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Game Day 2013 Files

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Please download these files to participate in the PowerPoint Peril workshop.

Badges in Comments

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I've been exploring the Grademark tools in Turnitin which includes comments and realized that they could that comments could maybe be....Badges.

Just to briefly describe the tool, Grademark allows instructor to drag comments onto a paper (like the well-known "ΒΆ" and "Awk." comments of writing instructors. However, this tool allows instructors to create their own comments, and this is where badgification could come in.

Suppose I am teaching a linguistics course and want to reward the extra effort in a piece of linguistic writing. I could use light hearted comments to reward students for going the extra mile. For instance, if a student included non-English data with the correct accent marks or in an authentic script, they could get the "Script Master" badge, while those who record audio could get a "Podcaster" badge.

It's not a full badge system, but it's a way to leverage a feedback system to be a little more badge like.

Web 2002: Accessibility Meets Gamification

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Before I went on vacation, I attended the Web 2012 conference, particularly the accessibility track. I went to a lot of great sessions, but the one that surprised me the most was one that talked about how to motivate university Webmasters to look forward to digging into accessibility remediation.

The answer proposed was ....(wait for it)...gamification! The presenter Glenda Sims (the Accessibility Good Witch) even mentioned TLT Symposium speaker Jane McGonigal (freaky).

But how to implement this? Glenda handed out web developer books at her school to anyone who did an awesome accessification jobn. Fortunately, they didn't have to be about accessibility. I myself would love to see gift certificates for Otto's handed out...but that's just me. I myself have been known to hand out candy and other desert products, but neither Otto's or TastyKake is very healthy. I wonder what other rewards we could come up with.

What about badges? That actually has been tried thanks to the Bobby Approved icon and other similar badges. Unfortunately, experts started pointing out that "Bobby Approved not Always Accessible" on "Bobby Approved" sites, so that badge ironically became a standard of haphazard accessification (D'oh).

Another idea is the Accessibility Internet Rally (AIR) which is a contest and a race. Is this something that could work at Penn State?

I do think regarding accessibility as a design challenge has helped me get through a lot of repairs. I think everyone's initial reaction is to think that a blind person could never "get" a hyper visual experience, but that turns out not to be true. We just have to distill what information is really needed. Even a map can be made accessible if it can be converted to a set of directions.

One blind person recently recommended adding QR codes to signs and displays to go to an online version of the information. Apparently if a person has a general idea where they are (via a Braille "QR" tag), he or she can use the iPhone to scan it and get a Web site. Who knew? It's at times like this that accessibility can be fun.

Leaderboard Thoughts for Gamification

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One of the more controversial elements of gaming is the leaderboard (listing high scorers in certain activities). Many students like knowing their scores and some even ask for leaderboards, despite instructor intuitions that students should not be ranked.

I am not always sure about leaderboards either, but I also have to say that even when we deliberately try to avoid declaring a winner, we always get comments that our game wasn't real because there was no winner. Students do like to keep score.

But what to do? How do we get the leaderboard, but not embarrass and de-motivate low performers. At the last Game Day, the instructors talked about this and some good ideas did emerge:

  1. Use Aliases - Sherry Robinson mentioned that she asks students to give a gamer handle and that's what she uses.
  2. Just the Userid - The Typo game only gives the PSU Access ID. Students know their rank and their friends'. A motivated student could look up other ID's but will they?
    The only caveat there was that students were upset that they couldn't beat test accounts from EGC staff (oh well....)
  3. Just the Top 10/20... - Another strategy is to just list those in the top tier. It's also useful for large classes when you might not want to manually list everyone.

These are great suggestions I will remember for the future.

Big Bang Star Wars Divide

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One of the more vigorous and interesting debates at last week's Game day wasn't about games but how important it was to see Star Wars. This may seem like a trivial pop culture debate, but it actually points to an interesting communication issue within educational gaming.

My History with Star Wars Mania

For the record, I HAVE seen Star Wars...many many times. I was about 9 when it came out so not only do I remember the movie from a relatively young age, but also the lunch boxes, the t-shirts, the trading cards and action figures, the special effects special and especially the disco version of the theme song. I also saw the Star Wars Holiday special, Gonzo dressed as Darth Vader on the old Muppet Show and may have even seen the Stormtroopers dancing on the Donny and Marie show.

As a result, not only did I learn all about the characters, but even my parents and aunts were forced to learn about them because we all went to the movie one July 4 when it was raining (best July 4 ever BTW). It was so huge that even if you never saw the movie, you had an idea of the key motifs (outer space, bad Darth Vader, good Jedi, etc).

My youth was so saturated with Star Wars, that many of us developed a habit of using Star Wars as a short hand for a lot of metaphors (e.g. Yoda=guru, Darth Vader=evil boss). Even the Reagan administration co-opted the term "Star Wars" for their system of military satellites able to shoot down nuclear missiles (until Lucas sued for copyright infringement).

I would compare it to having an idea what Survivor, CSI or Lost might be about without ever having seen an episode (that would be me folks - although I did get hooked on CSI: Miami.)

Alas though, it is no longer 1977 and it is no longer safe to assume that everyone has been equally exposed to Star Wars. Some of my students have expressed confusion about my point and concern that this might be considered required viewing in my courses.

And My Point Is...

So how does does my pop culture consumption relate to instructional design? For one thing, I have to re-think all my Star Wars references in class (sigh) or maybe update them to Harry Potter (yes!).

A more serious issue for the gamers is that EGC staffers tend to think in terms of other games (like Halo, World of Warcraft (WoW), Guitar Hero and other names that escape me because I haven't ever actually (ahem) played them. I would agree that If our instructors haven't played them, it may be a good idea to remember that when trying to communicate about gaming. It is noteworthy that many game authors do try to summarize plot points of the game when trying to explain their significance to education.

So maybe the key for me 1) think if that Star Wars or Star Trek reference is really important and 2) if it is, expanding my short hand a little more. And play more games.

On the Other Hand...

I don't advocate forcing anyone to consume media/entertainment they don't want to, but I have to confess that if I hear a lot about something and haven't watched/played it yet, I sometimes turn to Wikipedia for the answers. Very helpful and yet time efficient.

It has saved me many hours of actual TV viewing time while helping me understand and enjoy what those obscure references on the Big Bang Theory are all about.

Game Day Materials

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"Chocolate on Broccoli"? Or Cheese Sauce on Broccoli?

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By this Wed, I will have been lucky enough to both participate and present at two gaming events. What's been the winning meme so far? I think most of us would agree that it's "chocolate on broccoli" from Nathon Maton of Baxter Games.

Avoiding Matching Chocolate with Broccoli

The phrase is a warning that we don't want to slap on gamification on to a bad course and produce something even more something more indigestible (something like the examples given in the recent article Why Games Don't Teach by Ruth Clark.

Baxter Games and Jane McGonigal both recommend a deep gamification in which courses are turned into missions which can help students focus on higher order learning objectives like team play and strategic thinking. Clark, on the other hand, feels that games are best for low level "drill and kill". And some focus more one adding game like elements to basically make a course more fun to complete (play).

Maybe It's Cheese Sauce?

Which is the right? Maybe all three. I think the true power of games is that a game can reinforce many objective levels, depending on its design.

One of the most successful games at the Educational Gaming Commons, the Typo proofing game is essentially a "drill and kill", but a very effective one. There are elements of courses which are low level like proofing for grammar. But do you want your "broccoli" in the form of plain homework or would you like some musically animated cheese sauce? I know what the students said on the survey...

But that's not the only model the EGC has worked in. Another game focusing on different objectives was Sim Health and that was definitely not just "cheese sauce." In this gaming activity developed for a health policy course, students played a simulation game in which they tried to revamp the health care industry for a 16-year cycle trying to adjust for unexpected consequences.

This was an activity which teaches the complexity of balancing economic systems in a way no other activity could. And the key to its success was a debrief which allowed students to review "what went wrong" and what they could learn about health care policy. This could be done as a "simulation" too, but I think that's nitpicking.

Back to Learning Objectives

Whenever a discussion of the merits or drawbacks of any new learning technology or pedagogical approach comes up, I always think "What's the learning objective?" If a new tech doesn't fit the objectives, what is the point? But when the fit is right - magic happens. This has to remain the center of my pedagogical universe or I will get lost on a hopeless quest.

Oh and we should do some assessment too. ;)

Hazleton Gaming Presentation

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LDSC11 Globalization Game Questions

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In Matt Meyers wrap up about the recent Learning Design Summer Camp, he comments that we didn't have a chance to discuss the educational implications.

Although anything can be improved, I was hoping to use the game cards we handed out as a way of introducing some of the issues associated with providing education in a global environment. If you still have your game card, check out the question on the back to see an example of a globalization challenge.

Some of my favorite questions included:

  1. What would be the challenges to teaching a U.S. History course covering 1939-now for delivery in the East Asian market.Which events in particular might instructors want to explore non- U.S. points of view?
  2. An instructor in human anatomy has been asked about acupuncture for the past few semesters. What would be the best method to approach discussing these concepts? Can they be reconciled with Western medicine? Should they be?
  3. A student group is planning to visit Jerusalem over Spring Break (we're assuming that the political situation is relatively stable). What information would you give to students about the significance of Jerusalem in both the Middle East and to Western culture? What places should student visit to understand the complexity of Jerusalem? What are some precautions students should take?
  4. For an online course on the American Jazz Age (which includes music, art and text-based tutorials), a lot of your non-U.S. students request more robust mobile phone support since they don't have good access to a PC. How can materials be made more mobile device friendly, particularly in regards to the smaller screen size. What are some apps that could be recommended?

If you want to see the full list, download Globalize This Questions.docx.

I do think the missing piece was a debrief, but I was also trying to accommodate the need for caffeine on a hot afternoon. Live and learn

Is there enough interest for a true debrief later on? I know I would be interested in continuing the conversation.

NMC Five Minutes of Typo Fame

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Can I make through to the demo?