Gaming Gamification

9x9x25 Post #5

I have dabbled in gamification of learning experiences. I definitely think there is promise in using game elements to make learning more engaging in some places. I also think most of us are not there yet.

Like many other facets of life there’s that balance to find between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. A lot of work to gamify things seems to be focusing too much on the extrinsic. And like all those other facets of life, the intrinsic is much harder to achieve.

I’d wager that the first level of Super Mario Bros is one of the most shared experiences for anyone who has experienced some video gaming, so it is a good place to relate game experiences. What was memorable and engaging about it? And what about it could possibly be embedded in to a learning environment? And what was intrinsic vs. extrinsic?

I clearly remember the look, the music, the sounds, how to move and jump. I remember the information provided at the top: the timer, the points, the level. The sounds of collecting coins, getting a mushroom, a 1Up were constant. The sound of dying…too many times. I remember fireworks at the end.

The extrinsic stuff is easier to point out. Hit a brick and hear that coin sound. Smoosh that Goomba and get some points. Time your jump to the flag correctly and get some fireworks. Should we make a fun sound go bleepidy-bloop in our courses whenever a paragraph is read? Should we make music play in the background of our LMS as students navigate it? If we decide to go that route, I nominate this music:

What was intrinsic about Super Mario Bros? I wasn’t trying a million times just to hear some sounds and see some digital sparks. It was knowing that I, myself, needed to learn to press buttons in a certain way/order to jump over, smoosh, and find the correct path to the end. And then do it again and again from level to level in different increasingly complex ways. It was knowing that my skills were improving in anticipating what I am running towards and performing the right actions to get through it. I hardly spared a thought about the princess I was meant to be saving. She was always in another castle anyway. That was no motivation. The true stuff was intrinsic.

It seems a lot of gamification in learning experiences is trying to recreate those fireworks at the end of a level. That’s not enough. Maybe great games are so engaging because they are much like great learning experiences in that you are lightly guided to achieve things on your own. Maybe video game designers figured stuff out from our end of things first. Maybe they do some of our stuff better than us. They probably have a bigger budget so let’s not feel too bad.

Game designers know much better than us how to make learning a progression for one thing. Level one is always a tutorial without you knowing you are being tutored. I am currently completely enthralled with playing the newest Zelda game, which, half way through is still supporting my progression of learning. It’s still popping up subtle suggestions as to what might help me here, that I can ignore or not.

It certainly has some fun extrinsic things like a wonderful musical score and just straight up beautiful landscapes. But what has me in its grips, other than the story, is that I am learning to be prepared for whatever comes at me next. I am learning that I can build my repertoire of abilities and that certain tools have certain uses and that I should find them and learn how to use them. I’m learning to go back and get myself more prepared to try again when I fail. These are ideas I could use more in my real life as you can see in my last post.

So if it seems to me that what game designers have done best is also stuff that we have already been doing, what can we take from them to gamify our courses? Maybe let’s first just recognize that foremost is designing a learning progression with all the supports that we can. Let’s call that gamification. Then, when you’re ready to go deeper than adding a couple extrinsic rewards to your courses, my friend Keegan can help you with his GOBLINs.

photo: There, I gamified the text. “gamingthetextbook” flickr photo by greenetrry shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license


The Wrong Tool for the Job

Ontario Extend 9x9x25 Post #4

Well it’s vise grips for pliers, and pliers for a wrench
A wrench for a hammer, hammers everything else

~Corb Lund, Hard On Equipment

This past weekend I struggled through trying to fix a couple things that should have been simple around the house. It involved drywall, screws, anchors, towel racks, curtain rods, and a hammer of course. You always need a hammer, right?

It eventually involved hanging a small painting to cover up some holes. I quite like how it turned out.

I did not quite have the right tools for the job on hand. Happens all the time. I don’t have a huge tool box. I tend to struggle to get the job done without running to the hardware store to get the right tool. Am I wasting my time? Probably.

But I get the feeling that without struggling with the wrong tools, I would never know that euphoric feeling of finally using the right tool for the right job. If I was just handed the right tool and told what to do, I wouldn’t appreciate what had been accomplished.

I think this relates well in ed-tech. I have spent a lot of time using technological tools to try to enhance learning experiences. Through that experience and without naming names, I have come to think that some tools are pretty crappy at it and others work quite well.

I wouldn’t know why I don’t think certain tools are the right answer without having experienced them first. I guess what I’m saying is, get in there and experience tools, try them out. Be hard on the equipment. It’s okay if you bend or break some stuff on your way. But try to recognize when you might be trying to fix a leak in your roof with a 2×4.

I’m not saying don’t seek out the advice of those who’ve been there before you, I just think it’s hard to truly buy into something like (for example) a Domain of One’s Own (DoOO) initiative, without spending time in someone else’s first. You won’t have the “this is the right tool” warm-fuzzies without first having the “this is the wrong tool” cold-roughies.

A little struggle can go a long way.

“Līgo 2013 (19)” flickr photo by Janitors shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

Squad Goal Number One – Met

This is the Ontario Extend 9x9x25 Challenge post #…2? for the Squad Goals Network Team

Do you want in? Okay, you’re in.

I’m a new member of the Squad Goals Network. I’m grateful to have been invited in  by John Stewart (but you don’t need an invitation) when we connected to record an episode of my podcast. He told me about this group of folks doing this strange thing… working to bring people together, share each other’s stories, and (more than anything) lift each other up. It shouldn’t be so strange, but it is a little.

It’s is a bit like a PLN (professional learning network) already built for you because guess what? According to Squad Goals Network member Angela Gunder, as soon as you think you want to be involved, you are a lifelong member. And what does membership get you? Access to people who may have some of the experience you could use right now. People who can answer your questions and point you in good directions. People who can lead you to other people that you can learn from. And what we get from you is the same. We get access to you, your experience. We would be lucky to have you.

Now what is this “met” squad goal I mention in the title of this post? It’s my own goal: to truly connect with one of the members. I already knew John Stewart and Keegan Long-Wheeler and have connected on Twitter with more, (including Ryan Straight, who is masterfully leading the spooky Squad Goals Network social media for October) but to actually have a chat with someone is a big step to being truly connected. So I asked Angela to come on to my “Gettin’ Air” podcast. She was kind enough to spend her lunch hour at the Global Online Learning Summit to chat about her work, and the squad. I also seem to remember being roped in to running the Squad Goals Twitter for November. If you want to hear more about the squad, have a listen!  It will be published here on Friday. Also, if you’ve read this far, that means you have read the words “Squad Goals Network” over three times. and you are now a member of the squad. It’s kind of like Beetlejuice that way.

Come and be strange with us.

In fact, if you want to hear the podcast right now, sneak on in here and listen to it, or read the (editing in progress) transcript before it comes out!

Photo by Adam Jang on Unsplash

featured photo: “Goal” flickr photo by mripp shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

Hark! An #OpenEd18 Reflection

Last week the Open Education Conference was held in Niagara Falls, New York. I am going to hark back on my experience there for my third post of the Ontario Extend 9x9x25 Reflective Writing Challenge.

I had a barrel of fun, but I am going to reflect on things I wish I did differently while there. I’ve been lucky enough to attend the last three Open Education Conferences. I’ve also been lucky enough to meet and become friends with many people in the community. I get excited to see them and eager to catch up.

So here is the first thing I wish I did differently: I wish I did not skip the speed networking that followed Jess Mitchell’s very, very wonderful keynote on the opening day. And I wasn’t the only OpenEd “veteran” to do so. In my haste to see some people I already knew, I missed the chance to connect and help people newer to the movement. I could be a helpful node in your Open Education network, and I missed a chance to offer that help. Maybe it’s not too late though, if you’re reading this and want to connect, please do!

OpenEd is truly full of people who would LOVE to chat with anyone interested, would LOVE to bring more people in to the fold. It’s been billed as the family reunion of Open Education. Which can be great, but can also seem like a club that is hard to get in to. And “club members” may say that you just need to say hi and we are happy to get to know you, but that is intimidating, and frankly kind of hard to pick the right time when someone you want to meet is deeply engrossed with catching up with an old friend. I will do better to offer up my network connectivity status to others in the future.

Another thing I wish I’d done differently is a more long-term missing out. I can’t believe it has taken me this long to truly recognize the importance of Wikipedia in Open Education. I got the opportunity to try to contribute a little bit to Wikipedia in an edit-a-thon run by Bonnie Stewart and Amy Collier. The prep work that went in to this was unbelievable.

The simplest (simple, but not easy) way to introduce a non-disposable assignment to your class was sitting right there the whole time! Add to Wikipedia. Believe me, the process is academic as heck. As Robert Cummings said in his session on teaching with Wikipedia: (paraphrasing here) Academic writing is too often writing what you think and then finding things to support that. Wikipedia writing flips that so that you are working  with nothing but truth. This is probably so obvious to most, but I’ve been busy looking at other ways to embed open in our teaching and learning. Wikipedia was just too “already there” for me to think hard enough about. Not anymore. So what I wish I did differently at #OpenEd18 is to learn more directly from Amy Collier and Bonnie Stewart about how to Wikipedia while I was in the same room as them. Luckily though, Daniel Lynds is hard core and has already pushed me to meet with him on a regular basis going forward to finish what we started.

Which takes me to the final thing that I wish I did differently while there.  I wish I thought and acted more directly about what to do next. Make not just connections, but plans to connect and take action. It all comes at you so fast, but making solid plans to do something with someone holds more weight when you make those plans in person. I saw others taking action. Ken Bauer and Joe Murphy promised to complete their patches of The Open Faculty Patchbook for me (woot woot!). It’s not like I have no plans, I just wish I made more direct plans with people while I was there. A couple things I did nail down is that I will be interviewing Billy Meinke for my podcast and helping Ken Bauer with the Virtually Connecting podcast! NICE.

We can make a huge impact with each other. Maybe it would be cool to try to have a daily theme at a future conference. Day One, helping newcomers feel welcome and connected, Day Two: normal conference day stuff, Day three: plan for action together. And sprinkled all throughout, making connections to those who couldn’t be there a la Virtually Connecting.

We’re going to need a really big barrel to fit us all in together as we go over the falls.

Photo by Elevate on Unsplash

The Ghost of Questions Not Asked

This is IDIGOntario‘s 2nd post of the #9x9x25 Challenge

When I signed up to be on the IDIG team I very vaguely said that I would like to write something about the “Front End Analysis” phase of Instructional Design. Also known as the “what are we doing and why” part.

If you do this part well you can avoid making big mistakes down the road. You might even realize that you shouldn’t even do it at all. You also tend have that “come on, come on, let’s get going!” feeling buzzing around you. I am feeling that right now as we prepare to try a new way of delivering Ontario Extend in January. But no matter how many angles you try to anticipate, something will surprise you when you implement it.

A good example of this came from the scholarly project I worked on to complete my Master’s of Instructional Design. I created an instructional Alternate Reality Game (ARG). It was designed to help youth identify problem gambling behaviours and to know how to reduce their harm. I completed a lengthy front-end analysis in which I tried to anticipate who the learners would be and what needs I should meet to help them complete the game. I never considered that some kids might not be up for suspending their disbelief in what was meant to be a fun way to learn.

Tyra aka Chance the “missing” dog

The first test went great, with a group of ninth grade students who were asked to participate and agreed of their own accord. They had fun and were successful in taking the story to its conclusion. The final test run, however, was a different story. In working with the program facilitator for the gambling awareness group, we chose to bring the game to test it out on an entire class of (I think) 11th grade students at an “alternative” high school. I don’t recall too much about the make up of the class or the reasons they had enrolled in a “different” kind of high school. In general you could say that the students were rightfully kind of pissed off about how their education was going so far.

They didn’t want to pretend. They didn’t want to suspend disbelief. They didn’t give a damn about rescuing a fake dog. They completed the game activities, but it would have probably served them better to give them a handout describing the harm reduction strategies and to just have a frank discussion about how these things have affected their lives. I remember clearly the look one student gave me when he realized I was trying to trick him into playing along. That’s when I knew that this program was not even close to the right thing to bring to them. It was utterly deflating.

The results of the test run were that yes, students reached the objectives. Learning was measured to have happened. But the feeling in the room was not the fun buzz I was working toward in the back of my mind. It was a stark opposite.

I’m going way over 25 sentences by digging in to that anecdote. My point is that I did not anticipate, at all, that this idea of learning via a game would resonate so poorly with these students. I didn’t ask the right, or enough, questions in my front-end analysis. JR Dingwall’s post in which he did ask the right questions to help bring about a great result, is what got me thinking about what questions to ask in the beginning.

So I ask you, what are the big questions you ask yourself and others when you first sit down to analyze a potential ID project? How can you avoid making something that leaves students feeling flat and misunderstood?

“Question?” flickr photo by spi516 shared under a Creative Commons (BY-SA) license

Like Driving a Minivan

This is my second 9X9X25 Challenge post for Ontario Extend.

The challenge asks you to reflectively write on the open Web about your teaching. For this post, I want to step back and write a bit about writing itself. Especially writing in the open. It can be scary. Maybe it doesn’t need to be quite so. I think it’s like driving. You are free to drive no matter what kind of car you have access to.

I drive a minivan. I’m sure lots of people dream of driving a Ferrari or some other fancy, luxury vehicle. I don’t at all. I wouldn’t enjoy it very much. I’d worry about scratching it or grinding the gears. No thanks, Ferrari. It’s all a bit much.

No joke, I’ve never enjoyed a vehicle more than our van. It does all the things. It goes around corners. Stops after it starts, starts after it stops. And I do it all feeling great about it because I don’t need to worry too much about getting hung up on a speed bump or if enough people are looking at me. It grinds no gears of mine. All the vehicles I’ve ever owned have been in this same non-luxury class, but this is the first time I’m really leaning in and enjoying the benefits.

It can fit my whole family in it. That family is then able to easily provide feedback/Q & A on where we are, where we’re going, why we’re going this way, and if, perchance, we are going somewhere where we can get a toy. Try doing that in a Ferrari. There’s definitely no feedback about the vehicle itself. As long as it’s going, no one cares.

I feel the same about my writing. It’s minivan-esque . I don’t have all the features like semi-colons, non-dangling prepositions, deep thoughts, or big words. But I can write. I can take people places with it. It might be a bit bumpy. I used to worry if my writing is good enough to be out here. I don’t any more because I realized it’s not about my writing skill, it’s about offering up what I have to say in the hopes that someone else can gain from it.

I sure enjoy writing now despite the lack of luxury features. I’m glad it allows me to get out there in a way that maybe lets me bring some people along or convinces others to join in. I never thought of myself as a writer, just as I’ve never thought of myself as a driver. I think I can and I should. I don’t wonder if my driving skill is good enough before I drive and I only had that one short driving course like 25 years ago. Let’s apply that moxie to our writing.

All this is to say that I hope that you are not too worried about how polished and supercharged your writing skills are to get out there on the road sharing your journey. This challenge is all about hearing some fresh takes on pedagogy. I hope that how you feel about your writing doesn’t stop you from getting in here and sharing your thoughts. Don’t worry about the Ferrari drivers. We’re all allowed on the same roads. You have something important to say and we would love to read about it.

Season 14 Abc GIF by The Bachelorette - Find & Share on GIPHY

Featured image: “Dude, You’re Driving a Minivan” flickr photo by happyskrappy shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license