Ethical Choices and Transgression in Games

Tom has been gracious enough to let me back in the door to blog my experience at the Gaming + Learning + Society conference this week. Ethical Choices and Trangression in Games MicroPresentations by Manveer Heir, Anthony Betrus, Monica Evans, David Simkins, and Erin Hoffman This rapid-fire session felt like TED on speed.  Each presenter had 7 minutes to present, then the floor was opened for discussion.  There were a couple clear themes that resonated with me. First, Manveer Heir was the only presenter to focus on gaming from a non-MMOG.  Heir pointed out that most modern games follow a black and white model of ethics–the kind of ethic you see in Star Wars, for instance.  In this framework, the choices of the players are very limited and do not accurately reflect the world around us.  He is advocating for a more “grey” ethic where the choices available to the player are vast and, at times irreversible.  In this grey ethic, the player would experience a larger pallet of emotions.  For instance, if you, as the player, are faced with a scenario where killing a closely aligned character would save a mass of people, and you knew you could not simply save and return if you didn’t like the results, you are going to spend some time determining the reletive […]

Playpower.org: Designing 8-bit Learning Games for a $10 computer

Tom has been gracious enough to let me back in the door to blog my experience at the Gaming + Learning + Society conference this week. Designing 8-bit Learning Games for a $10 Computer Presented by Derek Lomas Derek Lomas wants you to join his open-source educational software revolution.  Lomas, along with two other partners, founded Playpower when they realized educators was lacking a rich, open-source developer community.  He has fond memories of games like Lemonade Stand, Oregon Trail, and Math Munchers (and points out that some teachers are still using these game in their classrooms).  These games were simple, effective, and totally engaging.  Playpower would like to bring back the experience of trekking across the planes or building a neighborhood empire out of squeezed fruit.  “Teens love these indie games.  They get it.  And not simply because they are ‘retro’.”  It seems the field is ripe for educators to turn back to development:  An audience that loves the style;  A platform with restraints (limited graphics, RAM, etc.) that actually benefit the home developer.  The only piece missing is a central place where geeky teachers can go to solicit help, learn the language, and share their goods.  Playpower wants to develop that place. Lomas’ first project is to pull together/create a set of tools for a “$10 computer“.  That computer, […]

Educational Gaming Must Move Beyond Parlor Tricks

Tom has been gracious enough to let me back in the door to blog my experience at the Gaming + Learning + Society conference this week. Have you played Passage yet?  If you have 5 minutes, it is worth downloading and playing it through once.  It will give a little context to this reflection and you will avoid all spoilers below. Passage caused a flurry of chatter a year an a half ago.  Jason Rohrer, the creator, wanted to make a simple game that simulated the span of life and illustrated how the choices we make effect that timeline.  In the game, there is no real goal.  Sure, you are collecting points for various activities and choices (trying not to spoil the experience for those of you who have not played it yet), but, in the end, the point of the game is the experience itself.  Not the score.  It has been hailed as the first video game to bring the player to tears.  The power of the play is multiplied when you look at the simple, classic design of the game. After playing through Passage a couple more times, I began to realize that this brilliant game was the direction gaming in education needs to move.  We need to move away from the perception that educational games teach the […]

So Long and Thanks for all the Fish

[cue Tom Petty’s “Time to Move On”] For those who haven’t already counted me out, now’s the moment you’ve been putting off for months.  I’ve enjoyed my erratic posting on Bionic Teaching over the past couple years.  Tom, thanks for letting me ride along with you for awhile.  I’m continuing my professional development work at Varina High, but I’ve decided to dedicate my personal time to other explorations and exploits.  You can find me at my newly renovated home, Cynical Idealists.  Expect nothing less than what I’ve always provided:  Everything from the heart, and nothing on a timeline. -Jim

So, you’d like your own blog…

I was recently asked by a colleague about how I help my teachers decide what (if any) type of blog is for them.  Below is my process.  It may be helpful. You may react to it with hives and distain. Either way, take the following with a Tylenol and a grain of salt: I usually start my conversation with the teacher by asking what they want to accomplish with the blog. How do they want to use it as a tool in their classroom. This gives some immediate insight into the format they will need. Then, I give them my brief tour of how a blog can be used: An information center (like Blackboard or another content management system) A teacher-centered blog (where the teacher guides the conversation and students respond in the comments) A student-centered blog (where the students guide the conversation and respond) A collaborative project (where students build the content together) Once I determine the format, I begin to ask questions that help me figure out how the blog needs to be modified (usually with plugins): Will it be used for discussion? How do you plan to manage the discussion? How many classes will be accessing the blog? Some points I make to the teacher to help them make the decision: Teacher-centered blog: You can intentionally guide […]

Creating a Safe Space: Hacking WP

60% of my teachers have been in our county for less than 3 years (and, most of these newcomers, have never worked with a 1 to 1 initiative). More than 40% of my teachers have put less than 3 years into this vocation. With this in mind, I have created a space, online, for teachers to discuss instruction, vocation, and solutions for our school. I hope it will be a community building experience that gives teachers as much time as they can to the process without having to commit to meetings. Following the lead of Alan Levine with Tom’s guidance, I started by sketching out my vision. I wanted a place that was password protected and required unique usernames for participation. This site would be a  safe place where teachers could speak their minds in a professional manner. At the same time, I wanted to foster open communication, so anonymous responses would not be an option. I didn’t want a traditional blog format. The U/I needed to be as intuitive as possible, and I wanted meta-data to be presented in a way that encourage conversation. I sketched up two different layouts and solicited some feedback from my faculty.    The overwhelming response was for the second layout. After sifting through themes that mirrored my sketch, I decided on Blue Earth. […]

Teachers, can you spare a dime?

Let’s all get behind this worthy charity that will clearly benefit all educators… Happy Friday, Y’all! via Neatorama

Rome Built in a Day (Serious Fun)

The Machine Project, a gallery in LA, hosted the “24 Hour Roman Reconstruction Project” last month. The group had a ton of cardboard and “building supplies”, did some research to figure out the layout of the city and pulled together all the images they could for modeling the buildings, put together a building schedule, and went to town. The results are inspiring. Imagine your class reconstructing a great city of civilization past, a series of chemical compounds, or some other seemingly insurmountable task that requires little skill, a good chunk of knowledge, and a great amount of energy and enthusiasm. BoingBoingTV Video Project Description monkyatomc’s flickr set (photo credit) selfconstruct’s flickr set

African-American photos from 1900-1975

Over at Square America, Nicholas Osborn has posted 150 portraits and photos featuring African Americans. An absolutely beautiful collection. Link via BoingBoing