Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Not in MY Kingdom!

     Behold, Ironhide Game Studio's Kingdom Rush (Android Version), it all its glory!  I faced down hordes of goblins, orcs, marauders, bandits, and spiders - just to name a few!  Through all of the carnage, my kingdom remained unspoiled, untouched by the vile claws of monsters - thanks to my defensive units.  My success (and star collection) depended on some certain key factors, that I believe are universal truths in both gaming, and life.

1)  Try, try, try, try, try some more, and then try again.

     You may be thinking that there is a lot of trying involved.  Boy, would you be correct!  But not just any kind of trying.  Just like in learning, you cannot keep trying the same thing over and over again.  Often life and games require very different combinations to yield positive results.  In Kingdom Rush, for example, you won't win a whole lot by just placing Barracks Towers all over the landscape: you need to switch it up, use Archer Towers, Mage Towers, and Artillery Towers.  Maybe you do not understand a lesson in school; don't be discourage, maybe try listening to it, reading about it, watching videos, or any other number of various means.  Chances are, one or more of the ways will enable you to understand the concept!  Games enable you to fail, but they also enable you to recover easily, and learn from your mistakes.

2)  Stars aren't just shiny.

     In the game, you have the ability to get up to three stars per level in normal mode.  There are additional stars for the more difficult challenges as well, but let us focus on the 3-star principle.  With those 3 stars on every level, you get increasing chances to purchase better upgrades for your Towers.  The more stars you have, the better off your Towers are.  This, too, applies to life.  Imagine that you have an end objective concerning a passion for teaching.  You're just a college student, but you know at the end of your (presumably) 4 year stint, you will have a degree.  You can take methods classes, do your practicum, learn all about pedagogy, and do just fine.  However, the more you invest in your education in every area, the more you can take with you to your final objective!  Stars are a reward, but they are a micro reward.  The ultimate reward is your final objective; to graduate and become a teacher.  All your knowledge along the way assists you in obtaining that goal.

     Playing this game taught me how much time I spend in a "flow" state; that is to say, how much time I am in a zone, where the only thing I notice is within the confines of the game.  I started to analyze my life, and realize that I spend about 10-15 hours a day in a "flow" state.  I treat my classes like a game, chores like a game, driving like a game, and I am in the "flow" for every minute of it.  I find this concept useful, because when I am focused, I am FOCUSED, like a laser beam!  How does the apply to learning?  Well, in the flow, not only can I focus, but my interest and emotion are also captivated.  All of my sense are devoted to learning!

     Finally, I feel like this experiment has made me realize just how much of life can be like a game, if you want it to be.  The more we can make learning into a game, the greater our collective potential to mold all things we learn into concepts that interest us.  And, if a concept interests us, we are very much likely to retain more of it - versus a model of rote memorization!


A wonderful NY Times article on Gamification
Gamification on Twitter

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Take one ITEC (Conference) and call me in the morning...

flickr photo courtesy of Roo Reynolds
     Ladies and gentlemen, I am going to level with you.  I have been getting very burned out lately Iowa Technology and Education Connection Conference fit into all of this?  Well, on Monday, it served as a breaking point and inspiration.
with (what I feel) to be a high degree of redundancy in my Ed Tech courses.  I would describe the feeling as consistently viewing diagrams on how to ride a bike, spending hours on a bike-riding simulator, and then looking at a lot of photos of people riding bikes.  Where does the
     I began by attending a session titled: "Using Facebook in higher education to expand physical learning communities in a virtual space."  A lengthy title, to be sure -- however it seemed to be the most personally appealing of the morning sessions.  This session elaborated the value of Facebook (from facilitator and learner perspectives) in a classroom setting; all while putting forth some ground rules.  The value in this session was the fact that the presenter had used his own dissertation research as the primary tool. 
     Following was the keynote.  It was alright, but nothing stands out in my mind that I have not heard in class, or just from my blog reading in general.  I feel like I should apologize for not being impressed, but I just didn't find the speech motivating.  In fact, I'd say that I essentially got tired of being passive in the process.
     The second session I attended was called: "Minecraft in the Classroom."  I chose this particular session because I like Minecraft, and I wanted a break from hearing about learning and collaboration; I just wanted something fun.  And the presentation was fun - right up until my administrator neighbors started asking me all sorts of questions about how exactly this would be applied in schools.  Now, the fun did not stop...but suddenly I was forced to think critically about it, and I answered them in very candid, honest, and concise words (blame the military).  I truly enjoyed being able to see applications for almost every subject, and giving an assessment of the roadblocks to administrators that actually influence decisions in districts.  Suddenly, I came to the realization that I need to start doing things that I consider proactive and practical - right now; else I would lose all interest in the field.
     The third session was highly useful, and the speaker was highly motivated.  "Social Media in the Classroom" was a bare-bones session in practicality and application.  The speaker set very clear guidelines of implementation and classroom management that I really liked.  This was the only presentation the whole day that truly inspired me to use Twitter, and post a really specific quote from the presenter that I felt was particularly relevant.  Steven Hopper's passion on the topic definitely spoke to me.
     The final session I attended, I will not even mention.  It was nice to attend it with classmate Kim McCoy-Parker, but the session was very iPad centric, and I do not like presentations that limit focus to essentially one device.  I still got some ideas from the session, but the gears in my brain were already working on something else.
     So here it is, my plan of action.  I have decided to be a facilitator, as a student, in my Principles of Macroeconomics class.  The professor uses traditional methods of instruction (chalkboard), and I have committed myself to setting up a closed Facebook group, accessible by the 100+ students in the class for Q&A and setting up face-to-face or digital meetings for tutoring purposes.  I've found a good number of reasons and resources in my quest; here are just a few:

Using a Facebook Group As a Learning Management System

100 Ways To Use Facebook in Education By Category

Facebook In The Classroom.  Seriously.

     In the end, I want to say thank you, ITEC Conference.  You have provided me the desire to move on and do something on my own.