Consider what might be termed the quiet desperation syndrome, a disease that attacks the nervous systems of doctoral students. Students who are afflicted begin with a method, "I want to do a qualitative study," "I want to do a MANOVA," and then cast about for a question.
openlearn is a massive effort from the UK open university to make their
course materials free and open on the web. You can also remix and
upload your versions. See the openlearn talk @ the London Knowledge Lab.
When we were in highschool we had a very small courtyard in which to vent our excess energies. So we used to invite all kinds of games which would involve moving relatively slowly at significant effort. Mainly variants of tag. That was until we discovered smoking, and took up rolling as a sport.
My son's school is dominated by the 'wizard's game' that one kid invented. All the boys are into it. They spend their days casting elaborate spells at each other in 1:1 wizard combat. The beauty of it is that it allows them to play-fight with articulate physical gestures but without actually touching each other. Sort of like Capoeira..
There's also the gamemaster, who is the kid that invented the game, and he has tyrannic power: he is the sole judge of all challenges, and the assigner of grades and honours. This is an interesting social exercise, because he can use the power he gains by designing a game to manipulate his status, e.g. by rewarding his friends unfair advantages. However, he can only stretch it so far. After all, as one of my son's friends said, "he doesn't have a copyright on it. we can always start our own game".
Which brigs me to the inherent open-source nature of physical games. No wonder our consumerized, corporatized culture doesn't promote them: you can't make big money off something you can't control. Or maybe not, maybe there's a world of games2.0 around the corner?
When the school tightened its network security, a 10th grader not only
found a way around it but also posted step-by-step instructions on the
Web for others to follow (which they did).
Wow. Talk about problem solving. Collaborative learning. These kids are obviously learning something. Well, the school, and the reporter, where not that impressed
Yet school officials here and in several other places said laptops had
been abused by students, did not fit into lesson plans, and showed
little, if any, measurable effect on grades and test scores at a time
of increased pressure to meet state standards.
That is surprising, given the reports from Maine
Attendance is up. Detentions are down. Just six months after Maine
began a controversial program to provide laptop computers to every
seventh grader in the state, educators are impressed by how quickly
students and teachers have adapted to laptop technology."
The answer is at the end of the article. A teacher is quoted:
“Let’s face it, math is
for the most part still a paper-and-pencil activity when you’re
learning it,” she said.
In the early 19C schools in America and Europe introduced slates and number frames as means for maths instruction. Until then, the standard method was - a teacher reading out of a text book, and students chanting after. Exams were oral, and students were expected to recite textbook proofs down to variable names. I can see the Winnie Hu of the day quoting a teacher:
"Let's face it, learning maths is still for the most part repeating after the teacher. A slate just gets in the way."
Siobhan Thomas has recently asked the londongamesresearch group for people's definition-in-use of games. Being too lazy, vain and arrogant to do a serious search of the literature, I will make up my own definition and post it on my blog:
An activity is a game to the extent it emulates life with controlled risk.
And just to pre-empt the inevitable post-Wittgensteinien argument, this isn't the definition of game. This isn't even a definition of game. It's my definition of game, a language game that I'm playing with you.
Mattias Ljungström* has a very interesting (and pretty) paper using Alexander's design patterns to analyse world of warcraft. Reading it raises questions about the relationship between aesthetic and functional, and between real and virtual. For example:
Furthermore, the top of the bank in Orgrimmar is related to pattern 94.
Sleeping in Public. This pattern argues that it is “a mark of success
in a park, public lobby or a porch, when people can come there and fall
asleep” (Alexander et al. 1977, 458). Players in the game tend to
place their avatars in certain places when they know they will be away
from keyboard for a while and the top of the bank is one of these places.
According to the guidelines in the pattern these places should be made
“relatively sheltered, protected from circulation, perhaps up a
step, with seats and grass to slump down upon” (Alexander et al.
1977, 459). Some of these aspects are definitely missing, and could probably
further enhance the game world if they were implemented.
Now, in a real world, a chilli breeze will make a place uncomfortable for sleeping. Hence our choice of where to relax will be influenced by shelter etc. It may be that such considerations are sub-consciously translated to our sense of aesthetics. But will this sense be carried over to a virtual world, where we feel no cold?
People sometimes solve problems with a unique process called insight,
accompanied by an “Aha!” experience. It has long been unclear whether
different cognitive and neural processes lead to insight versus
noninsight solutions, or if solutions differ only in subsequent
subjective feeling. [...] Functional magnetic resonance imaging (Experiment 1)
revealed increased activity in the right hemisphere anterior superior
temporal gyrus for insight relative to noninsight solutions. The same
region was active during initial solving efforts. Scalp
electroencephalogram recordings (Experiment 2)
revealed a sudden burst of high-frequency (gamma-band) neural activity
in the same area beginning 0.3 s prior to insight solutions. This right
anterior temporal area is associated with making connections across
distantly related information during comprehension. Although all
problem solving relies on a largely shared cortical network, the sudden
flash of insight occurs when solvers engage distinct neural and
cognitive processes that allow them to see connections that previously
First, I love their way of defining insight. Second, I'm amazed by the way they measure the moment to an accuracy of 0.3 seconds. But the best is how they show that insight is related to finding lateral connection - using a lateral connection problem set!
One of the hot issues that came up during the Vision document discussions (also here) was the idea of Open Research.
It's FP7 season, and time to put our money where our mouth is (sorry for the Americanism).
I'm sure many people in the network are working on proposals. Why not have an open process for this?
Now, you may think this is crazy, after all - we're in competition. But I say - think again. I remember back in the days of the Web1.0 gold rush, I had an idea and wanted to talk to some venture capitalist about it. I asked him to sign a non-disclosure argeement. He said "If the only thing you have going for you is that no one knows what you're thinking about, then don't bother. Either someone else is thinking the same, or they'll copy and better you the first time you expose it"
Here's a theory: the product of an open process can never be of a lesser quality than the product of a similar closed process. So if we open up, share our ideas, we can:
- learn from each other.
- form new teams.
- focus on our relative advantages.
As for myself, I'm party to two efforts. Since I'm not leading either, I can't say too much without my partners' consent. But I can say that one follows up on weblabs and playground, the other follows up on the learning patterns project .