Monthly Archives: January 2010

Why were there no real computer games at BETT10?⤴

from @ @derekrobertson's...

If you attended BETT10 how was it for you? For me, it was a disappointment. I could not help but feel a sense of deja-vu as I walked around the exhibition and saw really much of what was on display and offer last year and try as I might I could find little or no evidence of commercially available computer games and games consoles showing their educational face at the event. My tweets at the time captured my disappointment:

Tweet1

Tweet2
Why should I focus solely on computer games you may ask when there was so much else in terms of educational technology available for delegates to engage with and consider how that might be used to support and enrich learning? Why should my experience be such a disappointing one when it appears that Play and Playful learning was apparently a major theme of this years conference? I'll tell you why, it's because commercially available computer games that have been built for entertainment are, in our experience in Scotland in recent years, some of the very very best educational resources that schools teachers and pupils can get their hands on today. Yet, at this huge event they were singularly absent from the exhibition. 

In this article about the theme of Playful Learning at BETT10 Professor Stephen Heppell said, “Playful learning has re-energised classrooms, rekindled school and parent relationships, re-engaged brains, provided a powerfully competitive space for problem-solving, and at other times a place for real individual concentration,”

Prof. Heppell's Playful Learning stand was one of the very few areas in the exhibition that at least made delegates question just what we mean by educational technology and the rationale and underpinning approaches that will have a positive impact on learning in classrooms. It was great to see resources that we are trialling in Scotland, such as 2DIY and Manga High featured on the stand. This is no surprise when you consider how much of a friend and advocate Prof. Heppell has been of the GBL work that we have been involved in over the past few years. However, I was very surprised and disappointed to see that the excellent game based learning practice with resources such as the Wii, DS, PS3, Xbox360 etc that has been nurtured, grown and embraced by schools across Scotland, England and further afield not really at the show. But apparently....

"...signs of a games-based, ‘playful’ approach were in evidence on many stands around the 14,000 square metres of trade show that made up BETT 2010. Arvind Desikan, head of UK consumer marketing for show lead sponsor Google, said tech-savvy, creative students can also come up with new ways to use technologies. Interactive games-type approaches help teachers and students alike."

Where was this? I didn't really see it. I believe that the success that we have had in using commercially available computer games in schools has been down some fundamental principles. One of our GBL principles that is of particular relevance to this post is the fact that COTS belong in children's own cultural domains. For very many young learners game-play with COTS is what they choose to do in their own time, COTS culturally resonate with young learners, COTS have status, attraction, appeal and they are not from the domain of the school. This very fact has an immediate impact on interest and engagement when we work in schools because learning is being linked to a context that has significant cultural appeal and a sense of an "I belong in this activity...this makes sense to me" effect. James Paul Gee articulates this very well when he talks about Semiotic Domains and we use this to help explain the dynamic that we see when we use COTS in classrooms.

Yet what do we see at BETT10? On the most part more educational technologies being sold and linked under the banner of play and playful learning when, to me, they are very much in the domain of the school and the teacher. Yet apparently, as the article from Channelweb.co.uk, it does not have to be about 'conventional computer games. What does this mean? What is a conventional computer game anyway? Is this in some way an attempt to dismiss the world of COTS and the place that they may, and in my opinion, should have in classrooms?

Most of the tools that I saw that were linked with the Playful Learning theme are very interesting and no doubt of great use in the hands of good teachers but for me to not have the some of the most dynamic, appealing and hugely engaging learning resources that are currently available on show or display at BETT10 was a huge own goal. It may be the case that the major game companies wish to remain to be seen as entertainment companies and not to be explicitly linked with education. If this is the case then so be it but I think that horse has well and truly bolted though when you consider how game based learning with built for entertainment COTS is becoming more and more mainstream and widespread in schools.

Maybe BETT2011 will embrace Play and Playful learning in a far more wide reaching manner than it did this year. I hope so, we need to be showcasing the best resources and practice available to teachers to help inspire and engage learners and for me some of what would be 'Best in Show' were not even on the exhibition floor of this trade show.




Cod liver oil and effective learning…⤴

from @ @derekrobertson's...

Illuminated DS GirlPicture the scene, my daughters are sitting focused, determined, engaged, applying their strategies to win as their faces, illuminated in the light that comes from what they are holding, exhibit the utmost concentration. This concentration must be broken though because the power of the game console is causing this game based learning enthusiast some grief at home ;-) and if a recent report in the Metro has any substance then it appears that I, along with thousands of parents, am causing physical harm to my girls by allowing them to get their hands on these modern day folk devils

Are we bad parents to let our children use games consoles?

"Right you two, put those DSs down now and come through for your dinner. I won't tell you again!" This is the shout that I have had to use on quite a number of occasions since Christmas when the girls' grandad so kindly bought my daughters a DSi each. Their DSis came with a few games one of which is the wondrous Mario Kart and they must have played this every day since they placed their excited mitts on it.  I have been secretly watching them as they have played Mario Kart (as well as the odd occasion playing Little Big Planet) and I have to report that I am seeing some incredible things from them in terms of learning and collaboration. I must also say that any externally forced parental guilt that I may be causing irreversible and actual physical bodily harm, to my girls by allowing them to play games is somewhat assuaged by what I have been seeing! Well what have I been seeing?

  1. Excited learners: When I watch the girls play or get them selves set-up to play their excitement is tangible. They adore playing Mario Kart and cannot wait to get their hands on it. This is real excitement and of such a level that again you wonder as to the challenge, demand and appeal of the design of such games and why young learners WANT TO PLAY THESE GAMES. My girls like all the other things they do and are involved in but at the moment Mario Kart is the undoubted king of their leisure world. 
  2. Challenged learners: Some of the games/races are more complex then others and need some considered thought if you are to become the best that you can be on your own in the game or when playing against others. The girls have worked out much of what needs to be done, what needs to be taken account of in the various games and they have done this without me. They have persevered and are showing an innate ability to unpick the game grammar. This challenge has also been incredibly evident when they have been playing Little Big Planet. Complex and challenging problems do not appear to phase them. They step up to the challenge that games present to them and they want to meet them, there is the intrinsic motivation and drive to meet these challenges.
  3. Confident learners: Over the festive period there were many visitors to the house what with family and friends. My daughters took that opportunity to not only show off how good they were becoming at the game but also to teach the adults how to play it and play it successfully. Again, watching them in action I was delighted to see how they took account of the fact that these 'oldies' were new to the game so they started with easy levels and games so that they could manage the controls. They then offered some tips and strategies that should be taken on board and finally they continued to offer encouragement to those who did not exhibit any real games skills. There appears to be an innate ability to differentiate in this aspect of learning, an innate ability to teach. They naturally assumed the role of the more knowledgeable person in the learning dynamic and showed how they could fulfil this in a sensitive fashion. Confidence in themselves shone through here. Isn't it something to give young learners the opportunity to play this role in a serious way that is not embedded in a any falsely constructed adult dynamic? This is something that they can do NOW and  I believe that we must create as many opportunities as we can to allow learners to do this.
  4. Social Learners: Although there are times when the girls are lost in the game the amount of dialogue that happens between them when they are wirelessly connecting and connected or when someone achieves a great score or discovers an easter egg of sorts is really impressive. They automatically share this so that both develop the skills that each other discovers individually. Similarly, this happens when they hook up their consoles with their cousins and friends and instantly we have a connected group of learners, independently, successfully and confidently managing the technology. 
  5. Learners that need 'guidance': All this is wonderful but I am faced with moans and groans and the occasional tantrum when game play is over, it's time for tea or I tell them that they have spent enough time with their DSi and that it's time to do something else. The reaction from them when I cause them to withdraw from the game and their reactions at times when it is denied to them cam cause some problems. However, as the adult in their lives I feel that my role is to ensure that balance is in place and that this message is one that is consistently given and acted on.

Now my girls do not only play computer games. In fact I limit their time on games consoles believe it or not. They go to gymnastics, trampolining, Rainbows, Brownies, the library, we paint and make things as well as playing various board games like Junior Scrabble, pairs, dominoes etc. Computer game plays a moderated part in the balanced diet of activities that we present to our children. This is the central issue for me, how parents make sense of and decide what experiences their children are presented with. But how can parents make sense of games and how they can be used for good with their children when we are faced with the continual construction of them as modern day folk devils?

Computer games should come with supplies of free VitaminD and Cod Liver Oil!

Now I wonder how many parents ever watch their kids and observe just what can happen when young learners engage in good game play. I have been working in the field of game based learning for a wee while now and what we see in schools across Scotland via Learning and Teaching Scotland's Consolarium initiative is not only what I am seeing from my own children but the added value that comes when a teacher takes a commercially available computer game title and then uses that to drive curricular learning. We are seeing so, so much superb practice and active, intrinsically motivated learning in classrooms...this stuff works. The methodology that we apply sees the game sitting as a contextual hub about which the learning revolves, emanates and grows. Here are just a few examples of this practice that were initiated by the Consolarium and that have now spread to very many classrooms across Scotland and beyond:

Photo

But is it the case that parents most probably won't see or be aware of the potential benefits to their children's development? How can they, in fairness, when the general message that they get from the wider media about games and their impact on their children's development is almost a solely negative one? Take the article in the Metro that led with the headline. Gaming Leads to Surge in Rickets. I won't go in to the debunking of this myself due to the fact the article has no real substance or evidence to support this headline other than a cursory suggestion of a causal link. It seems that the issue most evidently linked to this so called upsurge is poor diet yet computer games are somehow linked to this and pulled into the dock yet again! Some readers from the Times Online forum gave this article the treatment and this more balanced piece did the job of sticking up for the falsely accused 'computer game'. The article did cause the games based learning fraternity to take this accusation seriously and with the Game Based Learning 10 conference organisers ensuring that your health would be supported if you attend the event ;-) ...

Freecodliveroil
 

What can we do to address this continual negative portrayal of computer games?

Whenever I see this kind of article I wonder just how long it's going to be before the good that can come from game play is given the prominence that I feel it merits? Games can be a force for good provided that at home parents play a confident and informed role in engaging with their children in the game play and possibly initiating rules or a framework that provides their children with a wide range of activities. Possibly sites such as As About Games can help here. As for their use in schools then maybe the continued work of the Consolarium and other educators who are exploring game based learning such as Ollie Bray, Steve Bunce, Tom Barrett, Dawn Hallybone and many, many others who are, writing about the appropriate use and brilliant impact of game based learning in their class can continue to promote what are in essence...damn good learning resources.

Twitter Away My Blog⤴

from @ ICT-Echo



It's been nearly two months since my last post, so I thought it best to write something before the first month of this new year/decade had past.

Part of the reason for not writing so many blog posts has been that I've been busy at work. But the other main reason is that I've been posting on Twitter and FaceBook instead. I find that there is less impetus to write a lengthy blog when I have posted lots of small, incremental tweets (micro-blogs) on a topic or idea. Instead of responding to an idea with a considered and researched blog response, I resort to a short response via Twitter.

Another reason for not posting blogs is that I received a iPod Touch for my birthday, during the Christmas break. I now find myself twittering and going online whilst in front of the TV (when it's boring), thanks to the WiFi connection. Making it easier to tweet than blog.

I've also been exploring the use of Twitter within the work that I do at the University. Over the last couple of weeks I've been attending lectures for the B Ed1 class and tweeting during the presentations. If you are interested in the feed I used the tags: #LHOL and #EVS3. I believe tweeting during a lecture in response to what I'm hearing makes the experience significantly more interactive.

As the lecturer is talking and showing their slides I will have my laptop running TweetDeck and Safari. This allows me to search for additional information as the lecture unfolds. I try where possible to post key quotes and comments. I also like to include links to wikipedia on the subtopics or key words and phrases that are used during the talk. I have also posted links to Twazzup on the class Moodle sites to allow the students to revisit the lecture via my tweets. Here are the links to the Twazzup feeds for both classes: Learning How Others Learn and Educational Values for Self, School & Society.

The main reason for using Twazzup to show the feed rather than Twitter search is that Twazzup extracts the web links and creates Most Popular Links feed from them.

The disappointing element of this recent flurry of tweets is the apparent lack of student responses to my tweets. In a class of over 220 first year students none appear to be using twitter in relation to my posts. Perhaps the Netizens/Digital Natives aren't as keen on web 2.0 as the evangelists would have us believe ;-D

In order to keep blogging I think I will need to install as App on my iPod to allow me to at least start a blog posting when an idea occurs to me. Although I have taken a liking to the work of David Noble & John Johnston with their EduTalk project and may well start to use ipadio to create audio blogs instead. Watch this space: listen for the sound.



Individualisation On Collaborative Walls⤴

from @ TecnoTeach


Wallwisher is not a new kid on the block with many educators using this tool to enable children to let their individual thoughts or knowledge be shared amongst the many.  The potential for using this tool in schools, where it is not blocked, is huge due to the open nature of the product: it is not just one thing it can be many.  This is exemplified through the various suggestions educators have come up with below:

Ways to use Wallwisher in Education:

16 Ways To Use A Wall

Ideas from the crowd

Tom Barrett's Crowd Source Ideas

It is fine to come up with wonderful ways to embed various technology into the learning environment however, what do children think about using Wallwisher?  One teacher, Mrs Brownsword, undertook a little research to ascertain what her children thought of this tool for learning.  Most thought it was fun and easy with few seeing the collaborative aspect of it.  This could be due to the fact they created their own stickies and did not view the whole process but the individual one.  Sometimes when working collaboratively technology might actually stop this process from occurring due to children contributing to a product from individual machines or at different times and places.  Although I advocate that children should not all be around one machine with only one hand on the mouse and the rest of the group observing but using collaborative tools like Google Docs,  PrimaryPad or Mindmeister, the individual's contribution to the whole must be made clear to ensure children know they are working collaboratively or as Johnson and Jonson (1990) state cooperatively.

Cooperative learning, according to Murdoch and Wilson (2004), is where children are working towards a shared goal and this shared goal must be made explicit at the start.  This notion that children must know what is expected of them is further exemplified by Johnston and Jonson (1990) to enable effective cooperative learning.  Working cooperatively is not just a simply matter of placing children in groups but consideration should be taken into some of the five key elements of cooperative learning as identified by Johnson et al (1998):

* Positive Interdependence;
* Individual Accountability;
* Face-to-face Interaction;
* Interpersonal and Small Group Skills;
* Group Processing.

Positive Interdependence: children need to work together to reach a shared goal where 'each student is not only required to complete their part of the work, but ensure that others do likewise' (Gillies & Ashmand, 2003: 35).

Individual Accountability: Each member is accountable for their own work and how it contributes to the whole.

Face-to-face Interaction: enables effective communication and supports thinking skills.

Interpersonal and Small Group Skills: children must learn to work together as a group to develop social skills which 'pupils do not come to school with the social skills they need to collaborate effectively with others'  (Jolliffe, 2007: 92).

Group Processing: time to reflect on how the group worked is required to ensure that the skills of cooperative learning can be developed further.

Working collaboratively with others, over time and place, using technology is a key skill that our young children must develop to enable them to survive their globalised futures.  Using technology may not hit the five key elements suggested above exactly but have strands of the elements permeating through the process.  the only element that may be questioned would be the face-to-face Interaction where some collaborative applications do not allow this.  However, tools like  Google Docs and PrimaryPad allow students to use the chat area to clarify their thoughts and brainstorm whilst the main area is used to create the product.  The importance of collaboration is emphasised in one of the four capacities, successful learners, of Scotland's CfE as shown in the image below:



The benefits of Wallwisher and its use in education are apparent from the links above where different curricular areas are addressed.  However, allowing the individual's voice heard in the crowd was my main focus for implementing this tool into a lecture setting with student teachers.  All too often students are lectured to at University where the knowledgeable one, the lecturer, imparts their knowledge to the unacknowledged, the student.  Timely questions are asked with only 5 % of students answering 95 % of the questions.  The same ones put their hands up each lecture and the same ones shy away and allow others to talk.  When I asked students why this was the response was that the did not like speaking out to such a large audience, frightened they would say the wrong thing or simply were quite happy to listen.  Finding ways to engage all students in inputs was one of the main challenges I faced when I came to University as I was used to engaging primary children in the learning environment but they were not all sitting in rows with over one hundred others watching the sage on the stage.

One way to engage the mass of students was through using their handheld devices.  Text me questions or answers rather than the one hand one voice method.  Respond to questions by voting or textual replies using handheld devices and the online tool Polleverywhere.  Wallwisher was the next tool that appeared to have the potential to enable interaction during lecture where all voices could be heard.  To test the waters, I created various walls with questions that I wished to ask a small group of students during an ICT input:

What will the future of education be in ten year's time?

What they hoped to learn in the ICT module.

What social media tools they currently used.

What are the educational benefits of handheld learning?

Each of these questions were asked throughout the input to break up the monotony of listening to my voice, involve all students in the responses and to record their thoughts.  This was undertaken in an ICT suite which worked well with the only problem being the stickies overlapping.  It was only until later that I realised the creator of the page is the only one who could move the stickies around not all the contributors.  Minor aspect to an otherwise excellent tool.

The next step is how to incorporate this tool with a larger body of students and possibly in a lecture theatre.  I decided to test Wallwisher on the iPhone to ascertain if it could be used.  It became clear there are limitations to using Wallwisher this way:

1.  You can not create a sticky;

2.  You can not close a link down;

3.  You can add an link;

4.  You can add text to a stiky already created.

Barriers are just creative hurdles that make your mind think innovatively. It is still possible to use Wallwisher with handheld devices.  I created an account with Wallwisher for my students, Individualisation, where all students will use the same username and password when working collaboratively.  There are two advantages to this: all children are in one account and the teacher does not need to create many accounts and deal with children forgetting passwords and the settings can be set so that only the account user's can edit the wall for security purposes.  With an account create stickies are created  beforehand with no text in them.  Group names or student's names can be added to each sticky and when the student opens the page with their handheld device they are able to enter text in the sticky assigned to them.  It is therefore possible to let everyone's voices be heard on collaborative walls.

Individualisation On Collaborative Walls⤴

from @ TecnoTeach


Wallwisher is not a new kid on the block with many educators using this tool to enable children to let their individual thoughts or knowledge be shared amongst the many.  The potential for using this tool in schools, where it is not blocked, is huge due to the open nature of the product: it is not just one thing it can be many.  This is exemplified through the various suggestions educators have come up with below:

Ways to use Wallwisher in Education:

16 Ways To Use A Wall

Ideas from the crowd

Tom Barrett's Crowd Source Ideas

It is fine to come up with wonderful ways to embed various technology into the learning environment however, what do children think about using Wallwisher?  One teacher, Mrs Brownsword, undertook a little research to ascertain what her children thought of this tool for learning.  Most thought it was fun and easy with few seeing the collaborative aspect of it.  This could be due to the fact they created their own stickies and did not view the whole process but the individual one.  Sometimes when working collaboratively technology might actually stop this process from occurring due to children contributing to a product from individual machines or at different times and places.  Although I advocate that children should not all be around one machine with only one hand on the mouse and the rest of the group observing but using collaborative tools like Google Docs,  PrimaryPad or Mindmeister, the individual's contribution to the whole must be made clear to ensure children know they are working collaboratively or as Johnson and Jonson (1990) state cooperatively.

Cooperative learning, according to Murdoch and Wilson (2004), is where children are working towards a shared goal and this shared goal must be made explicit at the start.  This notion that children must know what is expected of them is further exemplified by Johnston and Jonson (1990) to enable effective cooperative learning.  Working cooperatively is not just a simply matter of placing children in groups but consideration should be taken into some of the five key elements of cooperative learning as identified by Johnson et al (1998):

* Positive Interdependence;
* Individual Accountability;
* Face-to-face Interaction;
* Interpersonal and Small Group Skills;
* Group Processing.

Positive Interdependence: children need to work together to reach a shared goal where 'each student is not only required to complete their part of the work, but ensure that others do likewise' (Gillies & Ashmand, 2003: 35).

Individual Accountability: Each member is accountable for their own work and how it contributes to the whole.

Face-to-face Interaction: enables effective communication and supports thinking skills.

Interpersonal and Small Group Skills: children must learn to work together as a group to develop social skills which 'pupils do not come to school with the social skills they need to collaborate effectively with others'  (Jolliffe, 2007: 92).

Group Processing: time to reflect on how the group worked is required to ensure that the skills of cooperative learning can be developed further.

Working collaboratively with others, over time and place, using technology is a key skill that our young children must develop to enable them to survive their globalised futures.  Using technology may not hit the five key elements suggested above exactly but have strands of the elements permeating through the process.  the only element that may be questioned would be the face-to-face Interaction where some collaborative applications do not allow this.  However, tools like  Google Docs and PrimaryPad allow students to use the chat area to clarify their thoughts and brainstorm whilst the main area is used to create the product.  The importance of collaboration is emphasised in one of the four capacities, successful learners, of Scotland's CfE as shown in the image below:



The benefits of Wallwisher and its use in education are apparent from the links above where different curricular areas are addressed.  However, allowing the individual's voice heard in the crowd was my main focus for implementing this tool into a lecture setting with student teachers.  All too often students are lectured to at University where the knowledgeable one, the lecturer, imparts their knowledge to the unacknowledged, the student.  Timely questions are asked with only 5 % of students answering 95 % of the questions.  The same ones put their hands up each lecture and the same ones shy away and allow others to talk.  When I asked students why this was the response was that the did not like speaking out to such a large audience, frightened they would say the wrong thing or simply were quite happy to listen.  Finding ways to engage all students in inputs was one of the main challenges I faced when I came to University as I was used to engaging primary children in the learning environment but they were not all sitting in rows with over one hundred others watching the sage on the stage.

One way to engage the mass of students was through using their handheld devices.  Text me questions or answers rather than the one hand one voice method.  Respond to questions by voting or textual replies using handheld devices and the online tool Polleverywhere.  Wallwisher was the next tool that appeared to have the potential to enable interaction during lecture where all voices could be heard.  To test the waters, I created various walls with questions that I wished to ask a small group of students during an ICT input:

What will the future of education be in ten year's time?

What they hoped to learn in the ICT module.

What social media tools they currently used.

What are the educational benefits of handheld learning?

Each of these questions were asked throughout the input to break up the monotony of listening to my voice, involve all students in the responses and to record their thoughts.  This was undertaken in an ICT suite which worked well with the only problem being the stickies overlapping.  It was only until later that I realised the creator of the page is the only one who could move the stickies around not all the contributors.  Minor aspect to an otherwise excellent tool.

The next step is how to incorporate this tool with a larger body of students and possibly in a lecture theatre.  I decided to test Wallwisher on the iPhone to ascertain if it could be used.  It became clear there are limitations to using Wallwisher this way:

1.  You can not create a sticky;

2.  You can not close a link down;

3.  You can add an link;

4.  You can add text to a stiky already created.

Barriers are just creative hurdles that make your mind think innovatively. It is still possible to use Wallwisher with handheld devices.  I created an account with Wallwisher for my students, Individualisation, where all students will use the same username and password when working collaboratively.  There are two advantages to this: all children are in one account and the teacher does not need to create many accounts and deal with children forgetting passwords and the settings can be set so that only the account user's can edit the wall for security purposes.  With an account create stickies are created  beforehand with no text in them.  Group names or student's names can be added to each sticky and when the student opens the page with their handheld device they are able to enter text in the sticky assigned to them.  It is therefore possible to let everyone's voices be heard on collaborative walls.

Loco Roco inspires Air video⤴

from @ @derekrobertson's...

One of the games that I think set a standard in terms of its aesthetic was Loco Roco for the PSP. I remember playing this when it first came out a few years back and how transfixed I was by the combination of the incredibly appealing, malleable and down right cuteness of the graphics coupled with the mesmerisingly beautiful soundtrack. Played with earphones on this was just a sheer delightful pleasure.

Watching some music videos in order to chill out tonight I cam across Sing Sang Song by Air. Have a look and just give a nod in the direction of Loco Roco as a possible inspiration for the design of the video.


I wonder if there have been many other music videos that have been inspired by the world of the computer game. 

Hope you enjoy their music anyway.Oh, and Eddie, this is the first of many posts ;-)