Sunday, May 14, 2017

Twitter chat Reflection 1

This was my first experience with a twitter chat. I don't use twitter usually, other than to see Neil Gaiman's or Amanda Palmer's infrequent tweets, sometimes DeGrasse too. It was an interesting experience for someone that does not text very fast. I was not able to tweet via computer so I had to use my phone. After the first question, I began to experience anxiety. How do I tweet my answers quickly? How do I think that fast? (The questions were far more thought provoking than I anticipated.) How do I synthesize other people's answers and comment on that? It took several minutes for me to reconcile these feelings before I could begin to catch up and actually participate.

The tweet chat I joined was for edtechbridge and on April 12th they were discussing Digital Divide and Edequity. I didn't really have much to say on Question 1 as I was just joining and was trying to figure how to tweet from my phone (I'm only a Luddite when it comes to twitter, really...) , Q1: What are the big questions in equity in edtech right now?
I started to think about it and then answers started to scroll madly along my screen. I saw people designated their answers by A1, so, I chimed in with: A1. How do we sustain or support access to tech outside school hours? I eventually got a reply: Great question. Once kids go home teachers aren't in charge.
Then question 2 fired off:
Q2. Why can't tech alone create the essential forms of change needed to prepare kids for the rapidly changing future?

I answered with: A2. Tech does not replace relationships or address the lack of tech savvy for teachers.
Other answers:
A2: Although tech is incredibly valuable, we must never downplay the importance of 1:1 real-time, face-to-face communication
A2: Teachers are critical to the process.

It became almost like a a crowded bar...with twenty people all talking at once...but all were able to mostly hear you. It was a very strange experience...

Q3. What professional development and tech do teachers need to level the playing field for their students?

This prompted a short firing of answers ranging from Game based learning, hands on PD, exploratory PD... with the words "meaningful, equity in access, engaging, fun" mentioned by several participants.

Then a question from earlier crept up again by question 5, asking how school boards could ensure that every student has equitable access to the highest quality tech experiences. I had asked earlier  A1. How do we sustain or support access to tech outside school hours? Someone retweeted my question, then I answered "Wouldn't it be helpful if tech co's could workout ways for Ss w/o tech access to be able to access tech out of school?" Then I answered both with "Tech centers like neighborhood rec centers?" To which the EdTechBridge responded: This is an excellent idea! Hacking the lack of tech access.

We got through question 8 with no answers for question 8. Afterwards, I was pumped and exhausted. My phone died five minutes later. What a ride.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Play Journal 1

Play Journal 1:
Initial observations for Dragonsoul:
Dragon Soul: Android driven rpg game. Fantasy based rpg game with quite a bit of built-in geek Easter egg like humor. (Captain's Tight Pants is a hero worn item - Reference to Joss Whedon's sci-fi show Firefly) 

The game is played by selecting a group of heroes to "liberate" other heroes' souls via soulstones from the big bad evil clutches of the the nasty dragon. Guild participation encouraged. Perform tasks, achieve goals, build a team or several teams of heroes to fight your way along the path.

Learning curve: very small. It was pretty easy to pick up, and I was able to answer questions in the forum and in game chat within a couple of days of game play. It is easy to play without viewing rules,  has a very short in game tutorial and really intuitive game play.

Social aspects: Guild membership - easy to join, one click and you are done. Had to wait for being level 20. List of guilds was daunting but overall, guilds are upfront about their purpose, their guild personality, and their overall memberships. I chose one from GB that has a motto of "everyone can join" which made it very open for my husband to join later. They did raise the membership basic level about a day after I joined to 25 due to the leader's level finally being able to do guild wars.

Guild: Interesting mix of people, mostly quiet on the guild boards. Out of the 50 people in the guild, 20 or so are regular helpers. The leader answers questions, but for the most part, this guild doesn't communicate very much.

Regular/global chat: very active, people mostly ignore the trolls and they don't get air time. Very friendly and helpful about setting up teams and answering questions.

Overall, this game is far more engaging than playing Civ6, especially the acceptance of many of the players I’ve interacted. As it is not real-time and you really do need to rely on cooperative play, it is far preferable than Civ6 for online play.

I am one of the few gamers that doesn't get a bit thrill from "winning" a game. For me it is the play, the story-building, the interactions with either online people or with the world I'm playing in. As shown by the games that tend to be my favs: Dragonage Inquisition, Fallout 4, The Sims...I don't play to win, I play to escape or to delve into a story. Not to disparage what I call "twitch" games, I like to occasionally play League of Legends, Starcraft, and Call of Duty, I just prefer the story aspect or the cooperative play aspects of certain styles of games. Dragonsoul really gives me that sense of co-op, the story is ok, could be more involved, but it is entertaining and I am able to really flow with the amount of competitiveness I want.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Affinity Space Culmination

For this aspect of the project, I decided to create the presentation via a tool I'm using for my Art Classes, Voki. There are some really funny things that come about while using this media; however, it is something that I love to use and the kids love to see. It is simple, and they can create their own avatars to interact with. Some of the dialogue may seem stilted, but for me and the students, this is part of the charm of the program; it reminds me of Max Headroom. I know, I'm dating myself again. This media type has some pretty cool quirks, not the least of which is the heads follow your mouse.

I hope you enjoy the presentation!

VTM the Aftermath - An RPG Affinity space presentation

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Affinity Space 2: Sometimes Virtual is better

After trying again to garner a meet up and braving meeting strangers and coordinating efforts in real life, as well as trying to get gamers to agree upon anything including food, I gave up on the face to face aspect and moved on to only the virtual world.

Four players plus myself have begun to weave a story, integrating their own research and history delvings with my own to create something living. Using Facebook, FB messenger, created websites, and Gmail has proven to be a good idea for getting characters and players separated and for trying to push something through in real-time.

Learning opportunities: I bit off more than I thought. I am used to creating stories on the fly, utilizing my abilities to weave new things together in the ether of speech, and counting on others to write things down they find necessary, useful, or interesting. Trying to push people and myself to write rather than speak has been very challenging. Speaking is so much quicker, visuals in real time so much more fluid. It has been difficult to maintain a cohesive story when everyone is not able to respond at the same time. We'll work on that.

Illness has taken a toll too, as has the invasion of RL into my academic and gaming pursuits. Balancing is the key this time around.

Once everyone got their FB and email accounts for their characters up and running, it was necessary to try to push the story along. Harder again since the people are not on at the same time. Some were more involved than others. Also, much turned out to be much more sporadic than I was hoping for in the beginning. Ah well, c'est la vie.

The big take away here is 1) time management and 2) keeping the players involved/interested.

I have learned that distance can really influence your ability to be in touch if people are not really dedicated to what they are taking part in.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Affinity space 1 - An exercise in distance and frustration

Affinity:  n. 1. a spontaneous or natural liking or sympathy for someone or something.

Not how I would describe my first Affinity space meeting/get together. I think I may have underestimated RPGer's for this topic. Apologies for the late posting, I thought I already had posted this long ago and far away.

How did your participation in course activities this month contribute to your understanding of games (generally) and the relationship between games and learning?
This month was a time of trial and error and a few disappointments. The affinity space I started did not go as planned. The face to face was unfortunately a fairly typical RPG experience with a niche/non DND game experience. My love of horror games and vampire genres comes under the heading of fringe for some people and those fringe people do not always (rarely) play well with others not of their own personality/degree of dedication type. At the face to face, everything went well until a certain prospective member showed up. I am pretty non-confrontational and easy going when it comes to gaming, preferring to let the potential story unfold and to give basic parameters for players to operate within. After no more than five minutes of others' introductions, this player spent the next 12 minutes expounding on his own gaming virtues and whom he'd gamed with in the past that were veritable celebrities in this gaming genre. For those not savvy with Vampire: the Masquerade, this would be the equivalent of saying you worked with Spielberg or Cameron before they were famous. We call this gamer archetype #1. "I gamed with Gygax's brother's ex-girlfriend" type gamer. It is a gaming nightmare that is all too common and tends to discourage new players from wanting to play. On top of that, this player wanted to rewrite the story listed on the group's page into something completely different and of his own choosing. Bad form if you are not the GM/storyteller. What I learned from this was to be even more specific about LARPers and the desire to not have any and to advocate more for those that are too shy to speak up. Even good coffee wasn't enough. I'm just glad it was held in a neutral place.

What preconceptions about games, play, and learning have you changed because of your course activities so far? I am usually under the impression that when looking at new RPG people in person that they are trying to be on their best behavior. This is not always the case and I need to be more prepared for these situations. As far as learning and play, I rekindled my love of the story, learning about players, and incorporating their ideas into the experience and restored my love of character background research and choices pre-game time.

How have you relied upon networks – with peers, via social media – to advance your learning in our course? This month, I researched new ideas based on a digital version of the game I am trying to promote/participate in via the affinity space. But I am starting to remember why I only played this game with people I knew or those that friends had already vetted. 

What are your ongoing curiosities about games and learning, and how might you pursue these interests? I am still curious how others begin new groups and try to maintain meaningful discourse about the game and inspirations without it devolving into a one-up match. How do I emphasize trying something new and really pulling your own driven character research within the parameters of the story you are given into being a consistent thing? Still trying to drive this more effectively with strangers.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

RPG's and Academic Performance - or My hours spent playing Traveller are vindicated!

Making Learning Fun...putting the Fun back into learning through the use of RPGs.

The premise of this article is that Role Playing Games (RPGs) such as D&D have been around since the mid-70s but they have not had many studies nor been used in such functions as ESL.   This article is about one such study wherein Caribbean Spanish-speakers utilize RPGs in order to facilitate the learning of a foreign language, specifically English.  The author states clearly in the Hypotheses and Study Questions section, (pg 6)

The main hypothesis of this study is that student exposure to tabletop role playing games results in a higher academic performance in part of the students.

The data collection and method of analysis is obtained through standard scientific method.  With that in mind the author uses data from two groups of 5 students each whom are exposed to traditional curriculum in English 101.  The control group has a period of SSR (Sustained Silent Reading) to bolster the curricula.  The experimental group utilizes the same time-period in the form of an RPG.  The final test is a question from each of those two periods.  The control group is asked questions regarding their reading, whereas the RPG group is asked quesitons regarding their RPG.  The formula utilized is basically a percentage delta between a base amount of knowledge gained, quantified through the use of test results, and the base knowledge.  The study takes a test at the beginning of the study for the base, then at the end of the stimulus educational modality utilized.  Finally the two are compared to determine which has a greater delta:  traditional study or RPG study.

The data found shows an increase from RPG studying vs traditional study.  The testing shows a greater delta between the two favoring RPG studying.  This is supported by the increased interactivity and enjoyment factor in RPG studying.  The testing shows an average increase delta approximately twice that of the traditional curricula group.  Another interesting data point is the RPG group started with a base knowledge below the traditional group, however finished with a delta far greater.

I have one major concern and that is the small number of the studies.  I understand that 5 is a better group to manage, and there could have been other factors, but that amount is relatively low and I would like to see a larger study performed as a follow up.

The result should come as little surprise to anyone that has studied gamification.  We could talk about neural pathways and pleasure centers and reward theory, but it is a fairly well-accepted norm that most people learn better when they are enjoying the material, or even just enjoying themselves.  Therefore utilizing RPGs as another tool in the educators tool-box is supported in this article.  There is another element of note - RPGs are merely a codification of existing games that virtually all children, cross-culturally, participate.  Again, we can talk about modelling and other such activities, the benefits and the need for them as a learning tool, but it’s important to note that these “games,” classic “let’s pretend” type games have been in use far longer than RPGs, standard curricula or really most of our society’s history.  Utilizing a tool that closely mimics an existing social modality is just efficient use of societal norms.
Scholarly Critique #5

You mean my gaming books aren't just for fun?

Role-playing Games Used as Educational and Therapeutic Tools for Youth and Adults by W.A. Hawkes-Robinson

The premise of the article regards the therapeutic and psychological benefits of Role Playing Games (RPGs.) The author takes some time in describing the nature and methods involved in RPGs as well as a few examples. The overall thesis is that RPGs are a vastly overlooked and highly beneficial therapeutic and educational tool. It is of note that Role Playing exercises are also mentioned and discussed; however, the author wishes to delineate, or at least expand the class of RP exercises to include RPGs.

The data collection was from both anecdotal evidence, the nature of which is likely first, second and third hand accounts, as well as information gathered from psychological journals and experts. One such expert points out the benefits of RP and by extension the additional benefits of RPGs in that it is not just a therapeutic tool, but also has a level of enjoyment. Further, even though there is universal scorn for those that engage in RPGs, it is rightly pointed out the nature of these activities is inherently social. There is a diagram presented by the author that points to RPGs being not only social and recreational, but educational and therapeutic as well.

The methods of analysis is in utilizing the studies and the anecdotal evidence to draw certain conclusions. The author does a good job of bringing in scientific evidence to support the various premises. As with any scientific paper, it is vitally important to follow rigorous methodology and I believe the author has adhered to this modality. Further, as previously stated, the author invokes some more casual references, however I believe they are frequent enough in our common cultural consciousness, that the elements are fair to bring up. It is important to note the comments point out not only the positive elements, previously discussed, but the negative elements, for example obsessive behavior in relation to RPGs.

The data is laid out in logical sequence, from bringing up the well-known common negative understandings of the society to RPGs, to the positive benefits of the activity. The author follows a standard point, counterpoint methodology throughout. Bringing up something negative, then defeating the argument using studies and evidence is used. Another interesting element is the educational element brought forth in the socializing and use of language. The easy summary is that RPGs are grossly underutilized due to the aforementioned negative implications, the negative stigma and any number of other well-known negative connotations bestowed on RPGs and their participants. This is followed up by positive effects and the studies which support these positive effects. In the end the positive is easily portrayed as outweighing the negative stigma.

I found it interesting the author spent as much time on the negative as they did. I understand this is likely a subject that is personal to the author, and I further understand the need to bring up the most commonly accepted social stigmas around RPGs. However, I feel the author dwelt a bit too long on repeatedly pointing these out. That said, with the advent of video game’s popularity and social acceptance, as well as such activities as fantasy football and other sports-related strategy games, RPGs should be able to easily take a similar place of acceptance in our society. Already we are seeing therapies that include VR and other tech-related endeavors which heretofore would have been entirely considered too “techy, nerdy, or geeky.” Add to this the natural tendency toward gamification we have seen over the last ten years and these are all tools which the therapeutic and educational associations should strongly consider employing.

To put a fine point on it, let’s dispel some of the stigma. The author points out sessions of 6-8 hours for RPGs. I would challenge anyone that feels RPGs are not similar to other, more socially-acceptable games, to analyze in an anthropological modality the vast similarities between this activity and say, a double header wherein the participants root for their team, keep track of scores and statistics and interact the entire time. There is a popular meme that states fantasy football is D&D for sports fans. I believe this article helps support that statement. More importantly, the article points to a more recent trend in education, wherein rpgs are being used to enhance curriculum, provide more cooperative and social opportunities for learning, and hit that ever-present but elusive ideas about critical thinking and 21st century skills for students. I know I am always hitting the internet, books, and other devices to research background on a new character. History, science, reading, math, art, even music (yes, some of my characters have set-lists, quit laughing)...they all get plumbed thoroughly to create this new character. 

Scholarly Critique #4