Where it all began....

I started blogging in 2003 to share my lesson plans with other teachers. I'm still posting regularly!

Holiday

Posted by Bill in Personal on Monday, April 17, 2006 (8 years ago) Permalink



Hi folks!

On holiday for the next week, so posts might be few and far between. 

Warmly,

Bill



meta-analysis shows games work

Posted by Bill in Games in education on Thursday, April 13, 2006 (8 years ago) Permalink



Courtesy of the Serious Games mailing list this interesting study looks at some promising evidence for the roles of games and learning.  From the abstract…

“Empirical findings from 43 studies concerning learning, costs of learning, and transfer of learning from computer games and game-like simulations are reviewed and discussed. These findings suggest that games and simulations can improve cognitive processes and that motivation and immersion are factors in these improvements. The findings suggest positive transfer to real life tasks when the tasks required by games and simulations are similar. Cost arguments for simulations can be strengthened by the addition of game-like qualities to simulations. Limits to the generality of these conclusions, issues in research on games and simulations, and suggestions for further research are discussed.”



Richard Bartle on Games and Learning

Posted by Bill in Games in education on Monday, April 10, 2006 (8 years ago) Permalink



For those of you who don’t know Richard Bartle, I suggest you read his exceptional book, Designing Virtual Worlds.  It’s a well-earmarked favorite of mine.  Richard wrote one of the first text-based multiplayer games on the internet, MUD. 

Richard recently posted a blog entry about Games and Learning. Although he comments on “educational games” (which he seems to frown upon), he makes some good points about how games work in learning.

Richard says “Games work by teaching incidentally, that is by missing the point;”.  This is exactly what I see.  When kids play Age of Mythology, they are not memorizing Greek, Egyptian, and Norse gods. But if they know about the gods they will be more successful.  If you were playing a scenario based in the ocean, would you pray to Hades or Poseidon?  In order to be successful in a game, you need to master the skills in the game necessary to win.  I think this has also been called “stealth learning”. 

This is a central idea to COTS games in education;  kids have a great time, and learn as they are playing.  So it’s not a “direct instruction” thing - it’s an “incidental learning” thing.  And with good instructional design (when a teacher reflects with children about the lessons learned) games become a particularly potent learning tool.

Thanks Richard!



Why dual booting Apple computers are a big deal in games in education

Posted by Bill in Educational Tech ,  Games in education on Wednesday, April 05, 2006 (8 years ago) Permalink



Apple has just announced boot camp, a simple dual booting utility for inte-based Macs.

As a public educator, with a school filled with Apple computers, this is very encouraging news. 

No longer are we stuck in a world of Apple OR Windows.  Now we have a fantastic opportunity to use the incredible tools which come with OS X (iLife , iTunes and all the beautiful OS X software) and the great games available on Windows.  Simply fantastic. 

This is great news.  OS X is reallly quite superior in so many ways - ease of use, available software, unix roots, iLife, etc…. However, the one area OS X has been lacking is mainstream games.  Now with dual booting, there is really no reason not to buy a Macintosh.  I would love to use Muzzy Lane’s great game Making History but alas, no luck on OS X.

With OS X’s windows-friendly Server managing the two platforms is a cinch…kids can even access their documents on a shared resource!  It’s great news for education folks who are looking for the best of both worlds! 

The only drawback?  OS X users /will/ need to be very careful of the virii and spyware on Windows boxes now!!!!

Edit: Raph Koster asks: are Mac Games going to die?  I say: probably.



Serious games conference notes available

Posted by Bill in Games in education on Tuesday, April 04, 2006 (8 years ago) Permalink



Fresh from the serious games summit at the Games Developer Conference, conference notes are now available!

These presentations represent some superb thinking in the serious games sphere.  Worth a look.



Google RSS news reader

Posted by Bill in Blogging on Monday, April 03, 2006 (8 years ago) Permalink



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Of course Google would do something this cool.  Goolge new reader is a web-based RSS reader. Seems pretty cool.



Podcasts feed finally working!

Posted by Bill in Games in education on Sunday, April 02, 2006 (8 years ago) Permalink



Thanks to the hard work of Sue (who is a first-rate miracle maker) my RSS podcast feed is working.  I’ve only two episodes right now, but I’ll be adding more - usually weekly.  I podcast on games in education.

I suggest you use iTunes to manage your podcasts. 

URL to the podcast page is: http://www.mackenty.org/index.php/podcasts
URL to podcast feed is here: http://www.mackenty.org/index.php/podcasts/rss_podcasts

Enjoy, and thanks again Sue!



Blogging and eFolios

Posted by Bill in Blogging ,  Educational Tech on Wednesday, March 29, 2006 (8 years ago) Permalink



Got this great question about eFolio today…

I am not sure but I think your level of blog might be used with students instead of efolio?  Do you have any knowledge of these and/or suggestions? I’d like to pilot these with the 9th and 12th grade classes I teach.

For reference, here’s some stuff I’ve written about blog. Blogging is a tremendously valuable tool, but we need to deliberately design a lesson around the instructional goals…

Blogging and education part 1
Blogging and education part 2
How do I use blog in my classroom

Beginning blog does not allow for really dynamic content, which is necessary for good efolio management and presentation.  Blogger, for example, allows uploading pictures and sound, but there aren’t any galleries or file management tools.  If I wanted to add powerpoint presentations, videos, and lots of “zing”, I would be limited to simple expressions and site organization.

More advanced blog solutions (Expression Engine and Movable Type) offer tons of plug ins and extras.  These extras make blog an exceptional tool to use an eFolio.  Keep in mind it’s ease of use which really makes blogs a good choice.  If I want to add or edit to my eFolio (blog) it should be as simple and straight forward as possible.

The advantage blog hold over eFolio is RSS. Anytime my blog is updated, it is automatically propagated to aggregate sites, and to whomever is subscribed to my RSS feed.

The value of eFolio and online portfolios cannot be understated; we have a “live” constantly updated assessment record.  With multi-media, we have a tremendous opportunity to showcase learning!



Ah, Lem - Do widzenia

Posted by Bill in Personal on Tuesday, March 28, 2006 (8 years ago) Permalink



image

As an avid science fiction fan I was saddened to learn Stanislaw Lem has died.

His writing was particularly succint.  Very to the point about things, in a beautiful way.

Do widzenia == goodbye in Polish



The time has come, the danger is real.  It’s time to ban pencils

Posted by Bill in Educational Tech on Thursday, March 23, 2006 (8 years ago) Permalink



Courtesy of Education World comes this great article from Doug Johnson.

It’s a tounge-in-cheek reply to the folks who don’t want to use iPods in the classroom. 

From the article:

  1. A student might use a pencil to poke out the eye of another student.
  2. A student might write a dirty word or, worse yet, a threatening note to another student, with a pencil.
  3. One student might have a mechanical pencil, making those with wooden ones feel bad.
  4. The pencil might get stolen.
  5. Pencils break and need repairing all the time.
  6. Kids who have pencils might doodle instead of working on their assignments or listening to the teacher.

Great stuff.  We should be teaching our kids how to use technology, not building a wall around technology! Doug asks this sterling question:

When are we going to learn to use the kids’ devices for their benefit rather than invent excuses to outlaw them?



Want a great blog?  do this…

Posted by Bill in Blogging on Thursday, March 23, 2006 (8 years ago) Permalink



I’ll be accepting an award tommorrow for my blog.  Thanks again to eSchool news. 

I wanted to include the criteria the team used to evaluate a good blog. I don’t know who thought of these, but these are truly exceptional criteria fir running an efective blog:

1. Personality: Is there a clear personality? Do
you feel like you know the writer? Is there a feel-
ing of intimacy that might be missing from main-
stream media or other forms of communication?

2. Usefulness: Is the information useful or enjoy-
able to read? Did it make you think, or laugh, or
click? Are there handy links to other places?

3. Writing style: Is the writing in the blog snappy,
crisp, and engaging to read? Or is it long-winded,
dull, convoluted, or sloppy? Worse, is it a sales
pitch disguised as a blog? Or just news briefs or
bullet-point items without any fresh perspective,
analysis, or insight?

4. Usability and design: Is the typeface easy
to read? Can you find links to archives? Is the
writing concise and easily skimmable?

5. Frequency: Is the blog updated regularly, and
with sufficient frequency? Or are there long, ran-
dom periods of inactivity between posts?

6. Relevancy: Does the blog stay on topic, and
is it relevant to the category in which it is being
judged? Or is it all over the map in terms of
content?

7. Interactivity: Does the blog incorporate video
or audio in an engaging, interactive way? Does it
offer a forum for readers to respond, or use other
features to help develop a sense of community?

8. Fulfillment of purpose:How well does the
blog fulfill its intended mission?

9. Appropriateness: Does the blogger use lan-
guage and etiquette that is appropriate to a pro-
fessional educational setting? (i.e., no inappropri-
ate personal references, etc.)

10. Would you revisit: Is it useful or engaging
enough for you to visit it again someday? Or will
you forget it the minute after you vote?



Time Magazine: are kids too wired for their own good?

Posted by Bill in Educational Tech on Wednesday, March 22, 2006 (8 years ago) Permalink



Great article in Time magazine (March 27 2006) about how media-saturated kids might not be such a good thing….

...as an instructional technology guy, I often wonder, how much is too much?  I see a place for technology in kids lives, and I also see the value of curling up with a good book.  The article, written by Wendy Cole, Sonja Steptoe, and Sarah Sturmon, is full of great quotes and observations.  some of my favorites:

“Decades of research ...indicate that the quality of one’s output and depth of thought deteriorate as one attends to ever more tasks…”  - In other words, we do better when we focus on one thing. But in todays world, how often do we need depth? I think when we we have acces to so much broad and deep information, we are more focused on how we use information wisely.  This is the great teaching challenge we face in 2006.

“Koonz and Turkle believe that todays students are less tolerant of ambiguity than the students they taught in the past. ‘They demand clarity’ says Koontz.  They want identifiable good guys and bad guys, which she finds problematic in teaching complex topics…”

As a self-confessed “extreme moderate” this worries me quite a bit.  There is quite a bit of grey in the world - we need young people to understand nuanced situations and be comfortable in ambiguity (this is why I love the Episcopal church, by the way).

“For all the handwringing about Generation M, technology is not really the problem…the problem…is what you are not doing if the electronic movement grows to large…”

In classic Time magazine fashion,  there are some wonderful, hands-on tips for parents (taken from Dr. Edward Hallowell’s great book CrazyBusy : Overstretched, Overbooked, and About to Snap! Strategies for Coping in a World Gone ADD)

Parents should:

See for yourself what it’s all about. Get on IM. Download an MP3, Play a video game. Create a MYspace account, let your kids be your guide, but talk to them about how to use these technologies wisely. 

Set limits, monitor content and teach “techno manners”.  For everyone:  no cell phones at the dinner table. No playing video games while someone is trying to talk to you.  Np ignoring mom and dad when they come home because they are glued to a video screen.

Look for the good.  Search for what’s positive and innovative in the ways in which your children are using and adapting o the new technology.  Try to imagine how it could be used to enhance relationships and learning. 

Take time to hangout with your kids.  DO mundane, non-technological things .  Wash the car together, play ping-pong, debate politics, take them out for ice-cream (no ipods or cell phones).  Spend time together with eyes and ears available to them. 

All in all a great article, and a good treatment of the subject.



Games Developer Conference: Jesper Juul on broadening the game-meme

Posted by Bill in Games in education on Tuesday, March 21, 2006 (8 years ago) Permalink



Jesper Juul’s presentation was really great.  He talked about, as promised, broadening our definition of what games can be.

Jesper had many good points, but I think his most important ideas centered around goals.

Basically, he said goals, while providing a framework for forward momentum, narrow the scope of the game. He explored this a bit in depth, pointing to The Sims 2 and Grand theft auto: San Andreas.  Both games offer an extraordinary play-space.  You could choose what you want to do, and it’s still fun. While there are goals in GTA, they are totally optional.  The idea of free choice in a game world presents as a compelling and engaging medium.  One in which players who might shun games are invited to meet the game on their own terms, and in their own way.

Kind of like how we need to meet our students, eh?  Instead of offering a looong line of easily digestible lessons in which the “teacher knows all”  we are exploring and encouraging our kids to explore, a learning space.  Cool stuff.

Another point Jesper made I think worth mentioning is equating games to languages.

Some games have:

Small vocabulary, flexible syntax
Small vocabulary, rigid syntax
Large vocabulary, very rigid syntax
Large vocabulary, flexible syntax.

It is basically a neat framework for understanding what we can do in a game world.

I’m off to Florida after this, to accept an award for mackenty.org.  I can’t wait to see the folks from eSchool News!



9 Paradoxes of learning through video games & simulation

Posted by Bill in Games in education on Saturday, March 18, 2006 (8 years ago) Permalink



The Serious Games mailing list recently received a wonderful note from Clark Aldrich (blog).

Mr. Aldrich has written some books on the topic of games of learning (which I haven’t read yet). Simulations and the Future of Learning : An Innovative (and Perhaps Revolutionary) Approach to e-Learning and Learning by Doing : A Comprehensive Guide to Simulations, Computer Games, and Pedagogy in e-Learning and Other Educational Experiences”.


The First Paradox is that people learn more from the underlying systems and
interface in any educational experience than from the surface content.

The Second Paradox is that educational simulations can never be completely
comprehensive and accurate.

The Third Paradox is that one can’t even begin to understand a sim by watching someone else play it; one has to play it him or her self.  One can’t even begin to evaluate a sim by playing it; one has to measure the results of someone else playing it.

The Fourth Paradox is that things that seem simple, narrow, and isolated when “taught” through traditional linear means are deep, complex, and extendable when practiced in simulations.

The Fifth Paradox is that when educational simulations are first created, they are heavy on simulation elements, and casual players complain they are too hard. Over iterations, as a result of the complaints, educational simulations are made easier and more fun, and serious players then complain they are not
deep enough.

The Sixth Paradox is that vendors and builders of simulations like to describe them as vaguely and mystically as possible:

The Seventh Paradox Most deployments of simulation based programs look successful if measured forward from what a student learned, but most simulation deployments look like failures if measured backwards from what percentage of material that the students could have learned, they did learn.

The Eighth Paradox, is that things get worse before they get better, even when the transformation is sought after and desired.

The Ninth Paradox of Educational Simulations states that a good educational simulation takes traditional linear training just to use.



Real teachers, real games. The Games Developer Conference beckons!

Posted by Bill in Games in education on Thursday, March 16, 2006 (8 years ago) Permalink



I’m happy to report I’ll be speaking at the Games Developer Conference.  My session is entitled Real Teachers: Real Games.

It’s always such an honor to be invited to speak at events like this. I still feel sort of humbled and like “what the heck am I doing here?!”.  Looks like I’ll be speaking with Kurt Squire and David McDivitt

I’ll post up my slides shortly.  While some of my presentation will be typical (here’s what got me started), I plan on discussing my getting to Z project.  If I can swing it, I might even try a live demo.

I’m still using COTS games in my classroom - lately it’s been Age of Mythology, which has been moving in unexpected directions.  I’m seeing great teamwork, and perhaps more importantly, very careful strategic thinking.  I see groups of kids discussing, debating, and opining about various aspects of the game.  I should also note we are not playing against each other, we usually form a group of 4 or 5 students against the computer on the highest level of difficulty (we rarely win…yet).

The Sims 2 figures prominently in class as well - we only have 1 license, but there are often 3 or 4 kids huddled around the screen, pointing and giggling.  Our assistant principal came in,  and immediately accessed the potential.  She is a former consumer-science teacher, so when she saw all the cause and effect in the game, she seemed impressed. 



Games, public schools & religion

Posted by Bill in Games in education on Wednesday, March 15, 2006 (8 years ago) Permalink



We are using the terrain editor in Age of Mythology.  This lets kids build virtually any geographic place in an easy-to-use way.  The terrain editor is clear, easy, and produces decent-looking output.  The kids can choose rivers, mountains, oceans, ice, etc…  The idea?  Explore geographic concepts through this terrain editor, and create real-world geographic maps using this tool.

As a precursor to creating their own terrain, we played a game of Age of Mythology (for a PDF version of a presentation I gave on Age of Mythology, click here). 

Today, a student came in and told me they were not allowed to play the game; after some brief conversation I realized the child’s parents had strong religious convictions, and did not want their child playing a game where other gods were worshipped.

From a strictly procedural point of view, this child can no longer play this particular game.  Once a parent says “no”, that’s it.  I’ll try to contact the parent to sort this out, but for now it’s no AOM for this child.  This is kind of sad, because he really loves this game, and it’s hard to watch your friends get excited about something and you can’t do it.

We fired up Sim City 4, which has an excellent terrain editor, and he made some good looking maps…

It’s an interesting issue; many games present their play in mythological context.  Games often include super-natural powers and flirt with the ideas of gods, creation, the universe, and the afterlife (FF X). I think that is part of good fantasy narrative.  Many books, films and television shows also dive into this area as well.

This is the first parent complaint I’ve heard about using games in the classroom. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised it would involve faith.  But still….

What do you think?



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I'm the director of technology at the American School of Warsaw. I support the effective use of technology in schools and classrooms. I am also keen on the role of games in education. More than you ever wanted to know about Bill

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