Friday, July 18, 2008

GLS Conference Pics

Here are some photos of the conference:

Opening breakfast at the Frank Lloyd Wright designed Monona Terrace

My advisor kickin' it
talk, talk, talk

The lounge

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Highlighted Talk from GLS 4.0

If you're at all curious about why in the world video games might be worthwhile, watch this thought compelling argument by James Paul Gee (given last week at GLS 4.0)  on how video games are good for learning and society.

Find "Talks Beyond Games" (page 3) and start at 39:15 


I jotted down bullet points here:

How we can make choices for a different future
Complex Systems are biting us
Students need to be thinking about complex systems - this should be a 21st Century Skill
Baby boomer - Linear thinking fails to rethink goals
Passion Communities around complex systems - they organize and produce knowledge that competes with expert knowledge
Our job is to design things like a game with social, passion communities organized around them.
(Next game I'm going to buy: Portal)
Education can/should be about giving people tools to help them see world in new way, and that enables people to leverage powers.
Games at their best give you empathy for complex systems.
Humans learn from experience, but when they're given tools to theorize about their experiences (often through social groups) better learning happens.
Bottom line: People need to theorize in social (passion) groups around complex systems to learn and produce solutions.

Take away question: So how do we a) design places that are malleable by learners and b) provide tools for theorizing that combined will foster self-organizing passion communities? What does that look like for organized education?

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Friday, May 9, 2008

The YouTube of Digital Games

Hi. I'd like to introduce you to the YouTube of digital games - Kongregate. You've already met? Great. If not, I highly recommend getting acquainted - the games are Flash authored, and some of the things people are making are pretty creative.

Example 1: Chronotron.

Example 2: The Fancy Pants Adventures

Monday, April 28, 2008

Great Talk on Media, Society, & "Cognitive Surplus"

The speaker, Clay Shirky, argues (among many interesting ideas) that producing and sharing media content is good because "at least people are doing something." This is said in the context of the last 60 years of society primarily consuming T.V. and Film content. Is the practice of viewing shows really just a consumptive process? I think it depends - he uses Gilligan's Island as an example. I wonder how LOST or Jericho might make a case for cognitively demanding T.V.

Also, about the consumption metaphor. Watching media does seem a akin to the act of eating. I'm curious if the author of Katie's Cafe, who is a dietician, would say that consuming food is a mindless activity. I think that it can be, but that healthy, deliberate eating takes planning, and with reflection can be a cognitively challenging practice.

Also, he says World of Warcraft players are at least doing something (as opposed to consuming T.V.) Thoughts?

Friday, April 25, 2008

Storytelling, Games, and Mobile Phones

I've been fortunate this semester to be part of a team developing an educational game using mobile, handheld technologies. Our aim is to continue developing this game for sixth graders who use phones to participate in a time travel story involving solving puzzles in the Madison Capital building.

Our biggest (and most fun) challenges have been (and still are) to create engaging game mechanics & puzzles that utilize physical space, as well as exploring the use of story structure techniques to also foster engagement.

On the story side of things, one tidbit my folklore course professor told me has stuck like glue. She said that immersive stories usually do two things: One is that they violate expected (or traditional) conventions. The second is that they still use some expected conventions. Just enough familiarity is needed to keep the audience's attention, but violating the form causes gaps in the audience's expectations, and then questions are formed, meaning there is serious yearning for resolution. Shrek is a well known example of playing with form as well as using familiar ones. LOST is a great one.

In the case of our mobile game, we don't have to worry about violating form - we're already doing that by using a new, mobile medium. What we're doing is deliberately using tried and true storytelling techniques (Propp's 31 narratemes have been really helpful).

Roger Ebert's blog post today reminded me of this "violating the form" principle as he reminisced about "Joe Versus the Volcano".