My Code Combat Affinity Space Experience

One of the final Games and Learning projects is a presentation of my Code Combat affinity space. Through this game designed for young students, I was able to learn the basics of javascript code. My Camtasia video details why I think the following three Gee and Haye’s affinity space features apply to the Code Combat discourse:

  1. The development of both specialist and broad, general knowledge are encourage and specialized knowledge is pooled.

  2. There are many different forms and routes to participation.

  3. A view of learning that is individually proactive, but does not exclude help, it’s encouraged.

 

References:

Gee, J. P., & Hayes, E. (2011). Nurturing Affinity Spaces and Game-Based Learning. Learning and Meaning in the Digital Age Games, Learning, and Society, 129-153. doi:10.1017/cbo9781139031127.015

 

 

Online Privacy Is a Big Deal

I did not have much of an online presence before I began my Information and Learning Technology masters at CU Denver. Yes, I had a Facebook account that I would use sporadically and I did not use any other social media applications. This means I had none of the following accounts:

  • Twitter
  • Instagram
  • Flickr
  • SoundCloud
  • Blog
  • Website (or Basecamp)

I have found it refreshing to enter the social media world from the instructional designer perspective. Most of my content has been for school and to build my portfolio, which means the content is safe. With social media aside, I understand the need for privacy and appreciate David Howell’s how-to article, How to protect your privacy and remove data from online services shared in my Social Media class. Perhaps I will take the time to decrease my online footprint when the Spring semester ends.

Here is my to do list according to Howell:

  1. Check all your privacy settings
  2. Remove old accounts
  3. Unsubscribe from mailing lists
  4. Register with a different email address
  5. Use stealth mode when browsing
  6. Think before you post
  7. Consider Tor browsing
  8. Use anti-tracking tools

As I write all the protective steps needed for privacy I start to feel a bit freaked-out. I am sure that if my information was in the wrong hands or taken out of context, it could lead to repercussions. Then again, I imagine that everyone who gets on the internet regularly feels the same way as I do. We are human and we make mistakes. I don’t always use my best judgement and certainly forget that my every move is being tracked.

Making privacy a priority would take new habits and perhaps, the investment in anti-tracking tools. Welcome to the internet age.

The “Pedagogical Trifecta” of Game Making

Screen Shot 2016-09-01 at 10.13.29 AM

Photo Credit: http://www.moodswingmgmt.com/TrifectaTour/ 

All semester, I have been studying how game playing fosters learning. I never considered making the leap to game making as an exceptional learning opportunity, until I noticed a retweet in my Games and Learning course’s #ILT5320 Twitter feed. The article Why Making Your Own Video Games Leads to Quality Learning by Jordan Shapiro completely shifted my games and learning paradigm. Why didn’t I make that connection sooner? The discourse of gamers becoming game makers is an obvious progression.

  • gamers (be)come) Gamers
  • Gamers (be)come game makers
  • game makers (be)come Game Makers

Shapiro explained that applications like Gamestar Mechanic, Unity, GameMaker, and Scratch have been “video game changers” that removed the necessity to master coding in order to create a game. Now, children who have been playing video games all their life are better able to analyze and interpret what the game design, mechanics, and aesthetic means to their experience. They are reflecting upon their game playing observations, which makes sense for any sort of enthusiast. 

In creating a game, there is an intentional shift from simply interacting with a game to interpreting and analyzing how to create a game. This requires the application of STEM skills in order to envision how the game will play for others. For this reason, the National STEM Video Game Challenge was founded and created to motivate youth to transform their game playing skills into game making skills. Last year, almost 4000 middle and high schoolers competed in the 2014-2015 National STEM Video Game Challenge for cash and software prizes. This year’s competition is underway and students have until August 15th to submit an entry.

Not only is game making valuable for developing STEM skills, Shapiro describes game making as the “pedagogical trifecta” of quality learning. (For us elearning geeks, it doesn’t get much better than pedagogical trifecta, unless of course, it’s a pedagogical superfecta.)  Game creation combines content, affective/experiential, and metacognitive learning. A great example would be my assignment to play and reflect upon the board game Pandemic in my Games and Learning course:

  • Content – Studying how games foster learning
  • Affective/Experiential – Playing the game, Pandemic
  • Metacognitive – Reflecting upon the cooperative mechanics of Pandemic

Shapiro explained that making a game forces intentional thought and design decisions. If I were to take all that I’ve learned from the above Pandemic example and create a game, my learning would compound with interest. On a side note, I am certain, given my experience and study, if I were to create a game, it would be cooperative. However, deciding that my game would be cooperative is only one decision and there are millions more to make. For example:

  • Do I have characters in my game?
  • What will they look like?
  • Do I even need characters?
  • What’s my storyline?
  • What is the goal of my game?
  • How to I make a cooperative goal that’s appealing to others?..and the list goes on.

The evolution of game playing into game making is a huge deal. It means that students are able to metacognitively connect the dots and step outside the role of player into the role of creator. With the 2015-2016 National STEM Video Game Challenge underway, perhaps participation will reach new heights of more than 4000 game makers this year. (I know it’s cheesy, but I have to say it.) To all of this year’s National STEM Video Game Challenge participants, “You’re all winners!”

My Board Game Antidote to Overt Competition: Pandemic

Pandemic-Board

Photo Credit: https://geekdad.com/2013/11/pandemic-ipad-vs-board/

Due to poor planning on my part, I purchased Pandemic yesterday and asked my boyfriend and guinea pig, Ben, to play the brand new board game at 9pm last night. I cannot confirm or deny that our rushed game play was an effort to complete my play journal assignment today.

Pandemic is a cooperative, strategy game that has a large learning curve. The goal is to work as a team to travel the globe eradicating deadly viruses by continent. Each player has special talents that the team needs to use wisely. For example, a quarantine specialist can stop outbreaks by their mere presence, while a scientist can discover a cure faster than other players. Given the cooperative nature of the game all players are racing against the clock or deck of cards to rid the world of the outbreaks before they conglomerate into a pandemic. Players are all in it together.

As we were struggling through the game last night, Ben said, “Why didn’t you pick an easy game like Parcheesi?” I explained that my choice was based upon our past, not-so-fun experience with Chess. I thought Pandemic might be a good solution to our overly competitive natures, while appeasing our love of strategy.

Although my timely execution of the game was not on point, my long-term planning was. Per Pandemic’s online reviews, I could see it as was a well-designed game that aligned with Gee’s (2004) games and learning principles to “create motivation for extending engagement and preparing for future learning,” (p. 67). Additionally, the clerk at the Wizard’s Chest where I bought the game said the game “left him wanting to play more.” I decided Pandemic was a game Ben and I could grow into.

In a quest to “up my game” I not only purchased the game, but I also aspired to pick a game worthy of my experience with the Games and Learning course at CU Denver. I have seen my peers and classmates really savoring their gaming experience and I wanted to adopt this discourse for myself. My observed benefits of gaming includes the following:

  • Mental Stimulation
  • Developing Playfulness
  • Social Interactivity
  • Affordable Entertainment
  • Community Building

In regards to playful learning, Pandemic as a learning tool in the schools reminds me of the game/study To Pave or Not to Pave as published in the book Mobile Media Learning: Amazing Uses of Mobile Devices for Learning. This place-based design for civic participation was a study executed by James Mathews and Jeremiah Holden. It required students to create a learning experience around a civic issue of whether or not to pave a public path (Dikkers et. al, 2012). Playing Pandemic and the creation of To Pave or Not to Pave directed participants to achieve a common goal. In Pandemic the goal was to prevent a worldwide epidemic, while To Pave or Not to Pave’s goal was to engage participants civically. In both games, working together forces participants to see multiple perspectives and ways to skin a cat. In fact, playing Pandemic allowed me to glimpse into Ben’s brain and see his strategic thinking. His preferred method was to travel and diffuse the problem in each hot city together, while I suggested we divide and conquer. I was pleasantly surprised that one, I was able to let him take the lead, and two, when we stuck together, we were more effective.

This was my first experience with a board game focused on collaboration over obliteration. A perfect example of obliteration was our course’s first group game, Small World. The goal was to completely destroy a culture of people/creatures in order to win their land and resources. I know Small World is just a game, but is it really? When I think about the reality of ruined cultures and such things as the resource curse, I have a hard time playing out an age-old struggle of the haves and the have nots. (Yes, I should probably calm down.) In playing Pandemic, it was refreshing to step outside of obliteration and my competitive self. I enjoyed the gaming perspective of cooperating with my partner in a playful, save the planet sort of setting. Thanks to Pandemic,  I now have found an unexpected antidote for the overt competition that many other games promote.

References

Dikkers, S., Martin, J., & Coulter, B. (2012). Mobile media leanring: Amazing uses of mobile devices for learning.

Gee, J. P. (2004). Situated language and learning: A critique of traditional schooling. New York: Routledge.

Ask for Help or Stay Stuck?

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Photo Credit: Code Combat

The last time I wrote about my affinity space I spoke from a place of fear of group participation, while wanting to complete as many levels as possible. Isn’t that exactly what affinity spaces are created for? To accelerate one’s understanding and identification of a chosen discourse? As fate would have it, I have reached a level where I cannot pass without asking for help. I tried for three days to solve the code problem on my own with no luck.

I posted my code and question to the board. With no response after a full day, I’m starting to wonder a few things. Did I categorize my question properly in order to be seen by the right people as quickly as possible? What if that level has a bug? Who am I to tell Code Combat there must be a bug in one of their levels?

In all truth, I could post my question to every category and, although that is probably poor form, it shows that I really want to learn. I truly am sick of this level and want to keep moving. However, I suspect my case is exactly the point the discourse hopes players will land. A place of needing help and the motivation to solve the problem outweighs the desire to stay below the radar.

I’m stuck in the Backwood Forrest  on an If/Else loop that requires me to kill the never-ending supply of munchkins. Here’s my code:

loop {
var enemy = this.findNearestEnemy();
if (this.isReady(“cleave”));
this.cleave(enemy);
else
this.attack(enemy);
}

Whether my code isn’t correct or there truly in a bug in the level, I’m grateful for this point of pressure. It is forcing me to engage and this extra little push is exactly what I needed.

It’s about the community, stupid.

Photo Credit: http://www.csjo.org/
Photo Credit: http://www.csjo.org/

Between my affinity space, open annotations, and scholarly critiques required of my Games and Learning class at CU Denver, I keep coming back to the importance of community. Each of these aspects revolves around curating new connections and deepening my understanding of applying play skillfully. I feel like I’m beginning to think in a completely new way: the community I form now will sustain me in my new career after school.

Affinity Space

Although I have never posted on the Code Combat discourse board, I have been able to find most any answer I need when stumped by the game. Even simple problems are openly discussed on the board for the world to see. All my needs are being met through lurking, but if I were to build community, active participation is warranted.  

Open Annotations & Scholarly Critiques

Annotating the course readings through Hypothes.is has led to new streams of curiosity. Often times a conversation over a reading would lead to my next article to critique. I have become quite picky about my articles because I’m not simply completing the assignment, I’m carving my own unique, educational pathway. More specifically, here are a couple Hypothes.is conversations that led me down the path of critiquing articles on serious play and playful assessment: 

Games Taken Seriously = Serious Play Learning

I previously wrote The Science Behind Serious Games around the game, Mars Generations One: Argubot Academy EDU, which was a collaboration between GlassLab, The Educational Testing Service, and Pearson Education. I was amazed by the idea of learning scientists developing learning progressions to create superior learning experiences. I thought, “Wow, learning scientists must be really smart people. They have the secrets to how to make a learning progression.” My professor, Remi Holden, point blank asked if I could describe what learning progressions they used or what research they shared to back it up. I could not answer his question. I think I got enamored by the flashy words and big name companies. This was a reminder to always dig a bit deeper.

Below is a snippet of our Hypothes.is conversation where Remi suggests I look into the research behind the serious game, Place Out of Time (POOT).  

He directed me to his the article, It Matters Because It’s a Game: Serious Games and Serious Players by Jeff Kupperman and team. I devoured this article and realized the game they created wasn’t some high-tech video game. It was a very thoughtful, imaginative opportunity for students to act out their characters roles in a safe, online setting. Then I thought, “Hey, I could do that!” it was a nice perspective shift to see that I am fully capable of being a part of the serious game scene. 

Assess(ment) as Play?

My next Hypothes.is tip-off stemmed from a conversation with Remi about the article, Questing as learning: iterative course design using game inspired elements by Seann M. Dikkers. In the margins of this readings, Remi respectfully disagree with Dikker’s belief that time is best spent playing the games online and not in the classroom. This statement intrigued me, so I asked for specific examples about how playing games in Remi’s classroom proved to be valuable learning experiences. 

https://media.wix.com/ugd/0a72dc_1108889c47284cd0ad0b1720b6839fed.pdf
https://media.wix.com/ugd/0a72dc_1108889c47284cd0ad0b1720b6839fed.pdf

Our conversation pointed to my next article of study, which happened to be written by Remi himself: Playful Possibilities for Assessment: Fluffy Ducks and The Queen’s Gambit  I was beginning to see that playful teaching and learning were not just a technique to use, but rather a pedagogical way of being. True, playful learning requires more of the students, but it also requires more of the teacher. Playful teachers need to be just as interested and invested in the students’ learning as the students themselves.

The scholarly critiques have proven the most enlightening part of this cycle’s activities. The articles about serious play in POOT and Playful Possibilities for Assessment opened me up to the larger playful learning movement. These articles, along with my Hypothes.is conversations are influencing and shaping my educational path. So much so, that I found a way, which is very well hidden might I add, to develop my own independent study this summer to further explore playful learning, open source education, and instructional design and technology.  

Changed Preconceptions

My biggest realization has been that a game doesn’t have to be complex or full of rich video game graphics to be engaging. In the context of POOT, I love the element of imagination tempered with serious role play. The students get to chose their character, but they are also expected to convincingly play this person through their discussions and word choice. The game maker has captured the student’s  imagination, which means that even I, without any video game creation experience, could create a playful and meaningful learning experience. 

Growing Network

My Hypothes.is annotations and work as a CU Tech TA have been creating a critical mass in me on the topic of open educational technology. I’m starting to know the key players and have begun to connect the dots tracing back from my first class this past summer, Digital Storytelling. There are so many wonderful avenues to explore and connections to make. I’ve listed a few of the connections below:  

  • Medium
  • DS106
  • Jim Groom
  • Digital Pedagogy Lab
  • Quest 2 Learn
  • LTMedia.lab
  • Domain of One’s Own

What I’m left with is how to ensure that I truly become a part of the community. It seems that there so much to do in order to stay current within the realm of educational, technology.

  • Do I tweet enough?
  • Do I read enough?
  • Do I tinker enough?

Right now I’m simply trying to catch all the information as it comes at me. Luckily, I learned about Google+ Communities in another class and am using it as a warehouse for information. Who knows, maybe it’ll grow into something, but right now, I’m happy to have found a good system for tracking all the information flying at me.

I’m creating a personal learning network in order to ensure, sustain, and grow my career in education technology. 

 

Assess(ment) as Play?

Photo Credit: http://Craker.wordpress.com
Photo Credit: http://Craker.wordpress.com

With playful learning becoming more common, it makes sense that student assessments might also follow suit. Playful possibilities for assessment: Fluffy Ducks and the Queen’s Gambit by my CU Denver professor Remi Holden emphasizes that static rubrics are not effective measures of dynamic, playful learning. His argument speaks of his experience revamping the Educational Technology Master of Arts program at the University of Michigan-Flint. 

 

Lofty Goals of Educational Technology

This is not your ordinary program in educational technology. The goals of the program included the following (Holden, 2013):

  • Transforming how teaching and learning intersect with technology

  • Helping “pro-social tech-tinkerers” develop media that just might change the world

  • Sustaining communities of educators committed to immersive learning experiences

 

Playful Teaching & Learning

Remi and his process-oriented colleagues actively worked to experiment with their designs, embrace failure, and commit to reflection. Their focus was to engage students playfully over eliciting the “right” answers. In their process of playful pedagogy, the following principles were applied to courses (Holden, 2013):

  1. Play requires the acceptance of constraints

  2. Students should be playing with things (applications, codes, etc)

  3. Play assumes failure

  4. Playful teaching and learning fosters community

 

Products of Playful Learning

Playful learning can generate a generous variety of outcomes that challenge standards and think outside the box. Holden’s experience with the Global Program at Michigan University produced the following outcomes (2013):

  • An online economic justice simulation for high school students

  • Website & curricular resources about human rights in China

  • Community gardening in Michigan

  • Environmental conservation in Mexico

  • Global citizenship in the Congo

  • Social studies through digital and analog tools

Of course these projects have been dramatically simplified, but it is important to understand the grand scope of what can be produced from playful teaching and learning. There is no way to group these projects into categories, let alone assess them with a single rubric. It appears that self-directed learning and educational pull shaped the projects.

 

Assess(ment): Verb Over Noun

Playful learning is active and should be measured as such. Using a standardized rubric in any of the above examples seems a bit trite and could potentially squash their brilliance. What rubric standards could begin to capture a project’s essence?

  • Engaged learning?

  • International citizenship?

  • Courage within the possibility of failure?

  • Forward thinking?

Actively assessing a project insinuates it is alive and allows for discussion of the idea’s greatness. Additionally, assessing the product of playful learning requires an engaged educator. An educator who cannot simply check a box and never know his/her student’s abilities. By playfully challenging students to give their best effort, the same can be asked of teachers in assessing such learning.

Playful assessment completes the playful teaching and learning cycle..

 

 

References

Holden, J. (2013). Playful possibilities for assessment: Fluffy Ducks and the Queen’s Gambit. Retrieved from http://www.academia.edu/4414832/Playful_possibilities_for_assessment_Fluffy_Ducks_and_the_Queens_Gambit