#INF541 Critical Reflection

As a gamer myself, entering #INF541 felt a bit like being a pig in mud – splashing about in my own backyard.

What is interesting though is that I came into the course with two quite strong opinions – games are entertaining, they are fun, and you can learn so much from them (as I did growing up) but also that games can indeed become addictive if you are not careful (as I found out when I was younger playing World of Warcraft). I was torn then, as I could see the promise in digital games for learning, but also cautious as to their use, especially with youngsters.

I began to reconcile these opinions within the first few weeks however, as Module One directed us to look at games as possibly misunderstood and under-estimated. Games are not just the AAA titles you see plastered through the newspapers and on shelves. There exists numerous genres and cultures and types, from serious games to social action games. Games are texts, multimodal, arguably more complex than traditional texts as the interplay between narrative, social elements, music and sound, and embodiment of different identities, and how these weave together, can construct deep meaning (as I mentioned in my Remediation and Storytelling forum post). They are emblems of our multimodal, complex times, and should have a much more prominent position as contexts to develop literacies – both traditional, information, transmedia, and visual literacies (Connolly, Stansfield & Boyle, 2009). I explored this ideas in later blog posts – Got the Manual, Can’t Play the Game and Designed Information Behaviour.

One “aha!” moment I had (amongst many others) was that, obviously, very few games are out-of-the-box aligned with curriculum, which places the role of the teacher in framing the use of the game as central. Games are not “set and forget” affairs – they need to be used critically and judiciously by educators – just like any text, tool, or activity in class. Pre, during and post game reflections can be used (Van Eck, 2006) or characters and settings extended from the game into other areas, for example. What is interesting in this case is that game designers and school instructional designers come from very different realms of understanding, so game integration therefore needs an intermediary (like a teacher) to pull from both sides, drawing out good learning experiences.

Furthermore, the benefits of students designing their own games, and the kinds of competencies this develops (Navarrete, 2013), struck a chord with me too, as did how to inject elements from effective games into offline, classroom life (Salen & Zimmerman, 2004).

One aspect of this course I found personally and professionally appealing was the wiggle room to explore tangents in my thinking. This occurred early on when an element of a reading piqued my interest, the benefits of cross-functional teams. I wrote a blog post on that topic, and really found it meaningful to reflect on my own experiences and link them with what I was reading.

The assignments also gave me the opportunity to “go down deep” into areas of game-based learning which I found to be personally relevant and interesting. While the broadness and “openness” of the second assignment was initially daunting, the collaborative nature of the proposal and wiki submission process helped magnificently in tightening my focus. Helping others with their submissions, as I did with Jo, Penny, Jon, Graham, and Miriam was an effective way to “walk the talk”, as a part of the participatory nature of this Masters. It’s something which I will persevere more with next semester though as to be honest, it’s not something I’m particularly great at yet, as is engaging with a wider range of the cohort, not just the people I know quite well from other courses. Twitter, as always, provided fast and furious methods of communication through the #INF541 hashtag – although I’d like to try to question and probe more over this network, as it can sometimes become a bit of an echo-chamber.

Getting caught up in the play, rather than the regular reflection, is also something which I probably could have done a bit better with. While I contributed to most of the forum posts, my reflective blog posting was probably not up to scratch. I should have spent less time immersing myself in game! This though, is another self-identified goal for next semester.

Overall, I’ve really relished the opportunity to put something I’m personally passionate about into an academic, critical frame. I’ve learned a lot, and will be taking much of my new knowledge and understandings with me to my new job posting in China, as an IT coach at a big international school. I’ll be in the perfect position chip away at the lingering notion that games are somehow only for social recluses, and to use games as powerful contexts for great learning. Onwards and upwards!

References

Connolly, T., Stansfield, M., & Boyle, L. (Eds.). (2009). Games-Based Learning Advancements for Multi-Sensory Human Computer Interfaces: Techniques and Effective Practices. IGI Global.

Navarrete, C. C. (2013). Creative thinking in digital game design and development: A case study. Computers & Education, 69, 320–331.

Salen, K. & Zimmerman, E., (2004). Rules of play: Game design fundamentals. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Van Eck, Richard. (2006). Digital game-based learning: It’s not just the digital natives who are restless. EDUCAUSE Review, (20), 16-18.

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