Another dot in the blogosphere?

Posts Tagged ‘game

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.

There are two parts of my reflection today.

First, I use word clouds to illustrate what participants thought at the end of an interactive talk I gave yesterday on educational innovation. Then I answer two questions that participants asked in a Google Form.

I asked participants to complete an exit ticket. Among the tasks were two questions:

  1. What is your main takeaway from the talk?
  2. What might you do differently to innovate?

I collected the responses in a Google Form and Spreadsheet, and then used Tagxedo to generate a word cloud.

Here is one for the first question.

tagxedo-takeaway

It is no surprise that “creativity” and “innovation” featured prominently since these were the foci of the talk. But I am glad that some of the key points like unleashing pupils, unboxing them, failing forward, and (not waiting to be fully) prepared stuck with participants.

The actionable items were varied.

tagxedo-actionReading their individual statements in full and in context, the largest words are actually less meaningful because they were necessary fillers about the main topic. The mid-sized concepts like needing to unlearn and relearn, outwitting obstacles, exciting (students), and (leveraging on) emotions are key to teachers unboxing themselves.

I would also like to address two questions teachers asked in the exit form.

The first question was: Since space and time is needed, how do teachers innovate as they need to finish a given syllabus?

The second was: In the context of our education scene where so much time and emphasis is placed on results, where and how do we find time to innovate n let our minds go free?

The questions, while phrased differently, have exactly the same roots. They deal with the issue of time and view the problem of balancing classroom innovation and completing a syllabus or getting good results as a zero-sum game.

The thinking is that something old must give way for something new to move in. I imagine that teachers feel like they are balancing a full glass of acid above their heads and want to know how much is going to be removed before more acid is poured in. Pouring in without taking out is going to burn them.

 
After consulting a few educators at #edsg chat last night, I have concluded that you can play a different zero-sum game or break out of that paradigm altogether.

In lay speak, pour in something that neutralizes the acid or stop playing the acid-balancing game.

1. Zero-sum game 1: Modular curriculum design
In this approach, teachers do not teach every topic over the whole year. They only focus on specific topics that they prepare all materials for: Teaching, learning, practice, assessment, etc. Teachers might work in teams if they have larger cohorts.

The result is that the curriculum race still gets run while teachers get creative with the topic(s) they are assigned and do less (or even no) work for non-assigned topics. Teachers get more time to think of innovative approaches and get to observe and critique their colleagues when they are not teaching.

2. Zero-sum game 2: Integrated or overlapping curriculum design
The main idea of this approach is to identify redundancies or commonalities in subject silos and attempt to teach them at the same time. Volume is both a Math and Science concept, so why teach it twice? There is reading comprehension in complex Math problems and report writing in Science, so why not combine it with Language? The stories and examples in Language can be Math or Science in nature.

An ideal outcome of such an approach is a more holistic and interdisciplinary curriculum. Even if that is not the goal of curricular redesign, more porous silos create better communication and understanding between teachers of different content areas. If such conversations go beyond “What do you teach?” to “How to you teach it?” teachers might discover new ways of doing old things.

3. Play a new game
Compared to changing high-stakes testing, curricular redesign is easy. Exams and tests are not likely to be de-emphasized in our system any time soon even though there is less focus on just getting good grades.

Teachers have to ask themselves which of these they value the most: A) the test of schools, B) the test of life, or C) both.

Most teachers are already in mode A. Progressive teachers and change agents prefer to look beyond the temporary road hump that is the exam and prefer to prepare kids for more important things in life.

A few teachers want both good results and well-adjusted kids. This is a tall order, but not outside their reach. The main strategy is not to hot-house and prepare students for exams hoping that this will teach resilience.

Quite the opposite. Kids should be given opportunities to think creatively and critically first, possibly with the help of curricula that is modular, overlapping, or integrated. It is their capacity to think first instead of regurgitating content that will help them operate outside subject silos and to transfer knowledge and skills from one domain to another.

I expected that STonline would lead with a headline like Video games linked to aggressive behaviour in kids says Singapore study.

But I found it interesting that when tweeted it read:

An editor might argue that there is only so much space for a headline. But the tweet was so much more informative.

The non-paywall and longer article is at Reuters and it is titled Violent video games may be tied to aggressive thoughts.

STonline cites the findings as aggressive behaviour while Reuters choose aggressive thoughts. STonline leaves much of the critique of the study out while Reuters leaves more of it intact.

So why the difference? If you do not read widely or critically, what conclusions are you likely to draw?


Video source

This is a video take on an almost three-year-old article on the same topic.

It is a good thing this video exists because the original graphic in the article does not.

Try asking anyone who plays the numbers game to watch this video. Observe how they attempt to counter how the numbers should lead to the conclusion that prisons are better than schools. Then tell them why they cannot just rely on numbers.

 
I read this CNET article on a game for social emotional learning (SEL).

It sounds like an interesting development. And I get it. I also think that these forms of learning (along with higher order thinking) are more important aspects of game-based learning than just content.

But I wonder, aren’t good games that are not designed specifically for SEL already social and emotional events?


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