[Assessment 1373] Re: Learning and Assessing in Virtual and Real Worlds

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PRISCILLA S CARMAN psc3 at psu.edu
Thu Jul 24 13:24:39 EDT 2008


Hi Marie and all,
I'm enjoying this fascinating discussion, especially since my last video game
obsession was Mario Brothers several decades ago--I still have that music in my
head, that for many months was often drifting from the living room at 2am in
the morning. But, I can't help wondering how this motivation and energy can be
harnessed for additional educational purposes---I have no doubt that current
gamers are already learning many valuable skills, but it seems like the concept
could be adapted for educational programming. Best, Priscilla

On Thu, Jul 24, 2008
09:29 AM, "Kevin O'Connor" <koconnor at framingham.k12.ma.us>
wrote:

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>Hi

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>Great

topic! I had a World of Warcraft
compulsion last year, (along with 10,000,000 other users) and learned a lot
from my time online in this MMORPG (massively multiplayer online role playing
game). For one thing, I had to learn a lot of online lingo. Here’s a very
short glossary:


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“leet”
or ‘l33t”- the online language used; a dialect of English that
substitutes
numbers for letters and leans heavily on texting and game-based
slang

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“noob”-
a “newbie”; someone new to the game

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“pwned”-
or “owned”; to be defeated

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LTP- “learn
to play”; an insult to someone’s online
skills

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>The other

players in Wow range in age from preteen to middle age, and it is quite a
community. It was interesting to
be in the apprentice role to younger players, especially for an educator who is
used to being the teacher, not the noob.
I found myself getting pwned by 12 year-old kids who have figured out
how to tweak the statistics of weapons, character type, skill attributes, mode
of attack and several other factors that always made my head spin. I grew up
playing Asteroids too, and
all I had to do was repeatedly mash the same button!
These kids put hours into their online character (their “avatar”)
poring over stats, trying the same missions repeatedly (“grinding”) and
memorizing fussy names of coveted items (“poltroons of the lesser fire
elementals”). It always struck me
that if their teacher asked them to put this kind of time and work into school
they would moan and roll their eyes, but if it is for the sake of leveling up,
well, then…

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>But the

other dynamic at play is the multi-player aspect; there are many missions that
cannot be done alone, and players belong to Guilds and must build short-term
“groups”
in order to get through these levels.
If someone doesn’t work well in a group, word travels fast and that
person will have a hard time getting into a group with experienced
players. You can’t steal all the loot,
not follow the plan and keep yelling “LTP N00B” in the online chat and
expect to
be invited back. There is a “worldwide”
chat board, and if someone is a bad group member it will get broadcast.

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>With this

long background, let me respond directly to Marie’s question: If you look at
the players whose character (or characters) have hit level 70, they are the
ones with the best knowledge of game dynamics and a good social network support
that they have built up by sharing and cooperation. However, if a student tells
a teacher that he or she has three level 70 characters and is part of a solid
Guild,
the teacher will not recognize the time, energy and skill invested and instead
tell
him or her to stop wasting time online, thereby dismissing everything learned
and accomplished; then the student dismisses the teacher as being
irrelevant. Don’t just dismiss video games; they
are important to students, so they should be treated with interest, just as we
would do with other childhood pursuits in which children have invested
themselves.

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>There is a

dark side; many point to these kids having virtual friendships while living in
isolation in the real world, and when my daughter grows up I’m going to have
to
set some pretty strict rules around how much time can be spent in the virtual
world, but I would argue that through MMORPGs kids learn a lot about how to
work in a group, negotiate power sharing, and how and when to take
leadership.

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> AUTOTEXTLIST \s &quot;E-mail

Signature&quot; Kevin
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>Assessment

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>Framingham

Adult ESL PLUS

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>-----Original

Message-----

>From: assessment-bounces at nifl.gov

[mailto:assessment-bounces at nifl.gov]On Behalf
Of Marie Cora

>Sent: Wednesday, July 23, 2008

4:36 PM

>To: 'The Assessment Discussion

List'

>Subject: [Assessment 1369]

Learning and Assessing in Virtual and Real Worlds





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>Dear

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>I hope this

email finds you well. This is an
unusually lengthy email from me – just so you know.

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>Since it’s

summer, I thought I would throw out something a tad unusual as a discussion
catalyst. Quite a while ago I read
a book called “What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Learning and
Literacy”
by James Paul Gee (NY: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003). The author studies behavior
and learning in people who
engage in video game and on-line play, and he himself becomes immersed in all
types of video and on-line gaming in order to also experience his own learning
and behavior within these environments.
It’s a remarkable book.
There are many poignant arguments made in support of how gaming
induces/encourages intense critical thinking, stretches the limits of one’s
intellectual abilities, compels people to work together, draws out
individuals’
skills that contribute to the success of a group, and generally does not
discriminate in terms of expectations of learning – in other words, video and
on-line games are constructed in ways that assume that ANYONE can engage
successfully, and the necessary scaffolding for such learning is embedded
within the games themselves.
Needless to say, Gee makes comparisons between this virtual world, and
the real world of school and education in this country.

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>Just for full

disclosure, the last time I fully engaged in ‘screen’ games was a while
ago: I was pretty good at
Asteroids at one point in my life.
I just never became very interested in pursuing this pastime. I started to
become fascinated again
when my husband engaged our then-4-year-old son (he’s 9 now) in both video and
on-line games. I was floored: with almost no instruction other than
observation at his dad’s elbow, ‘P’ was able to take over the games and
carry
on as if he had always been playing them.
Really complex games. Very
soon, he was instructing dad in various games, and pretty much could beat the
pants off him in video baseball.

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>At any rate,

toward the end of the book, Gee recounts an experience in which he had moved
from a “weak link” (one with far less knowledge) in a network of on-line
players with whom he was engaging, to one who held a piece of crucial knowledge
that he was able to share with his network in order for the group to reach
success. He notes: “If you were to assess just my skills playing video games
alone in my own home, you would underestimate me. You need to assess me as a
node in a network and see how I
function as such a node” (p. 189).


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>With this

rather lengthy introduction, the following section of the book is really what I
would like to hear your thoughts on.
Gee writes:

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>“If we want

to know how good students are in science – or how good employees are in a
modern knowledge-centered workplace – we should ask all of the following (and
not just the first): What is in
their heads? How well can they
leverage knowledge in other people and in various tools and technologies
(including
their environment)? How are they
positioned within a network that connects them in rich ways to other people and
various tools and technologies?
Schools tend to care only about what is inside students’ heads as their
heads and bodies are isolated from others, from tools and technologies, and from
rich environments that help make them powerful modes in networks. [Skilled
video game players] wouldn’t
play a game in these circumstances…..
Good workplaces in our science- and technology-driven “new capitalism”
don’t play this game. Schools that
do are, in my view, DOA in our current world – and kids who play video games
know it” (p. 189).

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>Gee then goes

on to discuss the work of Jean Lave, a leading theorist of socially situated
cognition. Lave argues that
“learning is not best judged by a change in minds (the traditional school
measure), but by ‘changing participation in changing practices’…and
that…“learning is a change not just in practice, but in identity” (p.
190).

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>Now here is

where I’m tempted to write you a bunch of assessment-related questions to get
you to respond within the context of this Discussion List. But after some
thought, I think that
the quotes taken from the book from both Gee and Lave better posit the notions
related to assessment and assessing than I can – what they say is what I want
to hear you respond to.

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>Ok, I will

pose just this question: if you
agree with the arguments posed by Gee and Lave, do you do anything in your
classroom or program to facilitate this type of assessment of learning? If so,
describe this for us.

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>Thanks for

indulging me.

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>Marie Cora

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>Marie Cora

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>NIFL Assessment Discussion List Moderator

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><http://www.nifl.gov/mailman/listinfo/assessment>

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Priscilla Carman
Literacy Specialist
Institute for the Study of Adult Literacy
Penn State University
208F Rackley Building
University Park, PA 16802
PH: 814-865-1049 FX: 814-863-6108



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