Archive for category video games

Ingress

Resistance is never futile.

Resistance is never futile.

There is a new game in town, and it’s called Ingress.

It’s an Augmented Reality Game (ARG) and it’s only available for Android – you get it from the Google Play store. But before you can play, you have to request an invite.

Once you have an invite, it is very important that you join the RESISTANCE team. Because that is the team I am on. And it is the best team. (You might think that I would go with the Enlightened, but oh no…I’ve seen the Terminator series. I know about Skynet.)

Click here for more information about factions in the game.

If you want to get an invite faster, you can join the Google+ community for Ingress and submit an artwork or other offering. Because the game is made by Google, this strategy actually does get your invite to come faster! Here is one of the art offerings I made to get my invite – a digital collage made using Polyvore:

Ingress invitation to play

Ingress invitation to play

After playing this game for a few months I am now up to level 6 and fairly active in protecting the portals in my university precinct.  It’s been a great game for learning about where historic landmarks and public art is in Brisbane, as well as for getting a lot of exercise walking around the city to find portals!

Review of Ingress: November 2012, Android Police

If anyone in Brisbane starts playing, let me know!

Ditto friends in Sydney – we can go for an Ingress run next time I’m down south :)

BUT ONLY IF YOU JOIN THE RESISTANCE!

 

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RSA Animate ‘Drive': Purpose, mastery, self-direction

I just came across this excellent 10 minute clip from the RSA Animate series. It was put up in 2010 and has had over 9.6 million views on YouTube, so some of you may have seen it the first time around. The clip is called Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us, and is an animation of a talk by Dan Pink.

I’ll be adding this clip to my English Curriculum Studies reading list next semester – a way to link with my students’ other studies in ed. psych.

I’ll also be making a bigger effort to bring in those concepts – mastery, purpose and self-direction – to explain the pedagogical strategies involved in project-based, play-based, inquiry-based and challenge-based learning. I’d be grateful for any insights about this that you folks care to drop as a comment here!

Enjoy the clip!

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Mastery, risk-taking and play

This post is a culmination of a week or so of talking about play-based education.  If that’s its official term for it?  I don’t know.  I must declare my rookie status in this field, which means you should feel really free to jump into the comment s section below and school me on what I’ve missed!

Thanks to @malynmawby, @vormamim, @biancah80,  and @benpaddlejones for their ideas via twitter and email. You can read more about @malynmawby ‘s experiences with play-based learning here, here and here.

Play-based Learning: Another PBL?

My current interest in project-based learning has also put me in contact with the terms challenge-based learning and problem-based learning.

Despite these terms being used fairly liberally (along with inquiry-based learning), I don’t seem to often come across material that explores the differences or similarities between these terms.  I mean, I’m sure we could all take guesses about it, based on what we know about the words chosen; what is a project? what is a challenge? a problem? an inquiry?

Well, while you’re pondering it all, here is some more information to add to the learning theory soup.

States of Play

An overview of the elements of play presented by the National Institute for Play (based in California) outlines seven “patterns of play”:

  1. attunement play
  2. body play and movement
  3. object play
  4. social play (including ‘rough and tumble’ play and ‘celabratory’ play)
  5. imaginative and pretend play
  6. storytelling-narrative play
  7. transformative-integrative and creative play

And here is a really excellent TED Talk by Stewart Brown, who argues the physiological importance of play:

After listening to Stewart’s TED talk, the idea that I keep coming back to is this:

If the purpose is more important than the act of doing it, it’s probably not play. (Stewart Brown, TED Talk 2008, at ~6 mins)

Which begs the question: by trying to pin down a definition of ‘play-based learning’ to use in my curriculum theorising, am I contributing to WRECKING IT?

Play in the curriculum

In my quest for answers I came across some interesting material relating to motivation and mastery.

This puts me back into territory that is a little bit psych-y, and I know such approaches don’t always sit well with post-structuralist curriculum types like myself. But I resist that ;)

Writer and researcher Katherine Cushman lead a Practice Project for the non-profit group ‘What Kids Can Do’ (http://firesinthemind.org/about/) asking the question ‘what do kids already know about and do well?’.

When adults openly explore our genuine questions about getting to mastery—and include young people’s knowledge and experiences in that exploration—we model the expert’s habit of taking intellectual and creative risks. We demonstrate that we, too, always have things we need to understand better, and things we need to practice. We teach kids to approach any lack of understanding as a puzzle: stretching the limits of their competence, continually testing new possibilities and seeing how they work out. As they expand their knowledge and skills, young people, like us, will discover even more challenging puzzles they want to tackle—not just outside school, but as part of it. (K. Cushman, Fires in the Mind p.10)

In light of this, play strikes me as a form of ‘intellectual and creative risk taking’, essential to building the habits of mind and the resilience needed to seek out and tackle new puzzles.

Who is playing?

Concepts about transformative play have been utilised by the Quest Atlantis project, and a lot of my Tweeps are currently going bananas for Minecraft. These are rich sites and communities tapping into discourses about educational play.

However, I rarely hear any critical views about play or games, and I guess that’s what makes me itch to interrogate this field.

The reflexive dilemma

Listening to a talk by Julian Sefton-Green during his recent visit to QUT, I was conscious of the points he made about the field of ‘out of school learning’, which often involves elements of play.

His research has found distinctions between school and out-of-school learning tended to set up binaries that actually maintained the boundaries around ‘official’ curriculum, and other project and play based activities happening outside of schools (the binary of formal and non-formal learning, for example). His review of the literature showed how debate about not-school environments in the UK is often bound up with techno-utopianism and generalisations about the public school system.

In relation to this, he poses the ‘reflexive dilemma’ that we face in thinking about all of this. That is, the more we reflect on learning experiences, the more we formalise them. In our quest to ‘optimise’ all learning experiences, the learning is more carefully arranged and disciplined.

Which brings me right back to that TED talk – by naming ‘play based learning’ and trying to give play an official role in curriculum, do we run the risk of ruining play? Will the act of ‘doing play’ become just another ‘strategy’ for learning?

In short, how can we develop play as a habit of the mind without over thinking it and taking the fun out of the act of play? And, will defining the difference between all of the different PBLs etc help us in this endeavor, or just get in the way by drawing boundaries that don’t need to be there?

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Gamification and Behaviourism

I dig gamification. I also dig Games Based Learning (GBL).

But sometimes when I’m watching these concepts get promoted, big alarms go off in my head.

Take a look at this list of some key elements of gamification:

  • Points
  • Badges
  • Levels
  • Challenges
  • Leaderboards
  • Rewards
  • Onboarding

Doesn’t this remind you of anything?  Add that together with our enthusiastic embrace of digital and electronic teaching, and the ‘games & machines’ motif becomes really familiar.  I’m thinking Skinner, and Behaviourism, and Pavlov’s dog…which means that we need to think about the ethics of gamification, stat.

 

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Building the game layer

Thanks Andrew Jessup for showing me the work of Seth Priebatsch, who as it turns out has a lot of material covering the exact topic that has been bugging me.

How do I integrate Games Based Learning, or GBL, into my pedagogy without disrupting or contradicting my current approach to learning and teaching?

I think the idea of ‘the game layer’ is the answer.  I think it’s also a great concept for me to use in thinking further about the role of motivation and learning theory in explaining the success of teachers who ‘gamify’ their teaching.

Seth is the Cheif Ninja at SCVNGR and the use of the popular game meme here did make me chuckle.  Playful right down to the business card eh?  I like it!  Especially as I’ve been characterising myself in class as the ‘Cheif Pirate’.  I wonder who that is in Seth’s camp, and what they do?

I highly recommend a watch.  He has quite a few talks online now but this TED talk (above) gave a great overview of four key elements that build a successful game.

Watch the video and your reward will be to find out what they are ;)

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The shape of the Arts curriculum

For those who have yet to check it out, the draft shape paper for the Australian Curriculum for the Arts is now available on the ACARA website.

Given that up here in Queensland the school subject ‘Media Arts’ is separate to the subject ‘English’, I thought it would be an interesting exercise to intervene in the text and see if I couldn’t just find the crossover between the two subjects.

It wasn’t hard.

2.3.3 Defining Media Arts

Media ArtsEnglish is the creative use of communications technologies to tell stories and explore concepts for diverse purposes and audiences. MediaLanguage artists represent personal, social and cultural realities using platforms such as prose fiction, poetry, dramatic performances, television, film, video, newspapers, magazines, radio,video games, the worldwide web and mobile media. Produced and received in diverse contexts, these communication forms are important sources of information, entertainment, persuasion and education and are significant cultural industries in Australian society. Digital technologies have expanded the role that mediatexts play in every Australian’s family, leisure, social, educational and working lives. Media ArtsEnglish explores the diverse artistic, creative, social and institutional factors that shape communication and contribute to the formation of identities. Through Media ArtsEnglish, individuals and groups participate in, experiment with and interpret the rich culture and communications practices that surround them.

As I spend more time in Queensland I find myself having to wrestle with my identity as an English teacher because of this overlap with Media Arts.  It’s not that media texts don’t still feature in the English curriculum – they do.  But the culture here is that, while student might study visual language and analyse some/increasingly visual/multimodal texts in English, it’s Media Arts you have to go to if you want to make anything serious.

On one hand, it’s like Media Arts teachers get to do a lot of the fun stuff, which kind of sucks if you’re an English teacher from New South Wales!

But on the other hand, I have to admit, compared the rigour in the Media Arts curriculum up here…well, I have to admit that as an English teacher I always seemed to run out of time to ‘do the fun stuff’ anyway (do you know how LONG it takes for students to rehearse and record their own 10 minute version of Act I of Romeo and Juliet? Fricken ages!)  And it would be nice, for just a short while, not to have to feel like I am dragging my English colleagues kicking and screaming toward increased multimodal study…now if I need to find a like minded media teacher, I can just go and, well, find one.

Leaving aside the ‘are knowledge silos good or bad’ debate, what thoughts do people have about the picture I’m painting here?  NSW people, if you came up to the sunshine state would you want to specialise in English, or Media Arts?

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Video Games and Storytelling

Came across this excellent animated lecture by Daniel Floyd on Jawbone.tv.  Perfect for an introduction to narrative in videogames for my Year 9 class.  I think I’ll make a listening task for it – will post it up if I do.

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