Viewing posts tagged games

Games in the Classroom 5: embodiment, context, complexity, good assessment, measurement, and relevance

What was presented yesterday is how to embody and teach a lesson on Voice.

Trying to teach voice sounds pretty boring, especially when you tell them excitedly in your teacher nerd-talk that “you’ll like it, it’s fun! We’ll look at poetry and other fiction and examine tone, emphasis, word choice, syntax, volume, and all the things that make a great reading. Just think, diction is slang! We’ll study that too!”


If they don’t heckle me for saying something like that, they should.

Now what happens when we embody that lesson in something that it is kind of fun and exciting?

Let’s try another voice:

How about cutting some tracks on garage band? You are going to do the voice on the song. Then we’ll put some music and a beat behind it.

What are you going to call your act? Are you going to be yourself, or make a character? What is their sound?

What are you going to rap about? How about this? Or maybe you can try rapping some one else’s words.

Well, we better think of a logo and begin to think about how we are going to promote you. Who do you like?

Okay, let’s think about doing a video, the cover art, and do some press kits and take some glam shots.

You are going to take on a couple of roles: the talent, the publicist, designer, the manager, the producer.

Will you want to do a clothing line?

So what happens when we try out a high interest activity?

How about engaging the imagination to make something real?

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Games in the Classroom (part three)

Twenty years ago, playing games over a distance might have meant that you played turn-taking games like chess over email, and you were cutting edge. I remember people playing chess through snail mail! You would make your move and wait for a reply.

What is happening now is taking place in real-time in virtual environments that are interactive and look better than many films. Decisions, actions, and communications happen like they would in a face-to-face conversation, but they are done through a proxy, that is first and second-person perspectives with an avatar: a graphical representation of yourself in the game space.


Here is my avatar in Second Life.

He is a mix of Yoda, Pei Mei, Zatoichi, Master Po, and Real Ultimate Power. I would have liked to have made him old, but this is only possible if you learn to use some tools outside of the game to create more specialized characters. There are many who do this custom avatar creation, and the cool thing is that you could make your avatar something other than a person. Maybe a virus or a mailbox.

In fact, many people are already creating a comfortable living creating products for in game use. If you have not seen it yet, there are already success stories of people capitalizing on the new economies that virtual worlds have created.


In this Business Week article, one school teacher in Germany has made substantial gains flipping virtual property!

Imagine that you have the tools and access to build in these environments. In Second Life you do. You can visit models of the Sistine Chapel, Yankee Stadium, or even visit government agencies like the Center for Disease Control. You can build what you like on your virtual land.

What make this kind of play appealing is the ability to play and communicate when you want, and the possibility of meeting people from all over the planet. The prospect of building models and interacting in this environments should be very appealing to educators. This is an extension of the diorama. (Tomorrow I will talk about a project using these ideas in the classroom).

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Video Games in the Classroom (part two)

To do is to be

To be is to do

So Do We?

It is just good teaching

Games taught me that modeling environments and taking on the roles are powerful ways to teach and learn.

Piaget talked about roles as assimilation. You try on the role and see what part of the character is you.

Gibson talked about environment and context, with affordances and constraints. What the world gives you for advice, warning, limitation, and opportunity.

These ideas are present in embodiment and how we might contextualize our curriculum as an activity system.

One of the big lessons from games is design. Good learning is by design. A teacher, like a game designer creates the environment where we learn.

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Video Games in the Classroom

Video Games in the Classroom?

I am a gamer. I am also a teacher for the Minneapolis Public Schools, and have been working with students on issues of Language Arts, Reading, and Video Games. I also offer a class called “Video games as learning tools.” This course is for teachers and people who are interested in games and education.

You are probably asking yourself, “Do these things go together?”

Isn’t that like drinking paint thinner to become a physicist?

There is a general buzz that video games are causes for illiteracy and bad behavior. And I am hoping that I can shed some light on this, because the idea that games are the root of our problems couldn’t be further from my experience teaching reading and writing. In fact, using video games is what helped me to engage and extend the learning of my students in middle school and high school, and to connect my classroom with my students’ lives outside of the classroom.

I am sure you can imagine what happened when I told the kids we would be doing a six-week unit on video games. They flipped. You probably would have too.

But wait. Step back a moment. Would you have?

These are not the games your father bought you.

Are you my age? Have you have ever used a type writer for writing a paper?

If so, we missed the whole video games experience together. I am not talking about Pong®, PacMan®, Frogger®, Asteroids®, or Space Invaders®. I am not talking about your old Atari. Kids are playing new worlds of games that we could have only imagined from reading science fiction. It is more like playing in a rich movie environment that reacts, responds, and waits for you to talk, build, and act. And many kids today have this capability with game systems and computers at home. Many young people play Halo and other games on Xbox Live in their living rooms; they play and learn with kids from all over. This kind of mediated play over a distance has not been seen before.

We have tried to mediate in the classroom, using tools like radio, filmstrips, pictures, television, books on tape, conversation, print, and video. We use media to bring the experience of places and things into the classroom so that our students can get closer and have a more tangible experience. In the best of worlds, we would take them on field trips to see the ancient cave paintings in Lascaux, to view the aftermath of Mount Vesuvius, and to experience the richness of the Amazon Basin—to see and feel the things that are the basis of our science and stories –to embody the learning experience.

But since money, travel, and signed release forms are significant barriers to direct learning experience, we might consider games. Games can provide much more interactivity and experience with objects, places, people, and ideas by providing process, performance, and context.

They can help us with Time, Space, and Experience, which are still considerable barriers for the classroom; with game environments we can begin bridging the gap with the potential embodiment that current game technology provides our narratives. Imagine that you can have students interact in visually rich and interactive environments where they can communicate with voice and text, as well as non-verbal communication with avatar actions and facial expression! I know it is hard, but just try to visualize it. It is possible now.

I hope you keep reading. The next few entries are going to explore how they can be used, how I have used them, and what outcomes I have observed.

For more information on games in the classroom, you can contact me:


Phone: 612.747.0346


Here is a start for what I am building on my website

Top ten list #6: Tech tools and Web resources to start leapfrogging now

ten-days-sm.pngWe’re back this week with the final five top ten lists! Today’s list contains tools and Web resources to help people start leapfrogging now.

Note: It’s hard to create an innovative tools top ten list while omitting services from Google – but, for the purpose of this list, Google is left off because everybody wants to be like Google. Why be like Google when you can leapfrog the industry?

  1. GNU/Linux: It’s open. It’s free. It works. And, it’s very well supported.
  2. Tom at Sky Blue Waters believes no leapfrogger can get by without a proper RSS feed to quickly digest and disseminate information.
  3. WordPress: Get your message out and solicit reponses with the best blogging tool out there.
  4. Wikimedia or other open knowledge-based software to quickly publish your stuff and open it for public additions, corrections, or (if necessary) deletions. Wikimedia is the platform that powers Wikipedia and Wikiversity.
  5. Second Life, World of Warcraft, Croquet and other virtual environments for building new social contexts, experiences and for trying out things you can’t get away with in the real world.
  6. Skype: You’ll want to talk a lot to others around the world. Why not do it for free or almost free?
  7. Old skool media (also available on the Web): New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, etc., etc., etc…
  8. Social bookmarking (e.g., Find new ideas and resources, share them with others, and learn more along the way.
  9. Creative Commons licensing: Mark your creative work with the freedoms you want it to carry.
  10. Finally, if the resources you need aren’t out there, create your own. Need help? Consider building a team online.

eLearning Games and Simulations workshop

For those of us in Minneapolis/St. Paul, this looks good:

May 24: 8:30 – 4:00

Normandale Community College

Learn what your students already know
Games and simulations are powerful tools – changing the way we learn

Hands-on Instruction Enables You to Play the Games Yourself
Seated at your own computer, with an instructor as your guide, you’ll be taken into virtual worlds and 3-D environments where you become

The newly elected President of Chimerica, responsible for stabilizing the country’s troubled economic and social situation, changing public policy and forming a new administration.
(Hidden Agenda)
  A 21st century student traveling back in time to a town besieged with health problems. Working with others, you track clues, form and test hypotheses, and make recommendations.
(River City)
A rookie newspaper reporter for the Harperville Gazette whose job is to write an article on the health and environmental implications of a toxic spill.
(Behind the Message)
  Leader of a pharmaceutical company’s research team. You must determine the product’s features, estimate demand, and set price and production levels.
(SimSeries Business)
A $100,000 investor in the stock market,
using real Internet research and news updates to determine how to build and grow your portfolio.
(Stock Market Game)
  and more

Integrating Games/Simulations into Education
Now that you’ve played the games, the afternoon sessions address key issues that will help you take the next steps, topics include:

  • How Games Improve the Learning Process
  • Preparing the New Learner for the New Economy with Games
  • Breathing Virtual Life into the Classroom
  • Integrating a Game/Simulation with eLearning
  • Like a Rock Star: virtual character development

LA Times: Colleges see the future in technology

The Los Angeles Times recently ran a story on the adoption of technology in California’s higher education institutions. Gaming and simulation technologies are being explored to provide “more individualized instruction” that cater to both emotional and learning needs of students. Carol Twigg at the National Center for Academic Transformation is looking at online education. Writes the times:

Twigg’s outlook is based partly on her center’s four-year effort with 30 colleges to redesign high-enrollment courses. The 30 projects involved such things as deemphasizing lectures and relying more on online tutorials and discussion forums, along with using computerized grading to give students speedier assessments of what they were learning well and what they were getting wrong.

The result: Student learning rose in 25 of the 30 projects. And in the other five cases, performance remained roughly even with the level in traditionally taught classes. At the same time, the cost of providing instruction was reduced an average 37%.

I’m not quite sure how student learning is measured, but if this research is accurate, the trend of rising college costs may be reversible…