Archive for December, 2011

[x-posted at HistoricLee Relevant]

With the end of the semester comes reflection and reflection papers, and I’d like to share this little nugget from my final reflection paper for Dr. Fishman‘s Videogames, Learning, & School Design class:

I’m sure Robert Fulghum would not be pleased with my misappropriation of his famous text, but…Dr. Fishman…encouraged me to repurpose others’ work in order to express my ideas in a manner that both denotes learning and enjoyment. Here goes.

Most of what I really need to know about how to manage, and what to time, and how to be tenacious, I learned from Starcraft II. Wisdom was not at the top of the graduate school mountain [how apropos], but there in the sand dunes of Mar Sara.

These are the things I learned: Harvest everything. Play quick. Don’t inadvertently hit your units. Redirect SCVs back where you found them. Clean up the Dominion’s mess. Don’t take things that aren’t yours…unless you have superior firepower. Say you’re sorry when you hurt your teammate in multiplayer. Wash your hands of Zerg guts before you eat their lunch. Flush traitors out the airlock. Warm cannons and cold steel are good for you. Produce a balanced army. Learn some new battle techniques and think about how you spend your resources and draw conclusions based on that thinking and paint the screen purple with Zerg blood and sing and dance on the graves of hydralisks and play Starcraft II and work at playing Starcraft II every day.

Let Tychus take a nap every afternoon. When you go out into interstellar space, watch for alien traffic, hold your fleet, and fire together. Be aware of warp prisms. Remember the little SCV in the metal exoskeleton. The wheels go round and drill goes down and nobody really knows how or why these guys do it, but we are all like that.

Ghosts and Helions and siege tanks and even the little SCV in the metal exoskeleton – they all die. So do we.

And then remember the book about the Terrans and Kerrigan and the first word you learned, the biggest word of all: ZERG. Everything you need to know is in there somewhere. An eye for an eye and interspecies love and basic genetics, bioethics and corrupt politics and insane living.

Think of what a better world it would be if we all – the whole galaxy – had cannons and steel 24 hours every day and then got up with our mechanized warriors for a brawl. Or if we had a basic policy in our little rebellion to always put things back in order by overthrowing the Terran Dominion and cleaning up Arcturus Mengsk’s messes. And it is still true, no matter how grizzled you are, when you go out into interstellar space, it is best to hold your fleet and fire together.

My first semester in University of Michigan’s Teaching and Teacher Education PhD program was great, and I’m looking forward to more of the same in the coming semesters!


Ok, not completely different.

So, this semester we’ve been talking about using videogames in classrooms, of course. What about just videos (no games)?

Barry has of course used videos very effectively in class this semester (The Onion, Malcolm in the Middle, Big Bang Theory, F.T.W.). Now, YouTube bas come out with a new distraction-free, academically-rich version for schools, called, you guessed it, “YouTube for Schools”. I’ll let the video above do the convincing, but it is definitely something to think about. In the past (perhaps before our time, for some of us), the only way students were exposed to the world outside the classroom was when the teacher threw some photos up on the projector, popped in a VHS tape, or took the class on a rare field trip to the zoo. YouTube isn’t new of course, but their demonstration of embracing their service as an educational tool shows just how powerful it has become. Students now can see how the nervous system works in action, observe the food chain at work, or travel to faraway places. They even can watch classes taught by other teachers, to get a different perspective on a topic they’re learning, or learn a whole new subject altogether.

Why even go to class anymore?

I’m kidding.


Reflecting on why I originally chose to play Portal 2 has been an interesting experience. I found myself writing about always loving puzzle games, but I stopped half way through. Why do I like puzzle games? I hate Math! Don’t I? Now I know that is just my perception, because I had never been able to score well in math classes. The fact is, I have been playing flash math puzzle games for years. It turns out I specifically like games that involve spatial reasoning and geometry. Looking back on an old favorite, Bloxorz from 2007, I actually found it on sites specifically for math games. Originally, this was on and I used to play it when I worked nights as a receptionist in undergrad dorms. Its the only game that ever made me want to go back to beat it again, and more efficiently, or strive to beat my friends’ times; I even drew schematics. Its interesting now to find articles on the game relating to flow theory, design, immersion, intrinsic motivations, etc. Especially since back then it was just a way to pass the time from 10:30pm-7:30am.

Making the Daily Grind a Game

I saw this article about a new(ish) augmented reality game. Every time you swipe your Oyster card on the London Underground, it tracks your movement and you get points for achieving certain things. I love this idea of integrating your every day life with gameplay, including the idea of encouraging use of public transportation (I’m a bit of a transit nerd). What I wonder about is, who is collecting this information in the long-term? People participating are putting their entire routes online, I’m not sure if others can see them, but it’s stored in the game system, so it could be hacked. I guess that’s what worries me about augmented gaming the most, who has access to the private information.

Bastion on sale for the next 15 hrs



Violence alters brain?

From my experience (which is pretty non-existent with violent games) and the experience of people that I know (boyfriend who is an avid gamer), I feel that I can properly say that I’ve seen the range of abilities when it comes to gaming. I’m not going to say that I (or he) takes an extreme when it comes to whether or not it’s good for the brain or not. He claims that it builds strategic thinking and reflexes and some other what-nots and all that. I have learned not to become too invested in it and just give him his time, while crossing my fingers and hoping he’ll grow out of it…which I’m assuming he will not.

But maybe I should show him this article about how all these violent video games he’s playing are actually altering his brain. Or not, because to be honest, I myself cannot actually decide if I believe what this study states. Although, there are times when I may think that my boyfriend’s brain is not working correctly… Still, I think the take-aways that the researchers have in this study may be a little far fetched. They claim that one week of violent video game play results in less activity in the brain. I’m not quite sure if I can believe this or not.

Starcraft 2

Here is a interesting article about video games and cognitive science. Watch the video a little ways down, its amazing how fast/good these people are.