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Posts Tagged ‘game

There is a lesson from Pokémon Go that could be applied to teacher professional development and the design of learning experiences for students. It is learning to play the long game.

The long game is favouring long-term results and rewards over instant gratification and short-term gain. Here are three long game strategies in Pokémon Go.

The first is levelling up by accumulating XP (experience points).

One way of doing this is by catching mundane Pokémon like Pidgeys, Rattatas, and Weedles. These creatures are common and easy to catch. Catch them, convert them to candy by transferring them to the Professor, feed that candy to stronger versions of their own kind, and evolve them to the next stage. This results in quick bumps in XP.

The learning by teachers and students should also be about getting more experiences. Like Pokémon Go, these life experiences should take place outside the classroom. Instead of the mundane Pokémon, they should be going for variety. But leave out the candy-cannibalism, please!

The higher your XP in Pokémon Go, the better the Pokémon you tend to find. The more experiences you have in life, the better equipped you are to handle what comes your way.

The second long game strategy is trimming the fat.

This means discarding what you do not need from both your bag of items (initial limit 350) and Pokémon storage (initial limit 250). Not clearing items out not only leads to clutter, it also prevents the inclusion of newer items, e.g., higher CP wild Pokémon or more Poké balls.

Clearing items like healing sprays and raspberries might seem counterintuitive because they are supposed to help. But these help only if you use them regularly. If not, hoarding them is like hanging on to medicines and encyclopaedias that you do not use.

Both teachers and students need not hoard information and artefacts just in case. It is a discipline to decide what you need and what you do not. Teachers and students need to realise that the brain is designed to forget and that we operate largely on just in time.

The third long game strategy is battling in gyms every 20 hours or so in order to get free Poké coins.

If you are quick after a successful battle, you might claim a place in a Pokémon gym. Doing this gives you a 10-coin reward at the shop. Accumulate enough coins and you can buy something from the shop without using a credit card.

This is like saving a little bit of one’s allowance every week or one’s salary every month. The drops might take a while to fill the bucket, but the reward is that much sweeter when you enjoy it.

We do not learn from experiences. We learn from reflecting on experiences. -- John Dewey.

People might think of incorporating Pokémon Go to teach content. You can. But I would rather use it to teach values like appreciating diversity, consistency and discipline, as well as persistence and patience.

This is about learning with and from the game without realising that you are learning. That is both a strength and weakness of this form of game-based learning.

It is a strength because the learning is experiential and emotional. It is a weakness because the takeaways might not be obvious. Both teachers and students need to reflect and transfer.

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.

Recently I had an email conversation that strayed to the differences between simulations and games.

I do not consider most simulations to be games. I share my reply and add a few examples to the mix.
 

 
Simulations mimic or mirror real life and often serve as a preparation for it. There is “replayability” or resetting, but that does not make them games.

For example, pilots start with flight simulators and military field surgeons practice battle zone triage in simulators. Our bus drivers train on traffic simulators [1] [2].

Some games are simulation-like, e.g., The Sims. But their ends are different as they do not necessarily prepare players for life or work. The points, rewards, or levelling up are for the game itself. There are learning gains, but they tend to be broader and are perhaps more ill-defined.

It is important to distinguish between simulations and games not just for academic reasons. When applied to practice, they set expectations, shape outcomes, and influence instructional strategies.

You can imagine parents telling their kids to stop playing video games and to do their homework instead.

These same parents will ignore the growing suspicion that schooling does not prepare kids for their futures but for their past instead.

They will ignore the increasingly loud rhetoric about preparing kids for jobs that do not exist yet. Watch the segment of the video last edited in 2012 and embedded below.


Video source

They will certainly ignore two things I tweeted recently about the possibility of gaming as a career and the prize money it offers.

But they ignore these at their peril and to the possible detriment to their kids because they focus on what they want instead of what the kids need or might be able to do.

Ten years ago when YouTube was born, who thought that it might be possible to live off online videos by vlogging? Who even considered vlogging as a job instead of a hobby? Who thought that vloggers might get TV shows, movie deals, merchandizing, sponsorship deals, books, tour dates, etc.?

We might not have a new economy (it is still about money), but there are new players who are rewriting the rules or making up new ones.

Tweets are fleeting and might represent a collective stream of consciousness. Anything that bobs its head several times in that stream tends to stand out.

If you are not a celebrity and something you tweeted was retweeted 66 times, you might be happy to note the agreement, endorsement, or share-ability of the idea. (By comparison, if you are a celebrity, you could tweet that you pooped and it could be retweeted thousands of times.)

However, your poopless joy should be tempered with context. Take the analytics of a recent tweet of mine.

To date, the tweet has been viewed 2,145 times, retweeted 66 times, and has an engagement rate of 3.1%. In the context of the number of views, that is a low return. In a good week, each of my tweets gets 3000-4000 views within three days. Given more views, the engagement figure is likely to drop.

That is what playing only the numbers game gets you.

Exploring the context of tweeting further, Twitter analytics do not capture modified tweets. For example, someone might tweet the URL of my tweet or tweet a variation of it.

Consider another example.

I took this screenshot in October 2014 of a popular blog entry I wrote in February of the same year. The blog entry now has 107 tweets (and an unknown number of retweets). If I focused just on the numbers, I could figure out the gain of tweets per month or the average in a year.

I would rather focus on the fact that something simple I wrote still has traction today. The WordPress dashboard tells me how the entry gets found, e.g., from Google searches or the other bloggers’ efforts.

My point: Numbers can be used to tell a story, the making of a story, or to bypass the story altogether. People who focus on playing the numbers game do not care for the story. The lowest hanging fruits are what matter to them. This is like focusing on grades instead of learning.

I prefer to get the fruit that are not within immediate reach. It takes more effort to climb, but the fruits of my labour are much sweeter. I also get a better view as a bonus. That is just my way of saying that I would rather use the numbers to tell a story even if that requires a bit more work.

Yesterday I reflected on the moral dilemma of playing the research game because it benefits only a few stakeholders. Today I continue with the processes of publishing research.

Most academics review articles and serve on editorial boards because it looks great on their CVs. For a few, this also provides power to lord over others by rejecting papers in the name of “objective” reviews. The same might be said of committees that determine disbursement of funds for research.

But all that is child’s play when compared to the ruse of publishers.

With one hand they pull in reviewers of journal papers for free (it is a service academics provide for one another after all). With the other, the publishers collect money by charging top dollar to libraries, organizations, and individuals who want journal collections or specific papers.

What I have reflected on is not news. In 2002, Frey compared the publishing process to prostitution. PhD Comics had an amusing take on this in 2011.


Source

The open movement is a disruptive process that threatens the membership and rules of the game of research as currently played.

Open practice champions like Martin Weller do great work in this respect. His recent blog entry on the benefits of being open is a must-read.

Influential bodies like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation are insisting that research data and publications be shared with the Creative Commons Attribution licence.

A few local universities and agencies have shared some materials openly, but they are an insignificant drop in the research bucket.

Not only is the rest of published research is not so freely shared, researchers are complicit by playing to the rules set by publishers, universities, and grant bodies.

If you are not an academic, you should be morally outraged. If you are, you should reflect critically on the state of the playing field.

There is a game that university academics play. The game has a strict selection process and the chosen must play by the rules.

However, like casinos, the house always wins, the players think they win, and the players’ stakeholders tend to lose.

Casino Velden Panorama by geek7, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic License   by  geek7 

 
The game is called research and publishing. It is a game that academics play because they are expected to. Very few seem to challenge its rules and the ethics of playing the game the same old way.

Anyone can conduct research without getting a grant or by paying out of pocket, but why would they? They get more points in their appraisals if they successfully apply for grant money.

The money comes from a corporation or a government body or the university itself, and there are often stringent demands when applying for funds. That is a good thing because the money ultimately comes from the taxpayer and layperson.

What might be less clear is how the money benefits these stakeholders even if researchers have to justify their research. Leaders and managers of universities and funding agencies recognize this ethical issue and take administrative and policy measures to address it. There are strict review processes, rules to protect human subjects, regular reporting processes, expectations of social responsibility or scaling up, etc.

But with the way the game is played in reality, the benefit to stakeholders seems tertiary, if at all. The research money primarily benefits researchers and journal publishers, and secondarily benefits a research ecosystem.

Research money helps some academic staff publish papers and get promotions. If enough of them do these, they raise the profile and international ranking of the university. Research outputs go to journals and publishers profit from the work of researchers. These are the primary beneficiaries.

In order to conduct research and publish, academic staff need to buy equipment, hire staff, outsource some services, arrange for conference travel, and so on. This could benefit some stakeholders by providing employment and creating a demand for assorted services. These are the secondary beneficiaries.

But research is typically funded over only two or three years. This means that funding cycles are tight and a researcher needs to be creative with resources and/or apply for multiple grants if s/he wants to sustain the research.

Sustaining a study is particularly important in educational or social studies type of research because of the subjectivity and complexity of human factors. Such studies also might have interventions like technology use which take time to develop, implement, and revise.

Sometimes researchers move from one grant to another (and therefore from one research topic to another) like slash-and-burn farmers move from plot to plot. Both leave damage in their wake. In the case of educational research, it might be schools, teachers, and students who have no support after the study team pulls out.

Closed circles are created when researchers team up with one or a few partner teachers or schools. If there is harm, it is contained. If there is good, it is highly contextualized and difficult to generalize.

The process of publishing the results or impact of research is also closed. More thoughts on that tomorrow.


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