Community Engaged Learning – Stackoverflow Version

We have two faculty learning communities exploring how technology and the Internet might change how community engaged learning can work. I’ve attended a few meetings and one of the key things I take away from the conversations is that I have a slightly different view of community. It did get me thinking about giving back to the community that’s been helping out so much as I’ve tried to tackle more technical challenges. I’ve learned many things from Stackoverflow so I thought I’d make some effort to contribute some answers. I’ve attempted to comment on things there before but you need 100 reputation points before you can do that. So I needed to actually answer things. Given I’ve been writing on the Internet for a large number of years you’d think I’d have more confidence but the structure of Stackoverflow (and the whole Stack Exchange community) is a bit different. I’m used to just posting what I think or what I managed to get to work. It doesn’t feel quite the same as “this is the answer.” There’s also some angry nerd stuff that goes on at times that I’m not a big fan of. As I’ve gone a little deeper the experience has been pretty positive. While I’ve answered some questions in Stackoverflow, I’ve ended up participating more in a […]


Reality is Broken (is broken)

I’m reading Reality is Broken by Jane McGonigal as part of a VSTE book study. I do not like it. I find myself vacillating between anger and nausea (despite liking isolated elements). I started to break down this book point by point but found it tedious and repetitive to do so. Essentially, the author’s point is that reality is broken because it isn’t like games- which by the way are super awesome (always). There are huge, vast, amazingly arrogant assumptions made about games and their applicability to all people in all contexts but that’s par for the course for this type of book. The statement that I couldn’t pass on was – reality is too easy – location 400 Really? Maybe McGonigal is observing other people. Most people I know seem to have their hands full with reality. There’s an entire blog dedicated to people who publicly document that they can’t tell the difference between an Onion satire and reality.1 Even if we assume that reality is too easy for our populace2, the author spends most of the book arguing against the very things that make reality hard. The exact nature of this “satisfying work” is different from person to person, but for everyone it means being immersed in clearly defined, demanding activities that allow us to see the direct […]


Education Innovation in NYC

I made a 24 hour visit to NYC to check out two of the schools in their iZone project. It’s worth reading a little more about the concept at their site. New York City has designed the iZone to free schools from the compliance-oriented culture that has inhibited real innovation in our nation’s schools. Schools within the iZone are provided the resources and support to pioneer new models that transform what schools look like, personalizing instruction to the needs of each individual student, and dramatically improving student achievement. . The following comments are based on about two hours at each school during which we toured a few classrooms and got a variety of people related to the school telling us various things. Add my own biases and other personality issues and you’ve got a fairly superficial view of things but it’s probably more than you had before. I freely admit that this is surface level and probably more reflective of my own opinions than any sort of objective reality. School of One The School of One To organize this type of learning, each student receives a unique daily schedule based on his or her academic strengths and needs. As a result, students within the same school or even the same classroom can receive profoundly different instruction as each student’s schedule […]


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 […] 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 […]


Study of gamers at IU School of Education

Media advisory: Study of gamers at IU School of Education: IU News Room: Indiana University The reason for the research, Appelman said, is that the learning style has changed for today’s students, but the content delivery has not adapted. In the standard method of teaching, teachers deliver content and expect memorization, reading, and other work to translate the learning into performing a task. “Students today are absolutely bored with that approach,” Appelman said. “What they want to do is to dive in immediately and say, ‘Give me a task that I can learn from.’” The primary learning method gamers employ, he said, is trial and error. “This generation has no problem with failure. They ‘die’ hundreds of times a day, but they learn from that.” Wouldn’t work for everything but it’s definitely worth thinking about. It’ll be interesting to see how it turns out.


iQuiz and iQuiz Maker (Updated)

iTunes has released a new game for iPods called iQuiz (available through the iTunes store). Aspyr is now offering a new free quiz maker for Macs (PC to come). Could be an interesting review tool. You could have students produce questions and answers and create a review quiz from the best submissions. via TUAW UPDATE: Aspyr has now made iQuiz Maker available for PCs. (Thanks, Mike)


Ian Bogost on Persuasive Games

Ian Bogost was on The Colbert Report last night. Bogost has a new book, Persuasive Games: The Expressive Power of Videogames, about rethinking the value of video games. From the book description: Videogames are both an expressive medium and a persuasive medium; they represent how real and imagined systems work, and they invite players to interact with those systems and form judgments about them. He mentioned a series of persuasive games he had produced to illustrate his theory, and as he described one of the games, I suddenly recognized it. Dissaffected, a game that places your on the service side of a Kinkos, must have popped on my radar last year. I played it for awhile, then became frustrated with the way I was being treated by the customers and never went back to it. I never realized the significance of my reaction. It is an interesting simulation of the service industry. Bogost has added a number of games to his catalogue, and I recommend exploring the games with your classrooms in mind. This could be a wonderful way to stimulate conversation and reflection. Ian Bogost’s Blog