Sunday, January 29, 2017

EDTECH 532-Video Game Graphics Quest

In this quest I watched a series of videos that described the evolution of video graphics.  Although I did not understand all of the technical aspects of this video series.  I did recognized many of the games throughout the video game eras mentioned.  I just turned 46 and as I watched these videos, I realized my life paralleled the evolution of gaming graphics.

I still remember the simple Pong console my parents purchased in the mid-70's.  As simple as it was, my brother and I played tennis the three games available, Tennis, Hockey and Handball.  I also remember playing many of the simple arcade games of the time.  Asteroids was one I played often and I was introduced to Space Invaders on a family trip to Hawaii in 1979.  There was one in my hotel lobby and a put every spare quarter I could find in that machine. One vector game that wasn't mentioned but that I enjoyed was Lunar Lander.  The player had to control the speed and pitch of a space craft and land it safely.  (see image below)

Image result
Lunar Lander
In terms of Sprite games I remember playing 1942 and Mortal Combat but I was in High School during most of this era and Video Games had taken a back seat in my life.,  I do remember wracking my brain playing Myst on a friends computer and being totally hooked.  The same friend also had the original Doom and we spent many hours blasting terrible creatures to bits.

The third era of games mentioned in the video series however bypassed me.  This was the early 90's and I was in University.  Money was tight and didn't get back into gaming until I won an original Sony PlayStation and NFL'98 was my game of choice.

The FPS hit me hard with the Medal of Honor series and then Call of Duty.  I was sucked into these games and if you asked my wife, this wasn't always healthy.  I belonged to a Clan and participated in Forum conversations, played in serious tournaments and spent a lot on upgrading my PC's.  It is probaly her where I really started to understand the true power of the modern computer.

Like many people, I got a Wii console for my kids and that has been the extent of my gaming recently.  To be honest, my recent gaming as been limited to my iPad focussing on simple games like cribbage.  After watching these videos, I may start looking into a new gaming computer:)

EDTECH 532- Play this, learn that

As I progress through this course, I will be periodically commenting on our class resource, Play this, learn that! by Dr. Chris Haskell in this ongoing Blog post.

To being with, we must identify the purpose of the ebook which is to help us find the educational value in commercial games.  This will move us beyond the traditional notion of educational games which Haskell calls "serious games" (think Oregon Trail) whose sole purpose is to educate and introduce us to a whole new world of gamification.  Haskell points out that we can do this if we use contextual transposition when using a commercial game.  In other words, if we change the context and goal of a game, we can adapt it to our educational needs.  I don't have much experience in doing this so I am eager to try this out.  Computer games are an appealing and motivating teaching medium and we are just starting to see the potential it can have on learners. We keep talking about how we need to adapt to the needs of the 21st Century learner and gamifying our learning environments may be a great place to start.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

EDTECH 532- Gaming for love

This info graphic depicts the social power of modern gaming.  Part of the attraction of online games,  is a social and communication component.  Gamers develop their own communities so it is only normal that some of these virtual relationships may expand into real relationships.  Do people enter a gaming community looking for love?  I'm not sure that is the initial reason for gaming but it is certainly natural that long term relationships may develop. So I guess it also makes sense that "Gamers get girls".

EDTECH 532-The Seduction Secrets of Video Games

The success of contemporary video game franchises is the result of certain considerations in the game's design.  Keith Stuart's article The seduction secrets of video games (The Guardian, 2011) identifies some common design strategies of successful games that we as educators should take note of.  As this article states, games tap into our motivation and neural pathways which is exactly what teachers strive to do with their students.  By tapping into our brains' preferences to systems and puzzles, game designers have created very effective learning environments.

Overall, games are effective because they create an environment in which the learner can take risks without facing and judgement from others.  They can try things, they can fail, sometimes fatally without fear.  Following the design template of Acquire/Test/Master has been a successful design strategy for many games.  In other words, one acquires a new skill set, they test it out, and experience a series of failures until they master that skill.  Once the skill is mastered they move on to a new challenge.  This is not always the case in our classrooms.  We often teach, test and then move on regardless of the mastery level of our students.  It doesn't take much to figure out why games are more popular than class.

Successful games tap into our desire to be autonomous.  The feeling of being in charge is empowering and in many games the player has to approach a situation, make a plan and then put that plan into motion. It make take several attempts to beat the Alien or Prince of Darkness, etc but the player gets to decide how its done.  When success if finally reached, there is a sense of pride and accomplishment.  Video games tap into this desire and need for autonomy.  How often do our classrooms?  I dare say that most often students are not experiencing autonomy over their learning.  They are simply doing what they are told which is not as rewarding.

Video games also create curiosity within the player.  The article states, "good games will have the expected progression at each level but will provide surprise rewards halfway through".  This is a motivation strategy that doesn't exist in our classes very often.  Players keep exploring, looking deeper for that possibility of an extra nugget of information or reward where our students rarely go beyond what is expected.  Imagine if our students had the same motivation in our classes as they do in their games!

Video games also provide the player with disproportionate feedback.  Upon the completion of a simple task, the player will experience huge fanfare which really is an overreaction but our brain loves it!  Using sounds and graphics we are rewarded for doing something.  Stuart calls this a "charm offensive" on our brain and an "endorphin come on".  I'm not sure the classroom teacher can compete with that.

By tapping into effective game design, game producers have provided us with safe and effective learning environments based on sound research and science.  Using these resources in an educational only makes sense.  Through their video game play, students prove they can learn almost anything and really is time we expand these platforms to our classrooms.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

EDTECH 532-Virtual Hallucinations in Second Life

This evening I travelled to a virtual hallucinations space in Second Life.  The purpose of such a space is to allow us to experience the tortures of schizophrenia.  As you go through the space there are voices constantly speaking to you, telling you are worthless, to kill yourself, and to do terrible things to others.  At the same time there are visual hallucinations where words appear more prevalent in text and confuse meaning.  To never be able to shut these hallucinations out must be terrible.  Educationally, this could create so much empathy within people who have never suffered a mental illness.  That empathy could lead to more understanding for students who suffer from mental illness in general and schizophrenia specifically.  This was indeed, a very valuable experience.

EDTECH 532- "What are the most important things to remember about "gamifying" education

There are few things one must remember when thinking about "gamifying" education.

First, gamifying education is very much about tangential learning which exposes the learner/player to content and information without forcing the point to hard.  In fact, learning happens simply through that exposure and the learner/player seeks out more information on their own accord.  Basically this leads to self-education.

Also, gamifying education enables learning by making it interesting.  This process bridges the gap between games solely intent on educating and games meant to entertain.  For example, while a fantasy game is loading, quotes and facts can appear on the screen and expose the player to some of the factual inspiration behind the game design.  If the player wants to learn more, the game can link to something like wikipedia which can provide more information.

To sum all of this up, gamifying education is simply enhances a learning experience with out taking the fun out of it.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

EDTECH 532: Jane McGonigal Reflection

After watching Jane McGonigal’s Ted Talk from 2010 titled, Games can make the world better, I began to get a sense of the full potential of gaming.   In McGonigal’s words, games can save the world.
The one thing that struck me was how many hours our students spend gaming.  Between grade 5-12 we can expect a child to have spent 10000 hours playing video games.  Of course they are becoming very literate in the virtual worlds these games resided in and in order to complete the tasks assigned in game play, they have to learn.  Most of this learning is done on their own through trial and error and exploring the game environment on their own.  They fail, then they try again.  They keep trying until they succeed.  In essence this describes mastery learning.  What really impresses me is that kids do this on their own.
If you ask me how this applies to education I would have to honestly say that the gaming described in the video can serve as a model for teaching the 21st learner.  Let students explore, give them a problem to solve and assist them through their journey.  If I were to begin to design a game for learning, that is the formula I would follow.

Monday, January 23, 2017

EDTECH 532 Prometheus Quest-Drop Pods

Tonight, I worked on becoming certified on using the Drop Pods on the Prometheus.  Thanks to the clear instructions I managed to complete the Quest without too many problems.  I had to think a bit about where to type the Vector in but I eventually figured it out.  Unfortunately, the pics I took can't capture the music I got to listen to.  Below you will find evidence of my Quest.  It was pretty fun!

Image 1: my descent to the ground

Image 2 and 3: On the surface

Image 4: At Vector <133,60,2272>

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Gamification Of Education

Here is an infographic form that succincly makes the case for introducing video games into learning environments.  I appreciate it's scientific approach in making it's case.  We all know games are fun but this infographic goes beyond that describes how gaming can motivate students as it cites brain research and other relevant studies.  It also confirms some of my beliefs about gaming. It helps us learn, it motivates us and gaming can be used at any level.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

EDTECH 532- Diversity In Gaming Experiences: Reflections on the different types of games

In pursuit of my Action Games quest, I will be reflecting on different gaming experiences.

The first genre of games I tackled were "Shoot-em up Games".  I tried three of the games out for size.  First was a version of the 1980's classic Galaga.  I have to admit I became a little nostalgic.  I remember playing the original arcade machine version growing up. I also tried out two other shooter games through my Steam account.  Specifically I played Relic Hunter and Tera Blaster which would considered "Top down" shooter games.

All of the Shooters had similar qualities.  Basic graphics, simple controls and the most basic of concepts, shoot everything you see.  These games had similarities in their design.  As on advanced, the game got harder but the rewards became greater.  The game that held my attention the longest was Relic Hunter.  In addition to the shooting aspect, I was given specific tasks to complete as well.  Despite having the most simplistic graphics, I kept wanting to play and try and complete my task.  This seems consistent with the rewarding aspects of gaming that we have talked about in these early days of the course.  To motivate the user and retain their attention, the game needs to offer periodic rewards.

  Sims have always been a big part of my gaming experience.  I have owned several versions of Civilization, Sim City, etc.  They are a perfect way to pass some time immersed in a different time and place.In regards to Simulation Games, I tried out Tropico on Steam.  I chose this particular game because of my Social Studies background. In this game you assume the role of a leader of a small island nation and have to retain power by keeping citizens content or by using force.  This would be really good resource in a classroom setting as students can see the results of making decisions on domestic and foreign policy.  Furthermore, students become more aware of all of the things leaders have to consider.  I also liked that the identity choices available were real life Latin American leaders which could naturally lead to some sort of research assignment.  Like all good SIMS, Tropico allows you to experience first hand a specific scenario.  The potential for Simulation Games such as this is limitless in an educational setting.

Interactive Fiction games have been around since the early days of personal computing.  In fact I remember playing such games on my Apple IIe in junior high school.  For this quest I tried my hand at Zork and To Burn in Memory.  I have to admit, when I was 14 this type of game held my attention but I had a hard time focusing.  I actually had to think too much.  I had to keep track of where I was using a pad of paper and focus alot on the fine details of the script.  It's kind of sad  that I had difficulty with this which makes me think this could actually be a good format to help students with their literacy skills.

There are also a series of Other Games that don't really fall into the above categories but may have value in the educational setting.  Games such as Poker and Yahtzee can be used in lessons on probability very easily. In fact teachers have been using card and dice games do to this years before the introduction of video games.  Other traditional games that have found new life in the digital realm such as Chinese Checkers can help with critical thinking skills as it demands the player develop a strategy.  I have to admit it has been a long time since I played Yahtzee and it took me a few games to remember exactly what I was supposed to do.  I kind of felt I should have a small pad of paper and a golf pencil but I did pretty well without those.  These games were popular for a reason, they make you think and they are fun.  I'm glad to see them finding new life in the online world . Now that I am nostalgic for the board games of my youth,  I think I may have to do a search for Parcheesi.

Adventure Games take a page out of interactive fiction but add much needed graphics to enhance the experience.  I took a few turns at Peasants quest and Heroes Must Die.  Although both were rather simple games they did capture the imagination and I felt like I lost track of time while playing them.  The graphics and actions enhanced the storyline and I could see how an English teacher could use games like this to teach the different parts of the story.

Playing a classic adventure game such as Zelda, players will find that many of the above game features combine.  Players immerse themselves in a story line, collect information while reading text and combat a variety of dangerous creatures all while seeking to finding the Princess Zelda.  This formula of quest, increasing difficulty, action and fiction combine to create a enjoyable experience for the player. I think it is safe to say that this design format influenced many of the educational games of today.  It's actually pretty hard to believe that I had never played Zelda before in my life.  I somehow missed that trend during my first years at University.  I must have beens spending my time "studying".

Video games have evolved in ARG's or Alternative Reality Games.  Players in these games, accept that they are in an alternative realm to their reality and immerse themselves in this knew reality.  Recently I played 39 Clues which serves as a good example of the genre.  First you assume an identity which belongs to one of the "houses" of the powerful Cahill family.  The player is then tasked to solve a family mystery centered around the sinking of the Titanic.  My first quest took me on a virtual tour of Halifax, Georgia and Scotland.  I quickly saw the educational value of this game.  I had to use several different competencies such as critical thinking to solve puzzles while at the same time learning bits of information about the Titanic, different locations, etc and there were aspects of interactive fiction games where I had to ask questions to people I came across.  Also, this game possess many of the motivational aspects of games design.  I received positive reinforcement throughout and once I solved one puzzle, I was often to another that was a bit more difficult.  I can certainly see how such games can hold one's attention for a long time while at the same time, educating them.  This is a very powerful genre of gaming.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

EDTECH 532: TED Talk Reflection (7 Ways to Reward the Brain)

As I watched Tom Chatfield’s TED Talk titled 7 ways to reward the brain, I kept imagining possible implications gaming could have in an educational environment.  It’s exciting to think about designing a class to be taught in such a manner and have kids self motivated enough to succeed and of course learn.

The more I listened, the more I became aware of the importance design has in this field.  Nothing appears to be done by chance.  Every decision is calculated in a manner that will encourage participation and engagement.  The initial stages of game design must be incredibly important.

Above all, listening to this TED talk was exciting.  I am excited about the possibilities that will become available to me in this course.  I am already starting to think about how I can apply what I am learning into my teaching practice.

Friday, January 6, 2017

EDTECH 532 Gaming in Education

I think I've been waiting my whole life for a class like this!  This area wills serve as my reflection area for this course.