Monday, April 24, 2017

Affinity Space Presentation

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

video

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

Friday, April 21, 2017

Learning Reflection

Participation

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.

Preconceptions

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.

Network

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

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.

Curiosity


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
MOTIVATING FACTOR
ACHIEVEMENT TYPE
Challenge
Skill, completion, repetition
Curiosity
Luck, exploration
Control
Repetition, completion, exploration
Fantasy
Completion, exploration, collection

Table 3. Comparison of learning outcomes and achievement types
LEARNING OUTCOME
ACHIEVEMENT TYPE
Skill-based
Skill, repetition
Cognitive- declarative
Skill, repetition, luck
Cognitive - procedural
Skill, repetition, completion
Cognitive - strategic
Skill, completion, exploration
Affective
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.

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.

Play Journal: Family Farm Seaside

I just got back yesterday from a two-week business trip so I apologize for posting this journal entry so late in the cycle. I anticipated having some down time at the hotel in the evenings but that quickly evaporated into late dinners and meetings…bleh! All this was due to a fairly recent company merger. Anyway, although play is usually the desire of my heart, it hasn’t been on my mind much. So as I was sitting in the San Jose airport this afternoon with a couple hours to kill, I decided to scroll through the ol’ Google Play Store and see what app I could jump into. And wouldn’t you know, right there advertised on the main page is Family Farm Seaside.



This game caught my attention not because I’m interested in it but rather the opposite – I’m not interested in it. Yet I see this game advertised ALL THE TIME. And every time I do see an ad for it I ask myself, “Why?......Is this supposed to be fun?” So, this time around I decided to turn my disdain into curiosity and decided to download the app.
Family Farm Seaside is exactly that – a family farm…by the seaside. The player has a landscape view of a farm with various activities: grow flowers, harvest fruit trees, milk the cow, make cheese, collect honey, make jam – all within a specified area which area looks to have the potential to grow. There are also some unfinished tasks (such as building a dock or opening a fruit stand) that are available after unlocking later levels. Completing tasks accrues coins or other rewards which are then used to acquire more land or farm resources.

I naturally wanted to approach this game from a learning perspective and pay particular attention 1) how did the app teach me, a first-timer, how to play and 2) How can this game be used as a learning tool?

Once the game loaded, I was immediately plunged into a pre-set farm with tasks already laid out for me. An instructional finger appears to orient me on how to complete tasks – which I do to move on to the next thing. I became immediately frustrated because that is not how I want to learn a game. I want an overview and an objective BEFORE I dive into specific actions. So far, I cannot seem to find a goal or objective at all. There is a path for progress but to what end? Is the point to just build a farm, make money, and keep growing the farm? The only thing I know is the process for growing the farm.
The main thing that has been on mind going into this game is the recent reading by Bavelier and the focus on “learning to learn”. Many times, in my career, I have seen employees learn a task only to be thrown off completely by a new variable. Without a clear objective to Family Farm, I fail to see how intuitive learning can take place.


Then…I handed my phone to my five-year-old. He immediately took over and didn’t ask a single question. He simply started pushing buttons and figuring things out on his level. He wasn’t worried about an objective, he simply played. Perhaps there needs to be less focus on crossing the finish line and more emphasis on the race.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Scholarly Critique: Abstraction Through Game Play

“Abstraction Through Game Play” by Antri Avraamidou, John Monaghan, and Aisha Walker examines the results of a real-world experiment in game play involving an 11-year-old boy from Cypress and the popular game, Sims 2. I sought out this type of example in light of the current affinity project our class is undertaking where do a deep dive into an active affinity space. Plus, with all of the literature we have been consuming around games and learning, I hoped to find some kind of real life case study or example to illustrate these concepts. Young 11-year-old Costas did just that!
As a brief overview, the experiment was designed to create a non-classroom, natural learning environment for the boy with as few restraints as possible. To implement the design, the video was accessed online in the boy’s bedroom and mediator was on-hand to guide the sessions. Costas qualified for the study in that he 1) had prior video game play experience, 2) had the ability to read and understand English, and 3) was perceived to be willing to express himself throughout the study. Costas played the game for a total of three hours over four different periods and was ultimately tasked with building two houses in the sandbox-style game. This was as close as the researchers could get to simply observing a child at play.

The data and analysis of the study provided ample evidence to support the authors’ focus: abstraction can be accomplished through game play. In this case, Costas primarily constructed a mathematical abstraction in order to build his houses, especially the second house which required construction under greater restraints (budget, space, resources, etc.). From the outset, Costas was adamant about maintaining symmetry in house while still trying to implement his desired features (like a swimming pool in the middle of the house). To do so, Costas continually ran into “problems” which he needed to use math to solve. As the authors point out, in this case, the artefact mediated the mathematical learning that was accomplished through game play.



The evidence provided by the case study is very compelling and the authors adequately proved their hypothesis. In the end of the article the authors note that the mathematical abstraction constructed by Costas was not scholastic or “privileged” mathematics as what is taught in a curriculum. Costas’ use of math was based on objects and shapes – as you can see the grid system laid out in the illustration. There weren’t any numbers present. This brings to the forefront some questions. In grade school we learn mathematical concepts in the classroom and then try to exercise those concepts through simulations (word problems). In this case study, I believe the reverse was enacted. Costas was initially tasked with a blind simulation (I say blind because he was not specifically told to learn something) and then subconsciously used math to accomplish it. Instead of a teacher as a mediator, the game/artefact was the mediator. One could say that comparing the knowledge in each area is practical versus conceptual. The question I have is would one benefit from the other? Which is a better format? If Costas were given numerical constraints such as building a specific sized house with particular dimensions and features, would he be able to learn the same scholastic mathematics that are taught in the classroom?


Articles like these, in my mind, prove that games facilitate or mediate learning. I think the next question might be to ask – what can we learn through games?

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Learning Reflection

Participation

My understanding of games coming into this course, I admit, was very basic. I’m a big fan of games and play. I love challenges, puzzles, and being competitive. So when I think of games and learning as a topic of study, I simply think of the games I like to play in my personal life or I think of the games I played in the classroom. Thanks to scholarly analysis, my eyes have certainly been opened to the depth on the subject.

I think the biggest contributions to better understanding the relationship between games and learning have come studying the course readings, reading and commenting on other students’ play journals, and interacting via hypothesis annotation. My personal definition of analysis is breaking something down into its simplest pieces and then asking questions. The readings, thus far, have done exactly that. By breaking down the ecology of games, affinity spaces, and situational learning, the authors provide a different perspective on games and learning and give the subject greater dimension. Games are not just a tool FOR learning, but they actually represent a model of learning that drastically departs from traditional classroom education. This understanding shines greater light in utilizing or designing games as a way of instructing or allowing people to instruct themselves.


In addition, participating in writing and reviewing play journals showcases an important component of instructional: getting to know your learners. These journals are a great insight into how people play or react to play. And so far, the biggest takeaway from this activity is the insight that 1) not everyone plays the same way and, therefore, 2) there is more than one way to play a game.

Preconceptions

Everyone loves games. Who wouldn’t want to use game play to learn or as a teaching tool? Oh, and message boards are for geeks…

These are some of the preconceptions that I had coming into the course and the more I learn the more those preconceptions are turning into misconceptions. And misconceptions are almost always due to a lack of information. I am quickly learning that games and learning is like the universe – it is continually expanding. And despite its vastness game play is not one size fits all. People engage in play or define fun in different ways.

The Network

When it comes to social media, I sheepishly admit this is an area where I struggle to find a foothold. I do see the value in networking online as well as the value of gleaning useful information. The problem I have, though, is I feel like social media is a breeding ground for people who are starved for attention – and sharing my thoughts to the internet is not really my cup of tea. Although my twitter feed contains several useful and insightful posts, those nuggets are mixed with political rantings and other trivialities. I’m not at all sticking my nose up at social media, I’m really trying to say that I need to change my attitude when it comes to this form of collaboration.

I do want to say, though, that the Hypothesis annotations have been a learning delight. What a brilliant idea! There is no better way to discuss a reading than in the reading itself. The annotations have not only spurred hearty discussion among fellow classmates, they have also been extremely helpful in clarifying, and in some cases, deciphering the author’s texts. Such a practice allows for greater understanding and comprehension – at least on my part.

Question

If, as before mentioned, one size does not fit all, how can we successfully design game play that will engage a group of students, co-workers, etc.?

Although the answer is not yet completely known, the key is in the design. Much like instructional design models, it begins with analysis. This is important because it should preclude a designer in thinking narrowly about games and fun. More answer to come..

Curiosities

My biggest curiosity relates to my previous question – how can we design game play either as a learning environment or learning tool to engage a particular group.
As for affinity spaces, I’m curious, as I explore the Terraria affinity space, as to how this type of environment truly lends to learning – much like the texts suggest.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Scholarly Critique: Games as an Interactive Classroom Technique: Perceptions of Corporate Trainers, College Instructors and Students

I work in sales operations for a large security company. Sales operations is a lot like being a stage manager and the sales reps like the actors. However, in addition to a number of other responsibilities, I take an active role in training those sales reps in how to perform certain aspects of their job (I don’t think stage managers train the actors…). Sales reps can sometimes have personalities that make them difficult to train – big egos, low attention spans, complacency, etc. Therefore, with each new topic in this eLearning curriculum, I look for ways to more effectively engage and train.

I came across the article, “Games as an Interactive Classroom Technique: Perceptions of Corporate Trainers, College Instructors and Students”, in a search for games in corporate training. Although the article was published almost ten years ago, I found the authors’ study of interactive classroom teaching techniques between college faculty members and corporate trainers to be compelling. Their study consisted of two parts. The first part consisted of a survey among college faculty and corporate trainers to determine their classroom techniques and influences on teaching styles. Kumar and Lightner clearly place a focus on active learning versus passive learning approaches such as lectures or online learning. Their research indicates that interactive learning positively affects students, specifically adult learners, in memory, performance, social collaboration, and transfer of learning. They argue that games and simulations provide the perfect framework for active learning in the classroom. The second part of the study, five college faculty members volunteered to help develop new games that would replace lectures. After conducting the new game in the classroom, the five college instructors assessed the student learning and were interviewed on their experiences. In the first survey, data shows that corporate trainers utilized significantly more active learning strategies than college instructors. In the second part of the study, the five college instructors found increased student engagement and interaction through the use of the interactive game.

Kumar and Lightner’s findings are exactly what I would have assumed they would be - colleges focus more on lectures and corporate training uses more activities. The data adequately supports the notion that games can have a positive effect on learning, especially within the adult classroom. What the study did uncover are relevant questions around the social dimensions of using game play in adult learning. The college instructors felt in the second part of the study admitted to feelings of reluctance toward the use of games as well as some feelings of inadequacy in dealing with the formats. And, despite overall positive feedback, some students expressed that games in the classroom seemed childish or beneath them. Collective learning through interactive games does require engagement and “buy-in” among participants which may require breaking down social barriers or preconceived notions.


The study also brought to light several other questions relating to game play that, I believe, are launching points for further research. Foremost, the comments from instructors and students in the survey indicate that the actual design and implementation of the games influenced how they were perceived by students. This takes into consideration the delivery of such activities and how they can be most effective. In my opinion, I think many would agree that games are valuable teaching tools. The focus, therefore, needs to shift from the “why” to the “how”. My sales reps may be difficult to teach but one thing I do know is they love to play!

Monday, February 6, 2017

Play Journal #1: Seven Wonders



I am not really big into video games so for my first play journal I thought it best to cover what I do enjoy: board games (I’m sure I’ll delve into some video games in later journal entries). My siblings and I loved playing board games growing up. It helped that we’re all close in age so our ability levels were fairly comparable (except no one can beat my brother at Clue…not sure why). To this day, when we get together we enjoy gathering around the kitchen table with our favorite junk food and breaking out a game or two. For us, it’s more than just a game – it’s also a social component, which is a major component in playing board games. Amidst the strategy and decision-making, it’s fun to chat, laugh, and enjoy the company.

For Christmas, my wife got me a new strategic board game, Seven Wonders, which I had played only once or twice before. Seven Wonders is a card-based game with the theme being, you guessed it, the seven ancient wonders of the world. The object of the game is to get the most “victory” points, which one can accrue in seven different categories (the number seven is an important aspect). Here’s how the game goes:

Three to seven players are each dealt seven cards. Each player reviews their seven cards, selects one to acquire, and then passes the remaining cards to the left. Each card has a cost, either money or resources, which each player has been allotted. Once the cards are passed and the process is repeated until all the cards are used up. This is the phase one. Phases two and three are the same. At the end of the third phase, all the points are added up and the player with the most points wins. Each of the cards in one’s hand, at any given time, represent a way in which points can be accrued. Ultimately, there are seven different categories in which players can accrue points.
Seven Wonders is all about managing resources and creating a strategy for accruing points. Even though there are seven categories for gaining points, as you can imagine, it is virtually impossible to get the most points in every single category.



I really enjoy this game. I think what makes it compelling are the constraints. There are hundreds of strategy board games out there and all them have similar components: cards, points, money, etc. It’s the rules of the game and deciding how to be successful within those rules that provides a fun challenge. In addition, not only is one impacted by their own decision, they are impacted by the decisions of others. To win the game, players need to be aware of the situation of others (all accrued points are viewable by everyone), manage resources, and strategize on the fly. The design and flow of the game are intricate, well thought out, and very efficient. And depending on how many players are involved, the game should last no longer than 30 to 45 minutes. There is a certain level of unknown in that the winner is truly decided once the score is tallied.


I believe all board games provide learning experiences because they are life simulations. Especially in strategic board games, the scenarios encountered require critical thinking. All of these skills benefit players in real life. I believe most people agree on this point. I believe the real question of value is how we can take a game/concept, like Seven Wonders, and use it to accomplish a learning objective. An interesting byproduct of this game, is the fact that I now, for the first time, can name all the seven wonders of the world!

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Learning is fun, right?

Games and Learning marks my tenth and final class in my online graduate program and it's one I've had my eye on. I was sold on the title, really. I love games, puzzles, challenges, and competition and I absolutely believe that games are a part of learning and learning is a part of games. However, video games are not really my thing. I much prefer strategic board games, party games, or puzzles.

My interest in this class, though, goes beyond an affinity for games. I do sales training for a technology company. Thus far, this degree program has been a guided tour through every aspect of digital learning and, at each stop, I have looked for ways of incorporating the new-found learning into the workplace. The sales reps that I work with each day hail from all over North America yet they all seem to have very similar characteristics. Chief among those characteristics is a tendency to be competitive. It's a common trait among A-type personalities. In my experience, sales reps love to compete when it comes to revenue or earnings but we fail to adequately tap into this motivation when it comes to training. Therefore, my true motivation and curiosity for this course is to learn how I can use games as a learning tool.

I am a big fan of play, especially when it comes to playing with and/or against other people. I mentioned before that video games weren't really my thing. But really, I do enjoy playing when the video game is the medium for people playing against each other. (Right now, there's an online golf game that seems to being taking up considerable time for me and a handful for buddies.) In addition, I quite enjoy sports, board games, or even physical challenges. I believe what compels me is having a framework of rules which then requires a strategy to operate within those rules. What can be even more fun is creating the rules.

Making up games with my brothers was a big part of my childhood. There weren't a lot of kids in our neighborhood growing up so we only had each other for entertainment most of the time. We enjoyed most traditional games but often had to tailor the rules based on a given space or circumstance. To this day, my brothers and I still enjoy the creativity of making up fun. For example, even though we are all grown up and have families of our own (in different parts of the world), each of us has some type of box or container in our homes where we keep a collection of balls. These could be tennis balls, racket balls, stuffed basketballs from the carnival, rubber balls, etc. To this day, one of our favorite past times while visiting each other is to pull out the box of balls in the livingroom and invent some type of game or challenge (I know, I know, any mothers reading this blog are cringing at the thought of balls flying through the livingroom..). It's good fun. It's creative. And sometimes you learning something you didn't know before!