Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Instructional Simulations & Games, IDT 545, University of North Dakota

I have enrolled in Instructional Simulations & Games, IDT 545, at the University of North Dakota. It is offered as distance education and uses Adobe Connect Live Meeting for virtual face to face lectures.

You can read more on this course at http://www.idt.und.edu/index.html

Following are my reviews of the first two weeks' readings. URL's have been given where possible but some were newspaper clippings. If you are interested you should be able to access the course materials by contacting Richard Van Eck richard.vaneck@und.edu

Johnson, Everything bad is good for you. pp1..62
http://www.amazon.com/Everything-Bad-Good-You-Actually/dp/1573223077
Johnson in the foreword states that popular culture has grown more complex. I think it was Van Eck who pointed me to the Flynn Effect, that IQ is increasing with time, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flynn_effect suggesting that it might even relate to games, at least it indicates that we are not becoming dumber. (podcast)

Are computer games mindless? One of my favourite quotes “The computer is a medium of human expression and if it has not yet had its Shakespeares, its Michelangelos or its Einsteins, it will. …. We have scarcely begun to grasp its human and social implications.”
Computer Criticism vs. Technocentric Thinking By Seymour Papert
http://www.papert.org/articles/ComputerCriticismVsTechnocentric.html


Johnson talks about a baseball dice game. The baseball game story is good, it indicates that the essential features of game based learning predate even (our last week's class) text based dungeons.

He asks why kids would go to so much trouble to master games. I think the answer is that kids like to learn. They are pre-programmed learning machines.

"Games are thus the most ancient and time-honored vehicle for education. They are the original educational technology, the natural one, having received the seal of approval of natural selection. We don't see mother lions lecturing cubs at the chalkboard; we don't see senior lions writing their memoirs for posterity. In light of this, the question, "Can games have educational value?" becomes absurd. It is not games but schools that are the newfangled notion, the untested fad, the violator of tradition. Game-playing is a vital educational function for any creature capable of learning."
Crawford, The Art of Computer Game Design
http://www.vancouver.wsu.edu/fac/peabody/game-book/Coverpage.html

Give kids a relevant and authentic challenge and the right tools and you can't stop them.

McLuhan (at P15) is quoted. All new forms of media have been subjected to the same criticisms that games have, the written word, the novel, radio, film and TV. My thoughts at
http://www.schoolgamemaker.rupert.id.au/attitudes.htm

At P19 he discusses a theoretical society that discovers video games before reading. He humorously pokes fun at narrow views about games, it seems a copy of Papert's writing on the use of computers in school where the nation of Foobar which has an oral culture discovers writing. Any way I agree. http://www.papert.org/articles/ComputersInClassroom.html

His discussion of dopamine and addiction sharing a common root with enjoying games is not convincing. See my previous Crawford quote, we are pre-programmed to enjoy learning.

Much of the attraction of SimCity is in its tight debug cycle. Computer programmers know how programming is addictive.

SimCity and programming keep you in a tight cycle of: implement, test, debug. The debug part is the deep thinking part and is deliciously frustrating, we enjoy it because we are programmed to learn and solve problems. This is akin to where Gee is quoted on p44 on the probe, hypothesise cycle.

On p38 he says it is not the subject matter that attracts. I agree, Malone and Lepper are often quoted on fantasy and I am not convinced. See Habgood on fantasy. http://www.zombiedivision.co.uk/
http://www.informatics.sussex.ac.uk/users/gr20/aied05/finalVersion/JHabgood.pdf
In experiment to see if children would create a learning game with endogenous or exegonous fantasy, they created games without fantasy. Its the gameplay that counts not the fantasy.

On p40 Johnson identifies himself as a Constructivist, (References to Dewey).

Rieber, L. P. (1996). Seriously considering play: Designing interactive learning environments based on the blending of microworlds, simulations, and games. Educational Technology Research & Development, 44(2), 43-58

Rieber discusses the function of play. "play is traditionally viewed as applying only to young children. Play seems to be something you have to give up when you grow up" "the extensive research on play with children and adults in anthropology, psychology, and education indicates that play is an important mediator for learning and socialization throughout life"

I think it is possibly put better by Crawford "Games are thus the most ancient and time-honored vehicle for education. They are the original educational technology, the natural one, having received the seal of approval of natural selection. We don't see mother lions lecturing cubs at the chalkboard; we don't see senior lions writing their memoirs for posterity. In light of this, the question, "Can games have educational value?" becomes absurd. It is not games but schools that are the newfangled notion, the untested fad, the violator of tradition. Game-playing is a vital educational function for any creature capable of learning."
Crawford, The Art of Computer Game Design
http://www.vancouver.wsu.edu/fac/peabody/game-book/Coverpage.html

He says that play should be seen in the context of three general educational philosophies: essentialism, progressivism, and existentialism. Perhaps the they could be called instructionism, constructivism and radical constructivism. Does this classification artificially place progressivism aka constructivism at the centre? What of the more extreme forms of essentialism, eg. Cognitive Load Theory and the works of Kirschner, Sweller & Clark "Why Minimal Guidance During Instruction Does Not Work" http://www.cogtech.usc.edu/publications/kirschner_Sweller_Clark.pdf
and explicit instruction
http://www.k8accesscenter.org/training_resources/DirectExplicitInstruction_Mathematics.asp.

Discussions during our class illustrated the differing philosophies. Discussion on the possible uses of Tetris for education ranged from essentialist "put the letters of the alphabet on the blocks to make words" to "use the game to learn concepts of shape and area".

Rieber states "the benefits of play are long-term - enabling intellectual and social
growth over many years . If, on the other hand, one is primarily interested in short-term gains on performance tests of narrow objectives, such as standardized achievement tests, the value of play becomes less evident" Playful learning is well suited to higher level tasks like problem solving and metacognitive skills. Evidence of short term gains of near transfer will be harder to find. Nevertheless there is some evidence,

http://www.psych.ucsb.edu/~mayer/fifth_dim_website/HTML/res_reports/final_report.html The Fifth Dimension Cognitive Evaluation, Final Report

Microworlds are discussed, of course Logo and Geometer's Sketchpad and Interactive Physics. Missing from the list are Game
Maker www.gamemaker.nl, Scratch scratch.mit.edu and eToys http://wiki.laptop.org/go/Etoys

Rieber invokes Piagetian Learning Theory as a theoretical foundation of Self-Regulated Learning Within a Microworld. The concept of Epistemic conflict has been discussed by Forster and Gesthuizen "Games and Constructivism"
http://www.groups.edna.edu.au/file.php/81/ICTEV/Games_and_Constructivism_v2.ppt as a motivating cycle of implement-test-debug similar to when computer programming and ascribe much of the motivation and cognitive gains to a tight cycle.

Gee is also quoted on a probe, hypothesise cycle in Johnson "Everything bad is good for you".

The implement-test-debug cycle also aligns well with Csikszentmihalyi's Flow theory.

The author states "a simulation-as-microworld must meet the "simplest case" principle. Of course, the simulation should be designed so that ideas expand as the learner is ready for them", this is the motivation behind reprogrammable learning objects, http://schoolgamemaker.rupert.id.au/samples3

Three systems are postulated in a simulation, the target system; the user's mental model; and a "conceptual" model of the target system. For more investigation of mental models and higher order thinking, see " Higher order thinking - a thought experiment" http://tonyforster.blogspot.com/2007/08/higher-order-thinking-thought.html

There is more on Endogenous Fantasy (Lepper & Malone) and I refer to Habgood on fantasy. http://www.zombiedivision.co.uk/
http://www.informatics.sussex.ac.uk/users/gr20/aied05/finalVersion/JHabgood.pdf
In an experiment to see if children would create a learning game with endogenous or exegonous fantasy, they created games without fantasy. Its the gameplay that counts not the fantasy.

See for example, the physics game Linerider
http://linerider.com/play-line-rider-online it is clearly not the fantasy that makes this a highly engaging game.

The author notes "Anthropologists have long viewed games as but one aspect of expressive
culture, or how people in a culture project their psychological dispositions" computer games have been used to support indigenous culture whilst providing a bridge to western culture,

eg. see www.acmi.net.au/game_nibby.htm
'Nibby' means sleepy lizard in the local language. The school garden project at Koonibba Aboriginal School served as the inspiration for the making of this game.
Created by:
Roxanne Dodd, Stephanie Dudley & Ian Martin
Koonibba Aboriginal School
Koonibba Community via Ceduna, South Australia

and http://waveplace.com/
Project Waveplace's mission is clear: to create a thriving new industry in the Virgin Islands independent of tourism, one requiring no physical imports, no clearing of land, no retail space, no condos. This new industry will be a digital one: animation, illustration, photos, music, software. There's a world of media buyers on the Internet ready and willing to pay fair licensing fees for the right talent. Our plan is to teach Virgin Islanders to create with computers, so they can export their most stunning resource, their creativity.


Does Easy Do It? Children, Games, and Learning
By Seymour Papert
http://www.papert.org/articles/Doeseasydoit.html

This is one of a number of articles by Papert at http://www.papert.org/works.html
All are well thought out, well written and well worth reading. Papert excels as a communicator and a deep thinker well ahead of his time. Considering the amount of resources that were directed into LOGO in the 1980's, the only disappointment is the lack of results. Though there are many case studies, they are strong on advocacy but weak on analysis.

The lack of analysis, ie. experimental data with controls is not surprising. Consider the views of Rieber, (Seriously considering play) "the benefits of play are long-term - enabling intellectual and social growth over many years . If, on the other hand, one is primarily interested in short-term gains on performance tests of narrow objectives, such as standardized achievement tests, the value of play becomes less evident".

In this article, Papert launches a full frontal attack on the Essentialist or Instructivist use of computer games for drill and practice calling them Shavian reversals—offspring that keep the bad features of each parent and lose the good ones. He notes that good play and good learning are not easy, it is hard but fun.

The terms "hard fun" and "choc coated broccoli" have often been used to characterise the constructivist and instructionist use of computer games.


Van Eck
“Digital Game- Based Learning It’s Not Just the Digital Natives Who Are Restless”
March/April 2006 EDUCAUSE review
http://www.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/erm0620.pdf

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.


At http://learningevolves.wikispaces.com/Review%2C+digital+natives I question these reasons for overlooking student made games and argue that they are the area with the most prospects.


Designing Online Games Assessment as “Information Trails”
Christian Sebastian Loh
Curriculum & Instruction, College of Education & Human Services
Mail code 4610, Southern Illinois University Carbondale,

Loh argues for data tracking to be built into games to "help ... reconstruct users’ gaming decisions" and "to measure its effectiveness, or the return of investment" He notes that data tracking is increasingly technically feasible.

He talks of "Trails and Nodes" and data tracking when the learner meets key nodes. As I read the article, I am increasingly aware that he is considering instructionist or essentialist learning where there are predetermined items of content that must be learned. This is "learning on rails" even though the rails form a mesh like a non linear novel and the learner has choice which rails are followed in which order. Even though he states the approach can be used for "Open-ended and non-linear (constructivist approach) to close-ended and completely linear (instructivist approach)" it is difficult to see how it really does apply for constructivist learning. Constructivist learning is more than the non-linear progression through a set curriculum, it is about developing versatile thinkers, self directed learners and problem solvers.

When assessing self-directed constructivist learning, it is rarely the product (and hence the nodes) which can be usefully assessed, it is the learner's personal journey which matters. The most productive assessment are often the learners reflections, either in diary, blog or video form. A learner could put in a lot of deep thinking while traversing a few nodes.

The worked example uses Bejewled, it is clearly a drill and practice exercise.

While the paper is clearly an advance in demonstrating how data tracking in educational games could be used, there is a risk that, if such data mining became expected by the educational establishment, there could be pressure for games to concentrate at the lower levels of Bloom's Taxonomy (http://web.odu.edu/educ/llschult/blooms_taxonomy.htm) and be used to teach
information and not achieve their potential for deep thinking and problem solving.

Is It Age or IT: First Steps Toward Understanding the Net Generation
Diana Oblinger
EDUCAUSE
James Oblinger
North Carolina State University

The authors outline how the "Net Generation" differ from the other generations. They note that "age may be less important than exposure to technology".

The characteristics include:

the Net Gen is able to intuitively use a variety of IT devices and navigate the Internet
the Net Gen is always connected
the Net Gen is fast. They multitask
the Net Gen prefer to learn by doing rather by being told what to do
the Net Gen is a prolific communicator
The Net Gen often prefers to learn and work in teams
The Net Gen is very achievement oriented
the Net Gen is oriented toward inductive discovery
The Net Gen is more comfortable in image-rich environments than with text.
The Net Gen readily takes part in community activities.

Teachers, particularly IT teachers are often suspicious of these generalisations, holding that the Net Gen is not that different from preceding generations. Prensky holds more extreme views including claims that Net Gen's have brains that are wired differently. Prensky popularised the term "Digital Natives". Oblinger quotes extensively from Prensky. Prensky has been criticised by

Kerr http://learningevolves.wikispaces.com/nativesImmigrants
Siemens http://connectivism.ca/blog/2007/10/digital_natives_and_immigrants.html
Mc Kenzie http://fno.org/nov07/nativism.html
Livingstone http://learninggames.wordpress.com/category/twitch-speed/
and http://learninggames.wordpress.com/2008/01/23/google-generation-is-a-myth/
and others http://knowledgegarden.usq.edu.au//tiki-index.php?page_id=622

Many of these criticisms also cast doubt on how different the Net Gen really are.

Voters Support Teaching of 21st Century Skills
Meris Stansbury

The author reports on a poll which she claims as evidence that momentum is building for the teaching of "21st Century Skills". The author's comments seem to indicate that the poll supports constructivist or progressivist views.

"88% of voters say they believe schools can and should incorporate 21st Century skills such as critical thinking and problem solving, communication and self direction and computer skills into the curriculum"

The author omits the fact that the strongest response was for reading comprehension which is not exclusively a 21st century skill.

This article appears to be based on a press release from the Partnership for 21st Century Skills which appears to be a lobby group for educational computer technology suppliers. http://www.21stcenturyskills.org/documents/p21_pollreport_2pg.pdf

Dropout Factories?
Nancy Zuckerbrod

The author says that there are 1700 High Schools in the US that fit the description of "Dropout Factory" with no more than 60% making it to senior year.The highest concentration is in large cities or high poverty rural areas in the south and southwest of USA.

Dropouts are a problem in high poverty areas around the world but the US has surprisingly low educational performance considering its high income. http://www.pisa.oecd.org/document/2/0,3343,en_32252351_32236191_39718850_1_1_1_1,00.html

PISA is a triennial survey of the knowledge and skills of 15-year-olds. It is the product of collaboration between participating countries and economies through the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), and draws on leading international expertise to develop valid comparisons across countries and cultures. US performance is significantly below OECD average.

Concern about poor performance has contributed to the NCLB (no child left behind) policy which has shifted policy towards instructionist or essentialist learning. A keyword search indicates a considerable shift towards instructionism when compared to Australia, It also shows a higher interest in educational games in Australia. There is a swing towards instructionist or essentialist learning in Australia evident now, we lag behing the US in most things.
http://tonyforster.blogspot.com/2006/05/interest-in-game-programming-by.html

The author lists Four Winds Community High School in North Dakota USA as fitting the profile of a "dropout factory".

A search reveals that it serves an Indian community
http://www.fourwinds.k12.nd.us/education/sctemp/c141f72d9b5f3269f1bf452929130206/1200468276/StudentParent_Handbook.pdf

It lists its goals as:
1. To provide a responsive and flexible educational program.
2. To develop student's feelings of positive identity and self-worth.
3. To develop an awareness of and pride in the Dakota heritage, values, language,
and culture.
4. To develop skills necessary for healthful and productive living.
5. To provide accessibility to the parents and community as well as recognition of
the vital role the parents and community play in learning.
6. To require high expectations of all staff that shall be sensitive to the unique
needs of all students.
7. To provide students, not only intellectual growth, but also physical, social, and
moral growth.
8. To heighten expectations of students to require strong basic skills which will
result in their ability to continue learning in all academic and other settings

These are goals for which game making has been suggested in other indigenous communities.
http://learningevolves.wikispaces.com/indigenous

"Keep our diverse languages and cultural traditions by excelling in education and digital technologies, the only means of arresting the decline of our ancient and oral traditions" Noel Pearson, Australia

"Much trouble has come from people forgetting the land, the spirit. Many people are sick and have lost their spirit. The white government has cut their culture; we grieve for them. But we can all learn and make our spirit strong. My teaching is about opening your spirit, working together to build understanding. Opening our way, opening our hearts to share the spirit of the land with all who want to learn.” Nganyinytja an elder of the Pitjantjatjara people of Central Australia.

Programming computer games about traditional stories can be an excellent way to "develop student's feelings of positive identity and self-worth and develop an awareness of and pride in the heritage, values, language, and culture" while "excelling in education and digital technologies"

Read how game making was introduced into a predominantly aboriginal school, GameMaker at Gillen, Alice Springs by Kym Urquhart, http://learningevolves.wikispaces.com/gillen

and see the award winning game by Koonibba Aboriginal School
www.acmi.net.au/game_nibby.htm
'Nibby' means sleepy lizard in the local language. The school garden project at Koonibba Aboriginal School served as the inspiration for the making of this game.
Created by:
Roxanne Dodd, Stephanie Dudley & Ian Martin
Koonibba Aboriginal School
Koonibba Community via Ceduna, South Australia

See also the Waveplace proposal http://waveplace.com/proposal/
"Project Waveplace's mission is clear: to create a thriving new industry in the Virgin Islands independent of tourism, one requiring no physical imports, no clearing of land, no retail space, no condos. This new industry will be a digital one: animation, illustration, photos, music, software. ... Our plan is to teach Virgin Islanders to create with computers, so they can export their most stunning resource, their creativity. "

See also the proposal for the OLPC ($100 laptop) for Vanuatu

http://tonyforster.blogspot.com/2007/08/thoughts-on-olpc-100-laptop.html
and
http://tonyforster.blogspot.com/2007/09/rom-dance-north-ambrym-vanuatu.html

Back to the article under review, the author continues under "finding a solution" to talk of punishing schools for low test scores, more reporting, data tracking and goals. Frankly this stuff depresses me for its lack of vision.

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3 Comments:

Blogger Web2.0PRDude said...

“The computer is a medium of human expression and if it has not yet had its Shakespeares, its Michelangelos or its Einsteins, it will. …. We have scarcely begun to grasp its human and social implications.” Super quote!

There are technology companies out there that are providing gaming infrastructures to let the great game artists emerge. SCInterface is a framework to address the complexities of managing, controlling and monitoring various applications, devices, and sensors. You might want to look at http://www.scinterface.com/. They might be an interesting company for you to keep track of.

Friday, January 18, 2008 11:41:00 AM  
Blogger Tony Forster said...

Thanks Howad (Web2.0PRDude)for your feedback. I see your company uses "new media tools for Public Relations ... Deliver ROI driven Web2.0 services for PR endeavors- social networking, weblogs, wikis, podcasts, media mining"

I get the feeling that this blog has been used for a "PR endeavour" but thats OK, any feedback is appreciated.

Sunday, January 20, 2008 5:13:00 PM  
Blogger Tony Forster said...

Re Designing Online Games Assessment as “Information Trails”
Christian Sebastian Loh
further thoughts, data mining, particularly in MMORPG's can be valuable see
http://www.lifewithalacrity.com/2005/08/dunbar_world_of.html

Tuesday, January 29, 2008 2:46:00 PM  

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