TED (technology, entertainment and design) is embarking on a new project. Known for there inspiring videos on a wide variety of topics, TED is now targeting education. Launching a new youtube channel, TEDEducation, TED hopes to bring the best lessons teachers give to more people than those sitting in class, probably not even paying attention. TED hopes to bring together teachers along with animators in order to make these lessons as engaging as possible. Currently they are looking for teachers and artists to join with them in this new experiment and people can nominate those they feel deserve a shot. intro video and a little more info here: http://www.engadget.com/2012/03/13/ted-launches-ted-ed/

Eliminating Assumptions

I’d like to share a link to an 80-minute long video titled Eliminating Assumptions, from one of my favorite E-Casters: Sean “Day[9]” Plott (think John Madden, but for nerds).

http://blip.tv/day9tv/day-9-daily-400-p1-special-episode-eliminating-assumptions-5888689 (split into 4 parts)

A modicum of knowledge about Starcraft 2 can be useful when watching this, but is definitely not required.  I’m going to focus on a few key points from the lecture (and throw timestamps of the relevant section in parenthesis) and how I believe they can relate to EDUC 222 and learning in general.

1. Knowing Secrets -> Skill Process -> Understanding (Part 2, 0:00-9:30)

The “standard method of teaching” in higher education is for a teacher to say (and this is paraphrased from the video), “I am going to have an exam on the Cherokee Indians,” and students will then answer a series of questions about the Cherokee Indians based on material presented throughout previous lectures.  However, Day[9] makes the argument that it is not the memorization of facts that leads to skill, but rather the process of learning, understanding, and building on a knowledge base that leads to true understanding.  This idea was reinforced for me when Prof. Fishman stated that rote memorization, while effective for standardized tests would actually turn students off from learning.  This has massive implications for how things are taught.

The best example I can think of is teaching students multiplication: I have (not very) fond memories of filling out hundreds of pages of worksheets full of multiplication problems in a Kumon class; to this day millions of young students are forced to learn their times tables, from 1×1 to 10×10.  This method can be contrasted to the “take existing knowledge of addition, build upon it (2 + 2 + 2 = 6 = 2 * 3), and expand understanding of mathematics, which I believe is far more engaging and I would argue is more effective than rote memorization.

2. Broad Variety of Knowledge -> Skill Depth > Breadth (Part 2, 9:30-19:30)

Through some pretty insightful analysis of a single game of Marvel vs Capcom 2, Day[9] shows how being extremely well practiced in a few specialized skills trumps being generally good at many.  In his words, “A Player who is excellent at one strategy, is an excellent player.  A player who is decent at 100 strategies, is [only] a decent player.”  While this statement may not hold true if you want to become a world champion at Jeopardy, I believe it has strong life implications and is a key in shaping the course of your learning.

I was taught by a mentor that a key to success in life is to pick a few things and become very good at them.  Obtaining mastery over a few skills will lead to you becoming unique and a respected expert.  For example, if your passion is to learn everything there is to know about Cryptography, and you also choose to practice and master the art of public speaking and presentation, then you are now the world’s foremost speaker on Cryptography.  I believe this has already been applied to higher education in that people specialize into specific fields, and within those fields can specialize further.

3. If it aint broke, don’t fix it You can probably improve what currently works (Part 3, 0:00-9:25)

The problem with many things in schooling and education is that they are not considered problems.  The mindset of “this system works, so why change it” will instantly shut your mind off from innovating and thinking of potential improvements.  One example of a “working system” is grading in college classes.  It is an accepted norm that during your standard college course, you will have “x assignments worth y points”, and your grade will be determined by points earned / all points possible.  I am intrigued by how Prof. Fishman is attempting to improve this system by removing the “all points possible” aspect.

Puzzle Shooters? (spoilerish alert)

Jump to the bottom to see the pretty videos, if you’re like me and have no patience…

I just wanted to point out some new games that have come out in the last two weeks that defy standard catergorization, by being creative and putting new twists onto an old game:  the FPS.  You see, I’m not really taken in by the “novelty” of being more real.  COD?  How is Black Ops REALLY that different from the first COD?  How are the newest sports games REALLY different from past ones?  How are the newest fighting games REALLY different from the old ones?  More real, more complex.  (Though I have to say that I found the insanity of the combat and storyline in COD:BO, to be rather… unrealistic, and the people I know who spent time in the Army agree.  I mean, really?  One or two people versus a hundred – or more?  I don’t think so. Special ops only works in real life when they don’t know you’re there!)  Anyways, one way that “new” game types are created is by combining genres.  In this case, FPS and puzzles, as in the two games below. 

In case you haven’t been inundated with the ads yet (I’m sure most computer gamers already know about this, at least) Portal 2 came out yesterday.  Portal 1 was what I have best seen summarized as a “glorified tech demo” in which the developers played with the idea of having a gun that can create a portal you can walk through on (almost) any surface, to (almost) any other surface.  It’s a FPS, but only in that you have a gun that shoots something – but not people, just portals.  In fact, in the entire game, you character is the ONLY human you see the entire time and then almost only through the portals (see about 1:25 in this vid where the character is literally chasing themself through some portals.  Worse than a dog chasing its tail!).  It’s really a puzzle game, in which the goal is to get through multi-dimensional mazes.  The premise is that you are a “test subject” in an Aperture Labs facility, and you learn more and more sophisticated ways of using the portals (and learning about 3D thinking, momentum, velocity, frames of reference, gravitational acceleration, etc.).  You then use this new knowledge and your convenient portal generating gun to escape from GLaDOS, the evil supercomputer AI that is trying kill… ahem… I mean test you.  Spoiler alert:  You DO escape (assuming you win) and leave GLaDOS in a sorry state.  (Destroyed?)

Nope.  Not destroyed.  Portal 2 brings us back to the lab, where we find ourselves as test subject AI robots, that can now work cooperatively to pass the tests… and then what?  I don’t know.  It’s also cool because there is a cooperative mode, where two people have to work together to get to the end.  Finally, there are challenges, for time, fewest steps taken, etc.  Motivation to earn them all, I would say.

Sanctum is the newest and most interesting Tower Defense game I have ever seen.  Again, the developers add the 3D FPS aspect to the game, and learn by trying the puzzles over and over again.  This game has a fair amount of “just in time” info provided, and again, in a first for tower defense, I believe, there is a cooperative mode.  There is also an “infinite” mode in which you try to last as long as possible against wave after wave of alien destruction, which of course is tied to the leaderboards… motivation, anyone?

Both games meet more of Gee’s principles than you can shake a stick at, opportunities for Flow, ways of “cheating” (or is it?), problem solving, identity issues, motivation (intrinsic and extrinsic), reflection, and enough other “educational” aspects that you could make a career of studying them… or at least until the next big thing comes out…

Cheating.. a good thing?

With the topic of cheating at the forefront of this week’s discussion, I happened to find a very intriguing article on the matter.  Associate Professor, Mia Consalvo at Ohio University has done research on the topic of cheating an has provided her own views of the benefits of cheating in the following article.  It is a very interesting read and it stresses that cheating in video games, such as searching for cheat codes and such exemplifies how a gamer wants to ‘learn’ more and discover or unlock more rewards that the game has to offer.  Also, being stuck on a level, or on a math problem in the real world does not further the knowledge and learning for a person.  Also, many times teachers tell students to do work by themselves and do not get help from others, well in video games it is acceptable to help others to complete levels and further themselves in the game.  Why not bring this mentality to the classroom as it would make the classroom environment from enjoyable and unified.  Below is the link to this article and I believe it is a very interesting read that is relevant to our week’s discussions.


Video Games & … Medicine?

While stumbling (it seems that StumbleUpon is a rich resource for blogging fodder) I came across an interesting website which I assumed to be a collection of thought-provoking games.  As I read through the website, however, and began to play some of the games, I realized that the games had been developed for a reason other than entertainment.  One of these games, developed by Singapore-MIT game lab, was developed to help clinically depressed persons see the beauty in life and ultimately relieve their depression. The game is called “Elude” and the website’s description of it says:

“Developed by Singapore-MIT Gambit Game LabElude is a dark, atmospheric game that aims to shed light on the nature of depression. You play a little guy exploring a beautiful yet forbidding world. The world has three distinct levels, each a metaphor for a different mental state.

The forest that you start the game in represents a normal mood. You can ascend to a higher plane – happiness – by climbing the trees in the forest. From, here you can leap joyously up into the sky by jumping on floating flowers and leaves. The leaves and flowers disappear after you have touched them and eventually none are left to keep you aloft and you plunge down into the third game area: depression.”

This struck me as odd; a video game supplying some medical remedy instead of a doctor or medicine.  But after considering this for a while, I began to realize, why couldn’t a video game help to cure someone of their depression?  A game has the potential to elevate someones mood, even give thema different outlook on life. But that largely depends on the elements of the game.  Does one connect with the character?  Does the story accomplish the goals it sets out to achieve? I ask these questions after playing a short online video game, but perhaps this concept could be expanded into a longer video game.  And perhaps it already has? Would you consider games like “The Sims” or “Second Life” to be an example of this game, being that a player can create a character in their image but give them a better/different life that they can control? Are there studies that show the effects of these games from Singapore-MIT game lab? Discovering this game has led to more questions than answers, but it is just another link between the worlds of video games and learning.

Play Elude Here

Video Games and Stealth Assessment Technology

As many of us experienced during our childhoods, young kids are reluctant to do their schoolwork after school.  However, kids are more than happy to spend hours on end playing video games at night.  According to Valerie J. Shute, a Florida State University researcher, the solution to this issue is not to take games away from kids.  Rather it would be more effective to provide a more enjoyable learning experience by creating video games with educational content and assessment tools.  In addition, it would be positive to incorporate these games into the school curriculum.

The concept known as ‘stealth assessment’ tries to disguise educational content in a way that kids won’t even realize that they’re being assessed while playing the game.  Furthermore, stealth-assessment technologies have many advantages over conventional teaching methods.  Shute said, “Based on a student’s responses to various situations that come up during the course of playing a video game, the game itself can be programmed to assess where that student might be especially strong or weak in core competencies.”  She then suggested that educational games could adapt its content to the needs of the student, providing more or less information depending on one’s progress in the game.  This stealth-assessment technology will not only be able to measure a student’s current level of knowledge, but can determine areas for improvement, and guide the student towards improvement by providing feedback, and perhaps making easier problems.

I think that this idea of stealth assessment could provide great results for students.  I know that when I was a kid I would definitely have been more engaged within a video game context, rather than learning in the classroom or doing written homework after school.  I would be curious to hear about what other students think about this stealth assessment technology.  Do you think it can work?  Or, are these research findings not substantial?  I for one think that this is a positive for the education systems.


Google Science Fair

Really??? Google doing online science fairs?


Yup.  This was advertised on the edutopia.org website, and while I don’t normally follow advertisement links, this was intriguing.  Since it’s a competition with rules, a clear outcome, and a “space” it operates in where people are willing to change the rules of reality and take on a new role – that of scientist – I consider it a form of a game, although not a video game.

Students learn not only the science of their project, but also digital publishing skills since they have to post either a 20 slide powerpoint, or a 2 minute presentation online, or even make android or web applications!   For some students, this gives a meaningful context to the learning  – their work is displayed beyond the classroom.  YOU could apply to be a judge!  They have lists of links for advice, and even give tips for motivating students.

It’s still science fair… but it seems pretty darn cool, to me.

Is the Curse of Knowledge transient?

Recently I traveled to North campus to goof around with some design program with my older brother. I knew from the start that I would be overwhelmed by the complexity of the program and nothing productive would happen. I managed to make a purple cone from the purple cone template. What really struck me was a piece of hardware that seemed to be second nature to designers.

I forgot the name of the gadget but it was unlike anything I had ever used before. It was kind of like a scroll wheel but was more like a knob that you could push, pull, and twist. With this magical knob you could navigate the 3d design environment with one hand, and I was pissed that I couldn’t figure out how to use it. My brother’s advice was, “it’s like how you’d operate a helicopter.” Obviously the curse of knowledge was deep within my brother, as that was horrible advice. At that moment I had an epiphany, my urge to move didn’t line up with the movement on screen. The intense frustration somehow revealed the frustration I felt during the transition between playing Goldeneye and playing Halo. Two joysticks? How are your supposed to keep track of them both? Anyways, it got me thinking about the whole idea of the curse of knowledge. If you learn something are you forever blind to how it was like before or can you be shook so hard that the curse can be lifted, if only for a moment?

Video Games can make you smarter

While browsing CNN today at work I came across an article that talked about how video games can make you smarter.  It puts the theory that video games are a lazy, anti-social form of entertainment to the test.  Coincidentally it employs Gee’s book at one point.

The article branches off into 4 categories that try to show that video games can develop skills and make people smarter in the process.  The first category was hands-on experience.  It asserts that video games are actually much more engaging than simply watching tv or a movie.  As we know about the flow now, we know that video games can be very engaging and draw all of our focus.  This is where they credit Gee for his work and tell us that this was Gee’s point exactly in his book.  That memorizing facts will not help you solve problems in life.  Children may be able to pass tests but they often cannot apply the knowledge in the real world.

The second part is job training which I found to be very interesting.  When I had my internship we used online training simulations which I found very helpful.  It never clicked with me that this was a manipulated way to get you more focused on learning information instead of just reading it in a manual.

Probably the most important part of the article for the future of the world is the contextual learning section.  It talks about bringing real life and dangerous situations into the virtual world.  They specifically mention medical training but in the coming years I expect this field to expand greatly.  We could soon see training for dangerous jobs becoming a virtual training.  This could be for jobs such as police, firefighters, etc.  The possibilities are limitless.

The final portion was about teamwork which I found pretty self explanatory.  It just mentions that video games can be social and often require high level skills to understand and high level management to be successful.  Video games like this could be used to test a persons management skills in the future.

Overall I found this article to be very interesting and informative.  It was nice to see an article from an accredited news source that helped validate a lot of the concepts we learned in class.



FIFA: Soccer Sucks, So Why Are You So Good?

Soccer is not my thing…really, its not.  Lets just say that the highlight of my 5 year soccer career (I was a goalie when I was much younger) was saving a would-be goal by the best player in the league by being afraid of the ball, turning around, and saving it with the back of my head.  Being American hasn’t given me a burning desire to follow soccer because no one really cares about soccer here anyway.  Needless to say, I don’t watch soccer, don’t play soccer, and am bored out of my mind whenever its on TV.

So why am I so addicted to FIFA?  I started playing FIFA 2010 at the start of first semester, and it has been a revelation.  For one reason or another, I am intrigued by controlling little animated soccer players march up and down the field.  Seeing this game played prior to actually playing it personally, I knew that it was going to be fast-paced and would lead to some friendly competition with my roommates.  My distaste for soccer stopped me from playing initially, as I spurned the idea of playing a soccer game.  However, once I started, I couldn’t get enough.

So how can this phenomenon be explained?  Perhaps James Paul Gee would explain my enjoyment of playing the game through the notion of a “projective identity”.  But how could this possibly be the case!?  I hate soccer, so it would be inconceivable that I would relate to the players who I was controlling based on the fact that they are soccer players.  Maybe my study abroad experience in Barcelona had something to do with it (I always play as Barcelona, the best team in the game), but it seems as though there must be something else at play.

After sitting through the lectures so far this semester, I have been able to look deeper into my video game experiences and think critically about why I enjoy the games I like playing and what I could potentially learn from playing.  I know that I definitively learned the basic rules of soccer (I was always befuddled by off-sides calls) as well as strategies soccer players can employ in order to get into better position to score.  This game has really driven my interest in learning the rules of soccer and has allowed me to realize the intricacies of the game.  I now enjoy playing FIFA more then any other sport game even though soccer is my least favorite sport.  I attribute this to the fact that most of my friends play FIFA and if I want to play a video game with them that we would all enjoy, that would be the game they would choose.

>Getting destroyed for my first 15 games or so was pretty frustrating, but now I have advanced to the point in the game that I can play with my friends and enjoy the friendly competition.  I still don’t particularly care for soccer, but I know that I learned more about the sport then I ever anticipated.

AbleGamers Website

AbleGamers is a site and nonprofit organization focused on gamers with disabilities. The site offers news, reviews, discussion boards and much more.  Lots of great information and posts including the site’s 2010 review and this recent post, written by an 8th grader, titled “Learning about Accessible Video Games.”

Flight Simulators

Thus far in class we have explored the notion that video games may facilitate learning better than traditional methods we have grown accustom to, such as traditional schools and online classrooms.  Time and again we refer to this notion of learning but what exactly do we mean by learning? Learning is a very broad and encompassing term that can include essentially everything from academics to self defense.  When we say that video games may better facilitate learning are we referring to all types of learning?  Can a video game teach a 6th grade student how to write a five paragraph essay as well as an accredited english teacher? Can a video game teach a solider military strategy as well as a decorated officer?  Clearly there are some elements of certain types of learning that make these subjects better suited to being taught through traditional methods as opposed to by a video game, but what exactly are these elements?  Are we able to segregate certain types of learning into categories  based on their inhereent characteristics and conclude that certain categories of learning are better suited to be taught by a videogame whereas other types of learning are better suited to be taught by a livinging person?  Take for instance a solider training to become a pilot.  Almost all aviation training programs utilize flight simulators, a type of video game, to teach aspiring pilots how to fly planes.  Although most of these training programs use a combination of simulation and actual flight experience, for regulatory and safety purposes, in order to train their students, which of these mediums is a more effective teaching tool?  This summer I was able to meet and speak with a few air force pilots at the intrepid museum in New York City and the topic of flight simulators came up.  Although the pilots I spoke with all went through programs that incorporated both flight simulation and real flight experience, the majority of their training was spent in flight simulators and these pilots made it seem as if they learned more in the simulators than they did from their actual flight experience and their flight instructors.  What are your thoughts on this idea that learning can be separated into categories and are their certain tasks, such as learning to fly a plane, that are better suited to being taught by a video game as opposed to an actual person?

The following is a link to Precision Flight Control INC which is one of the leading flight simulator and flight training devices manufactures on the market.  Precision Flight Controls INC has a wide customer base which includes hobbyists, educational institutions, private sector aviation, business aviation, military flight training and the aerospace industry in general.