Sunday, February 28, 2016

Learning Reflections of Games & Learning Part 1



Understanding of games and learning

My understanding of games and game-based learning (GBL) this semester has been transformed by the myriad of ways in which I have been engaged in course work in INTE 5320 at University of Colorado Denver. Participation in this course so far has only taken shape over 6 weeks. It’s really been a blur, and I feel as though I am being assimilated into a culture of both playful and academic cohorts without really being totally cognizant. It just sort of happens in Remi’s courses by implementation of profound ecological pedagogy. Which finally comes crashing into a sense of awareness when reflecting upon the course.

Through the course readings I have learnt what it means to be a player of games and why games and learning are important for the development of 21st century skills and knowledge. As a class, we’ve dissected portions of seminal games and learning works such as:

“Situated Language and Learning: A critique of traditional schooling. James Paul Gee (Ch 1, Ch5) (2004).

“Toward an Ecology of Gaming." The Ecology of Games: Connecting Youth, Games, and Learning. Salen, Katie. (Ch1) (2008)

“Games, gods and grades” Fred Goodman (2007)

“Nurturing Affinity Spaces and Game-Based Learning” James Paul Gee & Elisabeth Hayes. (2011)

“Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education for the 21st Century.” Henry Jenkins with Katie Clinton Ravi Purushotma Alice J. Robison Margaret Weigel. (2006)

“In-Game, In-Room, In-World: Reconnecting Video Game Play to the Rest of Kids’ Lives." Stevens, Reed, Tom Satwicz, and Laurie McCarthy. (2008).

'Gamification Is Bullshit' Ian Bogost (2011).

“Reality is Alright: A review of Jane McGonigal's book Reality is Broken.” Ian Bogost (2011).

“Gamestar Mechanic: Reflections on the Design & Research of a Game About Game Design.” Ivan Alex Games (2008).

“A User-Centered Theoretical Framework for Meaningful Gamification.” Scott Nicholson (2012).

“Gaming Fluencies: Pathways into Participatory Culture in a Community Design Studio.”

Kylie A. Peppler, Yasmin B. Kafal. (2010).

The shear amount of reading and comprehension of the listed sources in a six week time span is an incredible undertaking. I can say that it would be hard to commit to this, among the many other tasks, of a graduate student without some sort of facilitation, motivation, or driving factor. Which is exactly what was implemented this semester in the course by the use of Hypothes.is. Hypothes.is is an add-on to Google Chrome that allows users to sign into an account to annotate a live document. Students in the course were not simply engaged with the texts on their own. The negotiation of meaning of the readings was created by the class as a whole, and a few other influential outsiders.





The course texts and Hypothes.is are “open,” meaning anyone interested can join the conversation or choose to be a part of the discourse. What this means is anyone can highlight an area of text, write something about it, and tag the comment with the course label “ilt5320” and the comments with the quoted text would populate the discussion list for the reading selection in the course. This drives the discussion forward in a way I’ve never experienced before and in a way that was motivating to engage with a text. It’s easy to get turned off to a text if the meaning is beyond the ability of oneself to grasp. Or if the text is frustrating to engage with because the material is out of date or just hard to believe. The ability to express what one is learning, or not, by use of Hypothes.is, with negotiated meaning through dialogue, promotes deep level understanding of critical concepts. Perhaps otherwise, this level of understanding would not have been achieved by use of LMS discussion or solitary engagement with texts.

By studying the mentioned works of Gee, we learned how schools and games are different. And how games can often times promote learning of 21st century skills, many times not afforded in typical schooling. The ability to make choices, take risks, experiment, and receive feedback on time and task are all possible play experiences in games. Playing and learning become one in the same. We learned that games can provide opportunities for deep learning by facilitating play by game design, modding, and robust nurturing communities. Often times transcending the game itself and inspiring affinity spaces which have the potential to inspire learning and growth. Salen’s concept of “gaming ecology” reminds us how learning with games extends beyond playing the game itself. Games are systems which people participate as players, developers, designers, and learners. From “Confronting Challenges of Participatory Cultures,” we learned about “young learners” as media creators and members of participatory cultures. Yet there may still be issues with equity and accessibility that are concerning. “In Game, In Room, In World,” captured the “multiplicity” of settings and how games and learning is situated by social context.

Ian Bogost shattered our notion of games as being “benign” learning tools with “Gamification Is Bullshit.” We learned how game mechanics or parts of games can be extracted to exploit players. And there is a difference between a game and “gamification.” Yet, when gamification is applied with a user-centered focus, when the user is put first instead of the organization, we learned that gamification can be beneficial for learners (Nicholson 2012). We also learned about games design and how learning is situated for players as game designers with the “Gamestar Mechanic.” Through game design and play, skills transfer to promote learning of 21st century skills and contribute to Discourse, and language about new literacies (Gee 2004). “Gaming Fluencies,” sought to make the distinction about game design as a new approach to pedagogy, or “Constructionism,” through the use of a game tool Scratch. Gaming literacy and the production of games involves some level of multi-faceted media competencies. With Scratch, “fluency” is explored by making fluid transitions to different forms of media for games.

This is just a brief summarization of what was learned through study of the course readings. A great more, deep, and evocative discussions happened within Hypothes.is. I encourage readers to explore the linked texts and Hypothis.is with the “ilt5320” tag to see how learning was shaped in this manner. See course readings.

Exploding Kittens (shared play session)

Playing games to learn about GBL

Learning by playing games with shared play sessions promoted learning by doing. A sense of cognition developed while games were played to understand game mechanics or different ways in which games are understood. We discussed as a class social context, game mechanics, and what players could learn by participating in the games. Some of the play session discussions were held in Canvas, while others, blog posts were generated. Both types of reflective play session practices resulted in better understanding of the games we studied. The practice also contributes to a more holistic approach to GBL, rather than simply theorizing or reading about games, we played them too. You can learn more about some of my experiences in the play journal entries I created thus far.

A Life of Play, A Personal Introduction to Games Based Learning

Crafting Accessibility and Affinity Spaces, What I Learned by Playing Hearthstone

Preconceptions about games

One of the preconceptions I had about games and learning was the primary focus of GBL was about games for children. Although a significant amount of course texts have revealed a focus on “young people” my own research and scholarship has lead me to find that most adults are video game players. Thus, adults may greatly benefit from GBL. Yet, research and information about adult game based learning is not as readily available or talked about. I’ve found a similar K-12 focus in Twitter chats as well, such as #games4ed or #GBL. It seems “Minecraft” is on the tip of everyone’s tongue (or fingertips) but seldom do we talk about what games are used for adult learning. This “hole” in the discussion about GBL lead me to seek out more information about GBL and adults. I found three great resources for research about how adults are navigating games and learning:

“Game-Based Learning and Nontraditional Students – A Report By The Muzzy Lane Team.” January 19, 2016.

“2015 Essential Facts About The Computer and Video Game Industry.” Entertainment Software Association. (2015)

“Level up learning: A national survey on teaching with digital games.” New York: The Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop. Takeuchi, L. M., & Vaala, S. (2014).

Level up learning profiles

According to the ESA I learned that the average game player is 35 years old. Only 26% of game players are under 18. The “level up learning” survey indicated that 82% of the teachers surveyed play games and 74% use games for instruction in K-8 classrooms. The Muzzy Lane report indicated mobile needs for adult learners (nontraditional students) to access at the right time and place along with five potential directions for GBL. Although, I barely scratched the surface of this research, we can see how adults are very much situated to be participants in game-based learning. In the coming years it will be interesting to see how instructional modules and curriculums will be implemented for adults based on some of these findings should academia choose to heed the call indicated in these reports. You can read more in depth critiques incorporating the research in some of my blog posts:

What Does Game-Based Learning Mean for Many Adult Learners?

Who Are Modern Learners and Why is Mobile GBL Important?

Teachers Need To Level Up Too

Learning networks with peers and "others"

As mentioned previously, there is a great deal of discussion about meaning of course texts through the use of Hypothes.is. Students in the course have also been engaged in social media platforms as well as Canvas (LMS) discussions. Conversations have the possibility to transfer from place to place, however the use of Twitter and Hypothes.is seems to be the primary means of course discussion. Occasionally, people outside of those enrolled in the course, have also participated in discussions about course topics. Such as those on the course blog, or the Hypothes.is developers, or those others engaged in Twitter chats. My personal choice of engagement is usually by use of Twitter as it’s very easy to connect professionals, teachers, academics, authors, developers, etc. to the course topic at hand. The ability to reach out in a simple and rather informal way by use of Twitter, especially during Twitter chats about #GBL or the course tag #ilt5320, usually yields positive results.


Why are games so useful as learning tools?

Games are useful as learning devices because they have the ability to provide learning experiences that promote skills and knowledge that otherwise may not be achieved through typical education. What Gee refers to as big “G” games or “Games+,” games that offer opportunities to mod, design, or become members of participatory cultures usually lend themselves to the exploration and demonstration of 21st skills and knowledge. (Gee 2004) Games offer mechanics that serve players by providing feedback and assessment while performing certain tasks. They allow players to make choices and take risks that may not have any real consequences, i.e. a failing grade for the course. They shape identities and create roles for players to enact. Social learning is common, accepted, and typical for gaming environments. All of these things are rarely typical for people to experience while attending a lecture, or doing homework, or sitting in a classroom quietly writing. Not to suggest that all learning should be done in a game or about games, but implementation of the right kinds of gaming experiences combined with other curricular activities create opportunities for growth and learning that may not otherwise be achieved.

What am I curious to learn about gbl?

As I continue to move forward through the semester in the games & learning course, I’m looking forward to learn how, and under what circumstances, instructors for higher ed courses integrated game-based learning. From the Muzzy Lane study, I learned that non-traditional students pursue online classes and make education fit in time chunks that work for them. They may have a career, family, and other life circumstances that prevent them from being engaged for long periods of time during typical daytime hours. Mobile is also important for these types of learners. I also learned that most gamers are adults averaging 35 years old according to the 2015 survey by ESA. Assuming most adults play games, and have access to online courses via computers or mobile devices, there are some clear opportunities to implement game-based curriculums for adults. I wish to continue looking for ways in which some programs have made this possible, which will be the focus of my continued scholarship in GBL.

References:
“Situated Language and Learning: A critique of traditional schooling. James Paul Gee (Ch 1Ch5) (2004).
“Toward an Ecology of Gaming." The Ecology of Games: Connecting Youth, Games, and Learning. Salen, Katie. (Ch1) (2008)
“Games, gods and grades” Fred Goodman (2007)
“Nurturing Affinity Spaces and Game-Based Learning” James Paul Gee & Elisabeth Hayes. (2011)
“Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education for the 21st Century.” Henry Jenkins with Katie Clinton Ravi Purushotma Alice J. Robison Margaret Weigel. (2006)
“In-Game, In-Room, In-World: Reconnecting Video Game Play to the Rest of Kids’ Lives." Stevens, Reed, Tom Satwicz, and Laurie McCarthy. (2008).
'Gamification Is Bullshit' Ian Bogost (2011).
“Reality is Alright: A review of Jane McGonigal's book Reality is Broken.” Ian Bogost (2011).
“Gamestar Mechanic: Reflections on the Design & Research of a Game About Game Design.” Ivan Alex Games (2008).
“A User-Centered Theoretical Framework for Meaningful Gamification.” Scott Nicholson (2012).
“Gaming Fluencies: Pathways into Participatory Culture in a Community Design Studio.” Kylie A. Peppler, Yasmin B. Kafal. (2010).
“Game-Based Learning and Nontraditional Students – A Report By The Muzzy Lane Team.” January 19, 2016.
“2015 Essential Facts About The Computer and Video Game Industry.” Entertainment Software Association. (2015)
“Level up learning: A national survey on teaching with digital games.” New York: The Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop. Takeuchi, L. M., & Vaala, S. (2014).