Learning Beyond Limits – Embrace IT!!

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I remember hearing someone, somewhere, that when we are researching for our assessment tasks then we should only be choosing from educational databases or databases that have to do with our profession.  When I heard this I agreed to a certain extent but there was something that did not sit comfortably after all the reading we have been doing about connected learners, connectivism, the convergence of media, networked knowledge.  Also, being a teacher librarian, perhaps it was because while that is my professional identity, my personal learning  does not restrict me in going beyond the boundaries to open my eyes to new concepts and ideas that could keep me at the cutting edge of my professional learning, knowing and ability to share with others.

For example, in my GBL Chapter, I was able to draw links and make connections between digital literacy and how GBL allows the learner to practise those skills.  To get to this space, I needed to read a little bit from psychology, a little bit from cultural studies, a little bit from media and well, I think it can be seen that this is what learning looks like for everyone. It is “lifelong and lifewide” (O’Connell, 2014, p. 13; Erstad, 2013)  Mimi Ito outlines this fact of learning beyond the formal space of learning in the following YouTube clip.

Retrieved from:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xuV7zcXigAI

While the changes needed to participate in a digitally, networked information ecology are challenging, I am now seeing them as positively challenging.  By this I mean, how lucky we are that we can move beyond our pigeon-holed identities and be recognised as learners.  I am so privileged to be able to ‘connect’ to my learning, even though my hardware breaks and some frustrations do happen as a result, ultimately, I always have an option to connect.  I don’t have to enrol in a Uni degree but I choose to so that I can be accountable for my learning and my knowledge sharing.  I want to add to the conversation from my experience and my learning and whether that be media, psychology, cultural studies, game-based learning, I want to know my learning has meant something.  Is this not giving education the value it deserves in our global context?  This is what formal education settings need to realise that learning happens beyond their formal settings but it is the social space of schools and Uni that refine our learning through the ability to dialogue with others who are pursuing the same commonality of learning.  Hmmm…Dialogic learning in fact!?! (Note to self, go back and read Anna Craft and Rupert Wegerif.)

When we allow students the same permission we allow ourselves to learn in informal spaces as well as formal settings we open up the possibilities.  We are learning beyond limits.  Leander, Phillips and Taylor (2010) use the idea of ‘classroom-as-container’ as a metaphor that limits the potential of learning and research.  I like this metaphor as it is the packaging learning as happening only in the classroom that is one of the biggest challenges I face in my role as teacher librarian, which still remains a very misunderstood role.  In the following clip, John Seely Brown explains the boundaries of learning has moved and compares GBL mentality as the way of learning in all areas of life.

Retrieved from:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bGdpbba1i9c

They are bringing it from the context of the game to the real world.  Wouldn’t it be great if this transference of learning happened across all areas of curriculum.  This is where I think 21st Century libraries and teacher librarians are even more important as we have always moved learning beyond the classroom – we need to connect this fact for our students though by providing relevance and purpose to their learning (without limits!)

Welcome to the 21st Century???We are 15 years into this phenomenon called the 21st Century.  Let’s embrace what it has to offer and instead of limiting our students learning…….let the learning move beyond.  Embrace ITand all the affordances it brings. (How you read this might be a reflection of where you are at, it was a typo but when I reread, there was something crucial in there for me! What about you?)

References:

Erstad, O. (2013). New Literacies and Digital Epistemologies, Volume 52 : Digital Learning Lives : Trajectories, Literacies, and Schooling. New York, NY, USA: Peter Lang AG. Retrieved from http://www.ebrary.com

Leander, K. M., Phillips, N. C., & Taylor, K. H. (2010). The changing social spaces of learning: Mapping new mobilities. Review of Research in Education, 34, 329-394. doi: 10.3102/0091732X09358129

O’Connell, J. (2014). Researcher’s Perspective: Is Teacher Librarianship in Crisis in Digital Environments? An Australian Perspective. School Libraries Worldwide, 20(1), 1-19. doi: 10.14265.20.1.002


Critical Reflection – To Game or Not To Game

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As I started INF 541 – Game-Based Learning, I was fairly naive.  The only personal understanding I had of games was that they were something that people do on an iPhone, iPad or a game console.  I had never really played any games on my laptop apart from Solitaire or Chess and really the games I engaged in were time wasters or for entertainment.  I had observed my own children playing Minecraft with their friends whilst on Skype and strategising over how to become the best clan in Clash of Clans and I was curious about the role of games in education.  How do games provide learning?

Professionally, I had an experience a few years ago in implementing Gamestar Mechanic into the library to introduce the students to the idea of game design as another form of text and using their learning in a creative way.  Little did I know that there has been a whole lot of research being done in this area of game-based learning.

That is definitely one of the big learning moments I have had this session in that I realised that research is vital before effective implementation of game-based learning can take place.  It was very frustrating as a primary school teacher librarian though as I soon discovered that there was very little research into game-based learning in the primary school. I noted this from the outset in our Module 1 discussions. My observation is that games are being used in primary schools but I could hardly find the information relevant to my learning context.  This was supported by research I found and used in my first assessment where “Caponetto, Earp & Ott (2013) where they searched for papers that dealt with the actual integration of games into classrooms, of the 753 papers their search discovered and after application of the criteria for their purpose, only 78 papers were returned.”

It also became apparent in my participation on Twitter ( a new experience for me this session) that the use of games in education is a ‘hot topic’ right now.  There is so much being shared through this platform and one learning I have also made is that while I retweeted some of these articles, I really wanted to discuss some of the ideas within them.  Games as advancing education, ways to use Minecraft, how to choose the best games for learning? it was all there on Twitter.  Those that lacked research and those that matched the research we had been accessing within this subject.  This is an area for self-improvement for me to focus on next session as I need to take the initiative to perhaps reflect on these using the affordances of the reflective blog that I have set up.

Another major point of learning for me during this session is that there is more involved in using games than what can be seen on the screen (Gee, 2012).  I was starting to form a definition of what game-based learning is and thankfully the title of my reflective post mentioned that this definition was evolving. I would suggest now that I still agree with this initial definition but I would now include that just as there are different types and genres of books, the same can be said about games.  It is the teachers role to design learning practices after they have actively assessed and evaluated the potential and limitations of the game so that they can know: 1) how the game can assist in the learning; 2) rules/goals, characters, settings, how the game can be differentiated for different levels of play – or the mechanics of the game; 3) what other learning activities need to be incorporated alongside the game? (Routledge, 2009).  So, the game is not a replacement for the teacher and just as any other resource would be utilised in the classroom, so should the game intended for learning be scrutinised and selected according to the learners needs.

My knowledge base has definitely been expanded by undertaking this unit of study and I can definitely see that the adoption of game-based learning needs to be strategic.  The affordances of game-based learning are so much more than being fun, engaging and motivating.  These can be seen in my Compendium chapter.  For me, there is still much more reading to be done and time to synthesise what has been read and shared away from the pressure of deadlines is needed.

References:

Caponetto, I., Earp, J., & Ott, M. (2013). Aspects of the Integration of Games into Educational Processes. International Journal of Knowledge Society Research (IJKSR), 3(4), 11-21. doi:10.4018/ijksr.2013070102

Routledge, H. (2009). Games-based learning in the classroom and how it can work!. In T. Connolly, M. Stansfield, & L. Boyle (Eds.) Games-Based Learning Advancements for Multi-Sensory Human Computer Interfaces: Techniques and Effective Practices (pp. 274-286). Hershey, PA: . doi:10.4018/978-1-60566-360-9.ch016

 


Towards a more socially inclusive classroom using Gee’s viewpoint.

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Hain, J. (2014) Image retrieved from: http://pixabay.com/en/goodness-value-worth-trust-440313/

Hain, J. (2014) Image retrieved from: http://pixabay.com/en/goodness-value-worth-trust-440313/

A saying that we have all heard and possibly used is “I don’t play the game,” “he doesn’t play the game so he won’t go very far,” “she doesn’t play the game very well.”  When I thought about the school I work in, I began thinking about those students who don’t seem to participate or engage in appropriate ways are those who won’t and don’t play the game of school, it’s just too hard.  These students are identified quickly by other students and can often be isolated for their behaviour.  Then there are those students who don’t participate or engage as the game of learning seems too easy.  Learning in a classroom makes demands not only on our academic abilities but also our social and emotional abilities.

Gee (2005) identifies 16 principles that good video games possess:

1. Identity

2.  Interaction

3.  Production

4.  Risk taking

5.  Customisation

6.  Agency

7.  Well-ordered problems

8.  Challenge and consolidation

9.  “Just in Time” and “On demand”

10.  Situated meanings

11.  Pleasantly frustrating

12.  System thinking

13.  Explore, Think Laterally, Rethink goals

14.  Smart Tools and Distributed Knowledge

15.  Cross-functional teams

16.  Performance before competence

If teachers consciously used these 16 principles, would they achieve a more socially inclusive classroom where every student is able to participate and engage in their learning?  Do games then offer a lifeline for teachers struggling to differentiate an overcrowded, content-filled curriculum?

Games can be used to develop a more socially inclusive classroom when teachers can choose games that are open-ended, encourage collaboration and communication.  The idea of a game encouraging students to take ownership of their learning and each other’s learning would definitely encourage social inclusion.  By this I mean, games definitely need interaction but in order to interact with a digital game and other players students need to have an awareness of their rights and responsibilities but also know that others have rights and responsibilities.  Students can be immersed in a game and ‘forget’ there are others there.  In Minecraft, when playing survival mode I have heard students discussing how much fun they had burning down someone’s bridge or house, whilst the person who created these elements can become quite distraught. A sense of ‘agency’, ‘customisation’ and ‘interaction’ then is required.

Games can build a more socially inclusive classroom through creating “cross-functional teams” (Gee, 2005, p.36)  Each student in the classroom has certain skills that they bring into the classroom.  In order for these teams to work, teachers need to be aware of individual student learning styles and skill set.  Who are the students who have great spatial awareness?  Who are the students that have the analytical skills when faced with challenges and problems within games?  Who are the students that possess creativity in design? Who are the students that have the leadership skills to collaborate and negotiate the best decision to make at various points of the game?

In order to succeed in building a socially inclusive classroom though the teacher needs to do some planning and almost a ‘risk assessment’ before putting the students to play.  The teacher needs to have some knowledge of the game and how it could fit into the learning for the students.  Are there any skills that need to be demonstrated to any students?  The learning could be within academic intelligence, social intelligence or emotional intelligence.  There needs to be an awareness on the part of the teacher how a game encourages the social inclusion of all students.  How is the baggage from the face to face playground going to be put aside for the interaction within a serious educational game?  How will any competitiveness be received by all the students? Any learning is affected when relationships within a classroom are less than favourable so planning and knowledge before the game are crucial to developing a more socially inclusive classroom.  It is not meaning the teacher dictate but rather allow students to know that there are still expectations and social responsibilities (etiquette) that need to be recognised even in games.

Another very important aspect that Gee’s principles made me reflect upon is the idea of feeling safe enough to fail so that the student continues to take risks.  The idea of feedback and further instruction being given, “just in time” is so important to creating a socially inclusive classroom because each student is indeed an individual and each student will need the teacher (or another student) to provide the necessary feedback to keep going to reach the required goal.

Perhaps when we as educators look beyond what we see on the screen and begin to see, as Gee (2005) does, some games offer an opportunity towards deeper learning and more inclusive social practices then our schools can really become communities of learning practice.

 

REFERENCES:

Gee, J.P. (2005). Good video games and good learning. Phi Kappa Phi Forum,  85(2), 33-37. http://dmlcentral.net/sites/dmlcentral/files/resource_files/GoodVideoGamesLearning.pdf

 

 


What is Game-Based Learning?

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My (Evolving) Statement About Game-Based Learning 

Game-based learning is more than can be seen on the screen.(Gee, 2012.)  The combination of design and instruction are equally important in a game-based learning environment (Becker, 2011, p.81). It is the active engagement and collaboration of students and teachers (players),  in an online and offline learning environment to play/work towards a goal so that learning is achieved(Becker, 2011, p.82). The learning is encouraged through a serious game with the provision of transparent data, whether by the achievement of experience points or levelling up (Andersen, 2012). Teachers need to understand the complexities of the game to be able to assist and give feedback to those students who need extra scaffolding. Students need to provide feedback to the teacher about their game-based learning experiences (Andersen, 2012).  Most importantly though, it allows students the opportunity to fail in a fun and rewarding way as they persist to achieve their end goal of learning.

It would seem then, game-based learning is one way to work towards building an educational community of practice. The most appropriate tools for game- based learning are chosen according to the context and learning needs of the students. While there are some rules, either implicit or explicit(Becker, 2011, p.81), there is still an element of choice, the ability to create, problem-solve within the game.

REFERENCES:

Andersen, P. (2012). Classroom Game Design TEDxBozeman  Retrieved from:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4qlYGX0H6Ec

Becker, K. (2011). Distinctions between games and learning: A review of current literature on games in education. InGaming and Simulations: Concepts, Methodologies, Tools and Applications (pp. 75-107). Hershey, PA: . doi:10.4018/978-1-60960-195-9.ch105

Gee, J. (2012).  Learning With Video Games.  Retrieved from:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JnEN2Sm4IIQ

 

 

 


Trying to build a Sandcastle – Infowhelm is here!

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Just about to embark on Week 3 of Master of Education (Knowledge Networks and Digital Innovations) and having a momentary reflection about how distracting this digital age can be for learning.  I check Twitter feeds and add interesting articles I find. Then it’s time for Facebook and Flipboard.   I pin to Pinterest.  I explore the CSU Library.  I borrow to Adobe Digital Editions.  I add reflective entries to this blog and I think, there is NO way I would have been doing all of this at the same time 3 weeks ago.

What I am learning for myself?

Thank goodness for purpose to learning.  At least with purpose I am using my inbuilt filter to gauge what I need now?  What I might need later?  I am starting to realise that every information source does not have to be accessed every day.  I am also realising though that it is very easy to become distracted by how much information is really out there.  I am finally understanding what this concept of infowhelm is – it is trying to build a sandcastle and the waves keep washing over it, shifting the original sand as new grains of sand are added.

If I am feeling this way, then it is necessary for me to realise as an educator the importance of my role in assisting our students to be prepared and skilled as they face the tides of learning.

This is I believe what Haste (2009) was talking about when she mentioned the competency of Managing Ambiguity.  I am definitely in the messy and chaotic part of learning now.

Through using Twitter, I have learnt and continue to learn how to tweet/share, how to keep my thoughts to a certain number of characters, there are a lot of teachers out there and there are a lot of people with opinions about teaching without ever having served in an educational institution.

I am learning that some spaces I need to keep for play and some spaces are for learning.  Facebook to me is a space to play with my friends.  Flipboard, Twitter and Diigo are my spaces to read, collect and learn from educators.

I feel affirmed by the knowledge I am gaining.  I am determined to keep building and rebuilding my sandcastle but I don’t know if it will ever be complete.  Feeling pretty accomplished today as I have set up my Feedly RSS reader and I have learnt how to give attribution to flickr photos.  See above.


Are digital games being ‘overlooked’ in ‘digital education’ reform?

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To reflect on the question, “Are digital games being “overlooked” in “digital education reform?” first led me to try and seek some clarity in my mind as to the difference between the terms video games and digital games.  The initial understanding was that video games are those that are played using a game console such as Playstation, Wii or X-Box.  Digital games then would be those that are played using laptops, iPads or other Android devices.  As I read the article, “Teachers re-evaluate video games,” (Sydney Morning Herald, Nov. 30, 2014) it then became apparent that the terms digital and video game seem to be used synonymously.  It would seem to make more sense to call games digital though as they are neither in the format of a video or indeed use the technology of a video player, so for this purpose I will be using the term digital games as those that use the technology of computers and mobile devices.

How do I see digital games fitting into my practice?  What is the context of my learning? What are some challenges?

Within my own practice as Teacher Librarian at a large primary school I would suggest that I am strongly in favour of using digital games in learning and in the library.  I have used Gamestar Mechanic as a way of discussing the importance of narrative, digital citizenship issues such as providing feedback and looking at how games are created and I would agree that there were no issues surrounding motivation or engagement. It led to a “deeper factual and conceptual understanding,” as identified by Dr Catherine Beavis (SMH, Nov. 30, 2014.)  I also suggest though it was tricky to ‘fit’ into a timetable where each class visits the library for a 50 minute – 1 hour lesson and not necessarily on the same day. This then means that there needs to be an allowance of time to set up the 7 laptops and 2 desktops, moving to a shared computer, (some classes are 30 students between 9 computers!)  Once the learning/collaboration begins in no time at all the time for packing away is upon us. Also, it needs to be mentioned that the cost can be a factor when adopting digital games in the classroom.

Van Eck (2006) suggests that we have overcome the perception that “play” is in fact at the opposite end of the spectrum to “work.” (p.2).  I am unsure if all teachers hold this belief but generally teachers are embracing the idea of games as a learning possibility.The perception from leadership can be that games are frivolous and that they may not have any educational value.  So a challenge here is two-fold: professional development required and budgetary allocations.

Jesse Schell identified one of the “biggest challenges” teachers face is the timetable. Timetables are one of the drivers of a teacher’s and students learning as there is the issue of compliance and ensuring that each subject is allocated the appropriate amount of minutes.  Dr Catherine Beavis identifies that whilst deep understandings can be made using digital games we ““need to find ways to use them that are consistent with the ways teachers teach”(SMH, Nov. 30, 2014.)

 

Minecraft is another game that I have been wanting to include in the library and I can see huge potential for it to be used in so many ways, the only limit being my imagination.  For example, I could easily suggest students create a world that demonstrates the water cycle, create the visualisation of a particular setting that we are escaping to as we read a novel, create a 3-d map of a particular geographical feature and so on.  I question though whether I am forcing the game to fit the learning or am I using the game as it is intended to be a collaborative, creative tool.  In the following clip, some of the questions and challenges are outlined which show that while Minecraft is HUGE at the moment with our students, how can we best fit it into our classrooms?

Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RI0BN5AWOe8

In the article by Josh Jennings, “Teachers re-evaluate video games,” (SMH, Nov. 30, 2014), Rebecca Martin, a classroom teacher, recognises that schools need to make game choices that are “open-ended and creative, rather than skill and drill or digital worksheets”(SMH, Nov. 30, 2014.)  I welcome this attitude as I observe teachers do use games in their classrooms but mainly as drill and practice, group tasks on iPads that keep students busy whilst the teacher is freed up to do other tasks.  I am not judging this as wrong, as there still needs to be a place where basic facts need to be learnt but I believe we are still at the early stages of adopting digital games into our classrooms as a learning medium and we need to find the balance between open-ended and drill and practice.

I see a great space for games such as Minecraft,  and apart from the challenge of time I wonder how to overcome other challenges of parental expectations, what other colleagues perceive as teaching?,  how do I assess the learning – through acquisition of 21st Century skills or content? how do we make students accountable as there can be many distractions along the way in participating in games?  The question could be, do digital games enhance a students learning?

Here is a clip that explains some of the effects that can happen when students participate in gaming.

Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OOsqkQytHOs

My personal aims as I continue my professional and personal learning in this area:

*  To become an advocate for digital games and game-based learning throughout our school;

*  To make wise choices in regards to the digital games and to develop a selection criteria just as I would for the choice of printed resources in our school;

*  To ‘have a go’ at some of the ‘popular’ games our students play so they can identify me not as teacher but as a player learning with them – partners in learning.

What challenges am I hoping to meet for myself?

*  To make time to advocate, I need time to collaborate and share the learning that I make.

*  To heed the advice of Dr Catherine Beavis when she says, “there is a tremendous potential for games-based learning, but also the potential for things to go seriously wrong if the current enthusiasm for games-based learning leads to the introduction of games into the classroom without knowing more about how they actually affect learning, values, understandings and how to do this well?”(SMH, Nov. 30, 2014.)  The challenge that I hope to meet here then, is to be discerning, be patient and to avoid being too hasty in applying the learning I hope to make.

To answer the question, are digital games being overlooked in ‘digital education reform?”, I would conclude that teachers are interested and aware that games exist and could benefit their classrooms.  I would also suggest that there needs to be more professional development opportunities and challenges to be overcome to ensure that quality games are integrated into the curriculum for quality learning experiences.  They are not being ‘overlooked’ per se but perhaps the issue is ‘how can we do it well?’

 

REFERENCES:

Jennings, J. (2014). “Teachers re-evaluate value of video games.” Sydney Morning Herald, Retrieved from: http://www.smh.com.au/national/education/teachers-reevaluate-value-of-video-games-20141130-11jw0i.html

Schell, J. (2011). “Playing Games in the Classroom.” Big Think Retrieved from:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bA7KuOyH3PQ

Van Eck, R. (2006).  “Digital Game-Based Learning: It’s Not Just the Digital Natives Who Are Restless….” in EDUCAUSE Review, vol. 41, no. 2 (March/April 2006).  Retrieved from:  http://edergbl.pbworks.com/w/file/fetch/47991237/digital%20game%20based%20learning%202006.pdf

 

 

 


Gaming – The Missing Genre?

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Walkerkarraa (2013), "Game Changer, Scrabble Letters" Retrieved from:   http://pixabay.com/en/game-changer-scrabble-letters-259109/

Walkerkarraa (2013), “Game Changer, Scrabble Letters” Retrieved from: http://pixabay.com/en/game-changer-scrabble-letters-259109/

If the 4 C’s, critical thinking, collaboration, communication and creativity are the skills of the 21st Century and if game design and gaming platforms offer these skills, my ponder continues to be why is it not embedded more in the Australian Curriculum / NSW Board of Studies Syllabus.  Where would it fit?  Would it be part of English as a genre to immerse as part of textual knowledge and quality texts? Would it be Science due in the Working Technologically component?  Is it a stand alone teaching task of a specialised teacher in ICT?

I am really passionate about games being used in our classrooms and am aware that there are a number of obstacles to overcome.  I am looking forward to undertaking INF541 and welcome others to share their wisdom by inviting them to comment at any time.