Week 12 Alternate Reality Learning: Massive Gaming, Virtual Reality, and Simulations

Friday, March 23rd, 2012

April 2, 2012 Alternate Reality Learning: Massive Gaming, Virtual Reality, and Simulations

Articles I Read:

  1. Douglas Thomas and John Seely Brown (2009, January). Why Virtual Worlds Matter. International Journal of Media and Learning, Vol. 1(1). http://www.johnseelybrown.com/needvirtualworlds.pdf
  1. Squire, Kurt. (2008). Open-Ended Video Games: A Model for Developing Learning for the Interactive Age. The Ecology of Games: Connecting Youth, Games, and Learning. Edited by Katie Salen. The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Series on Digital Media and Learning. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2008. 167–198. Retrieved on June 25, 2010,  from http://www.mitpressjournals.org/doi/pdf/10.1162/dmal.9780262693646.167 (other chapters from this book: http://www.mitpressjournals.org/toc/dmal/-/3?cookieSet=1)
  1. Bonnie A. Nardi, Stella Ly, & Justin Harris (2007). Learning conversations in World of Warcraft. forthcoming in Proc. HICSS 2007. Retrieved on June 25, 2010, from http://darrouzet-nardi.net/bonnie/pdf/Nardi-HICSS.pdf
  1. Sara de Freitas (2007). Learning in Immersive worlds a review of game-based learning. JISC. Retrieved August 17, 2008, from http://www.jisc.ac.uk/media/documents/programmes/                                                                                                                       elearninginnovation/gamingreport_v3.pdf

source:  http://www.howtogeek.com/69283/geek-comic-for-august-17th-gaming-no-matter-what/

I love games.  Any kind of games.  Board games.  Video games.  Group games.  Puzzles.  You name it.  Why?  Some are interactive and social.  So the time is occupied with something fun and challenging with people you like.  I can escape reality by playing a game.  Some games are fantasy, which makes them more fun than life when life is boring or even stressful.  Games allow me to participate IN the fantasy as opposed to only reading about it in a book or watch it on TV.  Games challenge the mind and make you smarter.  Games are competitive yet it’s ok if you don’t win; you are allowed to make mistakes and try again.  You feel safe and actually want to try again until you get it right.

Of course games are addictive too.  When I discover a new game that I love, it’s hard to get back to the real world.  I think to myself, just one more game.  I almost have it…  I understand why people get addicted to videos games.  Game addicts are no different from TV-watching couch potatoes or bibliophiles, like me.  I grew up playing video games where only one person could play at a time.  The games might have had a two player option, but you still had to play one person at a time.  Today, many of the video games are created so that everyone can play at the same time no matter your location.  When I played as a child, I could share my scores, tips and tricks with others but I could not actually learn from them by playing with them.  Today’s gaming experience must provide a richer experience for the users than I ever experienced.

One of my younger brothers is in his mid-twenties and LOVES online video games.  His friends come over and they play for hours and into the late night.  He sometimes wears the headset and talks to the other players.  It was cute when he was a teenager, but I thought he would have given the games up by now.  I guess games keep people young because they make you feel like a kid no matter how old you are.  (I’m not sure when he plans to move out of mom and dad’s house.  Maybe when he grows up 😉 )

I have played a few online games such as DrawSomething or Words with Friends, but I have never played the online games on the Xbox or the Wii.  I think if I was a kid, I would probably try it.  It seems like it would be fun to play with your friends online.  My kids play those games online with others.  However, many of the games they play seem too mature or even violent.  My stepson knows to turn the volume down on one of the war games he plays because sometimes there is inappropriate language.

I think the virtual worlds like Second Life have a lot of potential.  I don’t know a lot about what is out there already, but here is something I would like to play personally.  I think it would be neat if virtual worlds were created for real places, like Vienna, Austria, for example.  I will be traveling there soon, so it would be beneficial for me to preview what Vienna is like before I go.  In this world I could talk to others and learn the German language.  I could visit the shops and see what kinds of foods they eat.  I could learn about the plants and animals just by looking around me.  Even better, an augmented reality virtual world would give me a quasi-authentic experience.  I could walk down the actual streets and see what it’s like before I go.  I know that Google Earth has these features.  Perhaps there are worlds like this out there already.  If the game was interactive, I think it would be more fun than reading about it in a book or watching a video about it.  In addition, I see many possibilities with science.  If I were given the challenge to do something, like mix chemicals or identify a species, then it seems like this would make learning more fun because it is a hands-on experience.

I am surprised that educational games have not advanced as much as the games for entertainment have.  I realize that if the games are too educational, then they aren’t fun anymore.  Other articles I have read have said that there has been a prediction for a long time that games would be a hit in education but then it never happens.  I wonder why.

In a sense, the online gaming culture has created its own sport.  They are members of a team who are skilled and passionate with a common goal to problem solve and win.  Really, it’s a shame that they are the ones considered as “nerds and geeks” compared to the idolized gods on the basketball and football fields.  Ahem.

My kindergarten and first grade students loved computer games, particularly the students with special needs, such as students with ADHD.  I offered many game experiences in my work stations.  When I taught K/1, I provided many technologies for students to play games with.  I had two computers, a cd player and headset, a portable dvd player, teacher-made and store bought games, manipulatives, and games that gave feedback such as special pens with buzzers.  I found that music, singing, drama, video and games made learning much more engaging.  Today, teachers have much more than that.  Now they have Smartboards, document cameras, laptops, iPads, iPods, and many other tools to engage students.

In the first article I read, it made a very important point.  It points out that the participants are taught nothing but learn as they go.  This is related to the difference between direct instruction and discovery learning.  Direct instruction gets the job done in a boring way that results in surface learning outcomes.  Discovery learning challenges learners, which is motivating and engaging and results in deeper learning.  How can we create games for students that are more like discovery learning but still teach them the basic skills?

Thomas and Brown noted,”Some guilds may be small in size and primarily social in nature, while others are large and may require players to commit as much as 40 hours a week to the guild for high end raiding” (11).  That seems a bit unnecessary and seems to encourage addiction right there.  Forty hours per week, doesn’t that amount to a full time job?  Here is another quote from the third article: “Both require over one hundred hours for anything close to “completion.”  Can you imagine if we could get that persistence and dedication from our students?

I really like the system the Salman Kahn developed.  In a way, it is like a game.  The system tracks and documents all the data for each student.  When a student completes a section, they receive a badge.  The badges become collectables just like collector cards or figurines.  This motivates the students to learn because the challenge is to acquire the novelties, not the knowledge.  If you tell them to collect knowledge, they are bored.  But if you tell them to collect trivial items, they are engaged.  But what is it that attracts the adult gamers?  Surely they are not after tokens, points, and trinkets that the children like so much.

In the third article, the theme, identity, emerges.  Games, books, and television give participants opportunities to try different identities without the risks, such as permanence, rejection and failure.  Participants can imagine and be someone else, temporarily.  They can be super humans.  (This is something I strive to be everyday.  I’m actually considering checking out the mobile Quantified Self devices and becoming a super human someday.  Ha.)  This is the definition of play.  Children learn through play.  Adults play to feel young again. More importantly, participants do not suffer irreversible consequences.  If the game is over, they just start over. Participants can virtually see what it’s like to be someone else or participate in even dangerous activities.  Like rebels without a conscious, participants can do things that they would never dream of doing in the real world.

Along the same lines, games allow participants to succeed ,  be a hero, and accomplish complex tasks from start to finish.

Another subtle theme I found in reading the articles is adventure. Generally, when one plays a game they feel excited because they do not know what is going to happen next.  The next event could be something really wonderful or something devastating.  Nevertheless, as in a good  action movie, the participant is sitting on the edge of his seat.  How can we bottle this and excite out students?

In the third article, one of the study’s key questions was:   “Can quasi-fictional contexts relating to one’s physical place create the kind of engagement one finds in fictional games?”  It seems to me that the participant has to be somewhat interested or curious in the context of the game.  If this R685 course was designed in the context of soldiers blowing up stuff, I would have to say that I would pass.  Many boys and some girls are attracted to violent  games that blow things up, but it is not for me.  My point is that no matter how authentic, creative, or fun the game is, the participant must be at least a bit interested in participating in that context.  Hmm, that forces me to question what would be an interesting context for me then?  If I could design this course using a virtual world, the context would be similar to the world of Harry Potter or Indiana Jones.  Something adventurous.

This article also focuses on the Grand Theft video games.  I can’t stand those games.  When I taught in the inner city I had kindergarteners and first graders come in talking about how they played those games with friends and family members.  Of course their eyes lit up when I disapproved.  I suppose these games are attractive because they are rebellious and go against society’s standards.  I can imagine they give the gamers a thrill, a laugh, and reasons to brag.  I was really disgusted with the comments in the article about how the games blatantly disrespect other cultures and promote gangs.  I realize these things exist in our world, but I don’t believe in promoting it to our children.  Its obvious that the explicit or mature label doesn’t prevent young children from playing or watching others play these games.  The video games are all in the same aisle in the stores.  But they sure sell, don’t they?

Books, television, movies, music and video games have all sparked controversy at some point.  Here is another interesting finding in the study:

These same kids were very uninterested in talking about violence in the game. They perceived game violence as unrealistic, at

least compared to the violence they experience in their neighborhoods. As one said, “Stuff like that happens, you know. The

game isn’t going to make you do anything like that.”

My opinion is that no, media will not directly cause a person to commit crimes; however, they do put ideas in their heads.  I don’t need research to tell me that it is bad for children to be exposed to these video games.

The fourth article/report, made an obvious but still curious observation.  The report begins with the following trend:   the baby boomers grew up staring at the screen (television), the gen-Xers grew up with controlling the screen (computer).  I would like to add to this trend.  Today, the millennials do not stare or control the screen.  They are in control with what goes on the screen.  This is an exciting revelation to me because I wonder what comes next?  A black out?  Ha. Once the users are in control of creating and participating, what is left?  What will the next disruptive shift be?

I wonder if anyone out there has created a game-based curriculum or even a game-based school?  With the wireless technology and the active video game systems such as the Kinect and the Wii, I wouldn’t be surprised if it has crossed someone’s mind.  I wouldn’t suggest students sitting and playing games all day long, but I can visualize a program that utilizes some games.  Of course this school wouldn’t be for all learners.  It would only be for the serious geeks 🙂  Someone google that for me and get back to me.  If I didn’t have so many assignments due within the next week, I would go look myself.  Or I might escape and play a game.  Now back to work.  Hmm…so distracted…wondering if there is a game-based educational technology master’s program out there…

Sorry to disappoint you, but due to time constraints, the German section and the Adobe Premiere Elements section are discontinued from here on out.

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2 comments on “Week 12 Alternate Reality Learning: Massive Gaming, Virtual Reality, and Simulations

  1. forr685 says:

    I wonder if there’s a study out there that compares gaming addiction with tv-viewing addiction, and which of the two “poisons” is better for the brain. From all that I have read, studies seem to favor gaming over television viewing. Because, in the former, the mind is more engaged and even sharpens some of the gamers’ skills.

    My mindset about virtual realities has changed since this class. From thinking that “it has no redemptive qualities whatsoever” to “this thing has a lot of potential if used properly.” I still think they need to come up with platforms which is not as time-consuming an expensive to build. The cost factor is probably one of the factors that’s causing people to think twice about using this as a viable educational technology.

  2. brhoey says:

    Check out Game-Based learning (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Game_based_learning) for a more focused look on the approaches some are taking towards incorporating games in schools. As for Game-based charter schools? They’ve been around a while (maybe leaving IST and going to work at one of these would be fun…kidding!). See ChicagoQuest Schools (http://www.chicagoquest.org/ …roadtrip?), or QWERTY to Learn in NYC (http://www.popsci.com/scitech/article/2009-09/first-public-school-based-games-set-nyc-debut, http://www.q2l.org/). I also found some tips for starting up a games-based program in an existing school (http://edurealms.com/?p=351).

    One more resource. If you’ve ever heard of Minecraft (minecraft.net), there is a teacher who uses it to teach his elementary students (http://minecraftteacher.net/). Pretty cool stuff.

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