Learn These Four Chords

I was twelve years old when my father bought me my first guitar.  It was a pawn shop special.  Although, at the time, I don’t think I knew what that meant.  There was great music everywhere.  The Beatles Revolver album was blasting at the pool in our apartment complex.  The Dave Clark Five, Paul Revere and the Raiders, Donovan, Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs, the Beach Boys, Sonny and Cher, and the Yardbirds dominated AM Radio. At the center of it all was the guitar.

My mother bought me an LP (long-playing record) with guitars lessons.  I’m also assuming there was an accompanying booklet with diagrams, but I don’t recall.  What I do recall was hearing a guitar sound 4 times and then the narrator on the record saying “learn these 4 chords and you will be able to play all the popular music available today”.  The quote might be inexact but the implications were clear.  If I learned to play G-Em-C-D, in that order, I would be all set.

Read More

TYJM: A Better Group Project

August 2011 to Dec 2014: Marketing Plan Project as a Multi-player Game

When we have shared intentionality, we actively identify as part of a group, we deliberately and explicitly agreed on a goal, and we can understand what others expect us to do. Jane McGonigal

We come to the final part in this series.  In Part Four I explained changes made to the individual experience by providing students with compelling, unnecessary obstacles in the form of ‘quests’.  These quests also gave students a clearer understanding of the Marketing Plan Project and their role in it’s successful  completion.  The focus of Part Five is the collaborative process through which groups transformed themselves into teams.

Read More

TYJM: Motivating Team Members

‘Quest’ as a Catalyst
One of the many great examples in Reality is Broken was Quest to Learn. Quest to Learn(Q2L) is a grade 6-12 school in New York City that is built on game-based learning. “At Quest, we define games as carefully designed, student-driven systems that are narrative-based, structured, interactive and immersive. Seeing game-based learning in action provided me with a tangible and relevant use case at the proverbial intersection of game design and learning.

Read More

TYJM: The Problem with Group Projects

The Problem with Group Projects
The preceding articles in this series focus on the portion of Reality is Broken we listened to on our drive to the beach. On the drive back home, the book transitioned from individual gameplay to collaborative game play; providing me with a window on the “shared concentration and synchronized engagement”. Read More

TYJM: The Four Defining Traits of Game Design

There is a tendency for many of us in academia put the emphasis on the ‘teaching’ side of the teaching/learning equation. Perhaps this is because we have more control over teaching. Of course, teaching without learning is a pretty pointless exercise. At first blush, its easy to think that, when we design courses and learning modules, that we’ve got “goals, rules, and feedback” covered. Voluntary participation is another matter. My first thought was to dismiss this as a characteristic that couldn’t directly translate from game design to course design. After all, students don’t ‘voluntarily’ attend classes the way they ‘voluntarily’ play games.

Goals and Rules to Motivate Rather Than Control
However, as I listened to the book I experienced a paradigm shift. McGonigal defined each of these traits in a way that had me rethink their purpose and function. Instead of defining ‘goals’ in terms of content and learning objectives, McGonigal framed them as ways to focus players attention and provide them “with a sense of purpose“. ‘Rules’, rather than explaining, very specifically, how the ‘goals’ needed to be met, involved “removing or limiting the obvious ways of getting to the goal” in order to “unleash creativity and foster strategic thinking“. Read More

Thank You, Jane McGonigal! Pt.1

While attending DevLearn 2017 in Las Vegas I had the opportunity to meet Jane McGonigal. I don’t usually do the book signing ‘thing’ but, after her keynote, I bought a copy of “Reality is Broken” from the conference book stand and waited in line. I wanted to thank Jane for the writing a book that profoundly altered my understanding of game design and how it could be used to create engaging and challenging learning experiences.

Read More

Adventures in Blogging

I have been toying with the idea of creating a blog for quite a while.  In fact, I have started and stopped building this blog at least half a dozen times over the last 11 years.  Eventually I realized that wanting to start a blog wasn’t sufficient reason for starting a blog.  I believe, however, that now it’s time.  I have things I would like to share and, more important, I am hoping others will share back.

The originally conceived the idea of building a blog when I was working on my dissertation back in May of 2006.  I started working on the nuts and bolts of themes and plugins and such while I was attending a week long workshop on network science. During the evenings I was attempting to create my first WordPress blog. I hadn’t quite mastered WordPress and was receiving valuable guidance from the more computer savvy workshop participants.

Read More

Buzzwords Kill

Those of us that work with educational technology are constantly awash in a sea of buzzwords.    These buzzwords can, at times, be useful; particularly when everyone is on the same page and have a common understanding of what a particular buzzword means. Admittedly, it’s much easier to toss off a term like ‘gamification’ or ‘learning analytics’ than it is to explain what those terms represent.

Read More

Sound Advice

A couple of years ago I invested in a pair of hearing aids. It was not an easy decision. I thought of hearing aids as a sign of weakness and I imagined myself being horribly self-conscious. Besides, my wife had gotten used to having to repeat herself and listening to the television at an uncomfortably high volume. I had gotten used to her exasperated expression and having closed-captions displayed prominently across the screen.

Then, I realized that it wasn’t really about me. I was having trouble hearing students in the classroom. A classroom is unlike a social situation in which I might nod politely at something someone said. Even if I hadn’t really heard the potentially witty bon mot tossed my way at a social gathering, there were other cues; such as facial expression or tone of voice that would telegraph what type of appropriate non-response I would need to muster.

Read More