If schools are not offering interdisciplinary learning, they should be.

COTS games

Van Eck suggests that COTS games can be extended into the classroom through instruction and projects which preserve the context of the game. The idea being presumably that the motivation and “flow” will be carried back to the classroom if there is a close parallel between the game and the class work.. So the real learning is taking place outside of the game and the game is mainly setting the students into an appropriate state for learning. If time in game is not time on task, can COTS games be that effective?

He quotes Malone and Lepper who identify fantasy (endogenous and exogenous) as one of four main areas that make games intrinsically motivating. Hence the transfer of motivation from the game to the class relates to the preservation of the fantasy which is endogenous to the game. Recent research questions the importance of endogenous fantasy.

The study, “Intrinsic Fantasy: Motivation and Affect in Educational Games Made by Children. M. P. Jacob Habgood”, found that children create games with extrinsic fantasy, both for “curriculum” and “non-curriculum” games. This questions the importance of endogenous fantasy to children.

Much more important than fantasy is having a sense of ownership. When students can influence the set task and can create an object of real value and relevance to their peers, then they are really motivated.

For these reasons, I believe that student created games is the area with the most promise in DGBL

Tony Forster,
ASISTM Computer Game Design, Programming, Multimedia and Mathematics Cluster. forster at ozonline dot com dot au

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Friday, September 08, 2006

World of Warcraft, learning economics

13 year old "what I don't understand... is when WoW was new and nobody had much money, and a really good item dropped, how its price would be determined at auction"

Emergent* understanding of supply and demand and the effect of the money supply on market prices by a 13 yo.

More evidence (not that we needed more) of the educational value of WoW in its own right, in addition to the ways it could be used for teaching.

*emergent Emergence is the process of complex pattern formation from simpler rules OK I'm misusing the word but its my blog.


Tuesday, September 05, 2006

implicit vs explicit and declarative vs procedural

I hope Richard doesn't mind me reproducing this post to

I'm not sure I can reply to this without sounding inherently defensive and self-justifying, as I am in academia, but let me try to address at least the concepts of procedural vs. declarative, which have very particular meaning in my field (instructional design). I should preface all this as well by saying that, too often, "academic" is seen as opposed to "real world", with admittedly good
justification in many cases. After all, theory without application is useless, and many academics publish theories that have not been validated or informed by real world practice. To answer your question requires a post of some length (or perhaps this is just an occupational hazard!).

First, regarding the tension between real world and academia, not all
practitioners are theoreticians (different skills sets and interests), nor are all theoreticians practitioners. The problem, in my opinion, lies only in the lack of practitioners who attempt to apply (and thus refine and validate) theory, and theoreticians who attempt to develop theory from practice. If we denegrate either real world or academia, we are ignoring 50% of what is needed to make progress. In order for any field to advance, each must be informed by the other in a constant cycle. If not, we end up with anecdotal evidence from practice that we know worked with one population under one set of circumstances, but with no ability to generalize or extrapolate principles that we can use in multiple domains and circumstances. Conversely, we also end up with theory that soundsgreat but with no practical applications, heuristics, etc.

For me, this is particluarly difficult because I am an instructional designer. Instructional design straddles the academic and "real world" because of its origins and its practices. Instructional design is a part of the same field as human performance technology, which is decidedly rooted in the real world measurement and improvement human performance in the workplace. As instructional designers, we have to recognize that some solutions are training, and some are not (HPT).
In both cases, however, we ALWAYS start with the end goal and work backwards from there. For us, the end goal is ALWAYS rooted in real world practice and performance.

ID arose from the distillation of best practices and theory from education, communications, and psychology. Theoreticians from these fields were assembled by the military to solve a very real, applied problem--how to know that the thousands of soldiers being sent to fight during WWII actually had the competencies they needed to stay alive. As such, all of these academic theoreticians applied what was
know about how humans learn to the practical problem and constraints of keeping soldiers alive while keeping the training in line with the constraints.

This process was further refined by Robert Gagne in 1965, who identified the conditions of learning in which he pointed out that there was a disconnect between instruction (external events) and learning (internal events). He formulated this through thousands of hours of observation of the best practices of teachers and trainers (practical) and the study of human learning theory over the last
thousand years. He pointed out that there were different kinds of learning: intellectual skills (in turn comprised of, from most to least complex, problem-solving, which requires rules, which require concepts, which require discrimination), motor skills, cognitive skills, affect, and verbal information. People who mistook problem solving for memorization of verbal information (still all too common) were not teaching effectively.

This is the same kind of distinction that is implied by declarative vs. procedural. Declarative knowledge is akin to verbal information-- it is things that you can state aloud. This is NOT the same as being able to DEMONSTRATE it, however. Being able to state that subtracting larger numbers from smaller numbers results in a negative number is NOT the same as being able to do it, for instance. Procedural
knowledge is skills that may also include declarative knowledge, but which ultimately is some task or set of behaviors that must be demonstrated and which are sequential and/or hierarchical (printing a document in Microsoft Word, operating a machine, etc.). The analysis of these two kinds of skills is very different, and leads to different objectives, which in turn must be aligned with appropriate
assessments (which by the way, for IDers, are almost always demonstrated in authentic, "real world" ways). Implicit vs. explicit

This kind of theoretical refinement, combined with practical application, has resulted in a systems view of learning and human performance which is very effective precisely because it explicity defines and makes visible what ALL good instruction has done since we first began teaching. By making these things explicit, everyone has the opportunity to use and apply them. Without it, we cans say only that "some teachers/trainers are good, some are not; sure wish we knew how to capture that expertise!"
Richard N. Van Eck
Associate Professor, Graduate Director
Instructional Design & Technology
Department of Teaching & Learning
Education Room 101
231 Centennial Dr Stop 7189
Grand Forks, ND 58202-7189


Friday, September 01, 2006

Chinese Gold Farmers

It was interesting to watch the video of chinese gold farmers with my 13 year old son. About half his class are World of Warcraft players and many have purchased in game gold from chinese farmers using real currency.

I thought the video would be a good conversation starter in class,
comparative culture,
trading and exchange rates:
  • in game
  • game - world
  • intercountry
social equity