Edu Labelling of Commercial Games…?

Teachers: EDU On Games Does Not Make Everything Okay

Mario-GameMy friend, Knowclue, aka Marianne Malmstrom of FollowTheLearning.com, recently published a much longer article discussing her struggles with ‘EDU’ labelled games. We spent a couple days debating some of the points she was making together. During this discussion I found myself drawn to the following metaphor for describing ‘EDU’ in educational business:

The ‘EDU’ stamp on games currently acts as a clearinghouse. Knowclue and I agree on this. A game with ‘EDU’ clears the screening process for use in schools. Games lacking ‘EDU’, like vegetables not labeled Organic, get tossed aside regardless of value. A stalk of celery labeled Organic, according to my local farmer, may have been exposed to as many chemicals as the celery next to it, without the organic label. ‘EDU’ means little in reality but shoppers willingly pick up the labeled item over the unlabeled item without research the relevance.

‘EDU’ does not mean the item offers substance over another product. Careful research, just like my farmer friend encouraged me to engage in, is needed to see if the product actually meets my requirements as a consumer. Engaged educators evaluate their curricular artifacts through the lens of their pedagogical views. If they find something not labelled ‘EDU’ that task becomes more onerous. Projects to use an artifact not associated with ‘EDU’ face rigorous review and bureaucratic obstacles. ‘EDU’ labels clear many of these hurdles with alacrity. Policy makers view ‘EDU’ as a rating scale of acceptability.

Due to this, as educators, we limit our scope to those tools that we do not need to drag through the firewall of bureaucracy. Within this smaller shop of items marketed to education there are some gems and some lumps of coal. Often, after careful research on an ‘EDU’ title I find that it completely lacks any pedagogical value. I then have to fight off policy-makers and well-meaning individuals who want me to adopt something that I can not put into practice. My praxis is viewed as radical when I reject an ‘EDU’ title while confessing to an interest in something beyond the shop of ‘EDU’. The ‘EDU’ marketing undermines my well-reasoned professional judgements.

This misuse of ‘EDU’ leads to an information-starved teacher-as-consumer. Game designers alter their games to fit their assumptions about the educational market. They create “curriculum” filled with worksheets and rubrics. These are the trappings of an outdated mode of teaching rather than learning. I celebrate when I see game designers sharing their praxis. How they build games to teach the player how to do something. How game design theory relates to the pedagogy of education. Game designers and ‘EDU’ companies that sit down and evaluate their games for the intrinsic learning already embedded in their games exceed all expectations. Other companies see a market niche and slap ‘EDU’ on a discounted version of their product and sell a companion “curriculum”. Thusly ‘EDU’ label does not guarantee value.

Value, returning to the metaphor of grocery store labels, does not exist in the labels on the front of the box. Flip the box over, read the detailed ingredients. The product may or may not have relevance for education. Or the specific curricular goals specified. The label ‘EDU’ acts like a product stamp that says, “Reduced Fat!” How reduced? What was reduced? Teachers need the opportunity to delve deeply into these tools like they do during new textbook adoptions. Instead of believing the ‘EDU’ label, game-using-educators need to exist in a culture of careful ingredient reading rather than buying into the rather thin ‘EDU’ marketing campaign. We all need to dig in and (to leap to a gardening metaphor) till the soil ourselves a bit.

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Student WordPress Documentation of FlowLab.io Designs

The other day I was talking with an educator interested in using FlowLab.io with their fourth grade game design introduction. Fully supporting this, and knowing their students used WordPress in order to document their studies, I put together a quick tutorial walking students through embedding their games on their blogs. If you have suggestions for improving this tutorial be sure to comment!

I always appreciate when a company makes embedding easy and FlowLab does a great jobs of this.

 

You can see the embed code at the bottom.

You can see the embed code at the bottom.

As you can see, the game above was built at a square. I copied the code directly from FlowLab’s embed code. as pictured. After copying the code, head on over to your WordPress site.

Create a new post!

Create a new post!

First off, after logging into your WordPress blog, create a new post.

Your new post should appear as below. Make sure to title the post first so that you can find it easily if you have to interrupt the posts due to the bell ringing or some other interruption!

New Post Edit Screen

Tabs for visual editing versus text editing.Once you have your new post look for the tabs in the upper right corner. On says visual and the other says text. Click on the text tab. You cannot paste embed code in the visual editor. If you are learning how to use HTML you can really refine the look and feel of your posts using the text tab.

Note that this tab does not have the same what-you-see-is-what-you-get (WYSIWYG) tools as the visual editing tab. If you are uncomfortable editing in HTML you can go back to the visual editor after pasting the embed code. The game will not appear normally in the visual editor, be sure to preview your post several times!
Picture of the text editing tools
Image of the embed code in the text editor.Paste the embed code from FlowLab as shown to the right. You can further edit the embed code to center the game on your post, change the width and height, and increase the frame. Play around with these settings in text editing and visual editing. Experiment!

If you enjoyed embedding your FlowLab.io game into your blog, try experimenting with other embeddable objects – like YouTube Videos!

Have You Played Packman in Your Neighborhood?

No, seriously – you gotta play Packman on your local streets.

I stumbled onto this while looking for a store to sell my friend’s CDs. You can actually turn streets on Google Maps into the iconic arcade game. Just click the icon on your google map and it will highlight the area for your game. Big cities make for some of the most entertaining games but even small towns can be fun. I chased ghosts around the Eiffel Tower in Paris.PacMan Google If I get a chance I plan to see how mad Times Square can get and experience the Autobahn as a yellow mouth. There are also some famous traffic circles I plan to pilot. Some, like the Super Round-About, should be extremely interesting.

super_roundabout

I tried to play where I grew up but there weren’t enough streets in the extreme rural landscape. In trying to play there I was surprised at the amount of development in the region. Still, the road situation made for an unplayable Packman game according to Google Maps.

PacMan in Time Square

If I were teaching in a computer lab I might take the last fifteen minutes to have students explore far off places. Talk about a fun geography day. Someone out there is probably planning to sabotage this natural and exciting learning environment by requiring students to play and report their findings or fill in a worksheet. Please do not. Let them take what they can and simply enjoy the ways everyday technologies can be made joyful. If they happen to have excellent skills in navigating traffic in Rome as a result – well – tap them as your navigator next time you end up chaperoning on an international band trip.

 

Male Privilege in the Comic Book or Gaming Store

Just 'cause it is pink doesn't mean it is for girls.

Just ’cause it is pink doesn’t mean it is for girls.

I walk into a game store and…

No one comes up to me asking what I want. No one questions my interest in Halo. No one smirks when I coo (yes, I cooed) over the new Zelda game. In fact, gaming stores and comic stores are one of the first places I realized I could display non-normed behavior someone perceived to be male. If I accidentally squealed in excitement as seeing a new Final Fantasy release on the demo stand someone might smirk a little but it would be with understanding. Games are exciting. Gamers are geeky. Squealing might get you mocked in the locker room but at GameStop you are accepted and respected as a member of the club. If you are male.

I identify as outside the gender binary. BUT my transgressions against my biological sex actually help me fit in deeper with the gamer and comic book crowd. These places were staked out by scrawny geeks looking to have a bit of territory safe from harassing elements that viewed their interests with disdain. Now the male behavior in this space seem extremely territorial. If you do not fit into the geeky male archetype you are viewed with suspicion. Someone biologically female actually gets a double whammy of alienation and harassment.

Many women go into one of these spaces and suffer overly attentive clerks when they just want to browse. My friend related the story of buying Grand Theft Auto and being asked who she was buying it for. She seems to have suffered the swath of prejudice and suspicion that I never experience. She sighed over the Legend of Zelda game she was buying for me. The sigh was probably because she knows I think Link is hot. Apparently someone in the store guffawed. Her word, not mine. If she had squealed over the Sims (something she bought for me) would they have treated her with increasing hostility?

Why should she have to prove her gamer cred? Why should anyone? Yes, gamers get territorial but that doesn’t mean it is right. In fact I find the fact that male gamers behave in these ways very distasteful. Uncouth. Disgusting. I get that membership in a group of privilege often causes blindness to the benefits. I have my own privileged blind spots to figure out as well. Hopefully my friends and colleagues continue to graciously point out when I start taking someone else’s struggles for granted.

If you really want to get into this check out Jonathan McIntosh’s article “Playing with privilege: The invisible benefits of gaming while male” on Polygon Gaming. You can also take a look at the video embedded below based on that article or watch it on YouTube.

Full transcript available at: http://www.feministfrequency.com/2014…

Awesome Art/Social Commentary Game Designer

Today I have spent roughly three hours playing with the games and multi-media social commentary gadgets created by Nick Case.Screen Shot 2015-02-19 at 10.57.53 PM

Screen Shot 2015-02-19 at 11.00.26 PM

I think you absolutely must check out the coming out story and the parable of polygons. I spent the most time with the parable simply because I enjoyed the way it made me think. There was also the temptation to pull data from different cities and try out the simulation. Case’s work is strongly influencing my own game design ideas. The slew of little projects share is also a bit of a wake-up call. My production certainly lacks.Screen Shot 2015-02-19 at 10.58.57 PM

Bavelier Inducing a Broader Concept in my Game Design Schema!

Today I either watched for the first time, or rewatched with a greater awareness of the content, Daphne Bavelier’s TED Talk on action video games and the brain embed below. The researchers at Bavelier Lab have recently described playing first-person action games as a way to affect perception, attention and cognition.I especially appreciated the information on increasing the perceiver’s ability to search through a cluttered scene. Most middle school passing periods meet that criteria. In addition the researchers were able to determine that action games were able to lead to greater benefits in theses areas than other entertainment games.

Another Photoshop Stick Figure Doodle by RurikUntil this round with the video I was focussing on increasing educator empathetic response to bullying based in part on Greitemeyer, Brauer, and Osswald2 as well as experiments like IfYouCan, and other media experiments such as described in this NPR story. The problem with this was developing a literature review that could frame how empathy impacts players. My solution was to research as many studies of games that seek to achieve an impact on player empathy. What has resulted is a frustration with the complexity of empathy and lack of direction. Bavelier’s research helps connecting games more directly to skills and our brains rather than the more difficult to define, though no less exciting, world of psychology.

Getting down to the details, according to what I have read so far action game players can track more objects. They grow to recognize finer distinctions in what they see. What if one of the keys to increasing educator intervention in the marginalizing of LGBTQ youth is to increase, through an action game, educators’ recognition of and ability to track behaviors that contribute to a hostile school climate for marginalized students?  Often I hear educators describe their retreat from the chaos of a rowdy classroom or noisy hall and being unable to track the multitude of students. If an action game can increase educator ability to track more students would they not feel more comfortable in those situations and more capably intervene. Well – you can see where my thoughts went on this.

Now I just need to continue to keep my eyes open for additional approaches rather than the empathy bog I was falling into.

Daphne Bavelier’s TED Talk:

 

1) Green, C Shawn, and Daphne Bavelier. "Effect of action video games on the spatial distribution of visuospatial attention." Journal of experimental psychology: Human perception and performance 32.6 (2006): 1465.

2) Greitemeyer, Tobias, Silvia Osswald, and Markus Brauer. "Playing prosocial video games increases empathy and decreases schadenfreude." Emotion 10.6 (2010): 796.