What a full day of engagement with people, ideas, and learning here at the EDUCAUSE Annual ELI 2013 Conference! I attended the Horizon Report 2013 Higher Education Report session this evening! This report identifies key emerging technologies in higher education and when we are likely to see them in mainstream practice. Gaming and Gamification is listed as one of six technologies to watch with anticipated wide spread adoption likely in two to three years.
Gamification aims to incorporate elements of games, such as levels and badges (via quests) into non-game activities. PartPlay embraces game theory and game elements in the course design; players accumulate points as they complete various learning quests and affords players choice in what kind of assignments they want to undertake.
I want to give a BIG shout out to the folks in the Division of Teaching and Learning Technologies. Jim Groom and Martha Burtis and others for their innovative work with ds106 and the Tim Owens work with 3D printing and the Think Lab. Both are featured in this prestigious report! Not one but two initiatives at UMW! Awesome!!!!
One theme that keeps coming up in all of the sessions I have attended is the need for students to develop collaboration skills and own their learning. And yet dominant faculty centered instruction looms large in many classroomes. One challenge remains to help faculty/students realize that taking time to develop these capacities isn’t fluff and opportunities to develop these capacities need to be given the same time and care as course content.
I had a wonderful ‘blast to the past’ when one of my professors, Vince Tinto, from Syracuse University delivered the keynote address. What I was reminded of during his talk was his engaging manner and true respect he holds for student learning, not only when I was a student in his class, but also as an advocate for institutions to carefully, strategically, and purposefully act to support students in their learning. It felt like coming home to the ideas and passions that influenced my own development and thinking about how I approach my own work with faculty at the Center for Teaching Excellence and Innovation at UMW. Students’ voices matter as was clearly evident in his presentation!
I told my students in PartPlay that I would engage in gamification by gathering badges. What I have learned so far – don’t make it so hard to play the game! More on that later….
A few years back I had the unique opportunity to meet Lee Sheldon at Game Education Summit where he shared his multi-player classroom design. As an avid gamer his worked captured my imagination. In 2012, he released The Multi-player Classroom: Designing Coursework as a Game – a great resource to think about game elements, game theory and curriculum design.
This year at University of Mary Washington I began working as the Director, Center for Teaching Excellence and Innovation. What I love about this work is the opportunity to innovate, create and explore pedagogy. I decided to ‘live game theory’ in my new course, Participatory Play: Games Without Walls, an honors seminar for freshmen undergraduates. The course is designed to immerse players/students in game theory as they ‘quest’ for knowledge related to gaming and gamification. My challenge, as the Game Master became – how do I set the stage for a unique and different learning experience? Certainly not by talking about it!
First Day of Class: Players/students faced their first PVP challenge right off! The Game Master (me) wanted my players to engage in social networking to explore the question: What does play mean to you? Players were challenged to text as many people as they could to glean people’s perceptions and definitions of play. What we found out that many social network friends were still sleeping (9:30am). I was grateful to the moms, coaches, and early risers that responded. There was laughter and discussion about the wide range of responses that were coming in. PVP groups then shared all of their individual responses and began to look for patterns. Once the players identified common key patterns they collectively created a poster. We held a whole class ‘debrief’ to talk about what they found, what does play mean, and how we wanted to ‘play’ our class campaign.
Players reported that they were “most engaged” during the PVP challenge and discussion that day and I decided to create a word cloud from the two team posters.
I think I was most surprised that a few players (3 out of 9) felt ‘most distanced’ watching a short video of World of Warcraft. Brian Franco (long-time virtual gaming friend in 21CW) created a short video to help my players catch a glimpse of the virtual world they would be entering for the virtual realm portion of our campaign.
It is my hope is that this course immerses students in a new learning paradigm that challenges their assumptions of what learning is and means within a multi-player classroom; shifting from teacher-centered to student-centered. I anticipate that my players will be challenged and have purposely built-in classroom processes and structures to help support their learning quests as they try to figure out how to ‘play the game of school’ within this new learning paradigm. Scott McLeod’s blog ‘dangerously! irrelevent provides a great overview of Robert Fried’s, The Game of School and offers some food for thought using some of Fried’s quotes.
The players are a great and seem open and ready to step into the pool or at least stick their toes in the water. I am hoping they will become Buccaneer Scholars as they navigate ze campaign and take charge of their own learning. Yarrrr!