Saturday, October 15, 2011

Swampy Needs a Shower? The Perfect Game to Pass the Time.

So I am currently blogging to you from the great state of Florida, just outside of Orlando in Kissamee after a very long day of Shamu and his dolphin friends drenching us poor fools in the front row of their shows (my kids insisted on getting wet and it seemed like a good idea at the time). This comes on the heels of multiple day visits to the Disney resorts so my gaming time has been limited to what I can find for my iPad. I was able to locate a great little game called Where’s My Water? (Video overview of Where's My Water) In this game you simply have to dig a tunnel to get the water from the pipes to Swampy he can take a shower. You have to avoid polluted water, ricochet the water from one side to the other, and water down the ducks you find. All the while trying to get the water to Swampy as quickly as possible, he is very impatient.

So as I'm playing along for the required hour, which turned into 3 1/2 which I could relate directly to my submersion into the "Creative Flow" that I had recently read about on Mark McGuinness Blog, Wishful Thinking: Creative Coaching and Training. In his post he discusses the idea of "Flow" as described by Mihaly Csikszentmihaly, in which a person becomes completely absorbed in what they are doing to the point of finding peak performance, and true satisfaction. Outlined in the idea are nine characteristics to identify whether or not your are in the "Flow" of what you are doing. So as I reflected on my immersion into Swampy's world I tried to see if I had met any of those characteristics as listed below and to see if I was truly in the "Flow" of things:
  1. There are clear goals every step of the way
    I knew exactly what I needed to do, what I needed to avoid, and how to play along to achieve the goals set forth.
  2. There is immediate feedback to your actions.
    Swampy let's you know if you are not doing well or if you get the "bad" water into his tub. Very immediate and obvious feedback.
  3. There is a balance between challenges and skills
    It was easy at first but as you progress more and more obstacles get in your way. The puzzles get a little harder and you have to be a little creative in your water directing solutions.
  4. Action and awareness are merged
    I don't know on this one. I may not have been as fully vested as this characteristic implies but I was certainly involved in the game play.
  5. Distractions are excluded from consciousness
    No on this one, maybe moments of no distractions but I don't focus 100% on games. I have learned to stay at least a little aware of my surrounding in case the sudden questions comes my way from others.
  6. There is no worry of failure
    This I think I was down for, I wasn't worried about failing really. I could redo any level along the way and play them out until the problem was resolved. 
  7. Self-consciousness disappears
    No worries on this one. I did not at one time feel self-conscious while helping Swampy.
  8. The sense of time becomes distorted
    See above line (1 hr turned into 3 1/2)
  9. The activity becomes ‘autotelic’ – meaning it is an end in itself
    I am not sure on this one, how about maybe?
So there it is, 7 out of a possible 9. Was i in the "Flow"? Maybe. Was it an enjoyable learning experience? Definitely. I play a few games here and there and for the most part when I find one I like I become pretty focused. Trying to figure out the ins and outs. Learning how to do the things needed and then perfecting upon them (or at least try to perfect them) along the way. This is a similar pattern to how I approach many of the teaching and learning experiences that I find myself in. So does this mean gaming has helped in my learning and teaching, or does it mean that learning and teaching has helped in my gaming? Maybe a little of both.

So as you read this and other postings thinks about how gaming could effect your learning abilities? Do you see some similar traits while gaming that you can also associate with learning/teaching? Have you eer been in the "Flow"?

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Steve Jobs paved the way for the world to flatten out

So in a garage, circa 1976 ish a young man (who at one time thumbed his nose at real work to go backpacking through Europe on psychedelics) created one of the elements that has helped the world become flat, the personal computer. The personal computer, once looked upon only for games, would evolve to become the power flattener that it is today. A pioneer that some hold in regard with the likes of Edison, Graham Bell, and other innovators of our world. As with many others his innovation will continue to evolve and allow the continued flattening of our world. I thought it timely to point out the contributions of Mr. Jobs upon his passing, as I think this may not have been anywhere in his mind when he was tinkering around in his garage in the id seventies, but it's interesting to note what ended up happening because of it.
With that in mind what other innovators or inventions are now used in the flattening of our world that you think may not have realized the magnitude of their innovation/invention? Think it over and post what you come up with. 

Friday, October 7, 2011

I saw the world go flat and didn't even notice......

Currently I am taking a course at the University of Northern Iowa, Emerging Instructional Technologies, and we have been talking about the concept of a Flat Classroom. For those of you reading who may not be in the same class the idea of a flat classroom is one that through connectivity and technology can exist with students from all areas of the world. Students from India can work with students in the United States on projects because the barriers that once prevented this from happening have been removed due to technology. For additional information on the flat classroom click here Flat classroom Project for a more in-depth look. The concept of flattening that is going on in the world was articulated by Thomas Friedman, see his in depth discussion on flattening here The World is Flat.

Friedman identifies ten items that he calls flatteners, or things that have happened to bring down thee barriers of distance and accessibility for the people of the world. During this video and reading up on this flat concept I realized that I was a part of, or merely a cog in the wheel of a part of, flattening. I had a front row seat to some of his observations and I did not even know it.

From 2003 until 2009 I was employed by a company called Pindar in the Cedar Rapids area. OK in reality it was called many things during that time but for consistency in the story we will call it Pindar. Pindar was the ad design and prepress division of YellowBook USA. The same YellowBook USA that once a year delivers a phone book to your doorstep that you can use for a beverage coaster, paperweight, or in some rare cases to locate local business and personal addresses and phone numbers although I hear this internet thing does the same thing without the hassle of physically turning pages. While working there a couple things happened that, at the time, didn't mean all that much. First off in 2003 when I started the company had just started to send work to the UK (Pindar was based in the UK) for the artists to complete the ads. Later on the company began sending more work overseas. Eventually the majority of the work was being sent out to be completed, Bangalore, The Philippines, and areas of Peru. At the time it was happening I never fully grasped the idea that was underlying, the world was getting flat. According to Friedman "Offshoring: Running with the Gazelles, Eating with Lions" is one of the flatteners that he describes. The fact that during the dot-com era everyone was laying the groundwork for connectivity, and that these countries that were once so far were now only a click away.

I was watching it all go down and I never truly grasped what was happening. I never looked at it in the way Friedman explains. I wonder in all of my time so far, what else did I miss? Anyone else see this happen but not see it happen in a similar way? I hope I'm not the only one, I always thought I was fairly perceptive.

Monday, October 3, 2011

High School Exit Exams in 21st century Iowa

So it is the eve of the state of Iowa's Gov. Terry Bransted to announce the details of his plans for educational reform. None of the details have been officially delivered, however there have been some reports prognosticating the details of this "blueprint" for the future of education in Iowa. So as I was reading some of these items I got to thinking about some of the recent "hot" topics on education including  cuts in preschool funding, see "Iowa House approves preschool funding cut, scholarships" story for more details on that, and the newly formed science and technology council (see "Branstad names members to science, technology council" for some background)just to name a few. After tomorrow I am sure that many of the details will provide for much debate from everyone, however I wanted to get the jump on one of the items that was mentioned, high school exit exams. Now it should be noted that there is no guarantee that this will even make it's way into the final plan, and I have no prior knowledge of any kind in relation to this, but the idea got me thinking, is this the 21st century student should be leaving high school? Another standardized test?

As a student in educational technology the idea of exit exams is a little discouraging. The thought of additional  testing dose not fit with the changing landscape of technology and education, nor does it fit with the knowledge and skills students will need for today's jobs or post secondary schooling. Some of the questions that came to mind about this topic:
  • Will these tests really help the students, and show what they have learned?
  • Will the teachers teach to the test, and will what they teach be valuable outside of that?
  • What 21st century skills will be included, and how will they test for those?
These questions all came  up and got me thinking about a topic in my recent studies. In "Disrupting Class: How Disruptive Innovation Will Change The Way The World Learns" the author, Clayton Christensen, point out that schools today are not designed for today's student. They are designed for a mass produced student with a set of skills that can be taught to a large group of similarly skilled individuals at the same time. The future of education he points out, and I would agree with, is though customized learning. Maybe students will need more than just the core competencies to succeed post high school.

So I am curious, what does everyone think on this? Dose the idea of exit exams meet the needs of today's students? If exit exams were to be used could they test for the needs of the 21st century student? If so how would they look? If not what could be done instead?