Link to “Multiliteracies Meet Methods” Article

The article that Jeff and I wrote for English Education got a mention in a recent NCTE INBOX:

Teacher educators can find useful strategies in the English Education article “Multiliteracies Meet Methods: The Case for Digital Writing in English Education” (TE). The article provides a rationale for teaching digital writing and explores the rhetorical, interactive, and pedagogical implications of such teaching.

Quick, grab the PDF while you have free access to it! 🙂

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Visions of Online Learning

Are we, as educators, approaching this in the right way?

To deal with the growth, the University of California is launching an extensive effort to make sure applicants’ online high school courses are on par with traditional classroom instruction.

More students across US logging on to online classrooms – The Boston Globe

To be honest, I am not sure that I want online courses to be “on par” with traditional classroom instruction. While I do not want to get in a finger-pointing, name-calling game, the fact of the matter is that “traditional classroom instruction” is becoming more and more a relic of education’s past, not a model to emulate.

Moreover, what is it about the “online experience” that makes it an online experience? If it is simply listening to video versions of lecture and completing the same homework assignments that have been given year after year with Word or Excel instead of a pencil, paper, and calculator, then we are going about it all wrong.

Shouldn’t, instead, the purposes of online learning be to engage students in reading and writing tasks that require multimedia authoring, collaboration with others with whom we typically would not or could not work, and engagement with materials that are fresh, relevant, and contextually useful to one’s own inquiry?

This is not to say that there is not a place for some traditional “content” in online learning. However, my experience as an online instructor was one where I simply monitored students as they were supposed to work independently through a prescribed set of curriculum. One of our coordinators called it the “nag and brag” version of online teaching, only to touch base with students when they did something wrong, fell behind, or did a great job on something.

This, to me, is the failure of our current paradigm about online learning. We do not need to replicate traditional classroom experiences. Instead, we need to think about what it means to engage with content and collaborate with others in ways that will both catch the attention of and expand the abilities of our students.

I hope that Michigan, as the first state to adopt an online learning component, is able to move beyond the traditional visions and be, instead, visionary. Perhaps we are moving in the right direction.

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Notes from Brian Winn’s “Serious Games” Talk

Brian Winn, an Assistant Professor from Comm Arts and one of the directors of the Games for Entertainment and Learning (GEL) Lab, gave a talk on “Serious Games.” Here is part of his bio:

I am an Assistant Professor in the Department of Telecommunication, Information Studies, and Media, Co-Director of the Games for Entertainment and Learning (GEL) Lab, and a Principal Investigator in the Communication Technology Lab at Michigan State University.

I design, create, and research interactive media design, including game design, digital game-based learning and interactive health communication. My expertise is in designing engaging serious games that balancing learning, pedagogical, and gameplay objectives. My award-winning interactive media work has been presented, exhibited, and experienced around the world.

Notes from the talk, “Making Learning Fun: Getting Serious about Games”

(Note: Check out a recent interview with Brian on the Spartan Podcast site)

  • Play, Games, and Learning
    • Play as problem solving
      • Playing is a form of problem solving used by many animals
      • Uniqueness of games
        • Imposes formal rules on top of play
        • Adds goals and objectives
        • Thereby play is structured for a particular purpose
      • Merlin Donald, Origins of the Human Mind
        • “Human children play rule-governed gaems by imitation, often without any formalized instruction. They invent and learn new games, often without using language.”
    • Why do we play?
      • Ring around the rosie: Cognitive development: mimicry, coordination, self-awareness, spatial relationships, empathy
      • Childhood socialization
      • Chess, checkers: mental sport
      • Olympics: celebrate athleticism, peace amongst nations
      • War games: preparation for war, tactics
    • What types of problems are there?
      • Survival
      • Education
      • Business
      • Political
      • Military
      • Health Care
      • Science
      • Entertainment
      • More…
    • Why we play digital games”
      • You learn something from any game: characters, rules
      • But, does the thing that you learn transfer outside of the game world?
      • Most digital games attempt to solve the entertainment problem, nothing else
  • Serious Games Movement
    • Serious games are any game whose chief mission is not entertainment
      • They can also be entertainment games reapplied for missions other than entertainment
        • Ex: Civilization in the history classroom
    • But, why serious games?
      • We are all products of our environment
        • Baby Boomers: TV, typewrite, memos
        • Gen X: Computes, email, early video games
        • Gen Y: Web, IM, interactive games
      • Games are a way of life for many people: the average 8th grader plays video games 5 hours per week
    • Why are we interested in games?
      • They are engaging and goal-oriented
      • They are challenging and provide rapid feedback, adapting to what the player does as he/she plays
      • They build individual expertise
      • They have a social aspect to them; most games throughout time have been multi-player games
        • The image of the computer game is that we have one player on his/her own computer, bust as networks have grown, so have interactive games
        • Humans like to tell stories and games provide a rich context for sharing experiences. Even if they are not in the same game, they can share experiences about that game (player walk throughs, reviews)
    • In a typical game:
      • Player adopts a character, perceives task to complete tasks, picks up vocabulary, explores and test boundaries, adapts to the game, realigns expectations and judgments through each exploration, reappraising the cause and consequence of their actions.
      • Replace “player” with “student” and “game” with “subject matter.”
    • But why Serious Games?
      • Parallels with progressive pedagogy
        • Active, constructivist learning
        • Problem-based learning
        • “Authentic Professionalism” (Gee) and communities of practice
      • Where are serious games being used?
        • Education: Higher Ed and Pre-k through 12
        • Government: Fire fighter training
        • Healthcare: educating someone about how to stay healthy and games for exercise
        • NGOs ad corporations
  • Case Studies
    • Life Preservers
      • NSF Funded Game
      • Education Goals
        • Framed by national science standards for middle-school science
        • Evolution, adaptation, and natural history
      • Design Goals
        • Accurate science vs. fun gameplay
        • Appeal to both boys and girls
      • Research Goals
        • Due to play style differences between genders
        • Girls will explore more, boys will just try to win the game
        • Girls will learn more than boys from the same learning game
      • Mixing science fiction with science fact
        • Initially, we were going to try to be completely factual, but to create an engaging experience, we needed to do some science fiction for story, but the science facts come in throughout the game
        • Based on the concept of invasive species and how we stop them or what happens once they are in an ecosystem
        • Learning objectives: to understand the “tree of life” diagram and interact with it; look at the different aspects of the species and think about the adaptations that went on with each creature.
        • Mixes interactive tutorials with mini-lessons, and can be played in one class period
    • FFC: The Fantastic Food Challenge
      • Developed for the MI Food and Nutrition Program
        • Developed to teach low-income adults the knowledge, skills, and confidence to feed their families nutritious meals
        • Based on the concept of Yahtzee, you roll and take food items and place them on the food pyramid
        • Designed to be a gender-neutral game, and the audience was not familiar with computer technology in general
        • Based on our research, the people who played the game learned more than just reading on the website or brochure
    • Voyage Beijing
      • The idea behind this was to understand culture as important in business communication and negotiation
      • Based on the explosion of US business in China and meant to simulate a business person’s first experience going to China
      • Sets you up with a role as a manager and lays out the story that you need to go to China to resolve some quality issues in your product development
      • Designed as a virtual experience to understand knowledge about China (what is the time zone, can I use the ATM, do they speak English) and you get more “knowledge” experience
      • Also, you get “impression” as you interact with people and that can go up and down
      • You can create and add to a journal focusing on names, places, and cultural references
  • Issues: Practical, Cultural, Design, Research
    • Cultural: “Educational” games are not fun, like broccoli dipped in chocolate
    • There are few examples of fun educational games and many boring ones (like Math Blaster)
      • How do we change perceptions? Can you?
    • What is “fun?”
      • This is a highly contested question in the sense of the content, the persona designing, the person playing, the relationship this game has to other games, how many players are involved and many other factors.
    • Cultural problems
      • Clark Aldrich – “I think educational simulations (games) can be fun, but more importantly they must be satisfying.”
    • Designing serious games is hard
      • Integrating learning into play
      • Balancing content, pedagogy, and fun
      • Cues from entertainment games
      • What is important in terms of learning objectives?
        • Knowledge, skills, and attitudes
        • You can’t do everything in a game; it is a tool that can be added to a class with a particular, limited set of objectives
      • It is hard to make games: design, programming, art, production, content, pedagogy
      • Not too many good, easy-to-use, affordable tools: Brian uses Flash and Director mostly
    • Games are expensive to make
      • Commercial games cost from $1 to $25 million over 1-3 years
      • Life Preservers, for instance, was made over six months and on a grant
    • Assessing effectiveness
      • How do you show learning? Is a score on a game the same as a score on a test?
    • Serious games have competition from other forms of media and there are many cultural preconceptions about games that we have to overcome (games are for kids/boys/etc)
      • More and more people are beginning to consider games as a way to learn, and the positive value of gaming in education
      • Decision makers are not gamers (average age of gamer is 31)
    • Gaming is a young “industry”
      • “Serious Game Developer” isn’t in the yellow pages
  • Resources