Monday, March 5, 2012

Webinar Reflections

I deliberately waited until late Monday evening to post today's Musing because I wanted to talk about the online presentation Liam, Denise and I gave at called "Wanna Play? Gaming @ Your Library".

I am, once again, indebted to Tiffany Whitehead, for her support and expertise. Tiffany was the inspiration behind and she was our moderator for the webinar. I had never presented using Elluminate or Blackboard before and I was quite nervous about all the technical-related issues. Tiffany was our liaison and was worth her weight in gold. Our slides that contained pictures did not appear, despite being uploaded correctly and checked prior to the session. Tiffany actually copied and pasted the slides as we spoke, in addition to monitoring the back channel. We presenters thought that it was just a delayed reaction; we had no clue that she was actually importing them in manually. Thank you Tiffany!

Our learning curve was steep - the three of us (Liam, Denise and I) actually logged onto Elluminate on the Saturday before for three hours to practice. However, this type of learning was very purposeful (because we had to have our act together for Monday's audience) and very enjoyable (because I love working with Denise and Liam).

So, what did we talk about? We discussed gaming but in a philosophical as well as practical manner. Some of the main points covered were
  • there are many benefits for students and adults to playing video games (e.g. surgeons who play video games do better while operating than non-gaming surgeons)
  • we cannot capture the situated learning inherent in video games (we control the where/when/who/what) but we can still incorporate games in education as long as we don't merely take elements of gaming and graft them onto school tasks (beware / be aware of gamification)
  • if you want to use video games in school, you should play some yourselves
  • there are many "edutainment" games as well as "authentic" (i.e. commercial, played by young people outside of school) games that people can use - you don't have to play them in school but make it okay to talk about some
The second point was a particularly sensitive one for me. I don't want to discourage people from using games based learning (GBL) but I cringe a little when it becomes too "schoolified". I've finally begun to speak up a little (in a polite way), especially after a particular infographic started to appear in tweets from my fellow educators.

This is the original - and I have serious issues with it. I'm almost reluctant to post it here but it's easier to dissect when I have it here to see.

Gamification of Education
Created by Knewton and Column Five Media

Sarah Chu @sairc on Twitter, edited this infographic to more accurately represent what happens when just elements are appropriated by educators.

This is what I wrote on a colleague's blog after he posted the original:

Thanks for the infographic, although I must confess, it makes me nervous.
I don’t want people to think that if they merely harvest certain aspects of games, they can reap student engagement. That does a disservice to both games and to learning. The timeline is a bit misleading – although Whyville was created with an educational purpose in mind (specifically, to interest girls in science and math), I don’t know if or how some of those others belong there. I’d recommend reading James Paul Gee’s book for a more powerful take on gaming and learning – or you can visit an upcoming webinar at on March 5 about gaming – one of the sections deals with the difference between appropriating and embracing games at school. Let’s talk more! No offense meant.

Sometimes education means having challenging conversations, ones in which we disagree with each other. I'm not sure how many of the webinar participants were already on-board with using video games (were we "preaching to the choir") or how many people we turned on or turned off with our serious talk at the beginning. I hope we get some feedback from the participants, either via comments to this blog or via Twitter.

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