January 15, 2010 Archives

David Ewalt offers a good introduction to "Serious Games"

Update: I just got an email from How-To E D U, promoting this list of 50 free online educational games. What do you think?

Due Today:

P2 Presubmission

Advance work for an academic research paper that explores some aspect of game culture and theory. (What is a college research paper?)

Your presubmission report is a single word processor file, about 2-3 pages, uploaded to Turnitin.com, that includes the following, numbered sections:

Assigned Text:

Squire and Jenkins

Harnessing the Power of Games in Education (pdf) 

(the same text is also available in HTML format)

From early flight simulators to multiplayer games like America's Army (see Figure 1), the
military has long recognized the potential for games and simulations to enable the teaching and testing of skills that could not be rehearsed in real-world environments. Ironically, these military links have been exploited by fearmongers, such as military psychologist and anti-video-game activist David Grossman, to drive a wedge between games and schools.

Games allow younger and younger people to become experts, with the careful mentoring of adults. Suggest erasing the distinction between formal and informal learning.

If you are particularly interested in games and learning, I strongly recommend Gee's What Video Games Have to Teach Us about Learning and Literacy.



Discusson Leaders: Jessie and Matt.

Due Today:

Portfolio 2

A new participation portfolio, covering your accomplishments since the first portfolio was due.

We've talked quite a bit about what kids can learn from playing games. And we've also touched on the "are games art" debate. While little kids still need to fingerpaint and roll clay snakes in order to explore the physical world, as they get older they will spend more and more time in a digital world.
Instead of worrying about whether kids can absorb by playing games created by adults, let's consider what can they can accomplish by creating their own media for their peers.. 
MIT's free tool Scratch is designed to get kids programming, so that they can create their own games and animations. (Watch a 5-minute intro to Scratch.)  

Kids can start out just watching cartoon characters move around, but with a little guidance, they can start adding more sophisticated controls and program complex interactions. 
  • Whether they plan to be programmers or not when they grow up, they will use computers all their lives.  Rather than let them think of what goes on inside that box as magic, or dismiss technology because "computers hate me"...
  • Scratch introduces kids to the idea that everything that happens inside a computer follows a rule, and that -- at least until the robot uprising -- those rules come from people.
Watch an Scratch Programming Session

In about 30 minutes, these videos walk you through the steps of how to build a simple Breakout game in Scratch.  In the last 2 videos, for another 15 or so minutes, I'm mostly tweaking a working demo.
How do these videos affect your thoughts on games and education, and on your own potential for creating interactive media?
I'm am not requiring you to use this tool for class, but if you like what you see....
  • I encourage you to consider using it to help present the creative part of your term project.
  • You can download it free at scratch.mit.edu. The web is full of sample projects and user-created tutorials; here are some Scratch tutorials recorded by kids.

For today's new discussion topic, which will run over the long weekend, we will look at MIT's Scratch project. Please watch the videos (you can fold your laundry or whatever while watching them -- they're just not deeply technical) and post a well-thought-out response that demonstrates your ability to engage with and apply the material. (What connections can you make to readings, or discussions you've had on peer blogs? Post quotes and links where appropriate.)

I think everyone has a pretty clear sense of what's coming next, so this update will be short.
  • My task for the rest of the day will be to provide feedback on the presubmission reports, after which I will turn to your portfolios. 
  • There is no homework scheduled for Monday.
  • Tuesday, there are two scheduled readings, and a four-page draft of your research paper is due.
  • At some point next week, I will post another set of GriffinGate reading quizzes for the chapters we've chosen in Williams and Smith.
I will check in from time to time over the weekend, and I will be happy to answer quick questions about sources or thesis statements.

Meanwhile, please continue to share your successes and frustrations on the Presubmission Report page, which was yesterday's class discussion topic.

Even a quick scan of the portfolio submissions reveals plenty of enthusiasm and confidence. We've already accomplished so much!  Best wishes to each of you as we prepare for the final stretch.

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