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Greetings!

It’s been an excellent summer, but I am now back in school with two exciting classes:

  • INTE5660 – Developing Online Courseware
  • INTE6720: Research in Instructional Design

I should also inform you, dear reader, that I successfully completed my summer course and have added the content to my projects page.

Will update more soon! Stay tuned!

Scholarly Critique 4: Gaming and Cognitive Style

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In the research article “Students’ Reactions to Different Levels of Game Scenarios: A Cognitive Style Approach”, the authors focus on the impact of video game-based learning on students with differing cognitive styles. Using Pask’s schema of holist “whole to part” and serialist “part to whole” cognitive styles (Pask & Scott, 1972), their research process involved observing students of each cognitive style with a game featuring different presentation modalities (text, text with graphic, and context) and testing their ability to process the information (Zhi-Hong, Chen, & Chih-Hao, 2017, p.69). To conduct this experiment, the researchers designed an English vocabulary-focused game consisting of one text level, one text and graphic level, and one context level. Participants in the study, 96 second-year students from the University of Taiwan, were classified as holist or serialist and divided into three groups. Each group was assigned one particular level and, upon completion, all participants were given a post-test to measure progress. The results reveal that students from all groups and cognitive styles displayed improved learning performance, but that holists saw greater improvement in the “context” based level (Zhi-Hong et al., 2017, p.76). Based on these results, it is concluded that video games have strong potential as learning tools and further research into cognitive styles is necessary for the development of game-based learning.

My reasons for selecting this journal article stem from my interest in the effective application of game-based learning and the mythologized topic of learning styles. The concept of game-based learning and the educational properties of video gameplay are growing in popularity as effective means of facilitating high quality education. Despite the divided scientific opinions on video gaming (Koenig, 2014), some studies reveal numerous cognitive benefits that come from playing video games (Bavelier et al., 2012). In this study, the authors refer to their learning environment as “scenario-based learning” and identify “engaging, meaningful, and transfer learning” as the positive aspects of this type of learning (Zhi-Hong et al., 2017, p.69). I have always been curious about how to ensure an effective game-based learning experience for as many students as possible.

Furthermore, I first encountered the concept of “cognitive styles” in reading about the nonexistent nature of learning styles. More specifically, I am referring to the widespread acceptance of “learning styles” as a concept as well as the assertion that educators should categorize students based on their “style” and teach them accordingly (Newton, 2017, p.444). I frequently encountered this concept as a K-12 student and was urged to identify my own style. Unfortunately, this myth led to missed opportunities and a failure to maximize my learning potential. Although learning styles don’t exist, the concept of cognitive styles rings true in that it acknowledges differences in how learners absorb material. The results of this experiment reveal that differing formats elicit different responses from participants.

The contents of this study raise important questions about game-based learning. First and foremost, this article inspires many questions about cognitive styles such as what framework should be used, what types of cognitive styles exist, and how can we account for each unique style. In addition, how can we design effective learning experiences for all types of participants? This article provides an excellent start on how to improve learning.

References

Bavelier, D., Green, C. S., Pouget, A., & Schrater, P. (2012). Brain plasticity through the life span: Learning to learn and action video games. Annual Review of Neuroscience35, 391. doi: 10.1146/annurev-neuro-060909–152832

Koenig, R. (2014, December 17). Do ‘brain training’ games work? It depends on which scientists you ask. The Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved from https://www.chronicle.com/blogs/wiredcampus/do-brain-training-games-work-it-depends-on-which-scientists-you-ask/

Newton, P. M., & Miah, M. (2017). Evidence-Based Higher Education – Is the Learning Styles “Myth” Important? Frontiers in Psychology8, 444. http://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2017.00444

Pask, G., & Scott, B. C. E. (1972). Learning strategies and individual competence. International Journal of Man-Machine Studies4(3), 217-253.

Zhi-Hong Chen1, z., Chen, S. s., & Chih-Hao Chien3, b. (2017). Students’ reactions to different levels of game scenarios: A cognitive style approach. Journal Of Educational Technology & Society20(4), 69-77. Retrieved from https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/5f18/dfc165a9c90929d6c09073d1c64f7527b380.pdf

Friendliness Pellets: Play Journal 4

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This entry is about my gaming experience with Undertale­­­ and its unique characteristics that make for an especially satisfying experience. Despite my inconsistent and somewhat diminishing video-gaming habits, I have always had a fondness for role-playing video games (RPGs) and spent significant amounts of time playing them with my brother after elementary school. I discovered Undertale through social media in 2016 and felt determined to give it a try. Although I had an enjoyable experience, I was forced to abandon the game due to increasing professional and academic responsibilities and made a mental note to try it again when the opportunity arose. After an extremely positive experience playing Undertale in the past week, I noticed several aspects that made for such excellent gameplay. The Undertale is a welcoming, encouraging, and individualized experience that captivates and motivates the player towards success.

In order to understand how Undertale captivates and motivates players, it is important to understand the ways in which it stands apart from other video games. The story and gameplay ensure that “the individual, social, and cultural motivations of any player affect what is experienced through play,” (Salen, 2008, p.10). Undertale is a video RPG with a top-down perspective in which the player sees everything from above on the screen (other examples include The Legend of Zelda, Final Fantasy, etc.).  The protagonist frequently encounters monsters in the underworld and can choose to fight, avoid, give mercy, and even comfort them. When fighting monsters, the player is taken to the “battle” screen and has to move the heart away from the white bullets (pictured below):

After deciding on Undertale, I decided to download and play it on my laptop. This process required me to install Steam software and then purchase the game for $20. Overall, I had little difficulty setting it up, but I was immediately aware of how my experience might differ had I found access to the game on a console. Upon starting the game, I encountered the backstory of a world in which humans and monsters were once living amongst each other but were separated into two worlds. The human protagonist (I named mine “Olivia”) falls into the “underworld” of monsters and must complete the journey to remerge the two worlds. The first monster I encountered was “Flowey” who immediately switches from amiable to belligerent, teaches the player how to “fight” in battle mode, and threatens to harm you. However, I was immediately saved by “Toriel” (a central figure in the game).

Toriel introduces the ruins (the first stage of the game) and gives the protagonist a cell phone to stay in contact. Using the cell phone, Toriel frequently contacts the protagonist with seemingly banal questions such as “Do you like butterscotch or cinnamon” and serves as a guide. Despite being told by Toriel to stay put, I decided to wander around and start the game. I As I progressed through the ruins, I encountered other beings such as frogs, dummies, ghosts, and more. I declined to join the “Spider Bake Sale”, found plenty of “Monster Candy”, and completed several puzzles. In the process, I grew more adept at using each option (fight, act, flee, mercy) in battle and found that I had been playing for over two hours.

When I finally encountered Toriel again, I was told that I was not allowed to leave the ruins and had to fight her. I did not complete the fight successfully and was immediately encouraged by the game with a “don’t give up” message. Since so much time had passed, I was unable to continue but looked forward to my next session. According to Gee & Hayes (2012), high quality games inspire the player to “persist past failure, thereby engaging in a good deal of practice and time on task,” (p.2). In playing Undertale, I definitely felt a strong sense of encouragement and was motivated to continue.

The fact that player actions influence the conclusion of the game reveals a strong degree of player autonomy. At the end of the game (after several monsters and puzzles), the player reaches one of three endings: neutral, genocide, and pacifist. The ending reached depends on whether the player fights monsters, befriends other characters in the game, and has played the game before. However, there are several endings within the “neutral” category that depend on actions taken during the game (Undertale Wiki, n.d.). These nonviolent aspects of Undertale appear as a strong departure from the violent content of many other games. By providing nonviolent options, the game allows the user to chart their own path to the end.

The impact of video gameplay on children and adults is a complex and controversial topic. For over two decades, opponents have cited research claiming that video games promote aggression and antisocial behavior (Funk et al., 2002) despite other research that suggests it strengthens numerous skills (Bavelier et al., 2012). Despite these broad generalizations (i.e. all video games are good/bad), it is an unsettled topic with varying scientific perspectives (Koenig, 2014).  Despite the conflicting points of view, I feel that Undertale has the potential to promote effective and non-violent problem solving. By displaying the benevolent and malevolent aspects of different characters, the game allows the user to think for themselves and chart their own path. I will definitely play again.

References

Bavelier, D., Green, C. S., Pouget, A., & Schrater, P. (2012). Brain plasticity through the life span: Learning to learn and action video games. Annual Review of Neuroscience35, 391. doi: 10.1146/annurev-neuro-060909–152832

Funk, J. B., Hagan, J., Schimming, J., Bullock, W. A., Buchman, D. D. and Myers, M. (2002), Aggression and psychopathology in adolescents with a preference for violent electronic games. Aggr. Behav., 28: 134–144. doi:10.1002/ab.90015

Gee, J. P., & Hayes, E. (2012). Nurturing affinity spaces and game-based learning. Games, learning, and society: Learning and meaning in the digital age123, 1-40. Retrieved from http://emilysmayy.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/Gee-Hayes-2012.pdf

Koenig, R. (2014, December 17). Do ‘brain training’ games work? It depends on which scientists you ask. The Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved from https://www.chronicle.com/blogs/wiredcampus/do-brain-training-games-work-it-depends-on-which-scientists-you-ask/

Salen, Katie. “Toward an Ecology of Gaming.” The Ecology of Games: Connecting Youth, Games, and Learning. Edited by Katie Salen. The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Series on Digital Media and Learning. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2008. 1–20. doi:10.1162/dmal.9780262693646.001

Undertale Wiki (n.d.). In Wikia. Retrieved March 12, 2018, from http://undertale.wikia.com/wiki/Main_Page

 

 

 

 

In The Form of A Question: INTE5320 Play Journal 2

In The Form Of A Question: Jeopardy! World Tour For iPhone

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This entry is about my gaming experience with Jeopardy! World Tour for iPhone. In order to enhance the depth of my gaming analyses, I decided to select a game with more interactive characteristics such as competition with other players and a broader range of skill development (i.e. something more complex than completing a crossword puzzle). I have always been an avid fan of Jeopardy and (to the chagrin of my company) take pride in my vast amount of seemingly trivial knowledge. Despite my broad exposure to Jeopardy, I am approaching this game with the expectation that the “in-game” features of the software and the “in-room” context surrounding my play (Stevens et al, 2008) will make for a much different experience than Jeopardy on television. By accounting for these aspects of my gaming experience, I will evaluate the quality of Jeopardy! World Tour based on my level of engagement as a player.

After my previous experiences with NYT Crossword, I decided to seek out another game based on another interest of mine. As someone who rarely plays video games, I decided to use my iPhone again and search for a suitable topic. My recent viewings of Jeopardy on television reignited my passion for the show and inspired me to seek out a Jeopardy game app. After grabbing my iPhone and entering my passcode, I clicked on the App Store icon and selected the “search” feature at the bottom of the screen. After typing in “Jeopardy” on the digital keyboard, I scrolled through the results and selected Jeopardy! World Tour from the top of the list. After downloading and installing the game, I clicked on the icon to start.

As a popular game TV show with many devoted fans, Jeopardy has rules that are commonly understood my many. In order to understand Jeopardy! World Tour, however, it is important to understand how its rules depart from the popular television series. Each Jeopardy episode consists of three contestants who are tasked with answering trivia questions in six categories for two rounds followed by a “final” round. Each trivia category has value squares ranging from 200-1000 in value with difficulty increasing in proportion to dollar amount. After two rounds of these questions with varying levels of difficulty, the contestants participate in a final round in which there is only one question from a specific category. The participants must write their answers down along with an amount they wager. In the end, the victory goes to the contestant with the highest score.

I began my playing experience in order to find out how the rules and gameplay compared to the experience as depicted on television. As soon as I opened the app, I encountered a pop-up and was prompted to create a profile. I selected the option to connect through Facebook, authorized the app to access my information, and logged in. Another pop-up welcomed me to the game and asked if I wanted a tour of the features. I selected “Yes” and discovered that my previous expectations of an entirely different game were correct.

All players are given a bank account to be used to join different games. At the outset, I had 30 thousand dollars in my account. The main component of the game is the “Journey” mode in which participants travel to different cities beginning with Los Angeles. Other modes of the game include “Friend Challenges” (allowing players to compete against their friends using the app), “Brain Trust” (a competitive mode reserved for experienced players with high “XP” points obtained from multiple consecutive victories), and tournaments (additional competitions). Furthermore, each player has the opportunity to purchase “Power Ups” that allow one to take an extended amount of time on a particular question, change a particular category, take a “mulligan”, and get double points. Clearly, this app was very different from the game as seen on TV. Despite years of watching Jeopardy and shouting out answers at the TV in an irritating way, I was a newbie and would require several days/weeks of playtime in order to master Jeopardy! World Tour.

I started on the “Journey” mode and began my experience in Los Angeles. The cost was 5 thousand which I hastily took from my account in the game. I then encountered my competitors (Joanna and Greg) and was given the option to purchase power ups. I decided to purchase an extended time option (one use only) and began round one. The 3 categories were Hollywood Quotes, Sports & Religion, and The Bible (with 200, 400, and 600 options). I selected Hollywood Quotes for 600 and discovered the “Daily Double”. I wagered 300 and encountered a quote by Christopher Plummer about a certain actress. The answer I picked was “Julie Andrews” and I was correct. I then selected Sports & Religion for 600. The question was about a former pro-football player who became a minister. None of the multiple-choice options rang a bell and my selection (at random) was incorrect. I selected The Bible for 600 and was asked a question about Jacob’s employer (Laban) and won 600. The gameplay continued for the remainder of the round (and the next) and I was in last place. Unable to continue to the following round, I exited the game with a consolatory message about how I didn’t make it to the final round.

My gameplay experience (totaling approximately half an hour) was very daunting and not especially rewarding. I have been taught to embrace failure as a learning opportunity, but felt like I did not have an especially positive experience. The reasons behind my disappointment stem from the ways in which this game differed from the popular game show. Not that I minded being free from having to answer in the form of a question, but I struggled with so many different nuances. Firstly, potential answers to each question are presented along with the question. This rendered the game to be an exercise in multiple choice testing (like standardized tests) in which participants could potentially “luck out” by guessing. The various power-ups made gameplay confusing and constructed a relatively high learning curve. Most of all irritants, however, was the cost associated with all aspects of the game. After finishing your funds, you have to buy more “money” to continue playing. If you want power-ups, those cost moneys too. Although you win money by finishing in first in the competitions, there is virtually no way to improve one’s skillset without shelling out money.

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As an advocate of accessible gameplay, I feel strongly about open participation. The construction of this game makes it overly dependent on a participant willing to continuously pay for their experience. The difficult aspects of this game show that play would be improved with the aid of a “nurturing affinity space” in which potential players could develop their skills with the aid of others (Gee & Hayes, 2012 p. 1-3). I will not be playing again.

References

Gee, J. P., & Hayes, E. (2012). Nurturing affinity spaces and game-based learning. In Games, Learning, and Society: Learning and Meaning in the Digital Age (pp. 129-153). Cambridge University Press. DOI: 10.1017/CBO9781139031127.015

Stevens, R., Satwicz, T., & McCarthy, L. (2008). In-game, in-room, in-world: Reconnecting video game play to the rest of kids’ lives. The ecology of games: Connecting youth, games, and learning9, 41-66.

Stuff I Read and What I Think About It: INTE5320 Cycle 2

Stuff I read:

Stevens, R., Satwicz, T., & McCarthy, L. (2008). In-game, in-room, in-world: Reconnecting video game play to the rest of kids’ lives. The ecology of games: Connecting youth, games, and learning9, 41-66.

What I think about it:

The impact of video games on child behavior has prompted strong reactions in people (re: Parents). For several decades, the potentially adverse effects of playing video games dominates focus of the debate while paying relatively little attention to the potential of these games to serve as effective tools for learning. In the article “In-game, in-room, in-world”, the authors set out to research the connection between playing video games and the other areas of the lives of the children who play them. In other words, they set out to determine the relationship between playing the game itself to the circumstances directly surrounding gameplay to behaviors and characteristics in other aspects of children’s lives (Stevens, Satwicz, & McCarthy, 2008). Based on these recordings and transcripts presented in the article, the direct and symbiotic “transfer” of gaming behavior to other areas of life is apparent (Stevens et al, 2008). As both a product of the surrounding world and a force that shapes it, games have enormous potential for children to acquire the skills essential for success.

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My interest in the topic of this study began in 1997 on a somewhat dreary November morning. While riding to middle school with my mother and brother, I heard some devastating news on the radio about an allegedly direct connection between playing video games (Mortal Kombat) and violent behavior (Wilson v. Midway Games, Inc, 2002). I have never been much of a gaming enthusiast, but my occasional dabbling made me wonder about how I (and so many others) might be impacted by mere exposure to these products. In the present day, I wonder how educational games designed to enforce skill development in the classroom would have affected me. I longed to have exposure to a game in which students like me could “participate as gamers, producers, and learners,” (Kalen, 2008, p. 10). Would I have a better attitude about math and science topics? Would I be a better reader? Above all else, I started to wonder how one could adapt such beloved games to an academic setting (assuming there is an impact). This article was very satisfying for me in that it answered a lot of questions while raising others.

Of all the information provided in the article, arguably the most interesting and thought-provoking element is the concept of learning as a massive entity encompassing the video game itself or “in-game”, the “in-room” environment in which the game is played, and “in-world” activities outside of playing the game (Stevens et al, 2008). In other words, all of these elements are components of gaming that collectively provide learning opportunities. Each recorded instance of play reveals that gaming and real life are overlapping entities and not “separate worlds” (Stevens et al, 2008). The interactions between the children playing games reveal the potential of video games as learning tools by demonstrating the effectiveness (and essential role) of social collaboration in learning, the transferable skills for success in life provided by gaming, and the impact of gaming on identity formation.

After reading this article, I had (and still have) several questions in my head concerning video games as educational tools. If the “in-room” conditions are an integral part of the learning experience the contribute to gaming, how can we (as educators) ensure fairness? Not every child has an environment like the ones described in the study and, as the result, integrating gaming into formal education may put some at an unfair advantage. Furthermore, I wonder about how to research the specific aspects of gaming that are transferable. This information would hold the key to adapting video games in classrooms.

 

Reference

Salen, Katie. “Toward an Ecology of Gaming.” The Ecology of Games: Connecting Youth, Games, and Learning. Edited by Katie Salen. The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Series on Digital Media and Learning. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2008. 1–20. doi:10.1162/dmal.9780262693646.001

Stevens, R., Satwicz, T., & McCarthy, L. (2008). In-game, in-room, in-world: Reconnecting video game play to the rest of kids’ lives. The ecology of games: Connecting youth, games, and learning9, 41-66.

Stuff I Read & What I Think About It: INTE5320 Cycle 1

Brief Intro: INTE5320 is broken down into 8 two-week cycles. The first in the series, titled “Introducing Games & Learning”, focuses on content easily predictable by the title. Here is the return of “Stuff I Read” and I will continue to post these updates on a bi-weekly basis. My posts will also be more focused on one particular article in the form of a scholarly critique (or more, as called for).

Stuff I Read: 

What I Think About It (Kalir) 

In the final chapter of Teacher Pioneers (2016), author Jeremiah Kalir provides a thorough conclusion of the previous sections with a focus on the relationship and similarities between gaming and education. While summarizing the content of the other chapters, Kalir identifies the pitfalls of a narrow approach to education as a game as well as the ways in which games could revolutionize education for the better. My decision to select this article stems from my professional commitment and passion for effective teaching and learning. Since beginning my education three decades ago, I have consistently identified the concepts and content I encountered in a classroom setting as “difficult” or “easy” without necessarily accounting for why or how a different approach would have better results. Since becoming an educator in libraries, I continued these observations on my students and grew inspired to experiment with different approaches to pedagogy through games.

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The content of the chapter illustrates the concept of gaming as inextricable from learning by identifying the aspects of a game present in formal, traditional education (i.e. classroom). School environments are comparable to games in that they are conditioned to prompt attitudes, condition responses, and promote values in all who are attending. Contextually, school is likened to a “puzzle” game in which there is only one right answer to every question. In attending school, many students are not “players” of their own volition whereas participants in a game are willing to be a part of it. According to the author, recognition of school as a game in a social setting is essential in order to unlock the gaming potential of education.  

Throughout the text, the author stresses the role of social and cultural context in games and learning. In order to illustrate the importance of these contexts when implementing game-based education, Kalir refers to a chapter on Minecraft as an example of a game designed with and implemented for various educational goals and purposes. It reveals the abundant potential of games to apply to a multitude of academic purposes. Accordingly, gaming in an educational setting empowers the teachers to improve education through design and research.

The complex nature of how technology and social dimensions of gaming impact learning is apparent. Kalir describes this impact as varying “socio-technical formations” and identifies the contrast between textbooks and video games as an example of technological shift in learning and games. For the author, the textbook represents the historically constrained model of education. Textbook publishers and other professional stakeholders tend to perceive video games as “leveled-up” textbooks as a one-size-fits-all solution to addressing learning needs. As academic resources, video games can provide an effective means of assessing student (or player) knowledge and development. Accordingly, some educators fear that their roles will be diminished as technology continues to impact the classroom. The potential of gaming to positively impact learning and transform the role of educators illustrates the social and cultural forces inherent in gaming and learning design.

Kalir’s text raises several questions about the future of education how games can transform and enhance the quality of learning. For teachers and other educators, the biggest question concerns the impact of video games in the classroom as “textbooks” on their professional roles. As video game usage in school ascends, what role will the games and teachers play in assessment? Another interesting question raised is the level of agency for teachers in their classrooms. Will teachers acquire greater autonomy and agency as technology in games advances? Overall, this article explicitly reveals the power of gaming to transform learning, but still leaves several questions unanswered about the specifics of the impact.