Part 1 Gaming: Should Fun, Learning and Games Intersect in the Class?

What’s your favorite game?  Is it a good game of chess?  Are you more of a Solitaire or crossword puzzle person? Is WoW your thing?  Perhaps you prefer sports such as soccer or basketball?  Most of us have some game(s) we like.  Mine is Pinochle.  Just saying the word makes me smile.  Think of your favorite game.  Some part of you must light up.  Strategies, fun and learning all tied together in a bundle of joy, frustration and satisfaction—games.  What, the three letter f word—fun, and learning tied together?  Is it possible? Maybe it is inevitable? Erno Rubik, inventor of the Rubik’s Cube pointed out, “Our whole life is solving puzzles.”

Here’s a “playful” post with more questions than answers.  It’s a post that reflects learning in progress.  Perhaps you can relate to my background at some level?  I’ve explored online games for learning purposes as a kid, teacher and parent.  See my past post on Number Munchers, The Oregon Trail, and Lemonade StandBoowa and Kwala bring back fond memories of interacting with music and stories with my 18 month old on snowy Michigan afternoons.   I’ve set up links for my adult ESOL students and their children to game learning opportunities.  I download apps and software and use Twitter and Google + to find educational sites for my now 10 year old.  All of this I do instinctively, but WHY?  Are online and mobile games really a good way to learn?
'Kids working on their computer.' photo (c) 2010, Jim Parker - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/
I recall playing Number Munchers with such intensity that my parents had to kick me outside to play in the real world.  Is this healthy?  Was I intrinsically or extrinsically motivated?  Does gaming really lead to healthy learning? If the answers to these questions are positive, how do we as teachers fit gaming into the curriculum?  These types of questions led me and Kacey to discuss gaming and gamification.  At the end, we were both in agreement that gaming has exciting potential in education.  Here’s my take away that I plan on researching and pondering more.

Definitions matterGamification is a term I’ve seen in multiple contexts, including the business world and educationGaming extends to a wide variety of games.  Here’s my very rough breakdown of the definitions in education as I see them in my experience and at the beginning stages of research.
  1. There are games for the sake of escape.
  2. There are a lot of flashcard drill-and-kill type games and apps out there today.  They are often rewards based.  These are not the type of games we are endorsing for educational purposes, but on occasion, they may serve a purpose.
  3. The more substantive educational games encourage problem solving and extension of thinking and learning into the real world.  More recently, I’m seeing them embedded in transmedia storytelling like Inanimate Alice. (Read Gary Hayes at Personalized Media to find out more about transmedia and related topics like augmented reality.)
  4. It seems that educational gaming is stepped up a notch when students take on the role of the designer.  I’ve seen this first hand as my kid explores Sketchup.  With good reasons, computer science teachers promote programs such as Scratch for kids elementary and beyond. 
As a final thought, many of the games under each of the above categories have a social component to them.  Massively multiplayer Online Role Playing Games (MMORPG’s ) depend on this.   This info.on Digital Play is useful in defining gaming related terms in my field of ESOL.  Perhaps with some imagination and discussion, any of the above types of games can be incorporated into the classroom in a healthy learning environment, even if it means just reaching out to our students and tapping into their interests.  But there’s much more potential than just that!

Here are some of the related sites we discussed worth considering:
  • Getting Serious Games Into the K-16 Classroom  is a 2010 Google Tech Talk by Victoria Van Voorhis.  Amongst many other things, she talks about how games can fit into standards and individualize instruction.
  • The video media clip of Jane McGonigal, Alternate Reality Game (ARG) developer and author of Reality is Broken, led to good discussion about my definition 2 type gaming, games that potentially have intrinsic value, games we’d like to see fitting into to the standards, augmenting instruction.  Watch her 2010 TED Talks video Gaming Can Make A Better World! Perseverance, collaboration, and hope are a few of the many concepts in her talk that should spur conversation. 
An upcoming part II post will pull together what I hear practicing teachers saying about gaming, our takeaways as applicable to education, and site/app recommendations for extending learning with gaming in education.  In the meantime, happy gaming!


Quick Byte: Multiple Perspectives

Does the world sometimes look a little flat or one dimensional?  Does one perspective get boring or just not seem to capture the complexity or full picture of life or history?  Do you ever want to have a say in the ending of a story?  Do you think creativity and multiple perspectives relate?  If you answered yes to any of these questions, you will want to watch Raghava KK: Shake Up Your Story TED Talk. (It's under 5 min. and may result in a new app on your iPad.)  It also has some clear implications for education.

This talk relates to the first TED Talk I ever watched that hooked me, The Danger of a Single Story with Chimamanda Adichie. It really draws out an idea that I advocate for in my teacher prep classes-- including multiple perspectives in our teaching.  We should be doing this in all the content areas: language arts, math, science, social studies, etc.  What ways could you bring in a variety of perspectives into your classes?

In addition, this talk points in the direction of the future that is within grasp with transmedia storytelling and augmented reality as seen in my Worth a Wow: Inanimate Alice and What's a Book? Is This a Book? posts. 

If you liked Raghava KK's TED Talk highlighted above, watch his earlier talk entitled Five Lives of an Artist.  It's good stuff.

Happy viewing!


Links of the Summer

Summer passed us by in a wink of the eye.  We stayed busy traveling and exploring.  This post reflects some of our learning and finds.  They are on the topics of Triangulation with Leo Lapport, TED Talks on the topic of language, brain-based learning, transmedia storytelling, and Google Sketchup.  Enjoy!    

 Kacey’s picks—Triangulation: Leo Lapport has moved the TWIT.tv company to the new studio where they are netcasting even more content. (I had the opportunity to visit the studio with my husband this summer.  Stay tuned for a post about our visit.)   Recently, I’ve been listening to Triangulation where Leo and Tom Merrit “talk to the smartest people in the world about the most important topics in technology.”  It is part of the TWiT Netcast Network and streamed live every Wednesday at 7:00 PM Eastern/4:00 PM Pacific at http://live.twit.tv.  Triangulation – David Allen Getting Things Done was my most recent listen.

Cheridy’s picks-- More Amazing TED Talks:  TED Talks continue to keep me coming back for more.   Although I’ve enjoyed a wide array of TED topics, I’ll point to the language focused ones I blogged about this summer.  See my low tech intro to my upcoming series from the eyes of a newbie about gaming in education.  It highlights John Hunter’s World Peace Game. Watch and read about some excellent language and listening TED Talks here.  Check out related past posts.  Also, be sure to look at this 2011 TEDxRedmond link.  The talks organized and delivered by kids took place on Sept. 10th.  They are truly inspirational to watch! 

Karenne Sylvester has an excellent post called 10 English Speaking Activities Using Ted.com.  My experiences using these fall right in line with her philosophy that these really work as a springboard for discussion and use of all the modes of language. As a wrap-up, keep your eyes open for an upcoming post about Raghava KK’s latest talk.

Kacey’s picks-- Brain-Based Learning: Recently, I came across  Steve Reifman’s blog . He has been an elementary classroom teacher for 17 years, author, and interested in brain-based learning.  I’m looking forward to further reading and exploring his books and blog! Another teacher blogger I’ve been reading who is interested in brain-based learning and technology is Diane McKinney .

Cheridy’s picks—Transmedia Storytelling and Google Sketchup:   Unexpectedly this summer, I stumbled upon what have become new areas of interest for me in ed tech: transmedia storytelling and gaming.  See my post on Inanimate Alice and ponder the exciting potential in ed. 

 I’m also throwing in a link to Google Sketchup which my kid played with this summer for hours.  One of my College of Ed. students used it in excellent lesson plan for ESOL students in math.  

How could you use any of our links in your class or personal learning?  Happy  exploring!


Worth a Wow: Inanimate Alice

The first word that flew out of my mouth as I first interacted with Inanimate Alice was “Wow.”  I didn’t want to be hasty in making judgments, so I continued with episodes two and three—continuing to say “Wow.”  As I wrapped up with episode 4 and additional research of what kids are doing with their own productions, again—you guessed it, “Wow” tumbled out of my mouth.  Now, this could mean that I have a limited vocabulary, but I’ll choose to believe it means that Inanimate Alice is worth a “Wow” and consideration in education.

Inanimate Alice Description: Inanimate Alice is an enaging transmedia story written by Kate Pulinger, directed by digital artist Chris Joseph, and produced by Ian Harper.  It gets progressively more challenging as Alice gets older in each episode.  The reader interacts with Alice as she matures, lives in various cultures, and explores technology with her imaginary digital friend Brad.  In episode one she is 8, and in the final episode four she is 14.  Suspense propels readers to follow Alice in episodes to China, Italy, Russia, and England. Readers are encouraged to fill in the gaps and create their own stories.

Experience and Applications: I began interacting with Inanimate Alice with my kid, but I freely admit that I couldn’t wait and jumped ahead after I tucked her into bed.  We had a blast going through the lesson plans together, modifying them in our own ways. It didn’t take but a minute for me to see how setting, tone, character, rhythm, symbolism, etc. were coming alive before my child’s eyes, ears, hands, and imagination in a way that I didn’t begin to fully experience until my undergraduate English major courses.   Inanimate Alice, the lessons, and student examples seem to give a glimpse of what may be to come and how this generation of digital natives can process, consume, and generate literature in a variety of ways. 

Inanimate Alice Resources:
Laura Fleming wrote A New Model of Storytelling on Edutopia that also caught my attention.  Laura seems to have a passion for this topic and to be a great resource for a newbie such as myself who is beginning to explore transmedia storytelling in education.  She blogs about it at EdTech Insight. Read Laura’s informative post on Digital IS here about Inanimate Alice!  Browse additional information on Digital IS about transmedia storytelling in education.
Further Reflection and Related Possibilities:  In the grander picture, this all relates to my What’s a Book? Is this a Book?  and to Illuminated Text and Kinetic Typography Bring Reading to Life posts. This also reminded me of Storyrobe and Storykit apps, where for the past year my daughter has created stories that include pictures, words, and sound effects (the piano for a menacing shark).  Transmedia storytelling and these types of apps seem to have the ability to empower students as writers and readers to interact with the written word in a way that involves the senses and meaningful connections to reality.  This is a topic we owe to ourselves and students to continue to explore!  How can you envision using transmedia storytelling like Inanimate Alice?

Happy exploring and interacting!


24th Edition of EFL/ESL/ELL Blog Carnival

Check out the ESL/EFL/ELL 24rd Blog Carnival.  It is hosted by Eva Buyuksimkesyan.  The topic is Warmers, Fillers, and 1st Week Activities.  I have just began to browse the numerous links and ideas in her post which contain contributions from around the world.  Perhaps this will be a good place to go to gather a few fresh ideas.
Some of the sites that I use on occasion for warmers and fillers are found in our Students tab (More Vocabulary/Games/Dictionaries and Can You Describe These Pictures? sections). I also use selected sites on our Ed Sites tab as a whole class activity or refer students to sites as appropriate for the content, level, and age I am teaching.  In addition, I have fun using some of these Icebreakers, Warmups, Energizers and Deinhibitizers hereI use the Prezi/Jing video I created, which can be found in this post, to introduce myself.  In my online classes, I encourage my students to introduce themselves on a Voicethread that I begin for the class.
Although we didn't participate in this carnival, we were happy to be a part of the 22nd Blog Carnival. You can see all the previous editions of the ESL/EFL/ELL Blog Carnival here.  You can see my previous posts about the Blog Carnivals here.  The following edition will be hosted by Berni Wall in November.
Happy exploring!