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Posts Tagged ‘game-based

 
Why do some consultants, designers, and teachers constrain video game-based learning to old or current practices?

That was the question I asked myself when I read this article, Gaming in the classroom: what we can learn from Pokémon Go technology.

The piece offered what seems to be some good ideas on how to leverage on gaming. The examples were:

  • whole-class discussions of how the movement of tectonic plates has affected GPS readings in Australia (science, geography, English)
  • photographing both real insects and virtual Pokémon and then writing up Pokédex entries for the insects they have collected (science, media studies, ICT, English, art)
  • designing classification flowcharts for Pokémon as a lead-up to classification of animals (science, English, maths)
  • assigning students the job of Pokéstop tour guide (Pokéstops are often positioned in front of historical locations), requiring them to research and report on the history of the area (history, art, English)
  • framing maths problems around the data available for each Pokémon such as height, weight and strength. For example, if I have 3,700 stardust, what combination of Pokémon can I power up that will use up all my stardust? Or Asha’s house is 600m from school. The only time she plays Pokémon Go is as she walks to and from school every day. How many days will it take her to hatch a 5.0km egg?

The ideas are better than what some teachers I know would come up with. But teachers tend to teach the way they were taught and constrain gaming to current constructs and practices of curriculum.

One construct is discrete units or silos like separate academic subjects and the subtopics within. Gaming tends to transcend this by being cross and multidisciplinary.

One practice is repetition by way of drilling simply because “this was how I was taught”. This was why drill-and-practice dominated early educational “games” and are still common today. Some refer to this practice as serving chocolate-covered broccoli.

Another traditional construct and practice is class or curriculum time. Specifically how tasks need to be completed like a checklist in class and within tight curriculum time. What falls through is then called homework and extra classes. Gaming happens any time, all the time, or on-demand.

The shortcut is simply this: Teachers bend games to the will of curriculum and distort what could be very powerful game-based learning into game-incentivised teaching.

To change teaching, the teacher needs to learn to behave like the learner-gamer by exploring, experimenting, and experiencing. The bad news is that there are no shortcuts. The good news is that gaming is fun.

The article was not without its merits. The best part was this:

the general capability priorities such as critical and creative thinking, personal and social capability and, of course, ICT, could also be taught using Pokémon Go as students manage their school and social lives, build relationships with others, work effectively in teams and make responsible decisions.

As this game is not played from behind closed doors, it even encourages conversations about personal safety. Discussions about the intersection between reality and the virtual world and digital etiquette are easy to imagine.

The constructs and practices to draw from the paragraphs is that game-based learning should be authentic, context-based, relevant to the learner, and transferable. Such ideas are not constrained by the baggage of schooling.

Last Saturday, I delivered a keynote and participated in a panel on game-based learning and gamification.

I had questions that I could not address in the limited time during my keynote as well as the panel at the end of the conference. These were from the pre-conference poll.

I wish to address these questions, but I will focus only on questions that I understand.

How to tie in GBL with small-wins or short-term rewards?

I have no idea how to do this with GBL because I have not implemented GBL with this design or intent. Nor will I ever. During the keynote I described how games could be integrated to focus on thinking skills, attitudes, values, and intrinsic motivation. These take time to develop and I would rather invest in these.

How would I use this technique if the University has a set of rules I have to follow and present?

The university (or partner university in your case) is unlikely to have rules about pedagogy. If it did, that is not a university that is looking to serve for today and tomorrow.

You know the content, context, and your learners best. The WHAT of a prescribed curriculum might be very full. The HOW is your responsibility and limited by your creativity.

Must it be IT based?

The “it” could be games or gamification. Both could be enabled with current technology or not. I gave examples of both during the keynote, so I have addressed that part of the question.

Here is the other part: ICT is a more current term than IT since the former is often more interactive and multi-way while the latter is more transmissive and about regulations.

What types of subjects are suitable for game based learning?

Any and all of them are suitable, especially if you do not limit yourself to content-based learning and expand the possibilities to include critical and creative thinking, socio-emotional learning, soft skills, attitudes and values, etc.

Can Gamification ideas be implemented not through a game but just mere teaching activity?

Gamification does not employ games; it uses deconstructed elements of games, e.g., points, levelling up, leaderboards.

Your question seems to hint at game-like instruction. There are strategies like putting the problem (assessment) first or early, and focusing on just-in-time learning instead of just-in-case front loading.

I would like to try this approach but I am afraid it might take up a lot of the class time. How do I go about it without sacrificing too much of the contact time?

Can you have a cake and not eat it? 😉

Something has to give and if it comes to that, you might have to use your judgement to see what to push out in order include something else.

How viable would it be to introduce gamification within a primary/secondary school classroom? The aim is to use gaming elements to increase engagement between the students and the teacher.

It is certainly viable, as apparent by the number of vendors and parties outside of schooling and higher education who want to do this.

Unfortunately, these groups sell you on the low-hanging fruit of “increased engagement”. Do not play this game because this is not why any technology-mediated strategy should be used.

Trying to engage is like trying to take control of light switches: You try to flip them on so that your students see the light. But they are just as easy to switch off or learners can move on to something else.

Engagement is something you do to try to help your students; empowerment is something you pass to students so they help everyone. By all means engage, but do not forget to empower. Vendors might tell you how to engage with gamification; I would rather see learners empowered by game-based learning.

how to know which game is appropirate [sic] for teaching when we don’t game?

You do not and cannot know. So play!

My replies to these questions might have a perceived tone. I assure the askers that my replies come from a good place and with good intent: I want us to collectively change and improve our practice.

Participants of the session observed how the panel and I approached the Q&A. The same tone and concern should be applied here.

Sometimes I think I no longer need to repeat some messages because they sound old. But I am constantly reminded that I cannot be complacent.

The messages are diverse. They range from “Singapore does NOT cane you for chewing gum” to “gamification is not the same as game-based learning” or “flipping the classroom is not the same as flipping the learning”.

The cane comment surface just a few days ago. Strangely enough, it stemmed from a tongue-in-cheek remark on Singapore’s Schooling being Number One (the swimmer and our PISA results).

Someone else wanted to know if caning had anything to do with our results.

My reply, tongue firmly in cheek, was this:

We had a short conversation thereafter:

This reminded me of my stay in the US over 15 years ago when I had to remind people that Singapore was not in China and that we did not cane people for chewing gum.

While the conversation was not about caning and gum, I had to inform someone on Twitter that we do not cane boys as easily as we would flick a switch.

In the teaching and learning front, the runaway trains are gamification and the flipped classroom. Both vendors and ill-informed individuals push these without first knowing or caring about their histories, research, or critical practice.

I laud their enthusiasm, but when it is misguided, I make my stand: Gamification is not game-based learning and it is not enough to just flip the classroom.
 

 
Sometimes I wonder if harping on these messages makes me the squeaky wheel or the proverbial voice in the desert. Then I remember this Jon Stewart quote: If you smell something, say something.

As a watchdog, I have to be vigilant. As an educator, I remind myself that the old messages are new to someone else.

Recently I read a negative news article about Pokémon Go and thought about how this was like much of schooling.

Pokémon Go has not even been in Singapore for a week and already segments of the press have jumped on the negativity train. For example, TODAYonline proclaimed, Pokemon GO player chances upon dead body in Woodlands. However, by its own account, other people had already discovered the body. The opening paragraph read:

A Pokémon Go player found more than virtual critters on Sunday morning (Aug 7) when he chanced upon a crowd that had discovered a dead body off Woodlands Waterfront Jetty.

The gamer took photos of the grisly sight and posted them on Facebook.

“Facebooker posts photos of dead body” is not sufficient clickbait, nor was anything else that anyone else might have been doing. But Pokémon Go had launched here and was so popular that the paper had to ride on its coattails.

Pokémon Go is also misappropriated in schools. It is misrepresented and it is misused.

I know of a Singapore school principal who assumed that someone had paid for her school to be a Pokémon stop. She asked her staff who did it and if the stop could be removed. Those in the know tried to tell her that is not how stops work (you cannot add a stop unless you control Google Maps, but you might be able to remove it [1] [2]).

That account was not as bad as the one I tweeted earlier. In this other case, a school superintendent in the USA did not fact check and “emailed the entire district leadership team, warning them about the game because six teenagers already had been killed by wandering into traffic while playing the game.” This turned out to be a hoax.

This is history repeating itself.

People used to wait centuries or decades for paradigm shifts. For example, people had to be read to from rare, hand-written texts owned by elites before they learnt to read and practically owned their own libraries. We used to rely exclusively on fixed-time broadcast TV; now we have on-demand and online video. The changes and possibilities seem to happen every year, month, or week now.

Whatever the timespan of change, the repeating pattern is this: Something new and exciting to a typically younger generation is poorly understood and considered harmful by an older set.

The most common strategy against the perceived threat of the shiny and the mysterious is negativity. Anything negative will do. It can be shot, flung, or printed, as long as people notice and remain ignorant. This is why we have not seen the last of misrepresentations of Pokémon Go.

Early adopters will bravely try the new. Unfortunately for some, their creativity is not balanced with criticality; enthusiasm and pedagogy are not balanced with reality and research.

There will always be some teachers who wish to incorporate the game for the wrong reasons. To seem cool, to only take advantage of what is current, to use the “well, the kids are on it” excuse. These are not good enough.

To get to deeper WHYs of incorporating Pokémon Go, here are just a few critical questions:

SET 1

  • What does the game offer that you cannot?
  • How do kids behave when they play and what do they expect?
  • What can you do after processing the answers to the questions above?

SET 2

  • How do you prefer to teach?
  • What is game-based learning and what does research say is effective game-based learning?
  • How must your teaching change to enable learning that is game-based, not merely game-enhanced?

If a teacher does not have well-founded answers to these questions, then I predict that these will happen:

  • The fun gets taken out of the game in favour of curriculum or objectives.
  • The game gets tacked onto boring activities to try to make them fun.
  • The teacher creates a bad example of game-based learning.
  • Students and teachers swear off “game”-based learning.

I do not mean to dissuade teachers from trying to incorporate Pokémon Go or its ideas into their classroom. I mean to say that they do not do so blindly.

To not be blind is to open your eyes to read, open your hands to try, open your mind to new ideas, and open your heart to being a kid again.

How to see possibilities: Open your eyes to read. Open your hands to try. Open your mind to new ideas. Open your heart to being a kid again.

Learning is not a spectator sport. -- Chickering and Ehrmann

Over the weekend, I read an article in The Atlantic about educational escape rooms.

The central idea of these is that students must uncover content-based clues to unlock a box in order to resolve a situation. I learnt that these in turn were based on recreational escape rooms designed by the Japanese in 2007.

The article was intriguing in itself, but I liked even more a quote from a paper that it linked to.

Learning is not a spectator sport. Students do not learn much just sitting in classes listening to teachers, memorizing prepackaged assignments, and spitting out answers. They must talk about what they are learning, write reflectively about it, relate it to past experiences, and apply it to their daily lives. They must make what they learn part of themselves.

The paper was by Chickering and Ehrmann* in 1996. This was a message from 20 years ago and is still relevant now. So much of what we still do with “educational” technology is about answering instead about questioning, consuming instead of creating, and rushing instead of reflecting.

Each and every learner should not just be engaged with technology. Trying to engage is a function of teaching. Learners need to be empowered to participate because learning is not done from the sidelines. Learners must be involved, take ownership, and be intrinsically motivated.

*Chickering, Arthur and Stephen C. Ehrmann (1996), “Implementing the Seven Principles: Technology as Lever,” AAHE Bulletin, October, pp.  3-6.

I shared this cryptic tweet during the last #edsg fortnightly chat.

We had been focusing on the possible “game”-based changes to the Primary mathematics syllabus in Singapore.

I use “game” because what a teacher might understand as a game is not necessarily what students experience as gamers. A drill-and-practice “game” might be a welcome addition to the teacher toolbox, but it is not necessarily a game as the child understands it.

Hence, Godin’s blog entry was timely, specifically this part:

That’s why it’s so important to understand the worldview and biases of the person you seek to influence, to connect with, to delight. And why the semiotics and stories we produce matter so much more than we imagine.

Another dimension of differing world views is the focus of the activity. To a teacher, it is MATH game; to kids, it is a math GAME. For an adult, the game is for learning a math principle; for a child, the game is for racking up points, being the fastest, or topping the charts.

The students are likely to enjoy game initially because of the novelty effect. They might even participate over a longer term because of the extrinsic rewards provided by gamification tools (which are not game-based learning).

Neither a reliance on novelty and extrinsic drive are desirable because a teacher might be forced to take part in the race to hyper stimulate and entertain.

If a teacher does not get forced into the “engage them” race, it is because students soon realise that drill-and-practice is not really a game and they reject this practice.

Adults rarely get into the child’s headspace when trying to plan activities that are supposed to be good for kids. So here are three guiding and core questions (as contextualised in game-based learning):

  1. What does the child think (is a game/about gaming)?
  2. How do they think (as they game)?
  3. What can I design based on sound educational psychology principles and rigorous research?

For the good of kids, we need to focus on what is good for kids. We start with a focus on kids, not curricula, syllabi, assessments, or policy. To be learner-centred, you have to be kid-centred first.

Today I critique an important message embedded in a tweet. The text is excellent, but the visual representation is not. This sends an intended mixed message.

Teachers can certainly learn five principles of instruction by unlearning what they were taught.

  1. Students do not always need information or instructions before learning by trying
  2. Failing is a means to an end in this form of learning
  3. Knowledge is better socially generated and negotiated than delivered or directed
  4. Students learn best when they (not the teacher) are actively creating and teaching
  5. Information does not always have to be broken down into simpler parts; authentic problems are complex

I would wager that most teachers would struggle with relating to and then implementing one or more of these principles.

Even though the ideas are progressive, they were presented with a poor choice of fonts and graphics. The font is from an old school video game and the background is an old joystick. These might evoke nostalgia or connect with adult teacher who used to game, but games no longer look like that and rarely use such controls.

The visual is a disconnect with current gamers on mobile, PC, or consoles.

 
My critique is not with the ideas. I agree with them and have even elaborated on them by providing my own explanations of the five items. But visuals are powerful and can often reveal the underlying mindset of the person who created the artefact.

My message is that if teachers want to implement game-based learning or use principles from games, they should play current games and seek to understand the learner first. Then they might understand learning processes. Then only can they start to teach in a way that is congruent to gaming.


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