106 posts categorized "Gaming"

August 21, 2008

Remixing Cities, remixing learning: Charles Leadbeater

Remixing_the_city There's a great deal of 'play' at this year's Scottish Learning Festival, with LTS's Consolarium Challenge stretching over both days, pitching student gamers from across Scotland against each other for the ultimate accolades (and loads of free gaming kit for their school). I'll also be doing a seminar on the crossover between gaming, social media and learning, as well as leading a band of innovative educators at the Discovery Hour on Wednesday and, maybe, Thursday - come and find out how teachers have been making superb uses of Second Life, robots and new media in the classroom.

However, as always, there's at least one keynote I feel might not have the pulling power on the masses who, by the last day of the Festival, are seeking some easy takeaways for their schools and the latest classroom innovations, a keynote that promises to have several profound messages for our school leaders and curriculum designers.
In fact, if the audience were not 2000 but more like 200 of Scotland's ICT coordinators, Directors of Education, Head Teachers and policy wonks I'd be quite happy. This is my appeal for you to attend or watch the video stream of Charles Leadbeater's keynote on the future of education.

To leave you in no doubt as to the thought he's given this issue, let me direct you to a paper he published about the evolution of the city. I normally abhor those who ask "What does School 2.0 look like" but, by kings, he's pretty damned close. In Remixing Cities he manages to succinctly outline what 'school' might look like. It's more like Schools, in the best tradition of Malcolm Gladwell's Pepsis and Spaghetti Sauces, because, in the future (well, the sooner the better really) there will no longer be a school that we go to, but rather schools that we go to. And, yes, play features heavily throughout. Here is a lengthy citation from his superb manifesto:

If a city addresse learning from the vantage point of these social web models, what could it offer? The outer circle would be:
An eBay for learning: a city-wide learning exchange to match learners to those with the skills to teach but who are not teachers. For example, if someone needed a tutorial in using garage band software, they could find someone with the skills who may not be a school teacher.

The Learning Game: more learning opportunities modeled on large scale, multi-player games in which players discover challenges and acquire the tools and skills to overcome them together. For example, a city-wide sustainability challenge using maths and science skills.

YouLearn: using the power of user-created video to provide learning opportunities complete with user ratings and comments.

Wiki-learning: a city based resource of facts, figures, information and insight, created by and for the city’s citizens for its curriculum.

Social search for learning: using tools such as tagging, folksonomies and social book marking to allow more structured peer-to-peer learning, so that one generation of learners can follow in the footsteps of others.

These mainly digital tools would be augmented by enhanced opportunities to learn outside schools in businesses, libraries, galleries or in settings relevant to what is being learned—the city as a classroom.

The middle circle would focus on families, learning and social networks. That might include:

Social networking for learning: peer-to-peer networks on MySpace, Facebook and other networks to link people in learning clubs to learn with and from their peers, including adults and parents, online and offline, in coffee shops and homes.

Enhanced parental involvement in schools: development of family learning centers; parents as teaching assistants.

Get Started: Increased investment in early years provision for disadvantaged families and linking them earlier to schools that prepare them for learning.

NetMoms: Using social networks to promote mothers’ clubs to support informal learning and employment.

Personal trainers for learning: Local learning support workers who would work door-to-door, similar to health visitors.


Schools would still be vital, but they would be designed to maximize the value of the wider platform. For instance:

Parents and adults might learn in the same building as children.

Schools could be productive enterprises, centers for small business clusters, in which children run real money-making businesses.

Teaching by discovery and doing to instill social skills alongside cognitive skills would be much more central.

Schools would be open longer, more flexible hours, with schedules that suit the different paces that children learn and the times that parents work.

There would be more, smaller, studio-style schools, akin to cafes or drop-in centers suited for more virtual learning communities and particularly for disaffected teenagers.

Alongside teachers would be more para-professionals, teaching assistants, business people, environmentalists and artists.

Children would learn from one another with the creation of a new generation of lead learners.

Every child would have a self-directed learning support plan to shape what they learn and from whom, in and outside school.

Download the whole document.
Picture; Sparktography

August 12, 2008

Music in games

Gianna_cassidy Gianna Cassidy looks as the link between music, our emotions and the games that we play at Glasgow Caledonian's eMotions Lab. She believes that everyone has the basic building blocks of musicality, in the same way that we all have the building blocks of other languages, including, of course, our mother tongue.

But how many people, when asked, would call themselves a musician? It's not as easy as it sounds to disentangle the psychology of who we are, the music we listen to, the songs we sing or hum.

Music is inextricably linked to our responses to moments in life, including of course how we interact with a game as its soundtrack weaves its way through the gameplay. When supermarkets pump French music through the sound system, people buy more French wine. When the music is played faster, people move quicker through the store.

Likewise, games are a filter for our musical experience and vice-versa. Music offers a rare position for researchers to look at how the game in its music influences the player's game, rather than looking, as we do traditionally, at how the player interacts with the game. Add that to the amount of time we spend playing games each week, around 12.5 hours, there's a signficant influence on our self through playing games and their music's effect on us.

Game music is best when it's owned by the player
Many games' music is akin to a film track, where the music informs the emotion the game author wants you to feel at any given moment in the game's story. But where we're playing a game whose music has the potential to be interchangeable, as many racer and shoot-em-ups are nowadays, affording the player a choice in which music they hear, we see something rather more interesting. After all, would games not be better if the expert designers had control over what we are hearing?

In an experiment where music was played over the game Project Gotham Racing, most accurate was where participants chose their own musical soundtrack along with the car noises, followed by just the car noises. Low arousal music led to more inaccuracies (sloppy, relaxed driving) while high-arousal music led to the most errors in driving - twice as many as any other type of music. Music makes the heart beat faster, creates more excitement, and a game without music would be like a film without a soundtrack - about 80% less entertaining. But here there's an implication that if it's not the music of preference of the player it can be an unwelcome distraction.

It's an interesting beginning to some thought on how much control over music either player or game designer needs to have in order to make the game successful.

Interactivity in gaming: are we there yet?

Endless_ocean I've managed to get along to the gaming for learning day of the Edinburgh Interactive Festival, a fest not about interactivity in its broadest sense, but about gaming. I'm wondering whether the organisers have built in a bit of slack for what we all know will make the games industry more successful in the long term. The title of the event offers huge potential to expand a rather quiet conference floor, and the word "interactive" offers more scope for gaming than the public exhibition space would have us believe.

Though social interaction through gaming can be seen oozing through education projects of the kind we see coming out of the Consolarium, most of this interaction is engineered by the combination of a superb teacher, guidance from a full-time gaming specialist and the stamp of approval from the national education agency. The interaction is not engineered by the commercial, off-the-shelf game itself, designed instead for entertainment for oneself rather than entertainment with others. The interaction is coming from the framework of teacher, classroom and planning. The one relatively recent and significant exception to the rule would be the Wii.

Where games are used in learning, there is significant social interaction whose scaffold is the teacher - the way the students play the game, the way they talk about the game, the tasks they undertake and then the way they reflect about their learning. The teacher plans and prepares the play of the class.

Education does social interaction
Take Kim Applin's use of Endless Ocean at Meldrum Primary School: a game that provides a rich graphical interest is used much the same as Rylands and co would use Myst for creative thinking and writing. They record species they find on their 'dives', write about what it feels like to dive to the coral reef, design their own fish, make Crazy Talk animations of their creations. It's great. But all the support, ideas for taking the game for learning and the outcomes are done within the context of a curriculum, which Kim refers to repeatedly, and it is a teacher, not the students, choosing the rough direction of travel for interactivity.

Education has done well to use computer games or video games to enhance or create new contexts for learning, but the methods and outputs, though digitised, more varied and of increasingly higher production values, hold much in common with the process and output of the primary school classic Granny's Garden, which I was playing in 1986. Students play game, in a group or individually or both, teacher structures activity around social interaction between students, students create objects and (mostly) linear stories, illustrations, movies, iStories, podcasts. If this is, rather simplistically put, the process we see re-modeled in 2008, where can we take things in 2009 and beyond, to encourage some truly student-led and student-structured interactivity? Moreover, where can we take commercial or online games that are played outside the classroom, with no teacher to scaffold activity?

(Un)interaction in the 'real world'
In the real world, outside school, it's going to be rare that kids get as much out of their games in terms of social interaction and, in turn learning. Even forgetting the learning argument for the moment, the "ticky box" approach to applying games to learning and curriculum, we can see that the games industry has, by and large, left social interaction to the domain of the educator, the enthusiastic parent or precocious child. After all, is 10 seconds of abuse of our competitors before playing Halo really interaction? Is text chat with strangers during our F1 racing really interaction?

Truly engaging, long-term interaction with endless opportunity to build upon requires something more profound, more complex and hard-to-grasp to happen: people need influenced by other people (not by the computer-generated, limited characters), actions need to be completed with other people (not with a game's cues). Social interaction from within the game (and not through the imagination of a teacher and his/her students) is where the games of the future will find themselves. ARGs may not be the elixir (or they might be) but they have more of the kind of true inherent interaction I'm talking about than any other gaming interaction we can see.

The challenge for those working in education is threefold. Truly interactive gaming such as ARGs, from a player's perspective, are hard impossible to predict and can't be preplanned to fit in with curricular goals. They are incredibly challenging to author, arguably more so than recreating a 3D copy of something we've already played, on a game-making application like Missionmaker. Finally, they require the use of social and mobile tools that are misunderstood and maligned in most education circles: social networks, blogs, video podcasting sites and, above all, cell phones.

This is where gaming, and particularly gaming for learning, has to go eventually. I'm heartened when self-confessed glutton-for-punishment Susan Yeoman ends her talk on educational uses of gaming by pressing the importance of pubishing and sharing output from game-playing with as wide an audience as possible on the web. Sharing, listening to feedback, collaborating and republishing ideas is much tougher than picking a game off a shelf which has rich graphics for stimulating creative writing or which trains our brains in mathematics or foreign languages.

Above all, really making games social within and of themselves further asserts the roles of learners, not teachers, as the ones who direct and plan learning, regardless of whether it 'fits' into a curricular plan. If it works, with the complicity of talented teachers and informed parents, then we really are headed towards something of excellence.

July 15, 2008

An alternative view of filmmaking

I'm borrowing electricity and wifi at the back of a Marco Torres and Alasmedia film-making spectacular, delving into filmmaking of another kind.

I found the Steampunk movie below, from Alice, as beautiful and enchanting as many of the 'real' movies I've seen recently. It would make great creative fodder for some creative writing of the kind I was talking about yesterday, taking your mind away to another universe for 4:30.

BLC08: Thinking Out Of The x(Box) update

Boston_skyline On Monday I helped kick off the Pre-Conference workshops at Alan November's Building Learning Communities week in Boston, with a four-hour workshop on using video games, text-based games, alternate reality games and consoles as a stimulus for creative writing, art, design and the sciences. The updated notes from Thinking Out Of The x(Box) are now available.

I was ably assisted from 6000 miles away by a Skyping Tom Barrett, who shared his experiences having just come off a four week Myst writing project. His use of one-to-one laptops and Google Docs to coordinate collaboration was interesting, especially since the group back in Boston shared my initial view that 30 laptops in a classroom would have killed the energy visible in Tim Rylands' class. The jury's out (permanently perhaps), and Tom's Google Doc work shows that great things are possible either way.

The updated notes for the session (minus the ARG stuff - that deserves a post on its own, to come soon) are available now, including some of the amazing Guitar Hero work done by Ollie and colleagues at MGS and the Nintendogs project that covered a term last year in Aberdeenshire. Enjoy and, if you decide to set out on an adventure with games in your classroom, please do tell me about it here.

June 05, 2008

Tutpup: play, compete, learn

Tutpup Since last autumn I've been offering ideas on how mathematics and literacy could be improved to a startup, with the simple notions that

a) certain kids (a large number of them) enjoy competing against each other (social media)
b) we all learn best by playing just above our level

It's become Tutpup, and I'm relieved, to say the least, that the combined guts of those working on the project have been right in this instance. Hopefully the nature of the exercises will glean the same kind of results that the Nintendo DS seems to claim in previous trials in Scotland and England.

Think Kawashima without the need for a Nintendo DS, and add on a safe social network. Then, once baked for a few live mental agility games against fellow learners from around the world, add on a parent or teacher feedback report each week. Voilà Tutpup.

I'm really keen to see how Scottish primary and early secondary teachers might take on the Tutpup challenge. You can sign up your class(es) or your own offspring. Kids can sign up themselves, too, with automatic approval sought from parents. Let me know here how you get on. Reports so far are more than impressive!

May 13, 2008

Video Games Live - where music meets gaming

This June 26, in Glasgow, classical music lovers and gamers will unite for a musical gaming experience that must be fairly unique in the world. The Royal Scottish National Orchestra will play the classics in perfect harmony to the movement of the gaming classics of Pong and Pacman. And using YouTube to market the conference... genius, Jon.

May 12, 2008

DS Guitar Hero On Tour... and a chance to get a free Nintendo


DS Guitar Hero On Tour
Originally uploaded by Edublogger

I would normally get stung for excess baggage if I were to attempt to take a traditional Guitar Hero setup to a workshop with me. This June, though, it seems that the new Guitar Hero On Tour game will ship with the DS. Gimme, gimme, gimme.

Incidentally, if you want a free DS this year, then just register your place for October's Handheld Learning 2008 conference in London before the end of June. Some lineup of speakers: Andrew Pinder, Chairman of Becta, Steven Berlin Johnson, Cultural critic & writer, danah boyd, John Seely Brown, Radical innovator & former Chief Scientist of Xerox Corp, Professor Stephen Heppell, Keri Facer, Research Director, Futurelab, David Cavallo, Chief Learning Architect, Future of Learning Group, MIT Media Lab, Professor Mike Sharples, Director of LSRI.

Oh, and Derek and I will be running a Tartanised strand.

May 09, 2008

Stephen Heppell: the gaps are where the good stuff is

Stephen_heppell virtual, actual, temporal, agile, dissolved, playful, effective, delightful, better: this is my rundown of Stephen Heppell's talk at Urban Learning Space in Glasgow, complete with mistakes, editorial and personal views. David captures things differently over here, and managed to get the Q&A session tapped in.

Bits of our world need to be seen in a context. The Dubai indoor ski slope is not, as Westerners would say, a crime against global warming. In the context of Dubai water costs more than oil, so creating an expensive indoor area to keep the snow from melting is actually most sensible in the long-term. The context is sometimes frustrating - London Grid for Learning blocks Heppell's website because it concerns 'Criminal Skills' (his boat's called Cracker...). Filtering and blocking, home and abroad, is often a contextual issue, and new disruptive mobile technologies are changing that context.

Today's context is different from a few years ago. Information is free (and those who block it are putting their nation at a disadvantage), but the thing that is becoming scarce is the ability to learn, to exploit this information and knowledge to come up with ingenius ideas, creative offshoots and fill in the gaps in our lives.

We don't watch television so much any more, without also taking part in the online communities around the shows (C4's work in this sector is world-beating).

The inbetweenies
So, in the past we used to have me/you, broadcast/viewer, teacher/learner, but all the interesting stuff in 2008 is happening between these space. The people and projects in this space are the "inbetweenies", working outside the hierarchical historical norms in this superb learning space. Clay Shirky alludes to this, too, when he says that the innovation in organisations often happens in the 'gaps' in the organisation and it is the connectors who bridge these gaps who are often seen as 'creative'.

There's even a technology for this space: nearly now technologies. These are asynchronous technologies, but where we expect an answer in the near future (when I started blogging I'd expect an answer in a week, but now have an expectation that the first comments will appear within minutes. Things have changed. Twitter leaves me wanting almost instant nearly now communication, but where I have the option to come back later if I want.)

Stephen reckons that the new media companies are different in leadership, too, from traditional companies, in that they don't lead users. I think this is a little simplistic, not quite right, although there is a change. But Caterina Fake greeted the first 10,000 Flickrers in person. Every MySpacer's first friend it the company boss. MySpace leads users towards content every day through its homepage. Google Ads lead users into transactions they didn't even know they wanted.

Getting away from the learner's cell
All this is going on, the edges are becoming fuzzier the world over, except in most school buildings. They are designed on a spreadsheet, where spreadsheet cells represent the classrooms, cells in themselves in more than one sense.

In the online community work that Stephen and colleagues did at Ultralab, amongst all the things I've heard from him before about being seductive and engaging, 24/7, the term 'mixed age' made me think about how most Glow groups for students may, perhaps, fall into the traditional cell format: age, stage, subject or project. I hope that teachers in schools get together to help create some mixed age groupings, composite Glow classes if you will. I know some parents aren't so happy when their offspring are placed in physical composite classes, but perhaps Glow offers the advantages - potentially - of composite classes that I experienced at school, but in a more intense and long-term basis for all students, not just those in small schools.

Above all, I hope that the students take it on themselves to fuzz up those edges a bit further.

April 11, 2008

Language World 2008: Thinking out of the (X)box

Oxford_university I've been down in Oxford University today at Language World sharing some of the principles that help us get students more engaged in writing, speaking and working together in a foreign language, using computer games as a stimulus for creative reading, writing and, ultimately, speaking.

It's been based on the work I've already done in the area (the "Thinking Out Of The (X)Box" post is freshly updated), from the study of fairy tales for my MA (the best option by far at the time!), getting students new to French to come up with their own authentic fairy tales, having read some Petit Chaperon Rouge from Perrault, and finally using some of their medium, computer games, to enhance the experience. It's been even more enticing, I hope, with some updates courtesy of m'colleague Derek whose Nintendogs projects could provide some nice fodder for foreign language and enterprise work.

Pic: Bodlein Library ceiling, which reminds me of some of those Myst caverns.

About Ewan

Ewan McIntosh is a teacher, speaker and investor, regarded as one of Europe’s foremost experts in digital media for public services.

His company, NoTosh Limited, invests in tech startups and film on behalf of public and private investors, works with those companies to build their creative businesses, and takes the lessons learnt from the way these people work back into schools and universities across the world.

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