[Assessment 1374] Re: Learning and Assessing in Virtual and Real Worlds

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Luffman, Tina, Ellen Tina.Luffman at yc.edu
Thu Jul 24 18:21:51 EDT 2008

Hi everyone,

W recently purchased a Nintendo wii at our house. To be honest, this system is great for physical training. I look forward to getting some time to find my point of balance, improve my serve, and there is also Big Brain Academy to help with sorting patterns and so on. It is actually challenging for me, and I have a strong sense that children find navigating the game much more intuitive than we adults do. If a game can train physical skills, I am sure it can train mental aptitude as well.

Finding the right system and software that are geared for positive skill training rather than for violence and mayhem are key to success in deciding to use games for learning. I believe that we as educators should keep this in mind and try to remain open to the idea of games that enhance learning. I have seen a lot of educational games that did not seem to be worthy. Please keep us posted when you find one. It is so much more fun to teach engaged, interested students than those who are bored.



From: assessment-bounces at nifl.gov [mailto:assessment-bounces at nifl.gov] On Behalf Of PRISCILLA S CARMAN
Sent: Thursday, July 24, 2008 10:25 AM
To: assessment at nifl.gov
Subject: [Assessment 1373] Re: Learning and Assessing in Virtual and Real Worlds

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:

Hi Marie,

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:

* “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
* “noob”- a “newbie”; someone new to the game
* “pwned”- or “owned”; to be defeated
* LTP- “learn to play”; an insult to someone’s online skills

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…

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.

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.

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.

Kevin O'Connor

Assessment Specialist

Framingham Adult ESL PLUS


-----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

Dear Colleagues,

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

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.

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.

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).

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

“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).

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).

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.

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.

Thanks for indulging me.

Marie Cora

Marie Cora
marie.cora at hotspurpartners.com
NIFL Assessment Discussion List Moderator

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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