Thursday, July 22, 2010

EDUC 504: Is this thing on? (Reflections on Readings for June 23)

PLN (Personal Learning Network)

Two (okay three) good edublogger posts I read this week:

Geektastic moment of the week: I've figured out how to share my twitter feed here on this very blog with you. You're welcome. (If you also want to be geektastic, choose "Design" from the top bar, "Add a Gadget" on the right-side of the layout, and search for a twitter gadget.)

Good video games and good learning -- James Paul Gee

I love this quote: 'A science like biology is not a set of facts. In reality, it is a “game” certain types of people “play”.'

I think this is completely true. However, while the facts without the game are no fun, the game without some started facts also isn't very fun -- I've read lots of research papers where I didn't really understand the base vocabulary and concepts; it was frustrating.

I'm not much of a video-game player (beyond DDR, which is more kinetic than problem-solving), so I don't have much of a frame of reference to evaluate Gee's claims about what learning principles good games incorporate. However, I think his discussion of Identity is a little too simple -- you don't turn overnight into a Physicist in order to learn Physics... you play with adopting parts of the identity as you learn the material; it's more iterative and gradual and tentative or experimental than Gee makes it sound.

I also have a hard time imagining what it would look like for students to help "write" the domain and curriculum they study. Is having them suggest and chose which experiments to do within a set unit enough choice to engender engagement? Or do they have to be able to chose their own units? I also wonder how this fits with the "customization" point.

The point about low consequences of failure encouraging risk-taking is well taken -- I think something that's surprised me about this program is how open professors are to grading revised versions of assignments. I think this probably increases learning but also increases work for the teacher, and I wonder how well it plays out with 150 students.

What does "a sense of agency and control" look like in a 6th grade earth science class? (Just for instance...)

I love the idea of "levelling up" in a class, but wonder how the competitiveness of that would play out in a classroom where some students would probably level up faster than others? Would the slower students disengage? Or do we do this inherently anyway, so making it explicit can't hurt (any more)? I suppose you could have a whole class "levelling up", but then are you violating the individual student's ability to customize / not keeping the fastest students challenged?

"Just in Time" is a concept tied pretty firmly in my head to inventory management of manufacturing processes... it's challenging to see it used for information supplied in learning processes.

"Pleasantly frustrating" -- congratulations! You've just reinvented Vygotsky's Zone of Proximal Development!

What does "system thinking" look like in the classroom? Lots of interdisciplinary projects? Group projects with strong specialties within and strong links between groups?

Overall, it's fun to think about how school could function more like games (not just on video), but I feel like I'd need a lot more concrete examples to help me figure out what they could actually look like.

Big Thinkers: James Paul Gee on Grading with Games

"Work in a group where the group is smarter than the smartest person in the group" -- wouldn't you really want a group that was smarter than the sum of the smartnesses of the people in the group? Otherwise they might as well all work on their own... there needs to be synergy to justify the increased overhead of group communication.

"Games don't separate learning and assessment" -- what would that look like in school?

I like the idea that you need engagement with the actual chemistry to give meaning to the textbook -- very Dewey, Dr. Gee.

While I'm loving all the science examples, is this equally applicable to other content areas?

I love how his whole universe is "Baby Boomers" and "Kids These Days" -- not sure where I fit in all my 30-something glory.

It seems like his "passion communities" and "fan fic" examples are about displacing / replacing school -- it's hard to see how to incorporate learning from them into schools... but don't worry everyone, "Global Competition" is going to scare us into innovation!

Let's hear it for "making teaching sexy" (but not in the lawsuit-generating way)!

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