Teaching is the profession that creates all others.
The greatest battles aren’t fought on the battlefield; they are fought in your mind: conquer your mind, conquer the world.
The best way to create your future is to create it – Patti Labelle
I put a dollar in one of those change machines. Nothing changed. ~ George Carlin
By Dr. Mark Wagner
I often begin my workshop on personal learning networks (PLN) for educators by asking these questions: Who is in your learning network? Who do you learn from on a regular basis? Who do you turn to for your own professional development? Some educators are lucky enough to learn from their coworkers or colleagues at their site. Far too many others feel isolated in their room or office, and need to meet with counterparts from other sites in order to have a professional learning experience. All educators (and learners) can benefit from extending their own personal learning network online – beyond the walls of their schools, the boundaries of their districts, and the limits of their experience.
I usually ask these questions at conferences, which are frequently only annual events – and rare treats for many educators. My goal is for workshop participants to leave the session plugged into a global network of like-minded professionals, who will broaden their experience and challenge their thinking on an ongoing basis. I share with participants these ten tips for building their own personal learning network, and I hope these might be useful for you too.
Learning to Network and Networking to Learn
1. Connect – The growth engine of your learning network is your willingness to reach out and make connections with new people. Leave a comment on a blog post or podcast, reply to a question on twitter, or +1 a post on Google+ (or like something on Facebook). Merely reading, listening, or watching is not connecting. The more people you connect with online, the more you can take advantage of the strength of weak ties.
2. Contribute – If you have something to share, post it online where it may be accessible and useful to others. Your expertise (and even your struggles) are valuable to others who don’t have your experience. Anything you create for work (or your own schooling) might as well be shared, and might be valuable to someone else. Making contributions is a way to offer something of value to the new people you are connecting with. Sharing online is even considered a moral imperative by many educators; sharing contributes to the greater good. It’s one way we can pay it forward.
3. Converse – Over time the connections and contributions you make online will evolve into conversations as others respond to you as well. These conversations will in turn grow into relationships, if not friendships. Sharing something about your passions (and challenges) outside of work can also enrich your relationships. Someone you’ve connected with about baseball or raising a toddler might be more likely to respond to your questions about work as well.
4. Request – If you’ve made connections, offered contributions, and cultivated relationships over time… then when you make requests, they are more likely to fall on fertile soil. In circles of educators who connect online, making a request is acceptable and welcome. You’ll find that you’ll receive much higher quality answers and support by asking your network, than you will by simply searching online.
Networking Tools and Anecdotes
The four tips above are the core activities of building a personal learning network, and they can be applied using various tools to connect with others online. Although many other tools, such as wikis, podcasts, instant messages, streaming video, and more can used for connecting this way, the following tools are particularly valuable for building a personal learning network.
5. Blog – Though there will never be another 2004, blogs are still a powerful way for educators (and learners) to connect. Within my first six months of blogging (posting things I had written for work or school anyway), I received comments from six of the authors I had cited in my posts! Over the course of my doctoral research, my blog connected me with more researchers and practitioners than my university ever could have. These trends have continued to this day. If you read many blogs, an RSS aggregator (like Google Reader) can be an essential tool for helping you spend 25% of your time reading and writing blogs for professional development.
6. Tweet – Among educators (and much of the world), Twitter is the most popular social microblogging tool. The posts are short and easy to skim, and because following someone on Twitter is not a reciprocal relationship (unlike friending on Facebook), it is easy to create a custom group of people to follow – and to manage the flow of incoming information. Twitter has been the most powerful tool in the growth of my personal learning network from a half-dozen teachers in the English department lounge to thousands of educators around the globe. Twitter is at least as valuable to me for moral support as it is for technical support. The #lateworkcrew has helped me through many long nights of whittling down my critical tasks.
7. Join Classroom 2.0 – Maintaining a blog and posting regularly to Twitter can feel like significant commitments, and failure to post can generate feelings of guilt. Social networks such as Classroom 2.0, however, are a great place to start with an exiting network (no need to follow, friend, or circle anyone) and with very little pressure to produce. With over 60,000 members, if everyone contributes even a small fraction of what they read, the site is rich with content. For many educators, it is a great starting point for experiencing a personal learning network, not to mention learning more about how these tools are impacting the future of education.
8. Use Google+ – Google’s new social network allows educators to group the people they follow into circles, such as personal and professional (keeping these circles safely separate in a way that is more difficult on other networks such as Facebook). Or, more specifically, users can organize the people they follow into circles for specific subject areas, grade levels, or or even collaborative projects. Additional features are particularly valuable to educators, especially “hangouts” – video calls for up to 10 people, including screen sharing and Google Docs integration. Google+ is also a great tool for expanding your horizons beyond education. There are rich communities of technologists, photographers, and thought leaders sharing on Google+.
These final two tips will help keep your initial frustrations in perspective, and help you avoid the temptation to focus on unimportant metrics as you grow your network.
9. Be Patient – Many educators get frustrated when they first experiment with these tools, but building a personal learning network doesn’t happen quickly, and it isn’t a trivial commitment. It takes time to make connections and build relationships. It’s takes perseverance to continue when you receive no replies to your requests, and it requires patience to build up social capitol over the months that may be necessary before you begin to feel part of a community. But it is well worth the investment to one day have a 24/7 global network to tap into whenever you’re in need – or simply want to learn something new.
10. Be Authentic – As Tommy Spaulding says, It’s Not Just Who You Know… it’s how you know them. Despite the appeal of seeing your number of followers grow, or trying to post something you know will generate comments or re-tweets, it is more important to be authentic in your online connections. Don’t try to game the system, worry to much about your online “brand,” or in any way cajole people into following you or responding to you (with contests or incentives for instance). The more you reveal your humanity the more people will trust you, identify with you, and respond to your reflections and appeals. More importantly, the more you seek out the humanity in others, the more they will want to connect with you – and share with you.
Will Richardson, co-author of Personal Learning Networks: Using the Power of Connections to Transform Education has been a part of my personal learning network for years… and I was lucky enough to see him at a conference earlier this week. He shared with me a challenge he recently placed to educational leaders: “If your school system hasn’t changed a year from now, I get it… but if you haven’t changed a year from now, you’re a failure.” I hope these tips might help you start down the road of building your own personal learning network and becoming a more connected learner yourself – or if you’re well down this road already, I hope these tips might be helpful to pass on to your colleagues to get them started. If you have tips of your own for educators just starting to build their personal learning network, or if you have questions as you begin to build yours… please share in the comments below.
Note: For more on this topic, you might also want to explore Jeff Utecht’s book Reach: Building Communities and Networks for Professional Development.
Note: I’ve also been writing about this topic for some time. If you would like to read a brief article that goes into more depth on a few of these points, please see my article Learning to Network & Networking to Learn from The High School Educator in 2008. You are also invited to access the workshop resources for my personal learning networks for educators workshop, which I led as recently as two days before this post.
“I’ve come to a frightening conclusion that I am the decisive element in the classroom. It’s my personal approach that creates the climate. It’s my daily mood that makes the weather. As a teacher, I possess a tremendous power to make a child’s life miserable or joyous. I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration. I can humiliate or heal. In all situations, it is my response that decides whether a crisis will be escalated or de-escalated and a child humanized or dehumanized.”
― Haim G. Ginott
― Bertrand Russell
Five emerging trends for innovative tech in education
No longer simply future-gazing, technologies like augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR) are becoming firmly accepted by the education sector for adding value to learning experiences.
But what next for these technologies? Here are five trends to watch out for in further and higher education.
1. Taking Hollywood to learning
The silver screen may not be the first place you’d naturally take inspiration from for learning, but the tech currently being employed in Hollywood is sure to have an impact in the classrooms and lecture halls of the future.
Summer 2015’s big blockbuster, Jurassic World called on AR while filming, using a simple iPad app by visual effects company, Industrial Light and Magic to frame shots on location, in combination with a 3D structure sensor to measure camera depth. Essentially, this allowed the filmmakers to load their dinosaur models into the program and stick them onto the live image, so they could ‘see’ where the dinosaur would be, including judging depth, height and angle.
It is amazing to think that AR is being used so prominently in top production studios – and what this could mean for education. Imagine a similar tool for ‘seeing’ models in such diverse disciplines as theatre direction, lighting, product design, architecture and construction. Such an application would allow the learner to quite quickly present stunning visualisations and also help them to pre-empt any potential design problems, enabling them to explore alternatives without having to invest significant time and money in creating complex physical models.
2. Engaging, immersive experiences
VR is about to get a whole lot bigger thanks to ever better graphical representations of the real world. One of the applications that impressed me recently was a VR resource built for the road traffic agency in Australia, to dispel the myth that old, heavier cars are more protective in accidents. The experience placed you in the position of a crash test dummy, both in a modern car and one from the 1980s.
The immersion was breathtaking: on the moment of impact the display went into slow motion with shards of glass flying towards you, the crumple zone concertinaing, air bags deploying and the seat shaking with hydraulics. You walk away actually feeling how much safer newer cars are in comparison.
Another example comes from Ford for ‘experiencing’ new car models. Employing VR through gesture-based controllers, engineers and technicians are able to peel back engine components, see detailed cross sections and run quality assurance testing without having to create clay models, which commonly cost over £250,000 and take months to build.
Immersive applications such as these bring home the potential of VR within education for creating interactive worlds. Imagine, for example, being able to experience the awe and adventure of following in Howard Carter’s footsteps uncovering Tutankhamun’s tomb as an archaeology student; hearing the wind blow through a crypt sealed for millennia and being the first to take in the priceless artefacts and mysterious hieroglyphs. Photorealistic simulated environments can give learning a richness otherwise near impossible to achieve.
3. The tech tricks of Pixar – for free
Big news in the world of 3D is that the core-rendering engine used by animation giant Pixar has been made freely available to the public. Integrated into Blender open source software, it has some great features including a realistic hair renderer, denoiser, visual integrator and enhanced physical cameras that simulate the imperfections of real world cameras. Better yet, it can be downloaded with a simple registration, all for free.
This is a real step change from traditional renderer pricing models, often costing thousands of pounds per year, and opens up new opportunities for colleges and universities. Instead of purchasing a costly add-on, they’re now able to experiment with free, industry standard software. I would also encourage organisations to make it available to students, as gaining expertise in this area will provide them with important transferrable technology skills that make them more employable.
4. Science and maths can be fun!
I always struggled as a student of mathematics, with pre-conceived notions of it being dry, devoid of excitement, and not really relatable to anything in life.
The SIGGRAPH 2015 conference I attended in August turned this idea on its head. I saw academics talk through how scientific processes and algorithms could be translated into highly visual effects, from multi-resolution geometric transfer that allow animators to switch between high and low detailed dinosaur models, to the procedural animation technology that went into creating the microbots movement in Big Hero 6.
Hearing about real-life situations where theoretical maths has been applied made the subject much more digestible, and I thought how valuable this activity would be for STEM subjects. Grounding theoretical mathematics in something authentic, tangible and genuinely interesting can help to inspire students and hold their attention especially when represented in such a visual way.
Indeed, if it were to provide part of a blueprint for maths and science teaching of the future, students would surely be more engaged and likely to continue studying these subjects an in turn address the enormous skills shortage in this area.
5. Gamification comes good
In my view, the reason early educational forays into simulated and virtual environments such as Second Life weren’t more broadly successful was due to the vast chasm between the realism of these constructed worlds and that of console/PC games. Young people were used to playing graphically polished games with rich interactivity, and in comparison the education resources they encountered often didn’t live up to these high expectations.
Now, some of the big game engines, including Unreal Engine, Unity and CryEngine, offer an opportunity to develop photorealistic games and experiences for education that can transcend the traditional gap between games and learning.
These platform independent, free game engines that output to a variety of devices have big potential for breathing new life into gamification for the AR market. Unity, for example has the ability to export AR for a number of different app-based solutions including DAQRI, VUFORIA and Wikitude using plug-ins. Furthermore, because the assets created through these engines are not solely locked into proprietary AR experiences, it means they can be easily adapted, so that they can work within VR or act as standalone learning resources for web browsers.
One of my current projects AR-Sci involves developing an AR experience around photosynthesis for secondary school students, which I am hoping in turn to repurpose for use in a similar resource for a VR environment with Unreal Engine.
5 Teaching Tips for Professors – From Video Games – Jeffrey Young (2010)
LEARNING IS no game on today’s college campuses. It’s serious work that many students dread. Yet when those same students play video games like World of Warcraft, they happily spend hours on difficult tasks, and actually learn quite a bit in the process.
Granted, what those gamers learn is how to cast spells and fell dragons, which hardly counts toward a college degree. But Constance Steinkuehler argues that there’s a good model of teaching in those popular amusements.
Ms. Steinkuehler, an assistant professor of educational communication and technology at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, studies video gamers. In one recent case study, she noted how players in a chat room had used complex mathematics to argue for a certain plan of attack against some unruly beast.
“People were actually–no kidding–gathering data on things like the game monster’s behavior, putting it in an Excel spreadsheet, and building little mathematical models to try to beat the monster,” she told me recently. The game teaches complex problem solving and collaborative learning, Ms. Steinkuehler argues.
She is certainly not the first scholar to go down that road. But she is part of what I would argue is a new, more nuanced view of the possibilities of games in higher education. It is a view that contains specific lessons about what works and what does not.
Call it the third level of video games inside the ivory tower.
Level 1 could be called the Edutainment Years. The earliest educational video games leaned far more toward entertainment than education. Many people who spent hours as kids playing The Oregon Trail or Where in the World Is Carmen San Diego? now have no recollection of the factoids taught by the games.
The second level brought the label Serious Games, with scholars designing their own video games about the weightiest of topics and social issues. Award-winning titles include Darfur Is Dying, and Global Conflicts: Palestine.
The problem is that many of the games aren’t much fun. That was the complaint of Will Wright, designer of the best-selling Sims games, when I sat down with him last summer to talk about the state of educational games. “Because they’re serious subjects,” he said, “there’s a tendency to treat them too seriously–to say, Let’s not be too playful or flippant about this.” And isn’t fun what makes games attractive to students in the first place?
Hence the need to advance to Level 3, which could be called Smart Gaming. Part of Smart Gaming is recognizing that games are often not the best tools in an educational setting, but when they are, they should carefully balance substance and sport.
At that level, it’s possible to deconstruct video games, looking for takeaways that professors can try in their own teaching, whether or not they ever pick up a joystick or click “play.”
Here are five lessons I gleaned from recent talks with several leading researchers involved in education and gaming:
1. Give frequent and detailed feedback. Just about every video game prominently displays a scoreboard. It can be incredibly detailed, with tallies of gold grabbed, enemies slain, levels won, shooting accuracy attained, and more. “What kids do in entertainment games,” says Jan L. Plass, an associate professor of educational communication and technology at New York University, “is they say, ‘I need to work on my stealth or my potion-making skills’ or whatever,” thanks to that detailed accounting. “It’s part of that drive to know yourself–what you’re good at and what you’re not good at. We really want to know.”
Professors in most college classes don’t always give feedback as rapid or exhaustive as that. Sure, they return papers and other assignments with number grades and occasional comments, but that hardly resembles those score screens on an Xbox 360 game. “What if, for each of the aspects of the assignment, you got a subgrade,” suggests Mr. Plass. “Students could see that ‘in these parts I got an A, but in these other parts I got a failing grade.'” That might be more meaningful than a big red C at the top of a paper.
2. Test before going live. The big videogame companies use hundreds, even thousands, of beta testers before ever putting a title on store shelves. That has impressed Mr. Plass, who is a director of NYU’s Games for Learning Institute and has worked with Microsoft’s video-game group to see how the company tests its popular game Halo.
“One of their concerns is whether the game is too hard and you might die in places that you’re not supposed to die,” he says, noting that Microsoft runs testers through the game and uses tracking software to identify rough spots, like one area where players routinely fell off a cliff because they couldn’t tell it was there.
Mr. Plass says he now tests his center’s educational games in a similar way, though with fewer testers than Microsoft uses. “If we find in a particular game that there’s a particular problem that most kids fail to solve, even though the problem isn’t all that hard, we would try to figure out why that is,” he says.
The same concept could be applied to testing online courses, even if they are not in game form.
“I’d freely admit that we don’t do enough user-design testing in the online courses we make,” says Jared Stein, director of instructional-design services at Utah Valley University, when I ran the idea past him recently. “We tried to implement that as part of our process last year, and we just ran into too many other fires that we had to put out,” he says. But it is a good goal for any online program, he adds, and can be as simple as sitting one student down and observing her work through a course.
3. Narrative can answer the question “Why are we learning this?” Stories are powerful ways to engage people, and an immersive story line is one reason players of World of Warcraft work so hard to solve puzzles in the game, argues Ms. Steinkuehler. the Madison assistant professor. On her blog she explains that the player who created the mathematical model delivered it in a playful way that fit the story line of the game, disparaging some spells and character types as he went, rather than simply stating raw numbers.
The idea that stories are powerful motivators drove a recent experiment at the Florida Virtual School, one of the nation’s largest online public schools. Last year the school began offering a semester-long course in American history in the form of a 3-D online video game.
Players take on the role of a secret agent and walk around a futuristic city, trying to stop a shadowy group from overthrowing the government. The students collect clues (which take the form of articles about American history) and expose bad guys (the ones who state incorrect facts). “Everything students do is on target with the story,” says Jeramy Gatza, a curriculum-innovation specialist for Florida Virtual, who previously taught history in the classroom. “There’s no busywork, there’s no ‘you’ve got to do this because it’s on the syllabus.'”
4. Don’t be afraid of fun. Perhaps remembering the worst of “edutainment,” many professors still shy away from the idea that a college course can be fun.
“There’s an assumption that learning is supposed to be dry and tedious and painful and awful,” says David Wiley, an associate professor of instructional psychology and technology at Brigham Young University. “If it looks like a game, it immediately gets written off.”
That shouldn’t be so, says Mr. Wiley. He’s clearly not afraid to be playful himself though. Last year he delivered a course about online learning that was modeled on a role-playing game (think Dungeons and Dragons, where the professor is the dungeon master).
5. Not every subject works as a game. There’s a vast graveyard of serious games that have failed, commercially and educationally. “Blindly throwing games at an instructional problem is not a good solution,” says Brett E. Shelton, an assistant professor of instructional technology at Utah State University, who has developed some educational games. “I’d actually consider myself to be more of a skeptic rather than an advocate of instructional games, believe it or not.”
Educational games, in fact, are actually much harder to design than other teaching approaches because they have to do so many things well.
“It has to be a good game, and you want deep learning with assessment closely married to the learning,” says James Paul Gee, who wrote a book called What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Learning and Literacy (Palgrave Macmillan, 2007) and is part of the Games, Learning, and Society research group at the University of Wisconsin. “It’s a double challenge.”
PHOTO (COLOR): Florida Virtual School delivers a 16-week-long American-history course as a video game. Students explore a futuristic city to collect clues, then submit papers about what they have learned.
Other Gaming Resources
In this section I will add new insights to the variety of roles that adult educators play and the opportunities for more Gamification in education.
Young, Jeffrey R. (2010). 5 lessons professors can learn from video games. The Chronicle of Higher Education.
Young asserts that video games are “a good model of teaching” (Young, p. 1) for young adults as they can happily play for hours and can learn and develop skills in the process (used World of Warcraft as an example).
- Problem solving / critical thinking
There are 3 levels of video games as an educational model:
- Level 1: Edutainment Years
- Educational video games we played as kids (e.g. Oregon Trail or Where in the World is Carmen San Diego?)
- While students played these games for hours, we often cannot recall what it is we learned from them as kids
- Level 2: Serious Games
- Scholars designing their own video games about serious topics and issues (e.g. Darfur is Dying or Global Conflict: Palestine)
- Problem: many of these games are not fun so students don’t want to play them (would rather learn through another method)
- Level 3: Smart Gaming (what Young considers to be the most appropriate model)
- One important aspect: recognizing that games are often NOT the best tools in an educational setting but when they are, they should “carefully balance substance and sport” (Young, p. 1)
- Can develop your own games or use pre-existing games as a teaching tool (e.g. Age of Empires, World of Warcraft)
Young outlines 5 lessons learned from researchers about education and gaming:
- Give frequent and detailed feedback
- Gamers like to see their stats through achievements (break down their assessment)
- Test before going live
- Make sure the logistics work
- Make sure the game is not too hard (or too easy)
- Update and make changes along the way
- Use narrative to answer the question “why are we learning this?”
- Stories are powerful ways to engage people and help them remember and WOW’s immersive storyline is what grabs player’s attention
- Don’t be afraid of fun
- Challenge the assumption that “learning is supposed to be dry and tedious and painful and awful” (Young, p. 3)
- Not every subject works as a game
- Blindly throwing games out is not a good solution (takes preparation, testing and a lot of hard work)
- Even with the positive results gaming can offer, they are much more difficult to use as instructional tools
Martin, Vance. S. (2011). Andragogy, organization, and implementation concerns for gaming as an instructional tool in the community college. New Directions for Community Colleges, No. 154, p63-71.
Martin’s article examines the potential for using video games at the community college level, possible arguments against it, and necessary support from administration, information technology departments, and libraries to make the most of this digital technology.
Stat: 99% of boys and 94% of girls aged 12-17 play video games (these are the people entering college over the next few years) (Martin, p. 63)
Teachers and administrators have various concerns about integrating games into instruction:
- Negative preconceived notions against video games (particularly from older instructors who do not regularly game)
- Time constraints for planning
- Money as games can be costly and the concern of who pays (school, teacher, student)
- Bandwidth for online gaming
- Security (viruses, personal info, etc.)
Argument for Video Games:
- “Active learning through video games fills a hold in the traditional passive educational model” (Martin, p. 64)
- Based on the seminal work of James Gee (2003) who integrates the constructivist theory into his model of gaming and education
- Allows for scaffolding: games allow people to begin slowly at a lower level then as they go through the game, they become more experiences and become experts. As the player progresses, they can tinker with the game (mods) and become a community leader (Martin, p. 64)
- Flexible and can be incorporated into teaching through various ways
- Will only be successful through collaboration (administration, the library, chairs, teachers, IT department)
- Studies show higher engagement from students when gaming is done right (Vance, 69)
- Can be used for in-class, online and hybrid learning
“The community college is best poised among educational institutions for integration of games” (Martin, p. 69) because there is more freedom for teaching than in primary and secondary schools (which have strict curriculum and standardized tests) and smaller bureaucracies and more autonomy than larger state universities (in the US model)
“80Days—Around an Inspiring Virtual Learning World in Eighty Days.” (n.d.). Retrieved October 15, 2009, from http://www.eightydays.eu/.
Begg, M., Dewhurst, D., and Macleod, H. “Game-Informed Learning: Applying Computer Game Processes to Higher Education. Innovate: Journal of Online Education,2005, 1(6). Retrieved October 1, 2010, from http://innovateonline.info/index.php?view=article&id=176&action=synopsis.
Bixler, B. “Twenty Billion Reasons to Build an Educational Gaming Initiative in Higher Education.” Paper presented at the Games+Learning+Society 6.0 in Madison,Wisconsin, 2010.
Entertainment Software Association. (n.d.). “Industry Facts.” Retrieved October 1, 2010, from http://www.theesa.com/facts/index.asp.
Gee, J. P. What Video Games Have to Teach Us about Learning and Literacy. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003.
Gillispie, L., Sheehy, P., and Lawson, C. “Learning with the Lich King: Education in World of Warcraft.” Paper presented at the Games+Learning+Society 6.0 in Madison, Wisconsin, 2010.
Halverson, R., Bauman, E., Wolfenstein, M., Millar, S., and Patterson, N. “Progression: Advancing the Development and Adoption of Games for Learning.” Paper presented at the Games+Learning+Society 6.0 in Madison, Wisconsin, 2010.
Lenhart, A., Kahne, J., Middaugh, E., Macgill, A.R., Evans, C., and Vitak, J. “Teens, Video Games, and Civics.” Pew Internet and American Life Project. 2008. Retrieved September 29, 2008, from http://www.pewinternet.org/Reports/2008/Teens-Video-Games-and-Civics.aspx.
Martin, V. S. “Online Video Games in an Online History Class.” Paper presented at the Second IEEE International Conference on Digital Game and Intelligent Toy Enhanced Learning DIGITEL in Banff, Alberta, Canada, 2008.
Shafer, D. W. Epistemic Games. Innovate: Journal of Online Ed, 2005, 1(6). Retrieved October 1, 2010, from http://innovateonline.info/index.php?view=article&id=79&action=synopsis.
Squire, K. Video Games and Education. Unpublished manuscript, Madison, Wisc., 2010.
Travis, R. and Young, M. “Operation KTHMA—Reign of the Demiurge: Game Worlds, Greek History, the Classics, and Situated Learning.” Paper presented at the Games+Learning+Society 6.0 in Madison, Wisconsin, 2010.
“Games are the most elevated form of investigation.” Albert Einstein
“Gamification is the use of game design techniques and mechanisms to solve problems and engage audiences.”
My learning partner was Erin Clupp, who is a Documentation Librarian here at CNA-Q. We met back in May and after discussing some of the recent trends in education, decided on the broad topic of gamification and gaming-based education. We are both very excited by this topic.
After a general discussion of the common aspects and elements of gamification, Erin and I started discussing how games are already used all around us in our everyday lives. We collect points (Air Miles for travel are almost like Experience Points in a game). We collect stamps at coffee shops until we receive a free one (like a 1-Up in a game or a boost). Degrees and certifications are like gamer badges. We use mobile apps on a daily basis to turn our life into a game a monitor progress. For example, we use Fitbit for health and exercise, Duolingo for learning a new language, Ribbon Hero for learning Microsoft Office, Epic Win for time management, Hopscotch for learning computer coding, etc. Other discussions surrounding gamification – Harry Potter is very much about a game of Quidish and also how Angry Birds and Candy Crush has been so successful.
Gaming is no longer a simple pastime or hobby of geeks and nerds, “it’s a twenty-first-century way of thinking and leading…a twenty-first-century way of working together to accomplish real change” (McGonigal, as cited in Bourgault, 2012). In one of the articles that I discussed, Kristen Bourgault talks about the criticism that gaming is cheapening education. She cites game designer Margaret Robertson who argues that what people are criticising isn’t gaming, which can be a great tool for enriching learning, they are actually criticizing what she refers to as ‘pointsification’. Robertson says, “Points and badges have no closer a relationship to games than they do to websites and fitness apps and loyalty cards” (as cited in Bourgault, 2012). By simply adding badges and points to learning, does not make it a game nor do badges indicate that the students have obtained a true understanding of the subject. Instead, Bourgault says planning games for teaching purposes must be well thought out like you would any other learning activity. Start by creating a compelling narrative for students. Then set up mentoring and collaborating opportunities as you would see in many online, virtual games, then be sure to include frequent feedback and assessment. Badges and points can be used to track progress but “meaningful instructor feedback is what will truly propel the learner forward” (Bourgault, 2012). Based on our readings and discussion, both Erin and I agreed that gamification can be an effective instructional tool if used in the right situation in the right way. By tapping into our innate desire for gaming and learning in a fun, innovative way, we can hope to engage our students in experiential learning that they will enjoy and remember. Resources Bourgault, Kristen. (2012). Gamification in education: epic win, or epic fail? Digital Pedagog. Retrieved from: http://digitalpedagog.org/?p=1416 Lee, J. J. & Hammer, J. (2011). Gamification in Education: What, How, Why Bother? Academic Exchange Quarterly, 15(2).
(Very interesting article on Gamification that discusses the pros and cons of gamification and looks towards where it may be in the future.
Gamification in Education: What, How, Why Bother?
Joey J. Lee, Teachers College Columbia University, NY Jessica Hammer, Teachers College Columbia University, NY Lee, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor of Technology and Education. Hammer is a Mellon Interdisciplinary Graduate Research Fellow at the Institute for Social and Economic Research and Policy.)
Category #1 – Reflective Journal Entry
Our societies and economies have experienced a profound transformation from reliance on an industrial to a knowledge base. Global drivers increasingly bring to the fore what some call “21st century competencies” – including deep understanding, flexibility, and the capacity to make creative connections, a range of so-called “soft-skills” including good team working. The quantity and quality of learning thus become central, with the accompanying concern that traditional educational approaches are insufficient.” Dumont and Istane (2010)
I really like this quote. We always talk about the 21st century and how different things are from the past and our new knowledge economy where information increases as does our speed of access to it. Soft skills include good teamwork but also other things such as getting along with others, ethics and often referred to as people skills.
There is often discussion around emotional intelligence where the leaders of companies and projects for example need the soft and hard skills to do their jobs. As an educator it is important for me to keep up to the changes that surround me in the new economy where classrooms are flipped (videos are for homework and the students come to class to demonstrate understanding. – P.5 Merriam and Bierema) and people talk about bringing their own devices for example. Collectively educators need to look at these trends, understand them and make changes to the way we teach so the leaders of tomorrow will have the skills required to compete effectively. As educators we need to help our students to develop the skills to access current and reliable information, critically analyze it and be able to use that information in a logical and effective way.
There is a greater need for instructors to help students be more creative in how they learn. They need to know how to learn as the game changes so quickly. A quote in the book noted that “most professional preparation becomes outdated before one gets situated in a career. Hewlett Packard has estimated that what one learns in a Bachelor of Engineering Program is outdated or “deconstructs itself in 18 months and for the technology fields the half life is even less. Students need to be prepared as self-directed, lifelong learners “for jobs that do not yet exist, to use technologies that have not been invented, and to solve problems that we don’t even know are problems yet” (Darling-Hammond et all 2008 P.2 )(Quoted on P.5 Merriam and Bierema) They must be prepared to continually advance their knowledge and skills. They will be expected to keep pace with rapid changes and apply their knowledge and skills to diverse situations and environments. What employers want are employees who can process information, understand what is happening, be creative problem solvers, and make good decisions often with limited information.
Soft skills are also important for instructors to foster in students. Good teamwork is important for example and they need to work in groups effectively. Being more team oriented in the workplace means as educators we need to help our students develop skills that will allow them to work well in groups. This is often a challenge as some have been victims of bad groups for numerous reasons in the past and prefer to work solo.
Acquiring knowledge is important but that information can become outdated very quickly.
It is essential for people to be able to identify reliable and valid sources of information and to critically think and question the information in front of them. Technology has also allowed us to work with others much more easily and many of us are on the “cloud”. Skype puts us right there in the room. We can work on projects with others almost anywhere in the world. There are challenges though with working with a diverse team as there is a greater chance of miscommunication and misunderstanding.
Soft skills become more important so that team members can be respectful and sensitive to differences like age, cultural, etc. when working with each other.
There can be more than one goal when helping students to learn. Meeting the learning objective is just part of what can be taught. How students learn can help them to develop valuable skills in the future and we need as educators to address any gaps required in the 21st Century through learning ourselves how to be more effective. We need to be ahead of that curve.
Dumont, H., Istance, D. & Benavides, F. (2010) The Nature of Learning: Using Research to Inspire Practice. Paris: OECD.
Merriam, S.B., & Bierema, L.L. (2014). Jossey-Bass Adult Learning: Linking Theory and Practice.
I love to learn and consider myself a lifelong learner. As a lover of learning myself, it is exciting to be a part of helping and facilitating that learning process for others. I teach business at College of the North Atlantic Qatar and have done so for the last 4 years. Specifically, the courses I teach currently include: marketing, retailing, entrepreneurship, sales and project management. In Business we have a lot of content to discuss – (push through?) and prepare our students for assessments, but I try to make the journey as fun as I can.
In term of innovation and new ideas I like to change it up and try new things in the classroom and I am delighted to be taking this program as I am learning so much about learning, about what I do as a teacher and about my teaching style. Most importantly it makes me think about how I can improve. As a friend of mine said “you must treat the profession like your own business”. I feel very successful by taking that philosophy to heart.
I spent over 25 years in a variety of exciting and fast paced industries such as technology, telecommunications and consumer packages goods like food and beverage. I worked for some huge companies and some tiny companies and I was involved in 5 startups. I find myself in the classroom, full time for the last five years, teaching college/university level business in 4 different countries. I have lots of real life material and I like to use cases and field trips as part of the learning as often as I can.
My approach to the new term is always preparation. Which classroom? What does it look like? Did I manage to get a computer lab?. Lighting, technology, projector, smart board, Ketab, LanSchool. – arrangement of chairs and desks etc. I always use D2L and have used Moodle, Web CT and Blackboard – I am trying incorporate new technology as often as I can like Webify and Padlet and we are lucky at CNAQ as we have a teaching and learning centre that encourages, helps us to move forward with technology, teaching techniques etc. I have taken every course I can with them including the Instructional Skills Workshop where faculty have to prepare 3 lectures for the group and then face the jury for feedback. It was amazing and I learned a lot.
When it comes to the first day of instruction it is so very important although it often takes a week for the class to settle down with late arrivers etc. I try to make the students comfortable to ask questions from the first day. Teaching in the multicultural environment of Qatar with students from over 31 countries, and Qatari nationals who are in the classroom for the first time ever with the “fairer sex”, creates some interesting dynamics. It is important to make them feel comfortable because it not the environment they are used to and this is especially noticeable in first year classes. I like to start the week with some icebreakers such as “All About You” and Expectations”. All About You is some information about them that I keep to myself. I ask them to work together to discuss my “Expectations” of them ad what they expect from me. The information is very interesting and I am looking at putting it all together to see if I can find some trends amongst the data.
I like to spend time going through my Course Outline with a discussion of the Assessments, Learning Objectives, Timings of Assessments, Office hours, Contact information (these days I always hand out my mobile number but they mainly text me in this part of the world) and also the how and why of what we will be covering in the course. (Why do we need to learn this?). I have written many Course Outlines and several courses and I just completed rewriting my Project Management course. I continue with my own personal self-development to improve myself and the product that I provide to my customers which is my knowledge, experience and teaching methodology to make the material, interesting, understandable and help to commit the knowledge to long term memory in a safe and fun environment of respect.
I am happy to share the experience I have from industry and I do tell some stories, as well as pass on the knowledge given to me by my clients, colleagues, and all the others who teach me.
I like stories, and teaching is the best way to tell them – and to constantly improve the telling.
Cicero said: “The authority of those who teach is often an obstacle to those who want to learn.” I try, daily, to upset authority, including my own and make the classroom a fun place of learning, with a positive vibe and some humor throw in for good measure.
My name is Peter and I love to teach.