Thoughts on EduCon 2.1, Day 1, Session 2

For my second session at EduCon 2.1, while sitting in the comfort of my own home, I headed to Games in Education.  This session was led by Sylvia Martinez.  The session led me to a couple of interesting links, one which I had seen before and one that was new:

One of the major focuses of the session was on the realism required for games for educational purposes.  The discussion centered around the physics involved in some basic puzzle elements of a certain game. Sylvia pointed out that while the player may end up with a certain “feel” for the physics involved they do not come away with any real knowledge of the mathematics behind why the physics works.  My immediate thought was: “At what level is this game being used?”  If indeed it is being used in a Physics classroom, then perhaps the game could serve as an opening for a discussion or real life experiment to determine the feasability of the the gaming solution.  At the middle school level, the “feel” may be all the teacher needs to help get across to the student at the time.

The real interest in this session, however, came when I begin chatting in the back-channel on Mogulus.  The only other person participating in the chat to begin with was a student at the Science Leadership Academy, known only as sciencelead4_video.  He was actually working the camera for the session but was in chatting, posting links, etc.  Here is a 16 year old high school student, volunteering his time to run video for a teacher’s conference on a Saturday.  That in itself was a bit amazing, but beyond that he was able to carry on some very good conversation about the games being mentioned.

One discussion centered around the game Spore.  I was having trouble hearing Sylvia as she discussed it, but from the wiki link I posted above it appears her opinion of the game is similar to my own.  The marketing of the game (up to 2 years before it’s release) made it appear to be an excellent look at the biology of evolution. Your job was to help your “creature” evolve and grow to survive in the game environment. The reality was that none of the “evolution” in the game was based on any scientific information, and the gameplay turned out to be less than impressive.

The discussion on the backchannel soon moved to a few questions  I had about SLA itself.  I learned that SLA currently has only a freshman, sophomore, and junior class, each of about 140 students.  The campus is 1:1 with Apple computers, the juniors have iBooks, the freshmen and sophomores have MacBooks.  The student said that all his teachers are technology enthusiasts.  He said most assignments were completed within Moodle and I asked if any teachers were using Edmodo.  He told me they weren’t but looked it up and said he would mention it to a couple of the teachers.  His next statement floored me:

I’ll tell two teachers and if it’s any good, after about 2 hours I’ll have 6 coming to me asking me more about it.

This student totally gets the social nature of learning in the 21st Century.  He understood that by putting information in the right hands he could get it moved around and used in a positive manner.

Unfortunately, the feed cut out shortly after this conversation happened so I didn’t fully get to finish my discussions with the student. However, my eyes were opened to the potential that is out there for networked learning when a full staff is on board for the experience. I can only hope that eventually I will find myself in a similar environment.  There is plenty of work to be done in getting teachers ready to teach and students ready to learn in a fully networked environment.  Time to get started…


4 Responses

  1. TW,
    A few of my students used spore for our “Animal of the Future” project. They really got into and loved the game. Thanks for the post!

  2. Nice post. I agree with the point about computer games being a good way to create discussion about complex topics. I guess there are always going to be people who will argue that the educational experience acquired from computers games is not thorough or accurate, but the point is that they are being used to engage students who might otherwise not be engaged, and also to provide different levels of explanation of difficult concepts. The interactivity of many games also offers great opportunities for developing reading strategies and comprehension skills, along with interpersonal skills and thinking (inquiry).

    There is of course the need to critique games for their usefulness and depth, but that is no different to critiquing any other teaching resource.

    The links in your post give some good examples of games that are indeed valuable in education. I’d also recommend Civilization and Sim City as being great games for students in the middle years of schooling.

  3. My Google Reader picked up your post and I was interested in what you have to say about Gaming/Education and SLA. I am one of the initial group of teachers at SLA and was actually attending the session you described in your blog.

    Although I am not as plugged into the application side of educational computing as some of the other folks here, I can tell you that Edmodo looks intriguing from my standpoint. (We use Moodle internally and Drupal externally.) Especially after Konrad Glogowski’s session this afternoon, I am interested in a cleaner and quicker way to do blog-type work with my classes.

    Ideally we want students to share their ideas with the world and have an extended community of learning and teaching which is why we have done stuff like blogs on Drupal. At the same time Drupal can be a little clumsy in small-scale explorations and sharing. (Most of the staff agree that the other alternative at the moment- the Moodle “journal” function is not quite right either. We will look into it.

    • Matt, first of all, thanks for reading. I was very impressed by all I saw from SLA this weekend. I was not part of EduCon last year, but certainly regret missing out. I think getting students to recognize their place as global citizens is a major task we face in schools today. I have done quite a bit of work there with my middle schoolers trying to get our class blog out and about, letting them see that their podcasts are being listened to by educators around the world, and getting them discussing some current issues in schools like 1:1 laptop and iPod touch projects.

      The microblogging style allowed by Edmodo is a wonderful way to teach students to be concise in their comments. Additionally, the ability to send out assignments and collect them digitally from a browser based system makes the home-school connection that much stronger. Enjoy playing with Edmodo and I’d love to hear your thoughts back here at the blog after you try it out. Again, thanks for reading and thanks for all you and SLA are doing for kids!

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