Friday, October 19, 2012

To Game or Not to Game? That is the question...

I have to admit I am at an impasse.  I went into this gaming assignment for my Emerging Instructional Technologies class thinking that I would be blown away with how much fun gaming is, but after spending some time actually gaming I am not sure if I like it or not.  I have to be honest, at times I would find myself looking at the bottom right hand corner of my screen and seeing if my assigned hour of gaming was over.  However, I did find that I played my game for a little over an hour.  Before starting this unorthodox assignment I went in thinking that it would be easy.  Yet, when it came time to start gaming I started to run into problems.  First, I couldn't for the life of me choose a game to play nor did I know where to start looking.  Finally, I found one on Facebook that I could live with playing.  The title of this game was called, "Gourmet Ranch."

This game is much like, "Farm Ville," where you have a ranch and have to grow different fruits and vegetables and raise animals.  The twist to it was that you had to grow food to cook with and serve to customers.  What I liked about this game was that it wasn't too challenging.  I am not a gamer by any means so I did not want to waste my time trying to figure out some complex game where I would have to battle an evil villain or monster or whatever else you find in games.  As I played this game I was surprised to find that I liked and didn't like gaming.  Before you tell me that I didn't try out enough games let me tell you that I did do quite a bit of exploration online, but I never truly found one that suited me.  Sure you could say that I might not have looked hard enough, but honestly I just don't think that gaming is for me.  At times I did enjoy playing the game because I liked all of the challenges the characters threw at me to accomplish and it felt very good when I succeeded with the challenges, but I don't think I will ever play the game or any other online or console game again.  Then again you just never know what you will do in the future.  After all I did enjoy some of the time.  Personally, what I think threw me off the most is having to have patience to play these kind of games.  If this is the problem then maybe I should play them more so I can gain this vital skill. 

In preparation for this assignment I read about flow by Dr. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. What I learned about flow is that when you have reached flow you are totally and completely immersed in what you are doing where time seems to pass you by without you even realizing it.  I expected this flow to happen to me and that the hour I was supposed to spend on this game would turn into 2 or even 3 hours.  Well, it only turned in an extra ten minutes before I got frustrated and closed out of the game.  While I did not reach flow while gaming I believe I have reached flow many other times of my life.  Work is a great example of this because there are always those times when you are so busy and you are on the go time will just speed up.  Flow is a great experience to go through.  When you have reached flow you somehow have reached a state of mind where you are completely invested in what you are doing and most like enjoy doing it. 

While gaming may not be for me it seems that many people do enjoy it.  So, why don't we take this enjoyment and turn it into something educationally productive?  If so many people love to game why not include it somehow in their school life?  I know gaming can seem to be frivolous and you are right it can be, but given the right context it could be turned into something filled with unbridled learning potential.  Even though I did not particularly like gaming I wouldn't mind if it was part of my education because gaming is sure enough a lot more fun than reading a textbook and filling out an accompanying worksheet.  Really, who would want to fill out a worksheet when they could just play a game in order to master the content?  Gaming is fun and provides a new and exciting way to learn educationally based content.  Just recently I read a quote that stated something like this:  "We must teach our students for their tomorrows, not our yesterdays."  This is so true.  As future and present educators we need to teach our students with them in mind not ourselves.  How can we expect them to succeed in the world if we don't teach them how to succeed in THEIR world?  And gaming my friends is just one small way that we can accomplish this.  It is by no means the answer, but it's a start. 

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The Leaves are Changing and so are our Schools!

Everyone’s ideal classroom... or just our’s...

Wouldn’t it be great if we lived in an ideal world?  That whatever we wanted or even wanted to do was designed exactly the way we work.  Let’s take the education system for example since it is near and dear to our hearts in every single way that is possible.  Ideally, we would be teachers in a classroom situated for students that are 6-8 years old.  This typically would be a second or third grade classroom.  In this classroom all students would be perfect little angels that would say “Yes, Mrs/Miss _______” or “You’re right Mrs/Miss ________.”  Now, wouldn’t that be nice?  Or should I say wouldn’t that be ideal.  To make this theoretical situation even more ideal this classroom would be let’s just say all over the world.  I know what you’re thinking.   How could a classroom be all over the world?  Well, with all of the advancements we have with today’s technology especially with the use of Skype we can connect our stationery classroom with classrooms all over the country and even with the rest of the world.  Talk about building bridges.  Up to this point everything we have stated is what an ideal classroom would be like.  But, what would you say if we said that that last bit of what we said isn’t just ideal, but also true.  Lately, schools have been connecting with one another at a much more frequent pace and it has greatly affected the way classrooms like ours operate.  

How do these classrooms connect?

Vicki Davis and Julie Lindsay were two school teachers that spearheaded what is known as the Flat Classroom Project.  This project embodies several classroom projects that students nation and worldwide participate in.  As technology advances and businesses cross borders these two innovators thought why can’t classrooms?  Instead of just teaching about different cultures why not have the students experience them for themselves?  After all, educators and researchers say that meaningful experiences are what make or break education.  As of now there have been many projects created to support this international education exchange.  One of those projects stood out to us.  “What do the Leaves and Trees Look Like Where You Live?” is a project found on the website.  We found this project to be just right for the ideal classroom described earlier.  A basic overview of this project goes like this.  Students will take photos of leaves and trees that inhabit the area in which they live in and share them with the other classes partaking in the project.  While this is an incredibly basic project compared to more advanced ones found on the website this one will work well for this age group.  Due to the “nature” of this project these young students will get the chance to explore their natural environment as well as other environments throughout the world and use technological means to capture those natural differences and share them.  

How students will achieve...

The achievement gains are quite simple.  We would like our students to become more connected to the world outside of the four walls of their classroom.  There is more to the world than what they see in their surroundings.  Sure, books and videos can help students see the world we’re not arguing that, but nothing would beat the experiences they would receive from communicating with students from another culture.  In this tree and leaf project the students won’t only be meeting their school’s science standards and learning about different technologies to connect with others they will be given the opportunity to enhance their science inquiry skills by exploring their immediate natural environment but also environments all over the world.  Here the students will be able to compare and contrast the environment with students from other environments.  

Barriers that might crop up...

All this talk about connecting students with other schools is great in theory, but would it be great in practice as well?  Personally, we think it would.  However, we would be remiss to say that designing and even participating in a project such as this wouldn’t be challenging.  These projects take a lot of time and energy to develop and complete and many teachers may not feel that they have an adequate amount of time to create or use a project such as this or to be able to implement this project to its fullest extent possible.  A second barrier that might crop up is technology know-how.  Some teachers and even students depending on the age may not feel they know enough about technology to connect with other students and create a productive online environment that supports the project.  

The leaves are changing, so are the schools, and our students’ perceptions as well...  

Students, especially young students, seem to be ethnocentric in the way that they perceive the world.  They tend to only think about themselves, normally not in an egocentric or self-absorbed way at least not always, but in a way that doesn’t reflect other cultures and ideas that aren’t reflected in their daily lives.  By participating in a project such as this the students will have their eyes opened to other ways of life other than their own.  Through the connectivity within this project students will be exposed to other cultures and learn to appreciate as well as accept differences.  They will be able to recognize that they exist but not take those differences as reasons not to connect with that culture.  
By:  Harun, Megan, and Sarah