Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Is this where Logo fell over?

In the 70's and 80's, Logo was put forward by its supporters as a silver bullet for education. It was enthusiastically promoted as an exceptionally good educational tool. Yet its mass introduction to schools was less successful, with a general perception that it had "not delivered what it promised".

It appeared to pass the test of enthusiastic teachers delivering to kids but fail where enthusiastic teachers delivered to rank and file teachers who in turn delivered to kids.

See Computer Criticism vs. Technocentric Thinking
for an analysis by Papert on why it was perceived by some to have failed.

Is this the point we are at with the new drag&drop tools such as GameMaker? Over the past 4 years, a small group of teachers have recognised game making as a powerful constructivist tool for learning, a sandpit for higher order thinking. They persuaded their reluctant schools to let them teach game making.

Now its changing, game making is being adopted at school level and novice teachers are being told that they will "teach GameMaker". Unless the understanding is there that it is the journey and not the destination that matters, that it is a learning tool not a teaching tool, one for self-directed learning, then maybe its mass implementation will fall short of what we know it can deliver.

Will Game Maker fail the test of mass implementation like Logo did?

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Monday, May 28, 2007

Teacher PD with or by students

The photo above shows teacher PD on game making being delivered by a year 8 student at Westall SC on 22/5/07. Involving students in teacher PD can place PD in an authentic context for teachers, PD otherwise often results in inert knowledge.

See GenYes for more "Students work with teachers to bring effective technology into the classrooms and libraries. The resulting collaboration provides the students with project-based learning and the teachers with on-site, sustainable professional development."

Donna Gronn spoke on "PD try something different: children mentoring
teachers in their ICT skills" at the ICTEV conference on 24/5/07.
"Are you aware of the children’s confidence and skills with ICT? Why aren’t you using it? This presentation explores a research project that utilises the confidence and skills of students in grade 3/4 to mentor staff in the use of the ICT available in their school. The positives for the staff, students and their relationships are discussed."

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Books to read to be able to make educational games

Thanks to Jonathan Ferguson on "Discussion of games addressing social issues" for this list of "books to read to be able to make educational games". The comments are his not mine.

Alexander, T. (2005). Massively multiplayer game development 2 (1 ed.). Charles
River Media.

Bateman, C., & Boon, R. (2006). 21st century game design. Hingham, Mass: Charles
River Media. (One of my favorite books on game design)

Cassell, J., & Jenkins, H. (Eds.). (1998). From Barbie to Mortal Kombat: gender
and computer games. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press.

Fogg, B. (2002). Persuasive technology: Using computers to change what we think
and do. 500 Sansome Street, Suite 400, San Francisco, CA 94111: Morgan

Gee, J. P. (2003). What video games have to teach us about learning and literacy.
New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Meigs, T. (2003). Ultimate game design: building game worlds. New York: McGraw-

Michael, D., & Chen, S. (2006). Serious games: Games that educate, train, and
inform (1st ed.). CourseTechnology PTR.

Ray, S. G. (2004). Gender inclusive game design: expanding the market (1st ed ed.).
Hingham, Mass: Charles River Media.

Rollings, A., & Morris, D. (2004). Game Architecture and Design: A New Edition.
New Riders.

Rouse III, R. (2004). Game Design: Theory and Practice. Wordware Publishing
Inc. Plano, TX, USA.

Salen, K., & Zimmerman, E. (2004). Rules of play: game design fundamentals.
Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press. (A very excellent book on game design.)

Yee, N. (2006a). The demographics, motivations and derived experiences of users of Massively Multi-User Online Graphical Environments.

Yee, N. (2006b). The psychology of MMORPGS emotional investment, motivations, relationship formation, and problematic usage. In R. Schroeder & A. Axelsson(Eds.), Avatars at work and play: Collaboration and interaction in
sharedvirtual environments. London: Springer-Verlag.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Try the OLPC ($100 laptop)

Many thanks to Joel for showing the Games Programming Cluster the OLPC (one Laptop Per Child), also called the XO or the $100 laptop.

The Cluster has been using using game programming to engage children in relevant and authentic learning, it was interested to see Etoys, the programming environment that will ship with the OLPC.

You can try the OLPC software at home. Just go to and follow the instructions to download a PC bootable CD image:

Trying out the Sugar environment is as simple as 1, 2, 3!

Step 1Download olpc-redhat-stream-sdk-livecd.iso

Step 2Burn the iso image to a blank CD

Step 3Pop CD into your machine and boot.

The first cold boot of the CD fails for me but a second warm boot is successful. After filling in your name and selecting "your" colour scheme you should see this:
That's you in the centre of the screen. There is a border, at the bottom are the applications or activities you can launch, at the top are the buttons to show your wireless mesh network, the single dot button shows you and your activities.

I pressed the button at the bottom to launch the Etoys programming environment activity
You can get the screen border back by moving the mouse to the screen corner:
Pressing the single dot button in the top border or pressing F3 shows you and the activities (applications) you have running. (There's probably a doc at somewhere that shows the PC keyboard mapping but meanwhile see for the OLPC keyboard)
You are at the centre of the screen and in the circle around you are the activities open, in this case just one, Etoys. The selected activity has a drop down menu at the top of the screen that you can use to close an activity. Click on the Etoys activity in the surrounding circle to return to it.

See for more.

Have fun!

PS Bill suggests running on VirtualBox but that looks harder to me.

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