Monday, April 24, 2017

Affinity Space Presentation

Here is my video presentation on my Affinity Space - Terraria:

If this video is difficult to view, you can also access the video here:

Friday, April 21, 2017

Learning Reflection


If I recall correctly, the first couple of cycles in this course seemed to explore the definition of gamification, discuss the benefits of video game play, and introduce us to the world of affinity spaces. For me, these topics were new or a little over my head. Defining gamification seemed to get too far in the weeds and, despite the scholarship that went into those arguments, I still feel like the definition should be simple. As for video games, I’m not really a practitioner although I do agree with the learning application that accompanies video game play. And affinity spaces were a new concept – but not that new anymore.

I can say, though, that I have enjoyed diving into the subsequent topics much more. I generally try to choose an article to critique based on the current cycle’s readings and the past few cycles have provided some very compelling topics. Particularly, I have enjoyed jumping into the game application in learning settings. I have often personally defined analysis as the breaking down of something into its smallest parts and asking questions. The topics, hypothesis discussions, and scholarly readings have opened my ideas to the intricacies designing educational game play. Not only are there different types of learners but there are different types of players, each with their own values and motivators.


Interestingly enough, the most recent course activities changed my preconceptions about learning in the classroom versus learning through games. Some of the authors we’ve read really criticized the formal education system today as a means of strengthening their arguments for games and/in learning. At first I thought some of the criticism was a little harsh and, although I did love every minute of my schooling, I always sort of felt like it was a necessary format – and there was no getting around it. Now, I admit I was wrong. Teachers don’t have to lecture, they can guide. I know in my job I can recite the same trainings over and over again but the employee won’t truly understand until they connect the dots themselves. An example of this was the article by Darvasi. In his game for his class, students would come to him for guidance or advise on their experiments. When that happened he would guide them to the answer but the discovery belonged to the student. Teachers can be guides.


Hypothesis continues to be a truly valuable tool for actively digesting readings and facilitating relevant peer discussion at the same time. The insights and comments that others share not only offers unique perspectives into the subject matter but they help define key terms and concepts. This is truly college reading at its best.


Question: We have discussed how games can be games can be used for learning but can they be used for assessment?

Answer: Yes! One may not realize but many games today already provide assessment of a learner through achievements or other metrics. Think about the last game app you played. In how many different ways did you score points? I recently read an article on regarding assessment through achievement by scholars from the University of Texas Dallas (find my scholarly critique here). Today’s multiple choice or True/False test don’t fully capture the aptitude of the learner. By modeling our assessments after game play achievements, we can start to explore compelling and engaging ways to assess the knowledge and skill of our learners.


I want to put my new found knowledge into practice and see how games and learning can be incorporated into corporate training. Let’s go!

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Assessment Through Achievements

“Assessment through Achievement Systems: A Framework for Educational Design” is an article by Monica Evans, Erin Jennings, and Michael Andreen of the University of Texas at Dallas that explores the importance of achievement systems when designing educational games. I pondered on this concept during the last cycle when we read the articles by Darvasi, Kalir, and Saunders. In those pieces, the authors laid out a detailed description of elaborate and well designed, in-class games that they developed with their students. The learning activities within those games ranged from hands-on experiments to blog posts to even web design. What stood out to me was that in each component the letter grade wasn’t always the driving motivator. In fact, in the case of Darvasi, his game was a result of brainstorming session on how to engage seniors in their final semester when grades, at that point, were considered irrelevant. Evans, Jennings, and Andreen effectively analyze the long-standing practice of assessment in education within game play and share ideas of how present-day achievement systems in games can 1) improve assessment of students and 2) assess further areas such as creativity, curiosity, and problem-solving.

When I started on this journey into the world of games and learning, I full imagined how games could be utilized to replace traditional learning activities. What I did not consider, was how the characteristics of game play could be used to replace or amend traditional assessment. The authors point out in their research that test-taking isn’t necessarily a true measure of aptitude or knowledge. When you think about it, it’s obvious! How many people do you know (perhaps yourself included) that are terrible test takers but are good at learning? Or vice versa – who do you know that is a good test taker and can figure out the multiple choice based on the wording of the question? And don’t forget about the timeless art of cramming the night before a test only to forget the material the next week!

Achievements are essentially a tool within games that not only provide motivation for players, but can also assess the ability/knowledge of the player. The authors of this article point out digital game creators today are loading up with their games with additional achievements aside from the primary objective of the game because they are meeting demands of users. And as different personalities respond differently to various motivators, one can choose to ignore those achievements or strive for them. A prime example is mobile bubble pop game. There are tons of versions of this out on the market and one uses the bubbles to meet an objective. However, along the way, you can earn additional points or stars by how well you accomplish the objective.

These tables below were provided in the article and highlight four primary factors of an intrinsically motivating activity (table 2). Table 3 shows which learning outcomes are best measured through specific achievements:

Table 2. Comparison of motivating factors and achievement types
Skill, completion, repetition
Luck, exploration
Repetition, completion, exploration
Completion, exploration, collection

Table 3. Comparison of learning outcomes and achievement types
Skill, repetition
Cognitive- declarative
Skill, repetition, luck
Cognitive - procedural
Skill, repetition, completion
Cognitive - strategic
Skill, completion, exploration
Completion, exploration, collection

These factors open up a whole new world of educational assessment by implementing game-based achievement models. Yet much is left to be explored in how we can implement these as a way to replace traditional testing and assessment methods.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

The Art of Terraria

Meandering around through the Terraria Community Forums (TCF), I have found, generally, what one would expect to find in an online gaming forum: lots of posts on tips and tricks, version or update announcements, and other general orientation through the game. Not only that, but the depth at which these things are discussed goes way over the head of a beginner Terraria player, i.e. me..

However, after perusing the forums for a while now as an observer, I have discovered another little sub-culture: the art of Terraria. And I'm not talking about the ability to play the game. I mean literally - the art of Terraria. Check out this section of the Forum titled, "Terraria Drawings, Paintings, and Pixel Art":

There appears to be a large group of forum members who create their own artwork in various forms. This includes drawings, sketches, pixel art (similar to the look and feel of the game), and other forms of digital art. Here, artists share their work with each other, providing feedback, help, and suggestions. A large portion of these artists appear to be novice coders that are required to create their own images whether for a class or otherwise.

In addition, some artists take requests from users for art pieces. Here is a thread to make a request for artwork:

I haven't made a request yet but I certainly plan to. Any ideas on what I should request?

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Scholarly Critique: What should educational psychologists know about online video gaming?

Video gaming gets a bad rap. I believe a lot of people feel as though it’s unproductive and waste of time. Those that play video games, especially online video games, are stereotyped as being geeks or brainiacs. I think most of this stems from the older generation of adults who grew up without video games and see them only as a luxury item or a toy of sorts. That is the main reason why the subject matter of games and learning is so interesting. Traditionally, students would rather be playing video games than doing homework and now there is scholarly research around using video games as a learning tool? Who’s idea do you think that was, the student’s or the parent’s?

As we have studied games and learning throughout the semester and dissected a number of articles from various scholars, I cannot help but feel that this has been the elephant in the room, which perhaps as not really been addressed. Certainly, many of the authors have argued, in some cases rather defensively, for the use of gaming in education as well as a call for revamping the current education system. With these thoughts in mind, I decided to critique a short piece that discusses the psychology behind those that play video games. Specifically, our class’s online hypothesis discussion raised a question that I thought was interesting and, in which, I didn’t really have a good answer or opinion. In this day and age, video gaming is readily available to anyone who can access the internet. The truth is some of the stereotypes of video gamers are true (of course there must be a few instances for a stereotype to even be born) – there are some people who indulge in video gaming to the extent that it produces negative side effects, including addiction. The question I had, therefore, is that even though academia is finding positive utility for video games as a learning tool, when we implement them with our learners are we playing with fire?

Mark Griffiths, with the International Gaming Research Unit at Nottingham Trent University, wrote the article titled, “Online video gaming: what should educational psychologists know?” that was published in the journal, Educational Psychology in Practice. Special thanks to Darren Blackman who pointed out the potential scholarly critique article from this cycle’s reading! This article provides an overview of the issues surrounding excessive video game play among young people. In this piece, Griffiths gives a clear and concise perspective on the differences in gaming and what the signs of addiction are. He also lists several benefits to video gaming and offers some advice to parents – who seem to contact him regularly regarding these issues.

My biggest takeaway from the article is that, just because someone likes to play video games an excessive amount of time, it does not mean that that person suffers from an addiction. Really, we need to understand the psychology behind addictions before we endeavor to make any bold claims. What is interesting, though, is that some of the advice Griffiths offers are some of the very same characteristics that are beneficial to learning such as encouraging kids to play video games in groups of people instead of alone. This allows the youth learn virtual interpersonal skills and conduct collective problem solving activities.

The article posits that any type of activity can lead to addiction. Some people play excessively simply because they can. That does not rule out the educational benefits that games can provide. Certainly prudence and moderation are important characteristics to maintain no matter what our undertaking.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Affinity Space Update: Life in Terraria

As a complete newcomer to Terraria, and to video-gaming in general, I give you some of my initial observations both playing the game and perusing the forums:

Playing the game

Watch out for the green blobs! I think they call it slime but they move like blobs. Unassuming on the outside but harmful to the touch...

I downloaded both the app and the PC version of Terraria to try both. I find the app much easier to maneuver with the touch screen options. The PC uses keyboard keys to perform functions which is a little difficult to get used.

I selected this game for two reasons: 1) because it's 2D (going back to my roots!) and 2) it's a sandboxing game where one can just go and explore. Right now exploring is all I do. I'm not really sure how I can progress so I'm relying on any type of insights or instruction I can glean from the forums.


Wow, this is quite the place! I can't believe how many members there are for this game. My first thought is - how old are these forum members? The game appears to be something more designed for kids, similar to Minecraft.

The forums are structured like a traditional message board but within the space are a number of social groups, each with their own rules, moderators, and resources.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Scholarly Critique: "Learningful work: Learning to work and learning to learn"

After reading Bavelier’s article, “Brain Plasticity Through the Life Span: Learning to Learn and Action Video Games,” in this past cycle’s reading lineup, I became intrigued on the concept of learning to learn. Bavelier sums up the main issue surrounding learning in his own words:

“The ability of the human brain to learn is exceptional. Yet, learning is typically quite specific to the exact task used during training, a limiting factor for practical applications such as rehabilitation, workforce training, or education.”

His words immediately caught my attention as someone who highly involved in workforce training in my profession. I see this all the time. I try to teach an employee a simple task to perform in the software yet whenever some unforeseen variable comes along they are immediately thrown off track – because that variable wasn’t in the original training. In fact, I’m ashamed to admit, I often tease that such employees have maxed out their intellectual hard drives and are unable to learn anything new. Thanks to Bavelier, my narrow-minded thinking has been put right in front of me. For this reason, I wanted to drill down on the concept of learning to learn and found, among many articles, a piece by Rob McCormack, Geri Pancini, and Dan Tout of Victoria University in Australia titled, “Learningful work: Learning to work and learning to learn”.   
In this article, the authors posit that the meaning of the term “learning” must undergo some fundamental transformations due emerging technologies, organizational structures, and new demands on skills and knowledge. They call this becoming liquid or adaptable. The study focuses on learning in the workplace. However, instead of education preparing one for work, they focus on how the work-place becomes a place for education or learning to learn.

Although these authors examine the workplace, I believe this study mirrors the world of games and learning. I personally believe that games and play are a simulation of real life. We, as students, can study theoretical knowledge on a given topic but there is nothing experiencing the real thing. Learning on the job can be very similar to jumping into a game. In fact, the game I wrote about for my play journal this week did exactly that – I was plunged into action with little to know explanation or orientation.

It is true, in the workplace, we often train people to perform specific tasks. This could be similar to teaching someone a specific position on a football team. If something occurs outside of that position or outside of that job position, we often hear the phrase “that’s not my job”. Learning to learn or, as the article states, doing learningful work can help a person to expand their role, strategize, or master new concepts.

Social dimensions can also impact learning. In the study done by Victoria University, students were placed as rovers in campus libraries to assist students. The idea was that people would feel more comfortable reaching out to a peer rather than to staff. Within gaming, there also appears to be a horizontal social component where people are aided by those closely associated. I see this at work as well. New employees often feel more comfortable asking peers for help rather than authorities for fear of asking a “stupid” question.