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[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.

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.

Chess world in Ukraine

As a follow up to a previous post from September, “Checkmate. Armenia makes chess mandatory school subject,” Antratsyt Central Library of Ukraine organizes online chess tournaments opening the world to the players. “You Are Not Alone” is a project created by the library to bring together members of the community who love chess to teach them online communication. Once on the site, players can choose to play alone or challenge other players of any level from 15 different countries. The technology utilized allows players to communicate and learn from one another and peers from around the globe. According to the video, this is a new development for the world of chess, which used to operate via snail mail. The rules of that version of the game said that you had 10 days to make a move, which was difficult for children, but this new club and site has opened up the sport to a whole new generation.


Making life like Kindergarten

I loved kindergarten. I mean, who doesn’t? I had two years of kindergarten and it was awesome. No, it’s not because I failed kindergarten, it’s because I had a late birthday, so I just had two years of kindergarten, one at a public school and one at a private school. Apparently my mom just decided to get me out of the house for an extra year. Not that I’m complaining, Kindergarten was the best! So as I was reading Resnick’s article I thought his approach to be interesting, and I have to say I’m a fan of the idea.

Kindergarten is not structured, the children have certain amount of freedom in their learning. They learn to become more creative and foster their imaginations. Resnick has the idea that the kindergarten process of learning should be applied to other areas of life as well. This made me recall the discussion we had a couple weeks ago concerning Montessori education. While Montessori classrooms are not exactly the same as kindergarten, there are some similarities. Students in Montessori schools are not accustomed to the structure and planned layout of traditional school classrooms.

Tonight I was driving a fellow UMich student back to Ann Arbor from the West Side of the state. I had never met her before, but she needed a ride, and so we just talked about life during the drive. She had gone to a Montessori school in Grand Haven from pre-school to eighth grade. She said that she hated public school. When she when to a public high school she just couldn’t get used to it. She said she’d never had to sit at a desk until she went to public school. I can’t imagine going to school and not sitting at a desk.

I just find different ways of learning to be interesting, and the fact that what we are raised with when it comes to our education is what we become accustomed to. This girl was used to the Montessori way of learning, and couldn’t understand the appeal (for lack of a better word) of traditional schools. I’m used to traditional education, and don’t really see anything wrong with it. I mean, it does have it’s problems, but what doesn’t? I also don’t see anything wrong with Montessori education, it’s just different — which makes it interesting and intriguing to me.

games to movies

I was watching the show “Dexter” this holiday break (and got the crap scared out of me). The first season is supremely gore-y, scary, and GOOD – so much so that I wanted to know more about it. So, of course, I wikipedia-browned it and found that it’s based off a book series (including one about cannibalism called “Dexter is Delicious” which… if you’ve seen Michael C. Hall, then, yes). Anyway, my point is – I immediately wanted to read the series, compare the differences, and see if the series does the book justice.

In our videogame presentations, I’ve noticed a lot of folks talking about how important the narrative is in their games – and in my own game (“Braid”) a lot of reviews talk about the significance of the story, how mature it is, etc. If you take a look at boxofficemojo results for videogames that have been turned into movies – they’ve been really successful, even when they “bomb.” Prince of Persia, which stars the adorably goofy Jake Gyllenhaul was considered a flop and still raked in over 90 million. Crazy.

So my question is: why do people go see these movies? (For instance, I sat through Pokemon with my two younger brothers when it came out in high school. It was HORRIBLE. And… it still grossed over $70 -!!!). Does it matter how bad the plots are as long as they give us context? In the readings for class this week, it seems like we want to be able to discuss not just our experiences of playing a game, but how it fits into our lives, whether these characters are relatable. It seems like a pretty big deal, and it certainly makes sense that something that engages us as a society so thoroughly would need a bigger storyline than what a game is capable of offering.

It also makes the constructionist theory of designing games a lot more appealing to me when I think about it in terms of popular cultural consumption: when we are able to create games ourselves, we also have the agency to determine how it fulfills a need or creative outlet. We get to fill in the storylines we want to see; the experience becomes engaging and personal. Maybe when social scientists talk about the personal being political, it can also encompasses the way we learn as well.

Reluctant Reader but Avid Gamer

The free Booklist Webinar “Reaching Reluctant Readers” featured prominent representatives of top Reluctant Reader publishers. While interesting from the perspective of a librarian, the presentation contained some disturbing facets applicable to this class.

Just so you know, it was not all doom and gloom! On one side of the issue was Carrie Gleason, childrens book publisher at James Lorimer in Toronto,which is distributed through ORCA in the US. Their book War Games is centered around a male protagonist who deals with his father’s deployment through a videogame called Desert Death. Andrew Wooldridge, Publisher at Orca, explained “as technology changes, there are now more ways to reach reluctant readers.” He went on to discuss this in some length in relation to expanding their presence in the digital realm in order to work with teachers and institutions, as well as to cater to a wider variety of learning styles, language proficiencies, and reading abilities.

OK, now on to my issues with the webinar. Dan Verdick, Director of ABDO Marketing went on a self proclaimed “rant” about matching publications contained within library collections to student interests. In other words, comics can be worthwhile reading too! Not even a minute later, however, he was talking about books that took place during WWII that could appeal to the Call of Duty crowd. He stated that it was disturbing that 99% of boys play videogames in the US and 65% of those play them every day. According to Verdick, “these statistics are depressing.” It was surprising to hear such a strong proponant for the use of comics and graphic novels to teach Common Core Standards and vocabulary skills completely discount the potential use of videogames for this purpose. But he wasn’t alone.

Jason Wells, Executive Director of Publicity and Marketing, and Susan Van Metre, publisher, at Abrams Books for Young Readers also presented on this topic. They specifically promoted “The Jewel Fish of Karnak” by Graeme Base as a book centered around ancient Egypt lore that includes puzzles “to get students away from video games and gadgets.” Yet just prior to saying this, they talked about their Topps Books series: chapter books for readers ages 7-9, focused on sports, that include collectible trading cards and links to websites where they can create their own teams, personalized avatar, and interact with other readers. This is me not getting on my soap box to rant about hypocrisy in publishing, yada, yada, yada.