Another dot in the blogosphere?

Posts Tagged ‘game

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?

Like it or not, what we use or believe in divides us into tribes. Often these same tribes pit themselves one against the other.

Consider the iOS vs Android camps, qualitative vs quantitative researchers, or any A vs B political parties.

Like it or not, stereotypes of each tribe are based on some truth. Like how folks who play only the numbers game see what they do as a popularity contest.

At last month’s department meeting, I used a recent annual report we wrote to illustrate the importance of a narrative over simple numbers.

I am going to use the another example at our next meeting to reinforce that point.

Consider the Twitter followers that entity X has (currently at 11,045) and what I have (currently curated at 743). By that measure alone, X is more successful than I am. If you consider how I have been on Twitter longer, then I must be failing badly to win followers.

But here are the missing narratives. X has used prizes and gimmicks to get the followers. I cull my list of followers and prevent up to 1,500 from following me every month (why I do this [1] [2] [video]).

Let us return to the numbers game.

If you use a tool like StatusPeople Faker Scores, the analysis of X’s followers looks like this.
faker1

Mine looks like this.
faker2

To continue with the narrative, I could ask if

  • quantity is preferred over quality
  • dissemination trumps conversation
  • old mindsets can pair with new tools

I know where I stand.

If you play only the numbers game, someone who can play that game better than you will beat you. Or someone will uncover unflattering numbers.

If you focus on a fuzzy prize like the hard-to-measure quality, the quantity will come.

If you focus on listening and networking, then your power is no longer based on position but on reputation instead.

If you put new wine on old wineskins, the latter will burst.

If that last reference is too old school to understand, then ask yourself if you can stuff an HD movie into a diskette. You cannot do this not just because of the file size but also the fact that it will be tough to find diskettes and disk drives.

The sad thing is that while diskettes are rare, dinosaurs are not. Not the bird dinosaurs but the human ones. The same ones who will bite with their number games.

Bite back!

It is Friday and time for something light.


Video source

Safwat Saleem created this wonderful animation that explores the origins and evolution of video games we know today.

Video games may have started in Science labs and military bases, but they have exploded almost everywhere else today. Everywhere except many classrooms.

But I expect that to change soon. I do not just hope that will change. I have taken action. I show teachers how you can use off-the-shelf games to teach just about anything.

It is not the game that determines or limits what is taught or learnt. It is the designer of the activity that does this.


http://edublogawards.com/files/2012/11/finalistlifetime-1lds82x.png
http://edublogawards.com/2010awards/best-elearning-corporate-education-edublog-2010/

Click to see all the nominees!

QR code


Get a mobile QR code app to figure out what this means!

Archives

Usage policy

%d bloggers like this: