My first house built in Minecraft "creative" mode.
OLTD 508 Mobile Technologies and Game-Based Learning: An Eye-Opening Experience
Investigating mobile technologies and game-based learning in OLTD 508 has been an eye-opening experience for me as an educator and a learner. My preconceived notions regarding the use of mobile devices changed from an emphasis on technology to a focus on pedagogy, strategy and implementation. When considering mobile devices for learning, I felt Koole’s Framework for the Rational Analysis of Mobile Education (FRAME) model best suited my perception of mobile learning. Koole’s FRAME Model illustrates how mobile learning is a combination of the interactions between learners, their devices, and other people (JISC, 2014). Koole places the importance on the mobility of the learner rather than the device itself, reminding educators that mobile learning is more than technology (JISC 2014). Given that the use of technology is a tool used by educators, this course allowed for discussion and implications on BYOD (bring your own device) in education. Along with exploring the concept of personal mobile devices for learning in the classroom, the application of Clark Quinn’s 4’Cs of mobile learning to our teaching practise was valuable in developing lessons using mobile devices. App selection and an exercise creating a rubric for educational use of apps were extremely helpful to embed the importance of a focus on learning objectives rather than the technical criteria. In a group, we designed a rubric for game selection and each member selected a game to rate. But by far the greatest learning curve for me occurred with the readings and videos of James Paul Gee (an introduction to his 13 Principles on Gaming), Kurt Squire (Video Games and Learning) and Katie Salen (Learning with Games) and by taking the leap by experiencing Minecraft firsthand. My attitude towards game-based learning shifted as I learned more about what the potential games, such as Minecraft, can offer learners in an educational setting.
James Paul Gee eloquently describes his 13 Principles on Gaming as a set of learning principles that games use to hook people on learning that engage them for the long haul in learning (Gee, 2013). Kurt Squire echoes Gee’s sentiments about the value of gaming with his belief that “Games are possibility spaces; we get good at new things and becoming new kinds of people”. Squire states, “Good learning within games enables us to be knowledge producers. It gives us robust ideas to work with and propels us towards participating in social practise” (Squire, 2011). Katie Salen, executive director of The Institute of Play, addresses the challenges that game-based learning faces when connecting it to educational use. Salen sees most educators struggle with the idea of gaming in education partly because of the history of gaming being viewed as a leisure activity or a waste of time, but mostly because the learning in gaming is hard to see. Salen points out when we see kids playing games that maybe our first reaction is to say, “Oh well they’re just playing, they’re just kind of wasting time.” There isn’t a sense of even sitting down with the child and asking them… “What’s going on in your head right now?” Because if you sit down and talk to a game player about what they’re doing, an incredible narrative will come out of their mouth about the complex problem they’re working on.”(Salen, 2009). Having watched many videos on Minecraft and videos by kids describing their problem solving and creations in Minecraft, I am convinced that what Salen says is true. There is so much more going on in their thought processes than just “playing a game.” Keri Beasley, in her blog post Massively Misunderstood Minecraft, writes about her classes’ collaboration and problem solving while only a few days in to her Minecraft activity she started at her school. Beasley explains, “It’s pretty clear that the students in our Minecraft activity are incredibly creative. Day 3 (today) brought the addition of a theme park, more boats, more hot air balloons and a castle. They have organised their world to make it more efficient and more aesthetically pleasing” (Beasley, 2012). Gee believes games are effective learning tools because they empower learners, provide good problem-based learning opportunities and create deep understanding (2013). According to Salen, games also have a powerful potential for enabling players to take on the role of a designer. Students are not only designing for themselves, but their first thought is often who they are designing for. Salen sees this as a valuable 21st Century skill for young adults to possess (2009). Students experience a high degree of social interacting when playing games. Salen expresses that much of their learning has more to do with the mentorship and collaboration involved than the actual creation inside the game and it is this social scaffolding that promotes deep learning (2009).
What educators need to see and what Salen drives home in her video is that the game itself is not the holder of all the content (2009). Any game or online activity is only part of a larger piece of the curriculum that students are experiencing. Teachers need to ask the question, “What is it about the game that a student can get practise at, a skill or an idea, that can be connected to a reading in a book, a lecture, group work or direct instruction? Salen states, learning is not specific to an artefact (i.e., a game), but is a mix of an ecology of experiences (2009). Salen believes we should stop the dichotomy between digital and non-digital learning and realize that it is learning across all platforms (2009). These ideas of student empowerment, creativity and collaboration hold true for me in my teaching. Through research, student tutorials and numerous blog posts from professionals, I not only acknowledge the potential games offer for educators, I also can now envision possible gaming opportunities in my own classroom. The time had come for me to have my first endeavor with Minecraft.
My first hands-on experience with Minecraft took place in the company of my two sons (both in their twenties). Unfortunately, I was unable to get MinecraftEdu to work on my laptop, so my solution was to play on my sons’ Xbox game and video-tape the experience. I am a confessed non-gamer and admit to needing a great deal of help starting out in Minecraft. I was amazed at how quick my sons were at creating structures, finding items and using different tools. We decided to play in creative mode to make things easier for me (in a game play you would have to earn tools, make materials, worry about health and fend off creatures) and to focus on a lesson I could use for my art class. Once I was able to feel comfortable with the controls (this took longer than expected and tested my sons’ patience level), I began to understand the creative power Minecraft holds for its players. As my grade-eight student exclaimed to me, “The best thing about Minecraft is the possibilities are endless!!” I did see endless possibilities in the game and watched in awe as my son began building an art museum for my future lesson in Minecraft. I was dreading the actual play in Minecraft but as it turned out, I had an engaging afternoon with my sons, sharing an interest they both have and creating a mini-world together. I do believe it is important to play the games you intend to use in your classroom even if you are a non-gamer. Just as in the case of Keri Beasley, you just need to dive in and know you will be guided along by your students or other players.
This course has given me a background in mobile learning, a system for selecting and rating apps, experience creating BYOD lessons, a rubric for rating games for educational use and an appreciation for the potential of game-based learning in education.
*See below for images from my first Minecraft experience.
Beasley, K. (2012, February). Massively Misunderstood Minecraft. Retrieved from http://kerileebeasley.com/2012/02/16/massively-misunderstood-minecraft/
Gee, J.P. (2013). Principles on Gaming. YouTube. Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4aQAgAjTozk
JISC (2014) Mobile Learning. Available at http://www.jiscinfonet.ac.uk/infokits/mobile-learning/
Quinn, Clark. Re-Thinking eLearning. Retrieved from http://www.learningsolutionsmag.com/articles/452/rethinking-e-learning
Squire, Kurt. (2011, August 4) YouTube video: How Video Games Can Encourage Civic Engagement. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JcGdh9AbIS8
Squire, Kurt. (2013). Design for Learning [Video Games & Learning] Week 1. Video 2/8 (Squire). YouTube. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vzfY1N4FxsQ
Minecraft Screencasts of my first creative session: Building an art history lesson in Minecraft.
Gaming is not something I do. Before this course, I was not totally convinced of the educational values gaming had to offer learners. I basically viewed gaming as a time-consuming activity that was for entertainment purposes only. Granted, I knew serious games had value as simulation tools and training videos, but Commercial Off-the-Shelf (COTS) games seemed to be what kids did after school (and well into the night), not in the classroom. In my own teaching, I hadn’t given much thought on integrating gaming into my classroom. The popular games students are playing at the high school level would most likely be deemed inappropriate for school. Can you imagine Call of Duty being part of your lessons?
After viewing videos by James Paul Gee and Kurt Squire and reading research on game-based learning (GBL), I’m wondering why educators have not embraced videogames in their teaching on a much wider scale. In James Paul Gee’s 13 Principles for Learning, Gee believes games are effective learning tools because they empower learners, provide good problem-based learning opportunities and create deep understanding (2013). The Ministry of Education promotes 21st Century Learning where students use educational technologies to apply knowledge to new situations, analyze information, collaborate, solve problems, and make decisions, all of which can be achieved with game-based learning. Squire calls games “possibility spaces”, where we get good at new things and become new kinds of people (2011). The literature and research on gaming in education has been steadily mounting over the years, but on the whole, the education sector has been slow to embrace game based learning. So, what’s taking so long?
I believe a whole generation of educators are completely in the dark when it comes to the games themselves, let alone how to implement them into their teaching. Is it because educators like me, who are not gamers, feel ill equipped to bring videogames into their classroom because they do not understand the games themselves? I admit I did not “get” the appeal of Minecraft until I watched a video from a Gamifie-Ed webinar called Drakkart- Why Minecraft Inspires Me. Drakkart is a gamer who has provided tutorials on YouTube videos on all aspects of Minecraft play. Drakkart , with the help of two young gamers, very eloquently explains why Minecraft has such a great appeal to so many. Minecraft is a world simulation game (think of is as a virtual lego set but with much more going on) that is all about being creative. Like most games, the more you play the more you get better and the more complex you can get with your creations, with possibilities being endless. A separate website and resource was created just to support educators using Minecraft. MinecraftEdu was set up to show how the game could be used in classrooms. I immediately thought of Minecraft being more suited to elementary curriculum, but after searching for YouTube tutorials, I realize this is a multi-age game that has avid gamers from all over the world. The time is drawing near for me to jump in and give Minecraft a try. I feel like a complete “newb”, but on the other hand, I do know where to find support for my first foray into the gaming world with Minecraft.( Google search About 309,000,000 results). "If this is something your kid is passionate about you owe it to them to take an hour or two to figure it out," says Joel Levin, co-owner of TeacherGaming LLC, creators of MinecraftEdu(Ward, 2013). I’ll rephrase this and say, “If this is something your students are passionate about you owe them an hour or two to figure it out and maybe give some hard thought on bringing gaming into the classroom.”
Drakkart-Why Minecraft Inspires Me