Monday, August 5, 2013

Reflections on Summer Part II GamesMOOC

Jumping into GamesMOOC gear for the second half of the Summer session, I found a smorgasbord of ideas, examples, games, and worlds. We discussed the use of avatars, explored other game-related MOOCs, visited the GamesMOOC Minecraft server, and shared games that might be useful in education.

Our Wednesday evening tweetchats focused on the experience of using avatars. Rosie O’Brien Vojtek, one editor of the Virtual Education Journal, asked us to think about the Avatar Generation: folks who are very comfortable operating in a virtual world using a personalized avatar. These folks have a facility for negotiating virtual worlds and building and communicating in these worlds.

Avatars have some connection to the identities that we claim in “real life.” Introverts may feel more comfortable speaking up via their avatars. The “disinhibition effect” seems to free us up to behave in ways we wouldn’t in face-to-face encounters. Avatars may represent our sense of our true selves to greater or lesser degrees, depending on whether the player is trying to explore a different identity in a safe space or trying to represent themselves faithfully.

We ventured into a couple of other MOOCs, one of which was the rgMOOC (Rhetoric and Composition: The Persuasive Power of Video Games as Paratexts), a course taught in part by Sherry Jones. This course invited participants to engage with texts and videos that offered background content, explore a variety of games, and enter into discussions of what they found each week. The course had a clear structure within which participants had many choices.

The rgMOOC asked participants to explore the messages and assumptions of the games that we play in our society. In the GamesMOOC, we discussed other uses of COTS (commercial off-the-shelf) games in educational settings. Because I work with students who are under 13 who have access to a school-issued laptop throughout the school year, I have opportunities and limits in what we can use. The easiest games for me to incorporate are free web-based games that don’t require installation. Lure of the Labyrinth and Coaster Crafter are a couple games that I have discovered in the past. I would like to look more closely at several suggested games: Poptropica, the Mesoamerican Ballgame, Wallace and Gromit Sprocket Rocket, and School of Dragons.

the looming castle

Our tours of the GamesMOOC (et. al.) Minecraft server reminded me once again that I shouldn’t give up on trying to find a way to get teachers and administration to accept this game in school. Having a server that educators can explore seems like a good way to introduce the game to those who haven’t seen it. And the work that MouseyMoose and Giraffe619 did to create the Inevitable Betrayal village and castle reminded me of the many skills that children use in this world. Badges may be a good way to define and communicate to outsiders what children are accomplishing in game worlds like Minecraft. Massively @ Jokaydia seems to have a strong start on this with their Awards.

Now that the Summer Part II GamesMOOC has wrapped up, and my school year is about to begin, I need to think about how to bring these ideas and games to life at my school. I love the sharing and camaraderie of the GamesMOOC, but I need to find a way to bring it home. My first thought was to choose a couple of games to explore further and then share those with my local colleagues. But perhaps I need to take it further and get them involved in exploring those games. Perhaps I need to create a Mini Open Online Course for the teachers at my school that would expose them to some of the basics of how games connect with learning and example of games they could use.