May 242017
 

Coding as a stepping stone … This is the full version or the MEGA version of this Blog post I wrote for Grok Learning – So you are teaching coding which explores more of the issues behind teaching coding.

The push for STEM, STEAM, STREAM has seen a huge interest from industry, government and the technology community to get students to code.

Coding is not STEM. STEM is not coding. This post is in no way a bashing of learning to code, quite the opposite, it is a bashing of coding at the expense of …. well everything else STEM related.

Stem is not coding…Stem is not Coding but there is huge overlap.

There is huge benefit of using coding to teach STEM Skills (what ever they are!), but teaching coding as the end goal of a STEM program and to tick a STEM box is doing a disservice to industry, government and the students that are learning.

Ask the question: what is your end game with teaching your students to code? What skills do they need to take their coding to the next level? How do you assess the Critical (?) skills students need for the future (http://www.edudemic.com/new-skills-world-looking/ , https://globaldigitalcitizen.org/21st-century-skills-every-student-needs for example) ; Communication (Collaboration) , Leadership, Digital Literacy, Problem Solving, Ethics to name a few.

What are these skills: According to EU Skills Panorama (2014) (http://skillspanorama.cedefop.europa.eu/sites/default/files/EUSP_AH_STEM_0.pdf) they include:

numeracy and the ability to generate, understand and analyse empirical data includ- ing critical analysis; an understanding of scientific and mathematical principles; the ability to apply a systematic and critical assessment of complex problems with an emphasis on solving them and applying the theoretical knowledge of the subject to practical problems; the ability to communicate scientific issues to stakeholders and others; ingenuity, logical reasoning and practical intelligence

Why do we need to teach them?

Demand for STEM skills is anticipated to increase in the short and medium term. Whilst the numbers of STEM students and graduates are both increasing, some employers report that they are not ‘job ready’ and do not possess the ‘right’ skills, especially soft skills.

(http://skillspanorama.cedefop.europa.eu/sites/default/files/EUSP_AH_STEM_0.pdf)

Now we have an idea of the end goal / big picture how do we transition there?

Leverage coding to teach these skills within a broader STEM umbrella.

Why do students need to learn to code? What are the advantages and or disadvantages? How do you teach technology agnostic skills to avoid jumping on a short lived silver bullet that will not be around when students finish school? How do you teach students transferable skills that are not just follow recipie / remix. (Hint: Teacher training is important, as is having a longer term view, rather than a “I use robots, I have taught STEM” mentality.)

Teach principals not specific tools where possible.

  • This is where computational thinking comes into play.
  • Thanks Google: https://computationalthinkingcourse.withgoogle.com/unit
  • Decomposition: Breaking down data, processes, or problems into smaller, manageable parts
  • Pattern Recognition: Observing patterns, trends, and regularities in data
  • Abstraction: Identifying the general principles that generate these patterns
  • Algorithm Design: Developing the step by step instructions for solving this and similar problems

If you read the above and understand them you are doing better than most teachers?—?these are just big words that reflect what we do nearly every day.

  • Decomposition: not something that happens to dead stuff. Not somthing Motzart has been doing for the last few hundred years, think about it?—?break something into smaller manageable chunks. Big Picture stuff becomes smaller picture?—?Building a house is big, getting the plans for the house is more manageable.
  • Pattern Recognition: is there stuff that is repeating? Can I chunk data / processes together? Building a website?—?there are patterns (standards) for each page. Loops in code. Stuff we do over and over become design patterns.
  • Abstraction: take the patterns and try to create rules / templates for them. Find the underlying rules or simplest forms for the data or processes. For our website, we can abstract it to a site map, where each node / page in our map represents the actual page. If we draw a person, stick figures are abstracted forms of humans.
  • Algorithm Design: Create the recipe for the process / problem. The more detail the better. Make me a cup of tea https://web.archive.org/web/20140811033029/http://www.rsc.org/pdf/pressoffice/2003/tea.pdf
    A nice bunch of steps that can be followed?—?A recipie?—?An Algorithm!
    (to really stretch yourself and students on this ask them how it scales; how would you make 2 cups of tea? 10 cups? 100 cups? What about all at once?)

For a really great take on algorithms see; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2zVpWu1i5qM

Teach skills that are transferrable across technology

  • Explicitly teach a problem solving methodology (In IB Design we use the Design Cycle, in Victoria (Australia) VCE IT they use the PSM (Problem Solving Methodology)
  • Most sane methodologies / frameworks follow the same general steps:

Step 1: What the hell are we doing ,why are we doing it, who the hell are we doing it for and is it really important?

  • ask questions,
  • clarify information,
  • set constraints,
  • does the problem need solving? (Are there existing products / solutions?) Is the time / resources worth the solution?
  • Who are the major stakeholders?
  • how important is it really?

Step 2: How the hell are we going to do it?

  • can we solve it the problem?
  • what skills / tools / time / money / people / resources do we need?
  • what are we actually going to deliver to our client / person who asked us?
  • how and when are we going to deliver it?
  • If you skip past step 1 and 2 is the problem a problem or are you just building a solution? Is the problem clearly defined?

Step 3: Lets do this thing.

  • break it down so we know where to start.
  • Make the plan so we know who is doing what and when.
  • Do the plan
  • what changes need to be made to our plan.

Step 4: Did actually do what we said we were going to do?

  • if we said it was going to be red is it red?
  • could it have been done better? (The answer is YES)
  • are our stakeholders / audiences happy? (Why / Why not?)
  • does our solution make the world a better place?
  • Really?
  • ** can we make money from it???

Use real world problems where possible.

  • Talk to people and find out what they need done.
  • Small simple problems are often easier to find that you would think.
  • Make me a cup of tea. Make me a sandwich.

Get code outside of the screen where possible.

This brings this back to how do you teach coding and transfer skills?

Here is what I am doing and my goal is: (See Grok Learning Post)

My end goal is to have students capable of designing and solving technology problems for other people in Y9–10, and wanting to take Computer Science / Engineering in their senior years, with a future in Science, Technology or Engineering

The challenges faced come from the nature of these drag and drop interfaces, the immediate feedback and the culture of reuse/remix and share. (There are much deeper issues around teacher training, copyright and creativity)

We have started to leverage Python as the go to beginning language in Y6 and Y7. Almost all students come to school being able to follow scratch recipes / remixes online, and extend them. The majority, there are shortages of creativity, problem solving and risk taking. Scratch is good at teaching coding (drag and drop not typing). Scracth is not so good at teaching planning, as complexity and design are not inherit in the design of a scratch game or in scratch tutorials freely available online. Python is clean, easy to learn and introduces most concepts that students will encounter. Our students are using this to springboard to JAVA (using greenfoot) Unity using C#, iOS in Swift and web scripting in javascript.

We use Grok Learning, specifically the WiseTech Code Launch 2017 to teach python from Y6–10, and have Y11 & 12s using it in our CoderDojo. (See Grok Learning teacher accounts https://groklearning.com/teachers/australia/). We are using this to get students to a standard level of coding and a standard language?—?this simplifies teacher content knowledge as well as allowing progression. The self paced nature of Grok enables students to work at their own pace and be supervised (Grok has amazing access to resources and student achievement for teachers) as they progress. I have also created a youtube playlist to assist students who need a little extra (And non-expert teachers) support.

Lesson structure is; recap, remind of skills or key words from previous sessions, introduce topic of where they should be, then monitor students to keep pace with a reasonable level of achievement as a classroom process. Our assessment is through an IB Design Cycle task for each year group, where students apply the skills that they are learning. I also reinforce the leaning with Kahoot (for fun) and Google Forms (self marking quizes) to track the overall learning in the classroom.

Practically we are using python as our inital language for Digital Technology. in Y6–8 and in our Year 9/10 electives (Students design and build an IoT device for a client?—?temperature sensor / photo booth / infra-red camera to track animals etc) and to program more real world applications?—?looking at how ATM software might work or how data is moved between systems (sending data to satellites and receiving data back?) In the 6–8 we use Edison robots in Y6/7 Digital Technologies where students use Python (or EDpy) to program the motors and sensors or a simple drag and drop interface (similar to Lego Mindstorm) for those who are still transitioning to Python. On the extra-curricular side of things, some robocup teams are learning Python so they can use a BrickPi instead of Lego EV3.

This looks almost like the turtle examples from Grok Learning!

Grok Learning, as an online, self paced learning platform, has seen us able to embed more code into more lessons in a shorter period of time. It enables non-expert teachers to get up to speed. It covers the basics well and does leave students quickly asking for more (How to do GUIs, how to build games).

If I had one criticism of online coding tutorials and platforms like Scratch, Grok Learning etc, is that they teach syntax but not complexity or the more “boring?” theory. Doing is great, the pace is good, but some more fundamentals or theory in the later more advanced courses would not go astray.

What is missing?

The biggest gap in our overall program and in what we are doing is around Ethics (read https://www.amazon.com/Rethink-Retool-Reboot-Technology-Mattered/dp/1853399051) / Cybersafety / Digital Citizenship and that big can of worms. These are huge areas that need continual embedding into this sort of curriculum, not a one off. It is hard and harder to manage this in a crowded curriculum where you are teaching basic computer skills (sorry no digital natives?—?not everyone knows how to use word well!) as well as Digital Technology content. It is also hard to manage age appropriate across Y6–12 where the home technology environments range from ultra permissive to ultra restrictive and the maturity levels are just as broad.

Future…

Platforms like Scratch and Grok Learning are great first steps along the “lets learn to code” path, stepping stones even. A solid base from which to teach more Computational Thinking and Problem Solving by example are needed to keep the current generation of “coders” moving from trivial to meaningful (from want-to-be-game developers to makers and engineers.)

Check out Grok Learning, see my YouTube channel and shout out to me on Twitter – let me know what you think.

 

 Posted by at 8:25 pm
Feb 032017
 

“yes and no are both correct and incorrect – the question is wrong”

 

How often do we stop and think about the questions we ask, how often do we stop and think how those questions define what we are trying to teach.  How often do we stop and think, is this question right?  Do we prefer to ask questions with concrete YES and NO answers, black and white or do we like to challenge students to think and come to the realisation that the question in itself is wrong.  Maybe the question is incomplete, or is lacking or deceptive?  Maybe the question is superficial and does not allow thought.

A fundamental problem with teaching today is that Yes and No are easy.  I know where you stand, I can mark that.  How do you assess the question is wrong?

 

 

 Posted by at 5:35 pm
Feb 012017
 

In my previous post, Teaching Innovation I arrived at the conclusion that you need to answer Can you teach Innovation?, I came to the conclusion that Innovation is change that has positive value. It is more than this, but this is my base I am starting from for now.

So how do you teach change? You cannot talk change in any organisation or group without talking about change management. So how do you manage different types of Innovation:

  • discontinuous
  • continuous innovation
  • dynamically continuous innovation  (1)

 

if Apple comes out with its new iPhone and disrupts the way in which consumers perceive a phone, it is discontinuous innovation. If Apple modifies its iPhone in a dynamic manner according to the changing customer preferences, it is dynamically continuous innovation. If it releases its iPhone after minor tweaks, then it is continuous innovation. For Apple to make a mark in the customer experience, it has to keep changing continuously and hence has to innovate constantly to keep abreast of the consumer trends and the competition. (1)

How do you teach that not only do we need to manage the process of moving our audeince thorugh the stages of change, but we have to be open to move through them ourselves.

If we are bringing change then it is up to us to manage this change management process, this not only gives our Innovation the scope to move through the above process but also to ensure that it does manage to fulfil the second part of my definition – for good.

This thinking runs counter to the “sexy” idea of innovation – the disruptive and discontinuous innovation where the solution developed changes the game.  Most innovation is dynamically continuous innovation or continuous innovation.  How do you promote these changes, how to you move people from shock and denial and how to you get the acceptance that is required for the good of your innovation.  Take another example – Apple killing off the audio jack on the iPhone – discontinuous innovation – changes the game for a lot of people, and despite being a need and good move, the overwhelming reaction was shock and denial.

Overcoming these is the process of Change Management.

Continuing on my original thought for this post – Can you teach “Innovation” (Change for the Good)?  Can you teach change management?  

I should follow up with something about teaching disruption!


Refrences:

1. http://www.managementstudyguide.com/role-of-innovation-in-change-management.htm
2. https://www.giz.de/akademie/de/downloads/Lehrbrief_15_-_Managing_Change_and_Innovation.pdf
3. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/scott-steinberg/change-management-101-how_b_2371384.html

 Posted by at 7:04 pm
Jan 302017
 

A question posed to Year 6 and 7 students is:

“Can you lean to be innovative?”

(Most of them answer in the positive – afterall that is the answer that they think we are looking for).

None of them unpack the question at all – What is Innovation, why is innovation important? What does it mean to innovate?

I would, and do, reverse this, Can you teach Innovation?

This is my attempt to unpack some of these, and perhaps put some context around the question.

What is Innovation?

Well that is both very helpful and not helpful at the same time. Defining a word with the verb form of a word is not helpful.
So innovation is the act of innovating: (again from Dictionary.com)

verb (used without object), innovated, innovating.
1. to introduce something new; make changes in anything established.
verb (used with object), innovated, innovating.
2. to introduce (something new) for or as if for the first time:
to innovate a computer operating system. (1)

A bit more helpful is business.gov.au:

Everyone can innovate. Innovation means coming up with new ways of doing things. Bringing innovation into your business can help you save time and money, and give you the competitive advantage to grow and adapt your business in the marketplace (2)

and they clarify with:

What is innovation?
Innovation generally refers to changing processes or creating more effective processes, products and ideas. (3)

An anaysis of industry brings us to

All the experts pointed out that innovation must (a) deliver some positive outcome whether it is tangible value, creation of a new market or a competitive advantage and (b) that the actions required to deliver this value must be new to the company. (4)

So streatching these into an answer to what is innovation? I am going to try to use this:

  • Change that has positive value.

 My next post will be: Innovation As Positive Change

 

——
References:
1. http://www.dictionary.com/browse/innovation
2. http://www.dictionary.com/browse/innovate
3. https://www.business.gov.au/Info/Run/Research-and-innovation
4. http://www.innovationmanagement.se/imtool-articles/how-do-you-define-innovation-and-make-it-practical-and-saleable-to-senior-management/

 Posted by at 6:42 pm
Sep 182016
 

When we talk innovation, we often think of products and ideas, of disruptors that have changed how things are done.  What we mean though is more the evolutionary innovation, the standing on the shoulders of giants, sharing and building ideas that are better than our own, making something better, adding to it to change how things are done.  Incremental.

21031243458_9e035f0529_b

The original model of education has many critics.  Some say it was really about keeping kids out of the labour market.  Classes were segregated to get more students per teacher when teachers were paid per students.  Regardless, we have been incrementally evolving this model.  We have added innovative things (paper/pencils, computers) without changing how things have really been done.

 

While the ideal of disruptive innovation drives a lot of our energy, the real success lies in the gradual efforts when it changes how things are done.

In education, there are several areas that are open to innovation (significant changes to how things are done for the better).

change1Macro scale, we could ask is our education system which has been stagnant for a long time, the best system for what it is supposed to do?  Broadly we could ask, what about has the nature and purpose of education changed?  Is this why we have a fascination with innovation?  Macro scale, we should look at the process from start to finish, asking why we do it, how we do it and is it valuable to continue to do it.   Innovation in the education sector should lead to better learning opportunity for more students for less budget.

Micro scale, in the class room, innovation is required to adapt to the dynamically and rapidly changing social changes that teachers are learning to deal with.  Do more with more students in less time.

In both these cases, disruptive innovation is needed, but evolutionary innovation is crucial.

 

 

 

 

 Posted by at 9:39 pm
Aug 132016
 

Do we approach the teaching of STEM processes from the wrong angle?  Have we over saturated schools with STEM?

STEM

STEM: Img Src: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:STEM_Logo.jpg (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.en)

Do we overcomplicate the ideas.  Do we fail to follow STEM Education processes when we try to teach it.

Some teachers with little or no STEM background who give up right at the beginning, and teachers with a STEM background who fail right at the beginning.  The important questions – What is STEM, why is it important (other than we are told it is), If we are adding more into the already saturated curriculum, what gets left out or what gets done at a lesser quality (HINT: all of it), how do we PD someone in STEM when they are totally not interested in these fields?  Is this why we are getting STEAM, STREAM, STREAMS.  How do we justify this new approach at the expense of ‘how things have been done’.

In most schools, there is friction between core subjects – those critical for all learning – and nearly every other subject with regards to time allocated and importance.  It would be more helpful to move away from a core subject model to a core concept model – Numeracy and Literacy are found in math and english, but Math and English are not numeracy and literacy.  In the same concept STEM is not Science, it is not Technology, it is not Engineering  and Math is not more Math.  Science, Technology (Design, Food, Textiles, Digital, Materials, Systems …. ) Engineering and Math already have curriculum and standards.  STEM is the concepts that underly these areas.

STEM and STEM education is in need of a unification, a common core set of values, some standard principles; otherwise STEM education will be hijacked by every interest group who think that Robotics (which is cool) is STEM, Coding (which is cool) is STEM, Problem Solving (which is cool) is STEM, innovation is STEM.

With governments around the world throwing money at STEM, without a coherent ideology or methodology, the effect is going to be like a shot gun – a few solid hits, but mostly air.   We don’t want to see STEM education be like 21C thinking skills ( Can anyone tell me what the 21st C thinking skills are that are so important?) where everyone has a vague notion of what they are and that they are important, but could not tell you what or why.

The drive for STEM makes economic sense, it makes sense in that it is future proofing students, but at the end of the day it has to pass the teachers test of : Does it improve student learning? and how?  and until we can answer these questions definitively then STEM will be another expensive buzzword.

 Posted by at 10:42 pm
Mar 142016
 

Computer science is no more about computers than astronomy is about telescopes, biology about microscopes, or chemistry about beakers and test tubes. Science is not about tools.
Michael Fellows and Ian Parberry

I love it when Buzz words can’t settle on what they are; take the current STEM / STEAM / STREAM (1)(oh my!) push, with some focus on teaching students to code, as if that is the pinnacle of ST(R)E(A)M.

Coding is important.  It is a useful skill to learn.  It is also a tool, not an end.  Perhaps we should make  our focus on teaching computer science (or even computational thinking) and not just coding: the computer science is a general purpose way of thinking, whereas the latter is a specific tool.

From wikipedia on Computational Thinking :

“CT is a process that generalizes a solution to open-ended problems. Open-ended problems encourage full, meaningful answers based on multiple variables, which require using decomposition, data representation, generalization, modeling, and algorithms”

From google: CT involves a number of skills, including:

  • Formulating problems in a way that enables us to use a computer and other
    tools to help solve them
  • Logically organizing and analyzing data
  • Representing data through abstractions such as models and simulations
  • Automating solutions through algorithmic thinking (a series of ordered steps)
  • Identifying, analyzing, and implementing possible solutions with the goal of
    achieving the most efficient and effective combination of steps and resources
  • Generalizing and transferring this problem solving process to a wide variety
    of problems

Google even provide teaching strategies for teaching CT skills.

I would use this as an example.

Take the numbers : 71, 18, 11, 4, 82, 38, 46

Problem: Sort them.

Teaching someone to code, it may be something like this:

var numbers = [71, 18, 11, 4, 82, 38, 46,4];
numbers.sort();  // this is broken in JS (2)

Teaching computer science / CT would be:

  • Explain how you sorted the numbers. Did we sort them high to low, low to high.
  • Write a set of instructions to sort the numbers, so that anyone follow and could sort any set of numbers.
  • Where does it break, or get ambiguous?  Can it sort high to low and low to high?
  • Are there more efficient ways to sort the numbers, is this important?
  • How long does it take to sort 10 numbers?  100?  1000?

Teaching students to code is just teaching students to spell, or write.  It does not teach them how to think.

Jeff Atwood wrote Please Don’t Learn To Code, where he asks a question that highlights the confusion between coding and CT:

How [would] Michael Bloomberg be better at his day to day job of leading the largest city in the USA if he woke up one morning as a crack Java coder?

A better question would be

Would Bloomberg be better at his job if he improved his ability to think by learning new problem solving strategies and developing a better grasp of logic?

He is very confused as he states late:

Software developers tend to be software addicts who think their job is to write code. But it’s not. Their job is to solve problems. Don’t celebrate the creation of code, celebrate the creation of solutions.

Before you go rushing out to learn to code,figure out what your problem actually is. Do you even have a problem? Can you explain it to others in a way they can understand? Have you researched the problem, and its possible solutions, deeply? Does coding solve that problem? Are you sure?

Learning to code is a tool.  As a teacher and someone who writes code, we are often left looking for problems to solve with our code.  Learning to code and  not learning to solve problems is like learning to hammer with out nails.

 

(1) Science, Technology, Reading, Engineering, Arts and Math

(2) This breaks in JS – By default, the sort() method sorts the elements alphabetically and ascending. However, numbers will not be sorted correctly (40 comes before 5). To sort numbers, you must add a function that compare numbers.  The result of this sort would be [11, 18, 38, 4, 4, 46, 71, 82]

 Posted by at 11:25 pm
Feb 012016
 

After finishing the Compendium last year, and having only a bit of what I would have liked to have put in it (I really felt constrained by word count), I felt it was worthwhile putting a more complete version of the practical teaching uint online.

Below will be the first session of the unit, however it is worth having a look at the structure and themes  before diving in.  It is not a Game Building session, but by the end of this unit, the students will have a relatively complete brief of an original game.  The ideas and briefs tend to be BIG.  Developing them would be beyond most school (time/budget/expertise) settings.  A dedicated team of students could take it further and develop prototypes.  The idea would be to constrain the ideas and run a follow up with the concept of building a game.

Game Design Unit.
The over arching themes are:

Through the experience of play, fun and games, students will explore what the games they play says about them, and how they communicate those ideas and experiences to others to design games that can inspire, educate and engage as well as entertain.

  • What do the games I play say about me?
  • How can I share my experiences of fun with others?
  • How can I learn and have fun at the same time?

Sessions:

  1. Fun and Games – What do I know about games
    1. Use a mind map to capture self knowledge
    2. Play some games
  2. Games and Others – What do others know and think about games
    1. develop a survey to capture this
  3. Fun – Do we need rules to have fun?
    1. Explore what makes things fun
  4. Telling people about fun
    1. How do we tell others what we think is fun
    2. Develop a rating scale for games
    3. read and review games
  5. Can Games be Evil – is game addiction real (How do you get a pigeon to press a leaver?)
    1. Look some basic psychology (skinners box)
  6. Being Creative – Generate a game idea
    1. What happens / Where does it happen and Why do I (Player) care
  7. Game Design
    1. What goes in a game design brief?
    2. Design a Game.

Recently I have been making use of the excellent Extra Creditz youtube channel for inspiration.

Watch these, and feed some to the students during the sessions as appropriate (No particular order)

Students should watch

Teachers Should Watch

 

Session 1: Fun and Games

What do I know about games?

This session aims to develop a baseline for the class, and start a shared common language for the unit through developing a Mindmap which is kept to compare with an exit mind map.

  1. Develop a mind map (pen / paper, http://bubbl.us , http://mindmeister.com, freemind or any other mind mapping tool).
    1. If students are not familiar with mind maps, then the following is short and different enough to keep engagement.  Take it with a grain of salt, because there are more ways to mind map than suggested.  Key points for mind maps: central nodes are key ideas.  Branches are relationships (and should be labeled where possible).  Siblings are not necessarily of the same importance. (See http://blog.iqmatrix.com/how-to-mind-map for “rules” if you really need them)
  2. The Central Node should be “Games”
    1. Some prompt questions if students are a bit slow include:
      1. What sort of games are there? (Move beyond computer games)
      2. What makes a game a game?
      3. What different computer games are there?
      4. How do games differ from TV, SPORT, BOOKS
      5. What is your favourite game? WHY?
  3. Take students out and play Lemon Joust (this can be played first if desired)
    1. From https://goo.gl/eA6bLM

      How to play Lemon Joust

      Number of players: two or more

      Equipment: Every player should have two wooden spoons & one lemon.

      Objective: Each player balances a lemon on one of their spoons, holding the spoon by end of the handle. Then they attempt to knock the lemons off their opponent’s spoons. The last player with a lemon still on their spoon wins.

    2. As a follow on, ask students about how they developed skill / strategy
  4. Other games that could be played in short sessions are – this is to give students an idea about rules, learning rules, complexity and play styles, building game literacy.
    1. Pandemic
    2. Carcassonne
    3. Smash Up
    4. Shogun
    5. Werewolves
    6. Munchkin
    7. Settlers of Catan
  5. Lead into the next session with the question:
    1. Is everyone’s mind map the same? Why / Why Not?
    2. How can we capture and compare the similarities and differences?
  6. Student Assessment Opportunities:
    1. If you blog an appropriate question might be:
      1. What features of a computer games are important and why?
    2. The mind map is self assessment, and will be used as a pre-test and a benchmark for learning.

Thats it – nice easy.

Session Two- Games and Others – What do others know and think about games –  is coming soon…

 Posted by at 12:12 am
May 252015
 

When starting the GBL subject, I had at the time a fairly broad (but shallow) knowledge of the sphere. I had read Gee, Prenksy and Van Eck. I knew what Gamification was, and even had a concept of Flow in games. I was aware of some issues around problem gamers (and as a teacher of digital technology I have been exposed to quite a few). I started with high hopes of a HOW.

Despite the quantity and quality of readings provided and done I still come back to the question that was presented in Module 4: The question many are trying to resolve is not what games are or do, but what exactly does education want from games?

The promises of GBL range from the overly optimistic (Educators who are passionate about games and want to embrace them, as evidenced by research by Bevis et al. (2014) to the those who are interested in trying to meet the challenges of at risk students living in a digital and connected world who are not engaged in contemporary classrooms or curriculum (See WowInSchools , http://teachersjourneytolife.com/2015/04/13/education-with-passion-for-a-digital-generation-104/, http://www.smh.com.au/national/education/teachers-reevaluate-value-of-video-games-20141130-11jw0i.html ). Orr (2008) bring the main features and reasons for using GBL in the classroom down to two important factors, the engagement and motivation of students and the potential thinking and learning benefits. Gee (2003) who has over 7000 citations (https://scholar.google.com.au/citations?user=fU8fmEIAAAAJ&hl=en) for this work, recognised these benefits and in subsequent years there has been an increasing amount of scholarly research, both quantitive and qualitative around using GBL (Tsai & Fan, 2013).

The recent (US) National Survey of Digital Games Among Teachers (Games and Learning Publishing Council, 2013) has shown that teachers report that lower performing students seem to benefit most from GBL. (See Fig 1) This is enticing for a lot of educators.

Fig 1: National Survey of Digital Games Among Teachers

Fig 1: National Survey of Digital Games Among Teachers

 

I agree with Squire(2005) when he says that teachers who think digital games will be a “silver bullet” because they are exciting and motivating will be disappointed. I also think that going down the gamification path, we run the risk of trivialising learning, Indeed, as Jordan Shapiro said in an interview with Banville (2013) “you can certainly trick [students] into learning, but they’re also learning it is a trick. When you use chocolate covered broccoli, to use the cliche, what kids learn is broccoli stinks unless it is covered in chocolate. They don’t learn that broccoli is good.”

To me, teaching Digital Technologies and Computing, GBL goes beyond leveraging games to teach. Connecting with games has shown me a deeper insight into what is, what is possible and what we should be doing. Dabbling in Ingress, WoW, Second Life were fun, but ultimately the time investment to leverage these is currently not possible. I was impress with the potential of Ingress, but did not ultimately engage in it, in contrast to others who seem to have run with it. Despite the literature and stories of success around simulations and virtual worlds, they are outside my area of interest at the moment. My school uses the TPAC and SAMR frameworks in a limited capacity, and GBL could fit within them if there were not a blanket ban on games. I would argue that the MR end of the framework are ideally suited for a lot of games, and given a perception of lower achieving groups within my school, GBL could be an opportunity to engage and connect with them.

The prospect of building games with students is the path that I am trying to carve out, and have started discussions with other curriculum areas to facilitate the development of educational games within my subject areas. I have run a unit on game design.  However, this is a complex and time-consuming undertaking and although has had some successes there is much room for improvement and even now at the end of INF541, it has raised as many questions as it has answered. At least I am learning where and how to look.

 

REFERENCES:

Banville, L. (2013, October 18). Shapiro: Games Allow Teachers to Reshape What and How They Teach . Retrieved May 22, 2015, from http://www.gamesandlearning.org/2013/10/18/jordan-shapiro-games-allow-teachers-new-power-to-reshape-what-they-teach/

Beavis, C., Rowan, L., Dezuanni, M., McGillivray, C., O’Mara, J., Prestridge, S., Stieler-Hunt, C. Thomsaon, R. & Zagami, J. (2014). Teachers’ beliefs about the possibilities and limitations of digital games in classrooms. E-Learning and Digital Media, 11(6), 569-581. doi: 10.2304/elea.2014.11.6.569

Games and Learning Publishing CouncIL. (2013). Teachers Surveyed on Using Digital Games in Class
. Retrieved May 19, 2015, from http://www.gamesandlearning.org/2014/06/09/teachers-on-using-games-in-class/

Gee, J. P. (2003). What video games have to teach us about learning and literacy. Comput. Entertain., 1(1), 20–20. http://doi.org/10.1145/950566.950595

Orr, K. (2008). 3D games-based learning environments in Northern Ireland classrooms: What do the teachers and pupils think of this technology?. 357-364. Paper presented at 2nd European Conference on Games-Based Learning, Barcelona, Spain.

Squire, K. (2005). Changing the Game: What Happens when Video Games Enter the Classroom? Innovate: Journal of Online Education, 1(6).

Tsai, C.-W., & Fan, Y.-T. (2013). Research trends in game-based learning research in online learning environments: A review of studies published in SSCI-indexed journals from 2003 to 2012. British Journal of Educational Technology, 44(5), E115-E119. doi: 10.1111/bjet.12031

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