Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Monday, April 20, 2009

Games, simulations and learning

I just found this interesting... Are game educational? Can learning be fun? Can we understand something without direct experience and without active involvement?


Thursday, April 9, 2009

Piaget's development and learning...and 2 examples!

So this is how I understand Piaget's description of learning and development for knowledge...It seems pretty clear to me...but pretty blurry at the same time!

For Piaget, development for knowledge is related and associated with the individual’s physical development, and certainly comes before learning, and also explains learning (through the stages of development that he describes). Development is a process that knowledge is based upon, for completeness and structure. On the contrary, learning occurs through situations (instead of physical progress), and therefore, it is not spontaneous (as is development). It concerns situations, problems and structures. Without development, learning cannot occur, since there need to be the adequate mental structures that will host learning (the structures develop in 4 stages; sensory-motor, pre-operational representation, concrete operations and operations on abstract ideas).

For example, learning to ride a bike requires first physical development (body and brain-mental structures) before the individual manages to cycle effectively. Apart from the body parts that need to be developed, the brain developed is crucial for the individual’s perception of speed, depth and coordination. Without these schemata developed, it would be impossible to learn how to ride a bicycle effectively. Similarly, when the case is learning to read, there needs to be physical development prior to learning, since the child would have to the function of eye coordination (something that would occur between the sensory-motor and the pre-operational representation stage). Once the physical development is done, then learning can take place effectively, and the student can manage to read.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Accidentally found a podcast... with my voice in!

I was just checking out Global Kids and I found this podcast! I forgot I was interviewed! Didn't know that my voice was heard!

Acquisition and Participation use it wrong!

I was reviewing an article for a Journal a couple of weeks ago and I noticed that the authors had misconceptions on Sfard's (1998)article about the two metaphors for learning... They were only supporting the use of the acquisition metaphor, and it was mentioned only once, but there were two references, just for one small paragraph...which were not even supporting their actual claim... Even worse (from my perspective) was the fact that they were supporting the sociocultural perspective for the design of learning environments. The authors' views were very contradictory to each other; supporting only the acquisition metaphor but at the same time supporting situativity theory in a design that looked constructionist from the way they were presenting it! I am wondering whether we actually know what we cite and how we cite in the articles that we write. As academics, but more importantly, as educators in general, we need to be providing adequate and valid resources!

The two metaphors that Sfard described are the assimilation metaphor and the participation metaphor. For the acquisition metaphor, she supports that individuals assimilate learning (more behavioral and rationally oriented metaphor), while the participation metaphor is oriented towards the sociocultural perspective.

However, she supported that the participation metaphor alone does not solve the problem of learning, since there is not a problem stated from the situated perspective. On the other hand, empirical evidence alone does not solve any issue around learning either and both sides study different things with different approaches.

According to Sfard, both metaphors are needed, in order to avoid what she calls ideological “dictatorship”, where one metaphor guides all the practices. Each metaphor has different things to provide, that the other cannot. It is important to look at the particulars of learning from different perspectives if we want to understand them and develop critical theory around them. We cannot look at the educational practices without considering the contexts where they occur, and we cannot develop effective instructional strategies without organizing what is to-be-learned.

For using both metaphors, Sfard proposes that we can approach both metaphors as different ways of seeing things, rather than two competing views. She also supports that, even though it is hard to approach both perspectives as complementary to each other, researchers can adopt whichever metaphor serves their interest, depending on their area and subject of research.

I rejected the article submission telling the authors to review and use the citation more accurately (among other suggestions)!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Motivation in games

I was reading an article by Kenny & Gunter about Intrinsic motivation and learning. I am trying to think about games and learning in relation to Chance's and Kohn's articles on rewards, extrinsic, and intrinsic motivation. Kenny & Gunter support that game designers must exploit the natural motivation that players/learners have by developing them to promote intrinsic motivation, content learning, transfer of knowledge, and naturalization. As learning scientists, we need to consider the learners' needs, and provide (or not) rewards that are effective for meaningful learning. Several studies that are mentioned in Chance's and Kohn's articles show that there are cases where rewards work for intrinsic motivation, but in some other situations, rewards do not work as we think they do.

The reference for the article is: Kenny, R. F. & Gunter, G. A. (2008) Endogenous fantasy-based serious games: Intrinsic motivation and learning. International journal of social sciences. Vol.2, No.1. pp. 8-13

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Learning in a fact fetish culture...

What traditional education fails to do is position the learner, the learning experience and the content in contexts. Consequently, it is hard for students to be motivated, because what is taught is taught out of context. Games afford this combination, as they situate the content in narratives and contexts, providing meaningful experiences, and immersing the players into mastering them. By combining interactive rule sets, narratives and spatiality, games unfold virtual worlds that embrace content and establish meaning. Context matters for learning; it affords players’ situative embodiment in the learning experience and facilitates repositioning players and their understanding through experiences. The emphasis then shifts from teaching abstracted content towards facilitating the learner to master the content framed in microworlds that evoke, enact, embed, of afford the emergence of narratives, as Henry Jenkins argues. Educators can chose from the plethora of games, commercial and educational, the ones that best serve their students’ educational needs and embed them in lessons, providing learning experiences in situ and extracting the value of content in ways that are obvious for learners.

The use of information in gaming contexts becomes meaningful, and therefore, the learning experiences can be much more powerful than the ones in the traditional classroom. Students can act on and interact with the gaming spaces, manipulating curricular content and making meaning out of their content-and-context interactions. Schools provide abstract knowledge by transferring knowledge from the world into the textbooks, emphasizing on putting that abstracted knowledge into students’ heads. Shaffer and his colleagues from the University of Wisconsin, Madison were arguing in one of their articles that schools adopt a 'fact fetish culture'... It is true! Knowledge is abstractly delivered to students. Teachers just try to catch up with the curriculum, and the ultimate goal is the standardized tests! I was reading an article by Thomas and Brown (2007) a couple of months ago, and I agree with them when they sat that, in the games’ microworlds, the content is being situated in rich contexts through which the meaningful scenarios that derive afford deep conceptual understanding and development of dispositions. Students learn to be, they do not just learn about things, and with their imagination they can simulate, change as individuals, and ultimately transfer what they learn into real life.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Games matter for learning!

Games matter for education, whether the scepticists admit it or not. As societies evolve, education must evolve accordingly. Students in contemporary societies experience and “talk games” constantly. Instead of initializing and framing learners in the constraints of the traditional educational systems, it is time to give a chance to new media and games in particular, to unfold their potentials for transforming educational systems from information, fact and test-taking greenhouses to life-based, situated, and transactive experiences. It is not all about learning content in abstraction. Educators must understand that education is also about ways of being in societies, and ways of interacting with cultures in different contexts. Once that is understood, then it will be easier to appreciate the value of games for learning.

Consequentiality and transactivity in games

One significant aspect of contemporary games is their property to situate players in scenarios within which they have to take actions and find solutions to problems. Players experience the consequences of their actions in the narrative, through the rule sets, and in relation to their engagement in the scenario, as well as through the immediate feedback from the game. Making the right or wrong choice has consequences in the game, which players experience immediately. It is important for educators to think of the effects that in-game actions can have on the learners, as it is also important to consider the fact that players experience those consequences in safe ways. Increasing the levels of acid in a lake will kill the fish. Failing to develop a strong army will allow the enemy to defeat you and take over your civilization. And building using false structures will cause the architectural creation to collapse. However, these consequences are safe to be experienced. In fact, failing in such cases is an opportunity to learn. Students can talk about their experiences and provide rationales about their choices of actions in class discussions.

Games afford a kind of interaction that changes players as they make those choices. It is what my advisor (Sasha Barab) calls to be transactivity, as the players’ actions inform and transform situations, which at the same time transform the players. In most games, players follow specific tasks with particular goals related to the narrative. Through their actions and in-game choices, they change the space, and live the consequences of their decisions from those changes, while reflecting on the experiences. Educators should appreciate this affordance of games as an attribute that can facilitate in-class discussions and personal reflection on behalf of the learners. Having experienced the consequences of their decisions, students are in positions to talk from the perspective they adopt in relation to the narrative and tell their own stories.

Games, education, learning

It is not enough to say that games are good for learning, and it is not enough to claim that they should be used in educational settings just because they are motivating and attract players’ attention. In fact, that would be an argument rather against their educational use, since in that case games would be considered to be a factor for potential academic failure. In another vein, Aristotle had pointed out that people cannot gain wisdom neither from generalities, nor from particulars. Today’s educational systems do not bridge this gap, but provide, either abstract and general content without connecting it with meaningful examples, or specific knowledge that does not connect with what students know. Games have started being seen as the diode towards educational transformation. Educators should care about video games as a pedagogical medium because of the opportunities that can afford for learning and for the several effects they can have on students’ learning, identities and literacies.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Track town

An idea of a game that has to do with cars, car history, mechanics, and all sorts of jobs around the world of racing. Players will be reporters, photographers, managers, etc., skills that will be acquired through the narrative in the game and the actual game play.