Gamification ideals and going beyond

Just read @timbuckteeth‘s blog post entitled One Step Beyond and I find myself facing this conundrum. The post says – “Set the Kids’ free” – you know all this social media, networking, connecting beyond the classroom can in effect be made use of for learning. And that is fine. I totally agree. In an ideal world that is the way it should be. And the tools are there. The setting is there. The learner culture is there. Even the teacher culture is somehow there. I mean if I ask any one of the teachers in a local school whether they have facebook accounts and whether they are active users, I stand a good chance that about 90% of them will say they do. And that’s saying a lot – even in this era of social living – for this tiny island.

So well the question is… why not? Why is this not happening? If the settings are all there, why would teachers very possibly turn to me and say – “THAT is in the IDEAL world. This is not. This is the real world – where we go into a class and teaching is kept within these walls anyway”.

So this is the conundrum right? Maybe I am generalising, but I do have a lot of contact with teachers, my husband being one of them. When I listen to them speak, discuss, lament…about their daily mishaps I notice that  a) many have no awareness of their limits (of what they can or cannot do within the classroom and beyond) and b) many have no awareness. Fullstop.

Teachers or educators, most often feel very much obliged to follow what some administrators, dictate on paper. Maybe they think it’s all a matter of student assessment and grades. Many feel they are judged as competent, depending on the grades the students get. I think we are past that. Many students are past caring for grades. Employers are past looking at certificates… most can be acquired so easily these days. Politicians are past caring and that’s it. So in reality it’s up to the teachers to control the way they teach and they learn… gamification? why not? why not apply game design rules to the classroom? why not become more connected – more immersed in the social living – and bring a little bit of the classroom to the outside? Maybe people are scared – who knows? But then again who wouldn’t feel some kind of slight apprehension at change.

Who will tell the teachers that they can wake up from their time warp and can start breathing some life into the classroom? … diplomatically – of course.


The Pedagogy of Poverty – or rather the poverty we are instilling in society…

This morning I came across this brilliant article [ The Pedagogy of Poverty versus Good Teaching by Martin Haberman] on the ways of teaching and it made me think.

If I were to be facing a group of teachers, who happen to be teaching at a school and I had to give a talk during one of their professional development days, what would I tell them? And if those very teachers have been thrown into a system which has been ravaged and subjected to all forms of stress, what would I tell them?

Would I point out that the majority of them are teaching in the wrong way? Would I tell them about this ‘pedagogy of poverty’ which most of them are using? Probably not. Probably they would see me as another academic who lives in space, lost contact with reality – and this it the way they can survive inside a classroom.

The reality is different – albeit nonetheless virtual if you want. The reality is that things can be done differently. I keep looking at success stories published through social media, such as Twitter. I keep learning how people manage; how they cope. I keep learning and visiting new technologies, stuff which is constantly being updated.

The gist of the article which I read, is that the majority of teachers, are still teaching the way they used to be taught. They have forgotten how terrible it was for them. They don’t seem to know any better. They go through University thinking that research is useless. To their mind, it’s for people who are paid to do research. They think, no – wait they believe that once out, their learning stops. It has to stop. It’s a paid job and you’re paid to teach. But they fail. They blame University (and maybe we do fail in some ways); they blame the system, they blame the families, they blame the poverty of mind (which they equate with lack of intellectual ability), they blame who sits in front of them, they blame the curriculum, exams, syllabus… but I wonder how many of them blame themselves? How many of us blame ourselves?

We think we know it all – let’s look around us at society. So many people around us think they know it all. And it’s all because of us teachers who keep maintaining this control attitude over their classroom.

So, to get back to my original question, what would I say to the ‘hypothetical’ teachers in front of me? NOTHING… a big fat nothing… I would do as I preach, and let them find out the beauty of knowing beyond a small mind, captivating that which is out there – go and experiment – see the world for yourselves. It’s not just books and curriculum out there. See the ways for yourselves. Get a glimpse of how possible it is to know more and do more. Adapt…that is the secret if you want to overcome poverty – in all senses…

As Darwin said: “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change”.

Of being collaborative and all that…

Following yesterday’s classroom session which was held using a collaborative form of learning I have decided to post my views on the issue. To be honest I was also following #ukedchat on twitter, for today and the topic which was chosen was about collaborative learning.

The question was about collaborative learning in schools… the whats, hows and whys and most importantly if it does work out for the learners. I personally think that if handled well, collaborative learning may be the best way but it’s a big IF…

I have recently come across Kagan’s Research Program for professional development… quite a number of research articles over there. However one specific article “The Case For Student Centered Instruction Via Collaborative Learning Paradigms” has caught my eye. I must say that it makes a strong case for introducing collaborative practices in learning at all levels, academic, emotional, social, psychological. As the article goes, the reality in our schools is completely opposite. This reality, which induces the individual competitive approach, is even very much present at a higher education. I also believe that collaborative learning leads to networked learning – a connectivism approach as defined by Siemens.

My question is this…. if I had to ask learners what they think of all this – collaborative work, learning, connecting, sharing – what do they make of it? and if our schools are fostering this individual approach, is this being propagated at the society level? I think yes…

3D animation and modelling – New Media Class

The scope of this blog post is to have students following my lectures on New Media, share their contribution to the lesson by posting comments, views, and links which they find and sharing them online.

To students: You are free to repost on Facebook or retweet… the essential scope is twofold: 1. to share our knowledge, to share our resources.

Animation primarily is considered to be the prelude to immersion into the digital reality with the essential goal of recreating a movement, whether it is for a character, ambience or object, which resembles the physical reality as much as possible.

Some questions which I would like to discuss with you all here and to which I would like some answers through your comments are:

  1. What is the essential difference between 2D and 3D animation?
  2. What is the 3D World Space?
  3. The Pyramid of Vision reflects the way the immersive animation is perceived by the user. Give examples to explain this further.
  4. What are the Transformations into the 3D World Space? Give practical examples.
  5. Cameras and lighting play a very important role in 3D animations. Give more detail.
  6. Points, lines and Curves in 3D Modelling software.
  7. Primitives, surfaces and textures…the what and how.
  8. The character animation and advanced modelling procedures.

For the purpose of this class we shall be using the Blender software to experiment with some simple 3D animation. Kindly download using this link. Your comments can include links to videos, or other resources which you find online as well as your own personal views, experiences, and other information which can be relevant and shared with the others.

Life IS Learning

As I was driving myself to work this morning I was thinking – maybe rather philosophically (you know, asking questions – the search for the truth, but then what is the truth anyway?) – so rather than thinking, I was reflecting about this statement – Life IS Learning.

The one thing which I have an adversity to – or rather a deep ingrained fear of – is Stupidity. And I don’t mean stupidity as in academic abilities, or inabilities. But this is about the stupidity of the mind. I mean does this term exist? Stupidity of the mind? In Malta, alas, and I really hope I am generalising – but then again maybe I am not, we are surrounded by crass stupidity. The stupidity of intolerance, the stupidity of wanting to know what the neighbour or your cousin, or your mother’s cousin is doing, just for the sake of judging, the stupidity of criticising WITHOUT giving constructive feedback, the stupidity of NOT accepting that feedback, and ultimately the stupidity of closing your mind. We wear blinkers. Our way is the right way. If you don’t do it our way, then you are wrong (…my friend).

This is the kind of hypocrisy that society is facing, well at least this is the impression I get from the society I live in. And at the cost of sounding judgmental myself I would say, the root of the problem lies fundamentally in the way we learn.

We learn to become citizens in society. But it seems that all we are learning is that learning takes place only in schools, AND learning is all about getting the right grades in exams. Really – I mean – think about it – what did you learn when you were at school? If you had to sum it up rather briefly, to sum up the package of what you have learned in school, what would it be? And if you look at the local Maltese news, and pick up any news item, portraying the views of persons as they make the news on the island what sort of baggage would you say they carried with them from when they were young?

The lesson (my friend), is that life is all about learning, life is about failing, and getting up again, life is a game in reality (think about it – the gamers they take up any challenge with a wonderful gracefulness which matches great philosophers’ thoughts), life is play, to live is to learn… and when we stop learning, stupidity reigns…so my constructive piece of advice is let’s start re-learning lessons in life again because that might be the only hope of society.

Seriously gamifying our Education

This morning I was discussing with my colleagues from the gamED research group about our perspectives on games in Education. There are a number of issues here. There is the design issue, there is the scientific issue and there is the pedagogical issue.

There are people like Scott McLeod, who warn against creating educational games which “suck”. Seymour Papert [1], warned against creating what he termed as “Shavian Reversals” whereby in educational games, there is a tendency of eliminating all the ‘good’ game design processes, and retain the weak aspects which are drawn up in school curricula.

And to be honest maybe this is an aspect which we should really really explore. What do people term as fun? Jane McGonigal for example speaks of positive stress which many of the really popular games induce. You are stressed out, but in a positive way. You really want to be in for the challenge. You want to immerse yourself as you would be in any sport. In education one of the problems which we really, seem not to be able to come to terms with, is the element of “help” or “guidance” we give our students… at whatever level. I get higher level students asking me for a step by step guide into what I am expecting. We give them a really broken down way of how they should perform the research. We almost tell them what answers they need to come up with… hellooooo! Are we serious here? We preach one thing and we do the complete opposite…. and games, or rather the gamification of real life or real world representations, pushes forward the competition – increases the positive stress, makes people addicted to want more of that because they are continuously being assessed and being given feedback as they explore – they reach new levels with no singular recipe.

So once again if I were to post a twitter hashtag at this point I would say that the way we are doing educational games which learners refuse to use is big #FAIL and the way we are practicing education as higher education leaders, is alas another big #FAIL… we need to practice more what we preach is kudos.


[1] Papert, S. (1998). Does easy do it? Children, Games and Learning. Game Developer Magazine , 88.

Sifting our way through…

So today I really felt inspired to rant about the state of the Education, not just in Malta but from what I can see – well all over the place. Instead I will leave that rant to another time and will this time draw some enthusiasm from this program which was recently aired again on Discovery Science. The program’s title: The future of play, shows the way ‘Siftables’ can be integrated into play. This is kind of different from the concept of games which we usually refer to. Play in fact, as mentioned by Henry Jenkins, is not disguised learning. Play IS learning.

Link to video here

So I have recently spoken to David Merrill from Sifteo. And I really truly hope that we might somehow create some local projects here in Malta with these siftables. The mere concepts of bringing together these fantastically simple yet, effective tangibles for a collaborative environment, is just so exciting. This is not about developing siftables for learning. This is ALL pure learning. Learning big skills, soft skills, skills which really any learner can, with or without help, can make use of in real life.

Can you imagine the power of these resources with any students of any level of ability? I mean this could really revolutionise the way we view learners, no longer by academic ability but with strategic capabilities usually exhibited by gamers, who as we know do not depend on isolated curricular subjects.

So the issue now is – ok – how do we get creative enough to develop and test out the question I have just asked? Where do we start? – more to come on this in the near future…

Patient Problem Solvers? Hitting the nail on the head…

So I have just come across this really cool Math teacher during one of the TED Talks which I will post below. What impressed me the most was his emphasis on how we have seemingly lost focus of our problem-solving or problem-formulating capabilities.

I mean we have become so used to a school or an education system that presents us with ready made problems and then gives us the tools or the recipes  for how to solve them. Dan Meyer (the guy in the video) makes direct reference to Math, of course because that is his subject. But I think he has really captured the essence of what’s wrong in our adoption of technology, maybe even of the use of games in the classroom. And on the other hand, he has also I think captured the essence of what makes games, outside the classroom, so much more fun. This is the distinction between educational games and games meant for entertainment.

Games made for entertainment, are meant to teach. If the gamer doesn’t learn then there is no fun. In an interview (see below) with Prof. John Seely Brown, he was realistically looking at a group of surfers and how their curiosity and their “questioning” disposition, got them to achieve levels of success which others haven’t achieved. They ask, they formulate problems and then attempt to reach a solution. They fail and they try. They are continuously assessing themselves or rather their solutions and then recalculating their potentials.

Watch the full episode. See more Digital Media – New Learners Of The 21st Century.

And Dan Meyer, reaches the same conclusions…in essence if we want our own futures to look good we need to foster this problem-‘formulating’ capabilities. And if we want to design games which make an impact, whatever the game subject is… we need to include this problem-‘formulating’ concept. Without this, there can be no long-lasting effect and what we will end up with in the end is another bunch of people who want to get to the “right” answer, whatever that might be in the shortest, easiest, less challenging way… and I ask: where’s the fun in that, right?