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…