Saturday, August 13, 2011

You are Significant and YOU MATTER - Angela Maiers

Angela Maiers is an amazing person. She travels Iowa, the nation and the world working with educators and students. Her message is one of personal empowerment. She recently spoke at the TEDx - Des Moines where she delivered an inspirational talk about the importance of paying attention to others and validating their importance.

I have seen Angela speak and count her as a friend but this talk is quite moving and YOU MUST take 20-minutes to watch it. She shares stories of working with students and motivating them to do their best by acknowledging their genius. This is what we need to do every day to empower others and ultimately make the world a better place.

Thank you, Angela.

What are your reactions to watching this video?  Please watch it and share.
Your opinion MATTERS!!!

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

TED Talks About Gaming in Our Daily Lives

I was just reviewing the gaming videos on TED Talks and found some jewels. These are videos by leaders in the field that included some observations that opened my eyes.

The Game Layer on Real Life
Seth Priebatsch

Seth talks about building a Game Layer on the world. The game layer is already there. He points out that credit card schemes and airline reward programs are prime examples of a gaming format where citizens/players are rewarded for performing the desired behavior (i.e., spending money using credit cards.)  They are there, but not very well designed.

He says that the past decade has been spent building the Social Layer which is a framework for connections. This framework is done and it is called Facebook.   Now that we have the framework, it is necessary to build the Game Layer.  It is about using dynamics to influence how we behave.

He talks about 4 important gaming dynamics:
  1. Appointment Dynamic - in order to succeed, the player must do something at a specific time.
  2. Influence in Status - reward actions that will provide a specific level of status.
  3. Progression Dynamics - success is displayed and measured through itemized tasks.
  4. Communal Discovery - people working together to find a specific set of information.

When Games Invade Real Life
Jesse Schell

Jesse talks about "Beyond Facebook."

He takes us on a long journey which uncovers a number of changes in our world that have been caused by the new gaming culture. He even talks about how gaming can be used to modify our behavior. He even talks about earning points while we brush our teeth in the morning. This supports Priebatsch's idea of layering gaming over our real lives.  It's difficult to explain his presentation but it is a real eye-opener and you should watch it.

These videos really made me thing about what gaming means to our lives.  It isn't necessarily about jamming on Guitar Hero. It's about the ubiquitous reward system that is possible in today's digital world.

What do you think about this? Is gaming changing your life? Do you agree that we are on the threshold of the Gaming Age?


Sunday, August 07, 2011

Gaming's Elements Make for Good Learning
"What is gaming but an on-going assessment? "  These words by James Paul Gee in his Edutopia interview on Grading with Games caused me to take a moment's notice. He's right, you know. Gaming is a directional process where a player eyes an ultimate goal and then exhibits the behavior that will result in attaining that final goal. Along the way, the player's success is evaluated by the game and feedback is provided in the form of success (or lack there of.)

A gaming environment can provide a great number of opportunities to improve learning. A 3D GameLab write-up aggregates the list of these characteristics. These characteristics are specifically collected in reference to games but the value comes when we consider how this can be applied to learning situations:

1. Choice
Provide students with an opportunity to select their path through the game/learning situation. This may mean which quests to complete or which media are used to complete them.

2. Failure
Failing is learning. Try something new and see if it works. The key is to create a situation where failure doesn't have long-lasting penalties. Immediate feedback to the success of a new tactic will provide the formative guidance that the player/learner needs to master the skill.

3. Progress Bars
Players/learners need to have feedback on their progress. Tom Chatfield suggests that using something like a progress bar to share advancement with the player/learner can build engagement and motivation. An example of a system that does this most effectively is the Aleks Math System.

4. Multiple Long and Short Aims
Successful games contain both long and short-term goals. I just finished playing Army of Darkness. It is a game with 50 levels. The long-term goal is to ultimately win by "leveling out" (beating all 50 levels.) Each level is its own short term goal and provides on-going feedback about my success in using the warriors and weaponry at my disposal. This holds true with learning situations. The end goal needs to be in mind to provide relevance but the sequential formative goals provide the feedback that makes it interesting.

5. Rewarding ALL Successful Efforts
While the goal of a learning situation is to master the material/skills, getting there is full of failure. Gamers/learners need to receive some recognition for the work they have completed even if it hasn't lead to total success. This can be a difficult thing to design for the typical learning experience but it needs to be considered.

6. Prompt and Meaningful Feedback

All of these characteristics are connected with prompt and meaningful feedback. It should be immediate and provide some sort of direction as to how a failed attempt can be improved.

7. Elements of Uncertainty/Awards
This is an interesting quality. In experimental psychology, we call this intermittent reinforcement. There is no specific "number of times" that something must be correct to receive an award. This can be quite appealing to the human psyche. That is why casinos are filled with humans playing slot machines because there is no certainty when they will "pay off" but the reward is enough to make it interesting.

Games provide such intermittent rewards by having periodic benefits (i.e., helpful wizards or increasing the treasure chest by 5%) occur to help the player. Teachers provide this sort of untimed reward with gold stars or classroom currency that are distributed to good workers at the whim of the teacher.

8. Socialization
 Learning is a social event. It can be an opportunity for like learners to collaborate with peers and mold responses together. When you are working with collaborators, you are receiving the constant feedback and support that we have described as so important to successful gaming/learning.

What do you think is important?  I think that the most important item that can be taken from this list is feedback. Gaming is a self-correcting journey to an identified goal and it is all based upon immediate and helpful feedback so that the gamer can modify his/her behavior to best achieve success.

What is your idea on this? 

*This posting was prompted by an assignment from 3D GameLab.
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Saturday, August 06, 2011

FINALLY S&P Dropped U.S. Credit Rating from AAA to AA+

It FINALLY happened.

An outside organization has finally spoken out to tell our elected officials in Washington that their infantile battling is leading our country into poverty. Yesterday Standard and Poor's dropped the United States of America's long-term rating from AAA to AA+. (Now our rating matches that of Belgium) They were reviewing our country's administration as they would any company's leadership and they found us wanting.

Their decision and their rationale for this decision was posted in the public domain in an 8-page report. Here it is:

US Downgraded AA+

The problem is that very few people will read this short but informative document. Pundits and politicians are already spinning this into a political decision that is the result of poor administration.  It is your responsibility as an American citizen to read this report to know why this change was made.

Let's take a look at some of the reasons they have become disenchanted with how our politicians are administering our country.  All of these quotes come from S&P's document above. 

S&P says "Our lowering of the rating was prompted by our view on the rising public debt burden and our perception of greater policymaking uncertainty, consistent with our criteria . . . Nevertheless, we view the U.S. federal government's other economic, external, and monetary credit attributes, which form the basis for the sovereign rating, as broadly unchanged."

They were disappointed in our politicians' unwillingness to work together to effect the necessary changes that can deliver us from our fiscal servitude. "Our opinion is that elected officials remain wary of tackling the structural issues required to effectively address the rising U.S. public debt burden."

"The political brinksmanship of recent months highlights what we see as America's governance and policymaking becoming less stable, less effective, and less predictable than what we previously believed. The statutory debt ceiling and the threat of default have become political bargaining chips in the debate over fiscal policy. Despite this year's wide-ranging debate, in our view, the differences between political parties have proven to be extraordinarily difficult to bridge, and, as we see it, the resulting agreement fell well short of the comprehensive fiscal consolidation program that some proponents had envisaged until quite recently."

John Chambers of S&P says that they evaluate countries' strengths in 5 areas: Political Setting, Fiscal Profile, Real Economy, External Situation, and Monetary Policy. The two areas where the U.S. was weak were Political Setting and Fiscal Profile. Their explanatory report identifies upside and downside scenarios. The Upside Scenario projects that the net public debt burden "would rise from an estimated 74% of GDP by the end of 2011 to 77% in 2015 and to 78% by 2021." The Downside Scenario projects that "the net public debt burden would rise from 74% of GDP in 2011 to 90% in 2015 and to 101% by 2021."  Even in the best of projections, this means that in ten years for every $10 in the US GDP (market value of all final goods and services produced in our country) we will have borrowed $8 to help that happen.

Yes, there was a $2 trillion error in S&P's calculations but that doesn't make the difference. It's about leadership. It's about the Political Setting. Please remember that U.S. leadership is not just the President. It involves the House and Senate working with the President in a bipartisan manner that is directed towards the betterment of our country. Roadblocking plans just for either party's benefit in future elections is the type of irresponsible leadership that leads to this loss of confidence.

We have spent the last decade overspending our budget and not paying attention to balancing income and expenditures. We have been in 2+ wars since 2002 and there have been no increases in revenue (taxes, closing tax loopholes, etc.). The cost of the wars weren't even included in Bush's budgets. We have a $14,000,000,000,000 debt ceiling and our leaders believe that we just need to raise the debt ceiling to take care of things? I don't think so.

While I don't look forward to the consequences of this monumental drop in the U.S. Credit rating, I hope that it will finally catch the attention of the irresponsible blockage on Capitol Hill.

What do you think?


Friday, August 05, 2011

Is Gaming "As Real As Your Life?"

David Perry                      Michael Perry via WikipediaOnce again, TED comes through with a video that made me think about the future. This isn't just any future, but it is the future brought to us by David Perry where he suggests that our perception and interaction with the world will be moderated or at least affected by simulation gaming. David Perry is a game designer who has created games like Enter Matrix, The Terminator, Aladdin, and Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles,

Perry does a stupendous job of taking us through the evolution of various types of games including game boarding, basketball (from stick figures to life-like player where you can see the sweat rolling off his brow), boxing, StarWars, and 1st-person shooter games. It's easy to see how things on the screen can be mistaken for reality.

The most effective part of the talk was the excerpt he played from Michael Highland's film, As Real As Your Life. Highland explains that he was born in 1984 (the beginning of the Millennial Generation) and his constant involvement with video games has changed his life. The border between his real world and video world have blurred. His interaction in the virtual world is helping mold who he is in the real world. He has driven over 32,000 miles in virtual cars while he has only put 25,000 miles on his real car. 

How will this affect our learning? It has a dramatic effect in who we are and what we do. Does it make us a better or worse person? No. Learning through video games is no different than learning through real life except the learner/teacher has some control over the situations where the learner is learning. This can provide a much richer and more skilled learner because s/he can be experienced beyond his/her years. Look at how this is used with astronauts, pilots, police officers, soldiers and doctors. They have learned to react or proact in situations they have never before experienced in real life. At least when they experience it in the virtual world, there are few repercussions from mistakes that they may experience.

The gaming world can provide a rich experience for learners inside and outside of the classroom. The only problem is that it can be quite complex and more difficult to create such an environment. It is much easier to simply create a lecture with a few poorly-made PowerPoints.  The advantage is that once the gaming environment has been created, it can  reused without much more work on the part of the teacher. It should be continually reviewed and updated as necessary, but it is not like creating a whole new learning situation.

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Thursday, August 04, 2011

Is THIS Fully Digitalized Classroom Better?

Recently, the Learning Matters blog posted a 9-minute piece that they filmed about a school district in Mooresville, North Carolina that went "completely digital."  All of the students and teachers from grades 4 - 12 have laptops (over 5,000).  This project began 3 years ago and the teachers are describing big differences in their teaching and the students' learning.

Is this any different then other 1-to-1 experiences? Is it really about the computers? What changes do you see in the pedagogy of the school?  It is difficult to answer these questions in 9 minutes, but what do you think?

Watch the video and see what you think? They have had reductions in school problems. They have an active filtering system on the information accessible. They blog YouTube, FaceBook and MySpace.

What do you think?


Tuesday, August 02, 2011

7 Ways Games Reward the Brain

On August 1, I began a 3-week class through Boise State University entitled 3D GameLab.
This online experience is designed to provide an opportunity where an educator/learner can become involved in a game-based learning situation first-hand. It's a personal journey through the gaming theory that is purveyed by Gee and Prensky.

It's VERY personal and I like it.

The explanation of how this works is rather complicated. It is complex enough to warrant it's own independent posting at another time. The main reason that I am writing this post is because it is part of the quest that I am presently trying to complete. How's THAT for motivation?

We were asked to watch the Ted Talk presentation, 7 Ways Games Reward the Brain by Tom Chatfield, and then reflect upon something that he said.  This talk is about how the complexities of gaming can be applied to motivate people in learning. Chatfield describes (both psychologically and biologically) how game-like challenges engage the human soul.

The interesting part of his analysis is how he describes the process that game designers use to capture your attention and engage your soul. It's not as much about the actual activity that you are completing (he suggested opening virtual boxes) as it is about the reward schedule that the player experiences in the process. Its about "the rate, the nature, the type, the intensity of the rewards in games that keep players engaged over long periods of time."

When I was trying to find another way to describe this, the term, relevance, popped into mind. But this wasn't the proper word. I just finished saying that the activity wasn't as important as the form of interaction that the learner has with the activity. That interaction is personal. The most successful interaction is one that has been personal-ized to meet the needs, wants and desires of the learner. It has been customized to respond often enough with rewards that are interesting enough to maintain grasp of the learner's soul.

As Chatfield explains, the onset of computing has provided a venue through which feedback can be individualized to make such activities infinitely interesting. This is nothing new. I remember first reading about it in 1982 in an article written by R. F. Bowman, A Pac-Man Theory of Motivation.

Watch the video and consider the 7 ways that games reward our brains:
  1. Use Experience Bars to Measure Progress
  2. Provide Multiple Long/Short-Term Aims
  3. Reward Effort - Don't Punish Mistakes
  4. Link Actions to Consequences
  5. Include an Element of Uncertainty
  6. Include Peer Collaboration
  7. Engage Players by Doling Out the Rewards at the Personalized Intervals.
Which one do you feel is the most powerful strategy for your learning?
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