In my last post about game based learning I spoke to the power of rules in school and the need to create a rules system that supports and encourages learning and productive failure. Central to this issue is the dissonance between the goals of our rules (to create a safe and effective learning environment) and the student perception of those rules (punitive failure, demotivational grading). I see a similar disconnect of intent and outcome when it comes to feedback in instruction. Again, the goals of feedback are admirable and lofty – I tell my students what they did well and where they fell flat so that they may correct that behavior in the future, or better yet try again at the given assignment and demonstrate improvement, turn that C into a B or an A. Why is it then that students so often ignore my meticulously crafted feedback, or choose to live with the C instead of taking the opportunity to try again for the A? Why would that same student try over and over, often for hours on end, to get 3 stars on every Angry Birds level, when 1 star is all they need to progress? It turns out that the immediacy of the feedback in games makes all the difference. (more…)
Posts Tagged ‘game’
April 25, 2013 by Josh Caldwell
March 2, 2013 by Josh Caldwell
I love getting the chance to chat with like-minded educators at conferences, and since I left NCCE last week I’ve been processing all of the great discussions and ideas. At the conference I presented about some of the classroom gaming I’ve been doing, but I also got so see a few other presentations on similar topics. It’s clear to me from the discussions I had after these sessions that the concept of gaming in education makes sense to a lot of educators, but often the parallels between gaming and learning are not immediately obvious, particularly when trying to make the argument for classroom gaming to school leadership. To help other educators understand and articulate the value of gaming in the classroom (both through gamification and playing games) I thought I’d write a few articles to focus on some specific benefits of gaming. My hope is that you can use these as discussion starters in your schools and districts to help get the gaming ball rolling. Given my track record of updates to this blog (read: I’m bad at updates), I don’t know how many of these I’ll do. Baby steps.
Rules Are Fun!
One of the prime reasons that we play and enjoy games is the constraints of their structured rules. It may seem counterintuitive to say that rules are fun, but rules provide players a framework within which they can strive for success. No rules means there’s nothing to challenge your progress. No challenge means no sense of achievement. In other words, we need rules and constraints for our successes to have any meaning. So why do the rules of a game produce an enjoyable and engaging experience that encourages progress, while the rules of school often produce a de-motivational experience that shuts down student progress? It all comes down to the perceived potential for success.
September 20, 2012 by Josh Caldwell
May 2, 2012 by Josh Caldwell
Recently I introduced a group of my technology students to the text-based adventure Lost Pig, both as a way of broadening their reading horizons and as a gauge of interest in the genre. I posted about the experience on this site, but there’s a deeper level of learning going on that I feel merits its own post.
When I first introduced my students to Lost Pig, I knew that they would find the experience challenging simply because it was an unfamiliar way to interact with text. As I expected, the majority of my students really struggled; they weren’t used to a game forcing them to do so much problem solving without any visual cues to help them. Right from the beginning players are preventing from going in any direction, and the player must notice that there is a noise coming from one of the bushes and then listen to that noise to progress. After a couple of minutes of confusion, the stronger readers figured it out an moved on. Gradually more and more students figured it out, until finally the stragglers moved on with a little bit of prompting. That’s when I made my first realization about IF.
Interactive Fiction FORCES students to use reading comprehension strategies – you can’t just gloss over text that you don’t understand and move on; you are physically incapable of progressing until you comprehend essential elements of the text.
This realization put my students’ frustration into a new context. The frustration they experienced trying to figure out the game is similar to the frustration they feel when reading a challenging text, only amplified. Students have to confront their comprehension issues on the spot, instead of waiting until a test or essay to realize that they didn’t fully understand what they read.
Interactive Fiction provides immediate feedback about your reading strategies. At its best, IF is responsive and adaptive – trying to do the “wrong” thing will often result in a hint or additional information to help the reader self-correct. Misconceptions and misunderstandings can be dealt with in real time and with humor.
Not only did the interactive nature of the game bring into focus the reading comprehension process for my students, it also actively helped them to engage and adapt. Imagine what we could do with an IF game purposefully written to model reading comprehension, a game that could articulate to the player how to make sense of the text. Students would then be more fully aware of when they are and are not successfully reading and comprehending the text, and they would be rewarded for demonstrating comprehension.
Interactive Fiction provides meaningful rewards for comprehension. Students feel a sense of accomplishment from solving puzzles and besting challenges.
I don’t mean to suggest by this that students shouldn’t seek intrinsic reward from reading, but rather that the gamely nature of IF engages in the reader a stronger sense of achievement. When the reader/player is actively taking part in the story, they can also take ownership over the accomplishments of their character. It’s one thing to read along as Harry and the gang work their way through the various enchantments protecting the Philosopher’s Stone, but another entirely to actually solve those puzzles on your own. While this can be the most frustrating aspect of IF for low readers, it is also the thing that is most likely to keep them striving. Well written IF provides gradually increasing challenges, allowing readers to build their confidence and invest in the story. The best written IF is fully adaptive, providing readers of multiple levels to be challenged and successful.
Interactive Fiction allows for students of all levels to be challenged. IF can be written such that there are multiple clues, deeper plot elements to explore, point systems, or other opportunities for readers to challenge themselves.
Where a traditional book can only provide one story, one experience, IF can adapt the story to meet the level of the reader. Skilled readers can be challenged to read deeply into veiled references that might lead them into a different storyline entirely. IF games can engage different levels of readers with point systems, Easter eggs, alternate endings, or even inside jokes that let a reader know they caught something that most wouldn’t.
The potential for IF in the classroom is really limitless, and I’ve only just scratched the surface. If you’re interested in learning more, I would highly suggest Jeremiah McCall’s site Gaming the Past, where he uses IF to explore historical events. I also have an IF game (my first) that I wrote as a hardware/software/networking unit assessment for my beginning Computer Tech class that you can check out (feedback and constructive criticism encouraged).
April 6, 2012 by Josh Caldwell
Ever since I first encountered the Inform7 interactive fiction engine at GLS7 last year, it’s been lurking in the back of my mind, looking for a way into the classroom. The idea of introducing my students to the text-based adventures that I loved as a kid excited me, but actually working it into my curriculum had to take a back seat to my revamped grading system, an entirely new computer technology course, and too many other focus-stealing priorities to list. I was about to give up on the idea until next year when Read Across America rolled in bringing both inspiration and opportunity.
My school has a fantastic community of readers, and as a staff we have dedicated Read Across America (March 2) to reading across all subjects. Every year I eagerly anticipate the day when students, dressed in their comfy cozies, carry around stacks of their favorite books. Teachers from every content area model a love of reading. Some classes allow students to read entirely independently, while others focus on content-specific reading, or readers theatre, or other literacy focused activities. All noble pursuits, but I needed something a bit different for my tech kiddos. Given that this was the first year for my computer tech class, I wanted something that the students would remember, something that would help them with their screen reading skills, but also something that would introduce them to kind of reading they likely hadn’t experienced. The time for Interactive Fiction had come! I was ecstatic, dreaming of a maze of twisty little passages all alike, but I just wasn’t sure if my students, the generation of realistic 3D graphics and visually astounding video games, would engage with a purely text-based game.
In fact, they LOVED it.
After a brief introduction to the genre and a basic list of key actions (N/S/E/W, Examine, Take, Ask, etc) I let the kids dive into Lost Pig, a short yet challenging IF game written in Inform. What followed was a period full of frustration and excitement, successes and failures, groans of agony and screams of elation.
I couldn’t believe how absolutely enamored my students were – eyes glued to their screens as they navigated dungeons, encountered trolls, and solved puzzles. As the challenges got harder, students scurried about the lab trying to bounce ideas off each other. They were playing a game, but it was a game without 3D graphics, or rumblepacks, or really anything beyond elaborately complex textual descriptions. They were defeating their enemies not with hyperrealistic weaponry, but with words and creativity. At the heart of it they were reading, writing, and thinking. And they were loving it.
In fact, they loved it so much that they begged me to teach them to program IF.
I haven’t gotten to the teaching portion yet, though I am pouring over the resources at Gaming the Past in preparation. I have, however, programmed my own game in Inform to get acquainted with the language. Not just a game, but an assessment tool as well, a quest that forces my students to apply their knowledge of computer hardware and networking to successfully escape in tact. It definitely needs some work and revision (comments/criticisms encouraged), but I hope you’ll try your hand at my first text-based game/assessment – Escaping the Gnome’s Cave.
June 17, 2011 by Josh Caldwell
What is information literacy in the context of an MMORPG?
How do you assess learning in a tabletop RPG?
What makes a proficient reader of graphic novels?
How do readers approach text in video games?
What literacies will be essential for 21st century learners?
When will formal testing adapt to the shift from individual knowledge to social knowledge, and what will that assessment look like? (more…)
June 17, 2011 by Josh Caldwell
The first day of GLS7 brought with it plenty of spirited debate and intense arguments, as you are likely to have with any diverse group of passionate professionals, but none so hotly contested as the validity of gamification as an educational tool. Commonly associated with social media marketing, gamification seeks to engage consumers by incorporating game mechanics (most commonly achievements or badges) into otherwise boring or unexciting activities, such as filling out surveys – in essence, it’s the Madison Ave version of hiding your dog’s pill in a block of cheese. This arguably crass, commercial interpretation of gamification has tarnished the concept of using game mechanics in education for feedback or recognition. As a telling tone-setter in his Wednesday keynote speech, Eric Zimmerman characterized educational gamification as the beginning of an “unholy alliance” between marketers and learning researchers; certainly a reasonable call to be careful and cautious about with whom and for what reasons we share student information, but is that really reason enough to eschew gamification outright. Is gamefication so tied up in commercialism that we can’t have a successful discussion about it in education without adopting new terminology? (more…)
June 16, 2011 by Josh Caldwell
You are standing in an open field west of a white house, with a boarded front door.
There is a small mailbox here.
This simple, succinct introduction opens the door to the rich immersive environment of 1980′s Zork, the most iconic example of the text-based adventure game genre. No graphics, no sound effects, just the richness of language to draw gamers into the experience. Though text-based games largely went by the wayside with the advent advanced graphical environments, it’s hard to ignore such games as examples of the beauty and power of language in an interactive narrative. Would that my Junior High English students possessed such descriptive prowess. (more…)
May 9, 2011 by Josh Caldwell
Given my love of gaming and my interest in the motivational value of video games, I’m surprised (baffled, really) that I’ve only recently heard of gamification. It’s not that the concept is unfamiliar to me, far from it, but this new (to me) terminology has opened the door to a whole world of people attempting to gamify education. Empowered by my new $5 word, I went on a marathon search bender to find out how people are gamifying their classrooms.
May 5, 2011 by Josh Caldwell
Thanks to my PLN, I scan through a ton of education articles every day, parsing much more information than I could hope to encounter on my own. Sometimes, though, the best finds come when pursuing my other interests. Sometimes I just can’t help but view everything in my life through my teacher-glasses.
Case in point, Shaun Inman’s post about video game level design.
Good level design coaxes a player into first discovering then utilizing their abilities in a variety of situations. It requires balancing revelation and repetition.
Mentally I replace “level” with “course” and “player” with “student” – all of the sudden I’m back to thinking about my students (how do they get into my head like that???).
Shaun goes on to discuss the process of introducing and reinforcing basic skills and game parameters before presenting the player with tasks that require more sophisticated interactions. So, by gradually introducing new obstacles, players (students) are allowed to experience successful mastery of a skill before moving on to another. Then, just as players master the core skills, they’ve got to discover how those skills interact with other game elements. All of these building blocks have to be mastered and reinforced before a player can beat the game. You fail to master a skill, you don’t move on, you don’t win. The game doesn’t keep going without you, instead it ask you to practice until you’re reading to progress – at your own pace.
What does this approach reveal about the learning aspect of games? Game design necessitates a balance of success and challenge; games that are near-impossible to succeed are no fun (except to the die-hards) and games that are too easy provide no engaging challenge. You can’t think about the final goal without deeply considering how to build in the frequent, achievable-yet-challenging goals that take you there.
The message to educators – we need to spend more time on the level design. We need to teach players to run, jump, and shoot before we toss them at the final boss. We need to allow players to discover the parameters, reinforce skills, and make their own way through the levels. We can’t force a student a student onto level 2 when they haven’t mastered the skills to beat level 1.
The article ends with some questions that will be very familiar to educators.
How long should each level be? With what frequency do I introduce new concepts and threats? At what stage do single threat introductory screens become patronizing rather than educational? Repetition is necessary for learning but at what point does the lesson become too repetitive?
I have a feeling that trial and error is the name of the game from this point on and a hope that experience will eventually start answering those questions before the handwringing sets in.