When I was SETT I met the chaps from Techknowledgey. They were showcasing their Crazy Talk and iClone applications. I was very interested in their products particularly in view of the scope that they have for learners to create avatars for their websites, skype use and mobile phones etc and am pleased to say that I received it today...
Have a look at the one that I quickly put together this evening:
Imagine replacing my ugly coupon with that of Pablo Picasso, Winston Churchhill, Charles Rennie McIntosh, Charles Dickens, Martin Luther King or anyone that learners were investigating. They could then write a biography about that person that would enable the learner to demostrtae what they found out about the person, the context they were in and why they behaved the way they did, what drove them etc.
Really interesting opportunities here that I look forward to exploring. Will post a better example soon...
Since August I have been steadily working away in my new position as a New Technologies for Learning Development Officer for Learning Teaching Scotland. I have a few projects that I am working on - my main one is focused on establishing a platform for computer/video games and learning within the Scottish context.
In order to initiate this we are in the process of establishing a centre in our Dundee offices that will offer teachers and education managers a place to come and engage with the range of games consoles that are available so that they can begin to consider how such contexts can play a part in teaching and learning in their classrooms. We are calling this centre, The Consolarium: Scottish Centre for Games and Learning.
We are currently devising our plans for the official opening and promotion of this new investment by LTS but if today's endorsement by Laurie O'Donnell's daughter is anything to go by then I think we are on to a winner.
He just let me know that the careers service were at her school today. When they asked her what she wanted to be she said, " ...I either want to be Director of ICT or I want Derek's job." When asked what this was she described my job as,"...he plays games all day and laughs a lot!"
What a job I have and that description is almost spot on! ;-)
When she came home she told Laurie about this and she asked him what my job title was so that she could let the careers service know exactly what it was she wanted to be. When he told her she was most disappointed with what she perceived to be such a bland title for such a cool job. Laurie and I have since discussed what a cool title for this job should be... We have a few ideas but what would you suggest? (I liked the word supremo to be in there but Laurie wanted to increase the scope of our project a little further by adding 'inter-galactic' !!!:-))
Great little application was introduced to me today by Neil Winton. It's called itube and it's superb A small download to your PC this application lets you download your favourite YouTube videos to itunes. That way you can watch them on your player or even have them available on your machine for use in presentations.
Great tip Neil but... do you have any applications that might enhance my real guitar playing and not just my killer Guitar Hero skills?
Involved, terrified, nervous and excited was how I used to describe my feelings to my teaching students when I playing Predator vs the Alien. This was in the context of trying to convey the power that computer games can have over the player in terms of making them believe they are there....
A similar thing happened to me recently when I played the Darfur is Dying game. This game requires you to select a character from a Sudanese family who must go outside in to the dangerous worn torn area to retrieve water for their family. The only problem is that an armoured vehicle with a merciless group soldiers/militia from the Janjaweed and if they find your character they will kill him/her.
Some people may think that it is rather incongruous to link the terrible reality of the situation in Darfur with a game but I tell you that this game made me empathise with the situation there much more than any news broadcast has yet to do. I went and found out much more about the Darfur crisis as a result and am now much more knowledgeable about this...really because of my experience playing the game.
I believe that this is yet another example of how the games context can be used to great effect to help make learning real, relevant and in some cases hard-hitting.
Other sites that you may find useful in this context are:
September 12 A small middle eastern town has terrorists mingling with civilians. They look similar in terms of dress but when you identify a terrorist and send in your rockets to kill them you find that they generally escape and the people who suffer in the ensuing blast are civilian men, women and children. Makes you think about collateral damage. Certainly not an enjoyable game...more unsettling.
Madrid A strange little game that has a number of characters holding flames of remembrance for the people murdered in the Madrid bomb blasts. The problem is that these lights go out and you must continually click on them to keep the fire of remembrance burning....
Powerful stuff here. Any other similar games that people know of?
The construction of the modern computer/video game is something that leaves no area underdeveloped. The full experience must be A1 if gamers are going to invest the time required to get into and complete the game.
This link from the BBC site tells us about a concert that is celebrating the range of music that has accompanied computer games over the years. More recent games such as Halo and Zelda are investing a lot of creative exercise in making sure that the music is right...
"The music for videogames has come a long way in 30
years. Blockbuster titles now have bespoke soundtracks composed by
classically-trained musicians, often performed by full orchestras."
What options does this bring to the teacher who wishes to explore the mood that music classical music conveys? Is their scope to move from the mood engendered by the classical music in a game to exploring this learning away from listening to music?
I think that this is an example of how we can make bridges between the semiotic domain (Gee 2003) of the games world that young learners may be knowledgeable about and confident in to a domain, such as classical music, that might not initially be an area that young learners would wish to engage with....
I have just returned from spending a most enjoyable, interesting and affirming afternoon with P.6a at Ancrum Road PS in Dundee. They have been working on a games design project with Dr. Judy Robertson from Heriot Watt University (previously Glasgow Caledonian).
Judy and her team are particularly interested in game design applications and how they can be used as a context, not only to develop ICT skills but as a focus for literacy development. The game that she uses for this is called Neverwinter Nights.
In essence, it is a fantasy based adventure game but with a difference. It provides a tool set that players can use to author their own games. In this they design their own 3D worlds, develop characters and write dialogue that would occur within a game.
For example, if the child devises a game that requires that the player needs to find a map then they need to develop this within the game. To do this the player goes into the tool set and scripts the dialogue. This can be done to whatever lengths of complexity and interaction between characters that the player decides.
The sight of these children, of mixed abilities and dispositions, focused, engrossed, challenged, collaborating, teaching adults was superb...incredible. If ever there are doubts about the efficacy of games in schools then this is the kind of experience that needs to be seen and heard. The class teacher was a complete cynic at the beginning of the project and even said that her initial response to be being told that her class had been selected for the project was..."Oh no, why me!!!"
Now the change in attitude to games in classrooms by this teacher is incredible. When I spoke to her she enthused about:
the increased motivation by all pupils;
particular motivating effects on lower achieving pupils;
levels of collaboration between learners heightened
increases in self-esteem and self-determination
knock on benefits in other curricular areas
excitement for learning
This is the kind of activity that needs to be celebrated, developed, shared and used as an exemplar for other schools.
I believe that contexts such as these have great potential as learning tools because they have cultural resonance with today's learners. These children know know about digital culture; it is part of what they are, they know the language and they know the internal grammar of games. Digital native vs digital immigrant in a nutshell here. We need to ensure that schools are aware of what there is in the games world and that they begin to develop their appreciation of the undoubted benefits that learning the language of the digital native can bring to learning.
To see learners in an every day Scottish school demonstrating the ability to be the creators of digital culture/artefacts as opposed to the consumers was a sight to behold. Inspirational indeed...well done Ancrum Road PS.
Is it the case that computer/video games are agents for creating mindless, emotionless players? Do they simply make games players want to go out in to the real world and battle with another army, fight zombies with a sword blast other combatants to pieces with a range of high-tec weaponry? Are they the means by which we will eventually have social meltdown which will undoubtedly bring the moral panic chickens home to roost?
Okay, I am maybe over-egging the point here. You may have guessed that I do not subscribe to the opinion that games are adversely and negatively influencing players. I tend to think that young children, adolescents and young adults by far and away have an innate grasp of the differences between real and virtual worlds. Whether this was me as a child playing cowboys and indians with my peers or my friends children warring with their home made Lego light sabres, we knew that this was toy play. The same, I believe, a stands for computer games. James Paul Gee discusses this in his What Video Games have to teach us about learning and literacy text. He relates this ability to behave appropriately and differently in the virtual world from what you would do in reality to Erikson's 'psychosocial moratorium'.
The author, who is a veteran comic book script writer, explains:
"....why validating our children's fantasies teaches them to trust
their own emotions, helps them build stronger selves, leaves them less
at the mercy of the pop-culture industry, and strengthens parent-child
and, more provocatively he argues that...
...packing a toy gun can be good for your son-or daughter. Contrary to
public opinion, research shows that make-believe violence actually
helps kids cope with fears. Explosive entertainment should be a family
affair. Scary TV shows can have a bad effect when children have no
chance to discuss them openly with adults. It's crucial to trust kids'
desires. What excites them is usually a sign of what they need
emotionally. Violent fantasy is one of the best ways for kids to deal
with the violence they see in real life."
The reason for this post is that a colleague (thanks Barry) sent me a link that he saw in PC Gamer. The eCircus framework is an academic network that aims to explore the potential that games can play in supporting personal and social development. They have a particular focus on using games characters that have a degree of emotional intelligence within contexts that explore bullying and inter cultural empathy. I look forward to finding out more about this....
It's probably quite obvious by now that I have a particular interest in exertainment: games that require and encourage physical movement/interaction. If ever any evidence was required about the efficacy of some of these games then look at this youngster move on the dance mat!
Wow...what about that eh?! Isn't there is an incredible sense of balance, timing, positional awareness and anticiaption from this boy. Is this something that Physical education and in particular, dance, can utilise in schools.
What we could do with is a set up that would allow a number of mats to be hooked up to a large screen....that would be very interesting in a school gym...