Friday, April 19, 2013

Reading, Writing in the World of Gaming

This week we focused on reading, writing in the world of gaming.  After reading the article, Why Virtual Worlds Matter by Douglas Thomas and John Seely Brown, I started to think differently about video games. Before reading this article I never really thought about video games as learning tools. This article is about the virtual worlds and why they are more than “just games” Virtual words are avatar-based social spaces that provide players or participants with the ability to engage in long-term, joint coordinated action. Players create and shape the world they inhabit. Some of the games the article is referring to are World of Warcraft, EVE Online, and Star Wars Galaxies. People who play these games like the sense of being with others and communicating. Game players are motivated to create teams, groups, and guilds. Game players work together to solve problems. Players are forced to adapt to constant changes in games. Shared interests such as video games bring people together and gives people the sense of being with others and sharing space virtually. Participants form groups when playing games and face challenges that they have to act together to overcome. These games are learning environments. Virtual worlds require us to think about knowing, rather than knowledge. Some players even create wikis and modules for interactive experiences.  Players in world of Warcraft can buy, sell, and trade items creating an economy in the virtual world.  This can teach students about finances at a young age. Games that provide experiences help determine and define identity. Games that change as a result of experiences are MMOGs. “Most traditional models of learning suggest a two step process in the movement from learning about to learning to be. Initially, people learn the basics or fundamentals about a topic or context through “scaffolding,” or acquiring enough information to make sense of languages, ideas and practices which constituted a specific domain of knowledge, at that point, as one becomes immersed within the culture or sets of practices where one starts down the path of “learning to be,” engaging in the practices and absorbing the tacit knowledge that forms the cultural and social underpinnings for a community. Virtual worlds invert that process. Instead of “learning about,” participants in virtual worlds engage with the world by learning to be.”

Learning Conversations in World of Warcraft by Bonnie A. Nardi, Stella Ly, Justin Harris

Three kinds of learning are described in this article: fact finding, devising tactics/strategy, and acquiring game ethos. The article analyzes conversations with peers. World of Warcraft is one of the most popular online video games. Players develop characters that explore, fight, socialize, make money and advance 60 levels of play. Since 2005 there has been ongoing fieldwork in “WoW”.  The fieldwork included in-depth interviews, collection of chat logs, and reading documents. The research was guided by Vgotsky’s notion of the zone of proximal development- the learner advances by taking on a challenge and using resources supplied to meet the challenge. It is what the reader can do with and without the aid of the teacher. Chat conversation is a means of learning “WoW”, but not the only means. Players can also observe other players and learn from their mistakes. Characters in WoW are created and labeled. The writers of the article completed 25 months of fieldwork and monitored chat logs where emotion was present. These chats were also a source for fact finding. Overall virtual games require skill, knowledge, and communication and I think playing can teach all of those. I think that it is good for students to play video games, but I don’t think they should be playing for hours a day. I feel like most of these video games are too advanced for elementary students.

Do you think video games are a valid teaching tool? Are you in a school that already uses video games to teach?
Would you use video games as teaching tools? Why or why not?
Do you think video games are educational? What do you think makes a video game educational?
What skills can students learn from video games?
How can we best teach the “gamer” generation?

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