Sunday, February 26, 2012

Can Games Really Save The World?

I have two questions after watching the video Gaming Can Make The World Better.

A) What are we saving the world from?  Are we saving the world from the oil crisis, pollution, global warming, etc., or is there something bigger.  Does the world need saving from hatred, oppression, war?  I would say those are the bigger issues, but how can gaming teach that?  Call me crazy, but I believe the key to all of those things is love; a love that can only be learned by human interaction.  As a Christian educator, one of my daily goals is showing my students the love of Christ, and how to love others.  Will I be able to teach that through gaming?  I would say probably not.

B) Are the games being created as “exciting” and “appealing” as WoWC? I have never actually played the game so I have no idea.  If the game can attract grannies, then I am guessing there is something pretty special about it.  Can that excitement be replicated in the classroom?

I can appreciate the fact that people are more engaged in games.  I get it.  I understand that people don’t have the fear of failure in games like they do in real life.  Could it be because they know the game is not real?  In real life there is a fear of failure because it can bring about death, pain, and suffering.  In a game, you can just hit restart if worse comes to worse. 

I think creating games that inspire people to save the world is a very noble cause.  I just don’t know how these games will stack up to WoWC.  If kids and adults know they are doing something noble, will that not defeat the purpose to some extent.  The kids in my classroom only want to do something because it is fun.  If they figure out they might learn something, it kind of looses it’s luster.  I guess everyone has an intrinsic desire to save the world, to do something purposeful with our lives.  If the game creators can appeal on that level then maybe some good can come. 

How does this apply educators of young adults though?  Today’s students cannot unplug.  When they are forced to in the classroom, they struggle to stay focused.  Our learners are changing, but we as educators are not. 

Gamification would cause the breeding of a whole new type of learner.  In the other class I am taking this semester we just learned about the difference between an adult leaner and younger leaners.  The adult leaners are more proactive and understand the need for what they are learning.  Will gaming cause students to be more proactive in their education?  Will the classroom change from teacher centered to learner centered?  As much as we would all like to think that that shift is already taking place the number of traditional classrooms (teacher centered) still outnumber those of student-centered classrooms.  I believe the overall issue is what we are trying to teach.  We have such a broad span of what “has to be covered” that we only reach the surface of the topics.  If we limited what was being taught, and really dug deep into the wealth of information available, I believe our learners would be happier in the classroom.  Would gaming help this change be possible?  I think so.  So many times we are asking our students questions that they can find the answer to on Google.  If we are doing that, we are failing them.  There are so many tools available online that would allow the students to do more than merely scratch the surface of a subject.  I am still wrapping my head around gaming.  I am still trying to figure out how this will change my classroom and those classrooms around me.  As for now, I am trying to keep an open mind.  If we can find solutions to the world problems through gaming, then that is awesome.  Through the gaming though, will we be loosing anything?  I would say yes.  We are loosing valuable face-to-face interaction time with our young people.  As humans, we need to have those relationships.  Will kids be too busy saving the world to have dinner with their family, or focus on problems within their own homes?  How will they learn to have healthy relationships if more and more of their communicating is done online? 

Monday, February 20, 2012

Second Life...Yeah Not So Much

Second Life, as it is so inappropriately named, is supposed to be just that.  A second life.  To me however, it was a colossal waste of time.  People are able to sign on and create an avatar.  This avatar can look like you, but in most cases, people are walking around as vampires or German Shepherds.  Seriously, I talked to a German Shepherd.  The people are able to interact with one another via chat.  They also teleport to various worlds.  In theory, this can be used in the educational world to expand the classroom.  I thought I would give this a try by going to "Mexico."  Wow pretty cool right?  Wrong.  The point of this place is to practice your Spanish.  Well, if there had been people on the island, that would be great.  I was there at the specified time and no one was around.  Well the German Shepherd was, but he didn't speak Spanish.  I thought I would use the time to try out the dance floor.  Well, it took me another five minutes after I was done dancing to figure out how to stop.  Obviously there is a learning curve, but I just don't have the time nor desire to figure it out.  Call me crazy, but I think there are better ways to expand the classroom (I just don't know what they are yet).  I thought I would give
Second Life another shot by checking out the ancient ruins at Machu Picchu.  Sorry, but again Second Life failed... miserably.  There is no a way a computer generated image can compete with that of the ancient ruins.  I think having my students use Google Earth would be a much better way to discover the location.

Maybe some will want to use this in their classrooms.  I obviously will not be using Second Life anytime in the near future.   After teleporting to numerous locations looking for something that might be educational.  I even checked out Eagle Island.  Apparently that is a pretty cool place because all of my classmates enjoyed lounging on a hammock.  I don't know, I saw their screen shots, so I checked it out.  Give me a real hammock any day but laying on a hammock in a digital world?  I just don't get it.  I am a live in the moment kind of gal.  I can enjoy a good video game because there is a point, but you will never catch me living a second life in a computer generated world.  Facebook is the closest I will come to that.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

This Doesn't Surprise Me

Helicopter Parents Hover In The Workplace

Matthew was on his way home from work the other day and heard this story on NPR.  Being that we work in a private school, we definitely come into contact with "helicopter parents."  These are the parents that are overly involved in their child's academic career.  When I was a kid, my parents might ask me if I had homework.  The keyword... you guessed it, might.  Most nights, I just took care of it.  If I didn't, I was the one to fail in the long run.  In no way did my performance in school affect them.  I went to a public school.  They were not paying $15,000 a year for their child's education.

"Helicopter parents" are so involved where I teach, that they want to know what homework their child has, tests must be posted two weeks in advance, and grades must be kept up to date.  After all, a parent can check a child's grades minute by minute via Net Classroom (an online parent portal).  This puts so much pressure on the students as well as the teachers.  Well, helicopter parents are not limiting themselves to elementary, middle, and high schools anymore.  Oh no, they are taking their kids to college and then into the workforce.  Literally.  Parents are writing resumes for their students as well as calling employers to give them the skinny on their child.  When I told my dad about this he said, "I would never hire some whose mommy called me to help them get a job."  My sentiments exactly.  I guess the apple doesn't fall far from the tree here.  The author of this article says maybe colleges and organizations should embrace these helicopter parents.  Give me a break!  Are these parents going to continue cutting up little Johnny's steak and tucking him in until he is 30?  What are these parents teaching their children?  I can tell you what they are not teaching them.  It is a little something I like to call responsibility!

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