Pac Man Fever (4:36 E.R.T)

I have been playing video games since the 1980’s, and have been researching and using video games in my teaching since 2007.  As an undergrad in 1992 I played a lot of Civilization (Civ 6 comes out next month) and I always thought, you can learn a lot about history from this game.  So when I first read an article by Kurt Squire in 2006 in Ed Researcher partially about using Civilization in education, I thought I’m going to use Civilization as part of the curriculum in my history class.  And I was able to go to the GLS conference in Madison (a conference started by Kurt and similarly minded faculty) many times, making some good friends, and always hearing some great presentations and conversations.  So I always like reading about other places, especially community colleges which are not only using games, but increasingly using games because they work as a way to teach.  I love this quote from one of the faculty

“It’s amazing what happens when you play games with students, especially if they are scared of math,” Offenholley adds. “All of a sudden their brains get freed up to actually be able to think where they could not think before because they were stuck in old ways of looking at math.”

There is a longer history of learning from play than there is of learning from books (see Huizinga).  Think about how children learn about things before they learn to read, through play.  Go back a few thousand years, everyone learned through play, and apprenticeship.  So tapping into that can be powerful.  I’m also interested in the LMS they’ve developed, next time we’re looking for an LMS it could be worth a demo.  And it seems they’ve had three years of a conference on gaming which is growing each year, though there is nothing about 2017 yet.  It could be good to watch out for.  GLS is taking a major loss this year with UW Madison losing Kurt Squire and Constance Steinkuehler who are heading to brighter pastures in California at UC Irvine.

The next piece talks about micro-credentialing.  So do I think its a good idea?  or cool?  Sure.  Do I really think it will stick, sadly no.  So here’s the scenario, someone wants to get a job, they take some free classes online through udacity or coursera, perhaps pay the fee to get a certificate of completion for each class, and poof they get a job.  Or you take a few classes from lots of different places, you get some badges of completion and again, poof you get a job.  So by circumventing traditional educational outlets people are able to spend less money to get a high paying job.  It sounds alluring. But in order for this to take off there would need to be an industry standard, and some way of making sure that  if you have this badge or that certificate you do indeed have these skills.  There currently is a, imperfect perhaps, system for this with grades, transcripts, and diplomas.  When the industry can replicate the credentialing done by institutes of higher education and do so at a higher rate of success and income, then higher education will be shaking in its oots.  But as we see more short term programs at lower costs which guarantee high paying jobs, or programs that offer refunds for students who don’t get a job, institutes of higher education should begin to become very wary of the status quo.

C+C Music Factory had a song with a line, things that make you go hmmm, well this  essay might make you think that as you contemplate infinity.  The author suggests that contemplating infinity can have a profound effect on mathematical understanding.  So perhaps that part will be interesting for math instructors.  I do agree with the constructivist examples of having someone “experience” infinity.  Each of those pieces of knowledge and information are the bricks which help us understand and interact with our worlds, and help us think about how to reach our students.

The last piece I want to talk about is about helping first generation and minority students.  I have a colleague who teaches the first year experience courses on campus, and I really enjoy talking with him about his classes.  He constantly thinks about how to help his students succeed.  One of the examples I really like is that he has a newsletter available for the people in the student’s lives, parents, guardians, or bosses.  It has simple things in it like, midterms will be in three weeks if you have a job ask for a few less hours on the upcoming schedule or perhaps your family could go light on a few things around the house to allow you to study.  It may not seem earth-shattering, but they are little things which can really help the students succeed.  These are things which a first generation college student may not know.  This piece has some similar, less than earth-shattering yet very important advice, let students hear stories from students like them.  Whether it is a parent of young children, someone working two jobs, or a tradition aged student who is the first in his or her family to go to school, let them hear stories from those who have come before and made it.


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