Gaming & Higher Education

Last summer I read the book Got Game: How the Gamer Generation Is Changing Business Forever by John C. Beck and Mitchell Wade.

A few points from the book that I’d like to reiterate before getting into the post:

  • The book gave statistics on how broad the access is to game systems versus computers, even in lower income (rural or urban areas) households.  I cannot find my notes from the book, but I think the number was 92% have at least one gaming system versus 60-70% have computer in the home.  I do not remember how many people had Internet access at home, and there’s no telling how fast the connection is.  (If my memory of the stats is wrong, let me know and I will update.)
  • The skills that gaming teaches are important to learning and differ from how many institutions, from elementary up to higher education, teach. For example, in games you learn by failing.   I remember the first time I played Super Mario World on the original Nintendo.  I just started making Mario run and he ran right into the Gumba. Lesson learned- Gumbas kill and you need to jump over or on them.
Evil Gumba

Evil Gumba

  • The skills that gaming teaches are important in the careers and lives of adults – for example, performing under pressure, performing with limited resources (lives, weapons, etc), hand eye coordination, etc.

With that in mind, I was excited when I came across a Chronicle of Higher Education article by Steve Kolovich this week about a professor who has created a video game in the humanites that humanizes people affected by the current recession.  The article is about a professor at Dartmouth who along with the Values at Play research project created a game titled Layoff.

The game puts people who have been laid off from several industries in a pen and users can mouse over them to find out personal details.  The player has to group the laid off workers into groups of three of  a kind then move the workers to the unemployment line.  Fired workers are replaced with other workers who seem to get more and more white collar.

While this sounds neat, what does it accomplish??  Great- the laid off construction worker wanted to send his kid to college; that makes me sad.  So how do we help him?  Oh, group him two other construction workers and they will go get unemployment.  It doesn’t teach financial principles that contributed to the recession.  It doesn’t teach psychological issues that laid off workers are dealing with.  It seems to be nothing more than a novelty, but may be a good starting point for teaching those principles while vilifying bankers and executives.  It’s also as awkward as the worst Yahoo game I’ve ever played.  Fun times.


    Issuu – You Publish

    Issuu.com is a site that I came across a few days ago via a Twitter post by someone I follow (forgive me, but I can’t remember who).

    It’s an interesting site that allows content creators to publish content.

    Just a tiny bit of the content on Issuu.

    Just a tiny bit of the content on Issuu.

    To look at a magazine, click on the cover (or you can do a search and find content that isn’t in the featured area).  The magazine will open in a type of reader that allows the viewer to flip through the pages, zoom, and email the content.  There are also thumbnail images of different parts of the magazine that the viewer and click on and go immediately to that area.

    Very interestingly, there is also a Portfolios area on the featured content section.  It appears that graphic designers, photographers, etc. have the abilty to create and upload a portfolio that others can browse through.  A very neat self-marketing idea.

    Any ideas how to incorporate this into higher education?  Would faculty self-publishing content be valued by administration?   Would students self-publishing be valued by faculty and future employers?

    At Berry College, the Staff Advisory Committee regularly schedules staff development sessions.  I attended one of these yesterday; the topic was improving customer service through process improvement and was given by Dr. John Grout.  I’m not going rehash the seminar here, but basically the point was that we (staff) should evaluate our current processes and see if we can eliminate ‘waste,’ thereby making the processes improved.

    We were supposed to be thinking of ways that we could improve customer service of our department (in my case, the Center for Instructional Technology).   However, in my position I think one of my main functions can be defined as helping faculty improve processes and improve customer service (i.e. teaching).  I came to this conclusion by looking at the different types of waste (information, process, physical environment, and people (not that kind of waste hehe)) and realizing that many of the faculty I work with are trying to eliminate one or kinds of waste from their teaching.

    Not too long ago I had a discussion with another instructional technologist who was very adamant that I should not use what she called ‘convenient factors’ when talking to faculty about emerging and useful technologies.  I disagree with her because I think that faculty can eliminate waste from their teaching and teaching preparation processes by using technology, hence giving them more time to focus on teaching and learning (and maybe some other technologies).

    Waste that instructional technologists can help faculty eliminate:

    • redundant input and output of data – create audio/video podcast to explain theories that cause students issues
    • incompatible systems/converting formats – different systems in classrooms and office that cause headaches for faculty
    • noise – maybe not physical noise, but interruptions and the like
    • faulty office furniture/tripping hazards/use of chairs and tables as ladders/unbalanced or unsecured shelving and file cabinets – ok, maybe not a CIT issue here, but an issue nonetheless
    • multitasking – help faculty speedup process, so they get finished quicker and there is less of a need for working on more than one task at once
    • under utilization of talent – I think this applies to everyone
    • lack of strategic focus – too much time spent on administrative tasks, and not on the broad/big picture

    Dr. Grout referenced the book Flow in the Office by Carlos Venegas during this seminar.

    A trip down memory lane

    It appears that Oregon Trail will be available on the iPhone on February 28!

    Oh how I loved computer lab days in elementary school.

    Oh the memories... cholera, dysentery, river crossings

    Oh the memories... cholera, dysentery, river crossings

    More on electronic textbooks

    The first post on this blog was about ‘alternative’ ways for students to get textbooks.  Since then it seems like I’ve seen/heard variations of this discussion in several places.   Three articles came to my attention that I would like to discuss further.

    Continue Reading »

    Facebook & Privacy

    Yesterday we had a new blast of anti-Facebook sentiments as the site’s new terms of service was unveiled. For me, and a lot of other people, it was a reminder of how we must all be vigilant about protecting our personal information online.  (Facebook has since reverted to their old terms of service and are taking input from users for the next revision).

    Facebook is a bear of a site to try to manage for newbies because of the vast array of contacts that you can have – friends, family, and professional contacts. You may not want all of these people to have the same access to your personal information. For example, you might want your friends to have your cell phone and personal email, but might not want your professional contacts to have that information.

    Here’s an example from the Chronicle of Higher Education about a professor at Dartmouth who left her profile to more people than she intended.

    Here are some more humorous examples of pictures that should never have been made public (not all on Facebook) from Dan Tynan at PC World.

    Of course, these privacy can be managed with a 10-20 minute investment in tweaking the privacy settings in Facebook.   I won’t need to recreate the wheel of telling you how as Nick O’Neill of AllFacebook.com as done a wonderful job (click to read more).

    For those of you not on Facebook, I would encourage you to check it out.  Look for a Facebook 101 podcast from CIT coming in April/May.

    Two sites have recently come to my attention Newseum and Newspapers.com.  Both sites work in distinctly different ways, but are similar in the way that sort of aggregate newspaper content for users to find easily.


    Someone sent me a link to Newseum’s Today’s Front Pages site. It is an amazing tool that allows you to look at the front page of countless newspapers from around the world.

    Continue Reading »