eLearn 2006 – Saturday

Cool papers:

  • Effective Use of Cellular Phones in a Large Class for Activating Students’ Participation (Wada, Nakanishi, Tatsuta) Dokkyo University, Japan
  • HipBone Games in Higher Education: Supporting Critical and Creative Thinking (Bures) Bishop’s University, Canada
  • Playing Games: Best Practices for Educational Games in E-Learning (Bakisian) University of San Francisco

The theme of Saturday morning was bringing the culture outside the classroom into the classroom with cell phones being used as clickers and games that are used to constrain message board posts. The afternoon was in two parts as I had to run out to the mall with the wifey (hence the Macca post – I was very temped to buy the Red iPod, if only to support the AIDS cause). But when we got back, the last session that I wanted to get to was full (or at least it looked like that from the peep hole) and the door was locked!

Back to the morning, the big take away message that I got from the session was that in order for new technologies to be integrated into the classroom, the instructor must be comfortable with them. This is not rocket science, I’ve talked about it in my bits on Comfortable Computing, and it’s something that came to light in one of the projects that I’m presenting on as well. The students were comfortable with the phones to use them to send messages to the instructor, but if the instructor wasn’t able to do something efficiently with those incoming messages, then those students likely won’t get a positive experience either. Underlying all this was another message that is good to see – if you don’t have good instructors, no amount of technology will make them any better.

The next interesting paper dealt with “hip bone games”, developed by Charles Cameron (based on Herman Hess’s glass bead games I guess), as a means of shaping discussion board posts. This game is certainly “old school” in that it’s based entirely on text and the appeal of it is rooted in the personal attachment that the players have to their moves/posts. The way that the games work (basically, though I might be getting this wrong) is that you have an opening post and the next person to post must connect their post to the last and fill in space on a “board” as spaces are filled and the next round of moves starts, subsequent posts have to define how their post connect to all the posts that are connecting into the same spot. In a Soduku-esque manner, the first move is easy, the last few are the “kickers”. Bures found that these games lead to memorable experiences for her students and due to their associative nature, help not only the students navigate content, but also save the instructor from umpteen look alike papers that follow the “flavour of the month”. The issue with this system is that the game must be paced so that the keeners don’t fill in their moves before anyone else just to get off easy, and the laggards don’t get left in a position that is overly difficult.

Finally, the last presentation that is bloggable is one that I had to do “homework style”. Bakisian opens the paper noting that game playing is pervasive through time and culture, but the challenge is to create games in the pedagogical realm that are “authorized” or relevant academically. Bakisian suggests that instructors make their own games in order to maximize the relevance to their course. These should be easy but have depth (something that I think Gee and Prensky would have issues with). Starting with games like Jeopardy, flash cards and similar “drill and kill” games, people can start to see what it might take to make games. Bakisian arrives at 5 Cs for best practice in game design:

  • Creativity (Students, instructor and everyone else needs to figure ways to get beyond text)
  • Concentration (Games help focus students on the content – assuming they are engaging)
  • Competition
  • Change (Learner centered and non linear)
  • Construction (Games can be about the effort, not the score)

This seems to be a good way to get going in terms of thinking about games, but I think the same Cs can be applied to COTS.