Category: Ramblings

Epistemic game planning – beginning thoughts….

Some initial thoughts here….

What members are required for the development of an epistemic game and once the game begins?

1. It doesn’t seem plausible that a single teacher could do the many thing necessary in order to create an epistemic game so the first thing is that appears that epistemic game development is a team sport.

2. interviewers of professionals in field to capture typical cases or problems or scenarios.

3. research software game engines if necessary and locate software programmer if game development requires it.

4.  work with teacher to align goals of game with student learning outcomes of course.

What roles are necessary as resources in the game itself? – actors or confederates, non-player characters, real professionals in the field available via chat or just resource videos- then game development personnel such as game programmers, interviewers, class teachers, other subject matter experts (SMEs).

more thoughts on this later….


Epistemic Game Research

epistemic games group logoOne of most exciting educational developments in learning with technology is epistemic games largely promoted by David Williamson Shaffer and the Epistemic Game group at the University of Wisconsin.  Paul Gee (ASU), Kurt Squire (UWisc-Madison), Eric Klopfer (MIT), and David’s epistemic game group have produced a sizable body of evidence in support of using games in instruction.  David’s group, however, has focused on the epistemic game framework (see peer-reviewed studies – What’s absent in the research from a practitioner’s or designer’s standpoint is some of the more pragmatic aspects of epistemic game design such as the scalability of games they’ve designed, etc.  In the following video (compliments of Drexel University), David begins to address some of these questions.

In short, epistemic games are computer-mediated games that require students to take on fictitious roles in order to understand how to think and act like professionals such as engineers, urban planners, etc..  One of the primary differences in epistemic game curricula and traditional didactic instruction is that the tasks that epistemic game participants are often complex tasks with multiple solutions.  Game participants (students) learn to use the content in the framework of solving real-world problems as they learn to take on the identities of professionals while acting in these roles.


10 Key Suggestions for Online Instruction

Here’s my suggestion given my readings and workings with teachers developing and teaching online courses.

1.    Teachers should provide regular effective feedback and guidance to students
a.    Some course tools such as the assessment tool can provide immediate feedback on individual student performance
b.    Students can give feedback to each other on performance
c.    Some publisher site activities are designed to provide instant feedback on performance
2.    Course design should include authentic activities that are designed so that students learn to apply what they have learned to real world scenarios, i.e., anchored instruction/active learning
3.    Teachers should design activities that connect new content to be learned with students’ existing knowledge structures
a.    Pre-test students on material to be learned by creating an assessment or asking all students to answer a series of questions.  Content presented by the teacher is dependent on students’ answers
b.    Teacher summarizes what was learned in module one and explains relationship of it with material to be learned in module two
4.    Class should include a variety of collaborative (paired or small group) activities so that students develop awareness of diverse perspectives and to promote classroom community
5.    Provide course resources (scaffolds) for under-prepared students
a.    Prepare materials or locate resources to help those under-prepared students
6.    Make use of time management techniques and course tools to keep students organized and on task
a.    Create a course check-in routine that students follow every time they log into the course
b.    Make use of course tools like the calendar and get students used to checking it to alert them of pending deadlines and assessments
c.    Hide/Reveal course content to focus students’ attention on current and upcoming course activtities
7.    Online course materials should be designed to work in tandem with on ground materials, e.g., textbooks
a.    Course materials in books, textbooks, and handouts do not necessarily  need to be converted to present in your course
b.    Online course materials can act as an advance organizer to students’ on ground materials, i.e., textbooks, etc.
c.    If online materials are a duplicate of paper handouts, then students will likely read one or the other but not both
8.    Class activities should require students to make use of multiple sources of information including the Internet, library databases, etc., in completing assignments.
9.    Course should be designed so that students can easily find what work they’re supposed to be doing, when it’s due, where in the course they have to do the work, and how they’re going to be assessed on their work.
a.    See time management technqiues in number six
b.    Create a table/matrix that displays time  period, activity, due date, toolset being utilized, and method of assessment.
10.    Course should include pre-course (before course begins) and during course assessments to help students assess their readiness prior to instruction and graded activities
a.    Make use of college pre-course readiness assessment so students can determine their level of preparedness to begin the class
b.    Create readiness assessments prior to grade assessments to help students check their understanding


Authentic educational activities and Twitter…

Here’s an interesting museum blog article from about a year and a half ago on the lessons that museums can learn from Twitter as well as an article at Mashable on using Twitter in journalism.  I’m glad that the latter article’s resources have largely been compiled by journalists.  Teachers might be able to use some of these resources to connect with journalists with the hopes that students can vicariously follow and communicate with the journalists  through the process of their developing a news article.  The museum blog looks at Twitter’s functionality and how it affects communication stream and subsequently people’s thinking  and action through Twitter use.


Twitter still too new for most faculty

Both the Chronicle of Higher Ed and Campus Technology magazine cited a national survey of faculty re Twitter use and as you might expect the majority of faculty don’t use Twitter on any regular basis.  Clearly, this like Facebook is a new tool and faculty are already inundated with other work so unless they’ve got some time to experiment, Twitter may seem like another layer of work.

My two cents…  Most new technologies require some experimentation and sharing of results with colleagues at both your school and others before you really reap the benefits of your time and results with your students.  Fortunately, most of these new technologies require little “mechanics’ time” to learn.   Most time is spent researching trying to find out what other colleagues have done with Twitter and how they’re using it in the classroom.  Here’s to more organized sharing!


More on Facebook and instruction…

As I promised, here’s an update to my sense of using Facebook (FB) as a course management (CMS) tool.  If you don’t know it, in 2007, it appears that FB dropped development of its course management system leaving it to outside developers to improve its functionality and add features.  The results in my opinion at this time are mixed.

Teachers or really anyone can add a course in Facebook.  Of course, you must have a FB account in order to do so.  Your students MUST also be invited to join the class though you could certainly leave it open to the world…  Teachers or owners of the class can post assignments, links to other website, post announcements, and even have non-threaded

But unlike other course managment systems, content does not roll over necessarily from one term to the next. This means a teacher would have to complete a pre-course setup each and every term for each course she’s teaching in FB. It appears you can’t even reset dates for assignments in current term if the due date has already arrived.  Only UPcoming assignments are visible on the main class/course page though students can search for past assignments.  You would have to recreate  an assignment if you wanted to change it.

Next, something that teachers generally take for granted is student enrollment.  Students are not automatically added to a course. You have to invite them which means they have to have a Facebook account.  So plan on helping at least a few of them navigate their way particularly when it comes to restricting who sees what in their profiles.  And let’s face
it, most teachers don’t want to be the technical HELP DESK for students when it comes to application support.

My sense is that FB may be more designed for teachers who are adding course materials and activities on the fly.  It may still be more suited for social or student activities such as keeping track of former students.  I’ll continue to keep an eye on its development but wonder about its viability compared to other CMS.  There have a lot of folks reviewing FB as
a teaching tool like Professor Nicole Ellison at Michigan State University-  Here’s an older review of FB she wrote.  It’s a bit dated but still relevant as some of the same issues she raised still exist.

Meanwhile, I’m gonna take a different approach here to see if students are using FB for academic classes in an umprompted manner, i.e., setting up their own informal structures to share course materials, study for classes, set up tutoring sessions, etc.  There may be more to it than the obvious. And like before, as I find more, I’ll post it here.

Facebook help link is


Getting beyond the obvious…

In a recent Campus Technology article on mobile technologies- July 2009 by Mary Grush, John Ittelson – formerly of CSU Monterey Bay and Jim Wolfgang, of Georgia College and State University, among others made some comments re technology planning and use that should become the focus of discussion  in faculty curricula and technology planning committees across campus.

Don’t let technology drive your plans – Colleges should “identify their challenges or opportunities first” instead of  starting with the “coolest device and then figure out how to do something with it”  (Wolfgang, p. 24).  Too often faculty feel compelled to implement a new tool such as Facebook without thinking about how the technology will help students achieve their learning outcomes.

Seek out real change – Colleges for the past few decades have used technology to reinforce existing pedagogical structures rather than “embrace the new technology as a genuinely new form of engagement with students” (p. 26).  Ittelson further stated that “we haven’t really changed the way the disciplines are taught in academia, even though mobile media could substantially impact that and better reflect the ‘real world’ discipline and the way we engage students” (p. 28).   And as a result, at most colleges and universities we’ve seen no significant difference in learning when technology is employed except in those instances where the pedagogical structure has also been changed, e.g., collaborative activities, case studies, simulations, etc.  What Ittelson neglects to mention is that colleges sometimes feel constrained by articulation agreements which demand comparability between e.g., “online classes” and on campus ones.  This type of problem adds to the concern that faculty have about making drastic changes in course design.

These are just a few of the major points made in Mary Grush’s article.  In California, we should be looking at the our current financial crisis as a challenge and opportunity to examine our organizational structures such as:

  • class size
  • role of the teacher
  • role of the student
  • tutor’s or grader’s role
  • instructional technologist’s role
  • the physical or virtual makeup of a classroom

Some of these items are already being discussed in the K-12 area and through virtual communities such as Classroom 2.0.  California community colleges need to be as nimble as possible to respond to our electorate and students.  Our challenge will be overcomming our reluctance and inertia in coming up with solutions that support our mission before running out of credit.


Initial thoughts re instructional use of Facebook

Facebook, like other social networking tools, at this point in time may offer more social uses for networking than instructional uses in the classroom.

Here are some common educational uses:

  • as a means of connecting with current and former students
  • provide links to content on the WWW or your own content if you create your class via the apps option
  • simple communication tools for announcements or non-threaded discussions within your class
  • provides the “experience” of multi-user instant messaging with easy integration of users’ resources stored elsewhere in popular public sites like Flickr and YouTube.

If you’re thinking of switching from a learning management system like Blackboard to Facebook, you should know that Facebook offers little control for those teachers who want to constrain when students submit work.  Facebook which is more of a Web 2.0-3.0 tool is attractive to  those individuals who tend to care less about having clearly defined classroom boundaries or instructional sequences.

From my experience, first-time Facebook users are learning the app more by trial and error than reading the Facebook HELP or the manual (if there were one) before going public.  Consequently, they’re likely to GET FRIENDS they hadn’t counted on and may have later trouble separating friends from classmates.  But then maybe, that’s the point.  Facebook’s POV is to ignore the old Classroom 1.0 structure in favor of a new model that defines a class differently in terms of who’s in the class, how people collaborate in the class, and what even gets learned in the class.

Until then, I’ll have to continue experimenting the rest of the summer with the Facebook classes app to see how it compares with the tools already in place at our college.

More later to come….


You gotta wonder why we spend …

You gotta wonder why we spend so much time doing this. I don’t know myself but am reminded once in a while that I have a Twitter account.


Trying to keep up with the oth…

Trying to keep up with the other folks I admire who are likely trying to catch up with themselves…


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