Wednesday, January 28, 2009

It's Official, I'm a Science Geek

It's not like I didn't already know that, but it's confirmed yet again. For my graduate class this semester, I needed to buy a video game to play and reflect on all semester. I looked at many of the games on Gamestop and Amazon, and in the end, I ordered Spore (a kind of evolution game) and World of Goo (physics based puzzle/construction game). I heard about Spore on NPR last fall and it sounded really interesting to me, someone who usually isn't interested in video games. This class is the perfect excuse to buy it. The user reviews on Amazon were not great, but I get the feeling that is because the game was so hyped up to everyone and people were disappointed with the final product. I was not aware of the hype, so we'll see how I like it.

I did look at some of the other popular video games that everyone talks about like Grand Theft Auto, Sims, World of Warcraft, and Halo...honestly. I wanted to step out of my comfort zone and try one of these. But the only thing I wanted to spend money on were the science games. Go figure.

World of Goo was a side purchase just for fun. I noticed it on a list of the best PC games in 2008 while looking for other reviews of Spore. The reviews for World of Goo were superb and I really like the graphics. I'll be playing Spore for class, but I may throw in a couple of posts on World of Goo as I get time to play it. (Crazy Machines is another physics/problem solving game we played a little bit during my first grad class. Physics teachers might be interested in World of Goo and Crazy Machines.)

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Games and Simulations in Education

Today was the first face to face session of the hybrid graduate class I am taking called Games and Simulations in Education. We will be reading, reflecting on blogs, collaborating on a wiki, playing video games, and connecting it all to education. I'm looking forward to it!

I am not a gamer. I don't really like video games. But wait. Stop. I think my view of what constitutes a video game is too narrow. I loved playing Legend of Zelda on the Nintendo. (My parents refused to buy us one, so we had to settle for only playing when visiting cousins.) I loved Oregon Trail and Where in the World is Carmen San Diego when I was younger. And, there was Strawberry Shortcake and Sneak 'n Peek for our Atari. Maybe I do like video games? I was excited to find out that we are required to play a game for this class. I have really wanted to play Spore since I heard about it on NPR. And the more I hear about some of these other games, the more I think I may just pick up another addiction. Uh oh.

I want to gain some exposure to more games in this class. I want to break the preconceived ideas I have about certain games. I want to learn about new games. I want to know how the design of games can be applied to an educational situation. Like mentioned earlier in class, gaming companies are not always interested in teaching anything, but they are interested in holding the attention of the players. Shouldn't we be interested in doing the same thing in education?

In Marc Prensky's "Don't Bother Me Mom - I'm Learning,", he says:
If you are game player today, all sorts of people are courting you, trying to get you to spend money for their game, and they know they have to work hard to do it.

As a game designer, you're focused on one question: How can I keep a maximum number of players on the edge of their seats for hours and hours?

If you publish games, you are always thinking about your audience. What do they like? What experiences can you give them that they haven't had or can't get elsewhere? What additional aspects of the players' lives can you relate to with a game? How fast can you incorporate the latest technologies? In short, what will sell your games to the player?
Aren't all of these things ideas we should be considering as educators? Maybe we need to do a bit more marketing for the learning we want to happen in our classrooms. I think we can learn a lot from digital games that we can apply to education. Digital games won't replace a teacher or a classroom, but why not learn what we can and make our classrooms a better learning environment.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Turn Your Lens Around

Many people in my PLN have been participating in a 365 photo challenge by posting a picture a day in 2009. (View more 365 photos at the EdTech 365/2009 Flickr group.) In that spirit, I thought I would pass on a little trick I learned from a photography teacher. If you have an SLR camera (one that has removable lenses), turn your lens around and see what happens. What you get are close up (macro) pictures with a very shallow depth of field. (The aperture is zero in fact.) I snapped a few today of things I found around the house for my photo a day posting. I haven't tried it, but I think you may be able to take a lens, turn it around backwards in front of a regular point and shoot camera and get the same effect. If anyone tries it, let me know. This is a good way to take close up pictures of things related to curriculum and then have students guess what they are. It could be an intro or concluding activity for a unit. Can you guess what my pictures are?

Maybe we need to do this in our classrooms as well. Turn things around to view them from a different perspective. Look closer and see what is there.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

7 Things Meme

I started this blog as a class assignment, and to be honest, I hadn't decided whether to continue now that the class is over. But then, two things happened. Paul Blogush linked to me in a blog post, and Wendy Sigele and Valaina Maher tagged me in the 7 things meme that is spreading around the blogosphere. So, I figure I can keep blogging...for now!

So, here it is. Seven things you may not/didn't/don't need to/don't care to know about me.

  1. I never wanted to be a teacher. After college, I went to Japan to teach English and fell in love with teaching and learning.
  2. I am NOT a shopper. I really really don't like it unless I get to go to my favorite store, Anthropologie, and not worry about price tags. (But that doesn't happen often, or ever.)
  3. When I want to forget about life, I play Rachmaninoff preludes or anything in a minor key on the piano. I'd rather take out a loan for a Steinway piano than for a car (but haven't done either yet.)
  4. I've lived six months or more in Australia, Japan, and Mexico (and of course my home country!)
  5. I went to Mardi Gras in New Orleans once.
  6. My sister is my best friend.
  7. I still have my "blankie" from childhood. Friends tease, but on the cold nights in Japan and Mexico in apartments without central heat, it made a great head warmer.
I tag Theresa White, Pam Nielson, Jennifer Dorman, and my friend Monna.