Learning to Code? Check Out These Awesome Treehouse Features!

Treehouse Home

Learning programming skills has become commonplace and, in many cases, necessary for certain jobs.  Responding to this demand, efforts to teach a beginner to code have been popping up in different forms all over the world.  From free online tutorials to expensive boot camps cost up to $20,000, there are a myriad of options to choose from. One of the most popular such endeavors is a website called Team Treehouse that offers high-quality tutorials and workspaces for an affordable price (starting from $25/month).  If rave reviews about Treehouse’s Front-End Web Development track and teaching style aren’t enough, you can even try the platform for free for 2 weeks before deciding whether it is the right place to invest your $25. Considering the average web developer in the United States makes $81,670 and the industry is predicted to grow by at least 20% in the coming years, the investment is probably more than worth it. If you aren’t convinced yet to give Treehouse a try, check out these awesome features:

Tracks

There are 8 available tracks on Treehouse: Web Design, Front-End Web Development, Rails Development, iOS Development, Android Development, PHP Development, WordPress Development, and Starting a Business.  Each track teaches units of information including languages (like HTML5, CSS, JavaScript, Ajax, Ruby, etc.) and allows you to work through examples as you watch the tutorials.Treehouse Tracks           Treehouse Co-Founder Ryan Carson’s favorite feature within the Tracks is the Scheduler.

“Once you pick a Track, you can choose how long you’d like to take to complete the Track. We then calculate how much time you should spend on Treehouse every day and then help keep you on schedule”

 

WorkspacesTreehouse Workspaces

As you follow along with the videos, you can also code along in a workspaces window that allows you to preview your work at any time.  There is no downloading or desktop work necessary.

Forever Expanding Library

One of the best things about Treehouse is their ever-expanding library of tutorials.  Even if you get through all of the tracks, there is always new content being added to its library that you can use to improve your development skills whether you are a novice or expert. Just in the past few weeks, they have come out with several new tutorials, from Git Workshops to Android Animations.  Its candyland for an autodidact!

Forums and the Gamification of Learning

Many online learning platforms employ the use of gamification as an incentive to continue to learn, and Treehouse is no exception.  Users earn points and badges that lead to reward videos that tell fun stories and are great mini-breaks before getting started on the next track. Another one of Ryan’s favorite features falls into this category:

“…getting your answer marked as “Best answer” in the Forum. You get extra points!”

The forums not only provide a space for students to interact as they learn and help solve each other’s issues, they also play into the gamification aspect of Treehouse to inspire users to remain active. Treehouse GamificationSo after reading about all these great, ever-growing features, are you reading to become an awesome developer?  Sign up for your free trial here!

 

“With Treehouse and a little imagination, you can go anywhere…” – Author Unknown

Adventures in Gamification: An Interview with Tom Benjamin

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To finish our series Adventures in Gamification, we have a special surprise for you!  Dr. Tom Benjamin, who teaches the Gamification in Education course on OpenLearning,  has kindly agreed to participate in an interview with Accredible to discuss Gamification, MOOCs and his future plans.  This was especially exciting as a student of his course as he answered a few questions that I thought I had sorted out…read on to learn more about applying game theory to learning – and how he applied it to the course.

Who is Dr Tom Benjamin?

tom picture Tom Benjamin graduated from University of Michigan in Psychology, then did an MBA at Michigan State. He played water polo for MSU and Sydney U while in graduate school. He moved to Australia where he worked as a psychologist and researcher. He has taught & researched at a tertiary level across a number of disciplines including economics, IT, and demography.

Music is intrinsic to development of his game research.  His Detroit music career could be best described as a frat party and wedding singer. Although he went on to academia, some of his former rock band members continued on in the entertainment sector.“We were the first generation of kids with access to electronic gear. With our paper route money we bought stereo recorders and the same mics and amps as the Beatles!,” recalls Tom.

Karaoke, campfire singing, and blues jamming have many properties of gamification. Our local Rising Star karaoke was #1 in Australia and they allowed me to test out my multi-tracks with a live audience. Often someone would hear one of my public domain songs and ask if it was “an 80′s song”. I nodded without telling them that it was actually 1880′s!”

Participants in Gamification in Education should recognize in karaoke the gamified elements of competition and unpredictability add to that the capability to change the pitch of the song to fit a comfortable key is a huge leveller. Tom explains, “You could sing anything from bass to soprano with a push of the button. And you get intermittent reinforcement as with a 10,000 song list you’re bound to kiss a few frogs before finding the songs that fit you like a glass slipper.”

On MOOCs

The true value of MOOCs can be found in the knowledge we gained, the pure learning. Where that knowledge comes from is far less important.  At one time, it was believed that radio and TV in the classroom would be the disruptive innovation, but it turned out that those devices had a much larger impact at home, where students could be exposed to the same news and information as their parents – and often ahead of when they covered it in school.

Documentaries and lectures on TV (or pod-casts) are valid methods of distributing information and gaining knowledge.  Information from experts are delivered to you in a one way dialogue, giving you the opportunity to absorb the content.  Discussions are not always required with the educator in subjects like science or history (how frequently will you want to argue a fact?) and the lectures are every bit as informative as a live lecture. ytv

Advancements in technology have made it possible (and cost efficient) to share this information to more people.  What once would take many years and much funding to produce can now be done with a pod-cast microphone and a netbook. “The information element has already been disrupted.  I couldn’t even dream of offering these courses without the massive heavy lifting subsidy from OpenLearning and YouTube.  We can put up post-grad quality material limited now only by our time investment. What won’t be disrupted will be the administrative and social elements of tertiary education,” says Tom.

“Disruptive Innovation is among the most misquoted terms at the moment.  The classical example was the motorcar which took a while to outperform the horse cart then improved exponentially, eventually making the horse obsolete.” ~ Tom Benjamin

Distance education once meant sending reams of paper material back and forth between student and the education facility.  At the University of NSW, home of one of the largest distance ed courses in Australia, Tom Benjamin introduced the use of digital technology – first by CD ROM, then the Web.  “There was initial resistance but it soon took over as the dominant format,” reminisces Dr. Benjamin. “I found OpenLearning which emanated from my University of NSW alma mater, contacted them, and they were very helpful in setting up my free MOOCs. I’m particularly grateful given that my current course have no revenue I can pass on to them.”

On Gamification

While working as a psychologist in the acute neurological and psychiatric wards in the hospitals, Dr Benjamin saw that patients had the same needs for exercise and recreation as before their accidents, but that it became more difficult due to their paralysis or disability.  Additionally, there was an embarrassment and frustration for the patient when being waited on hand and foot and having to thank a therapist for helping with simple tasks they could once do for themselves.  In this he saw the potential for computer game-based interactive tools.  “Most people welcome a chance to do something on their own and have a machine they can control, interact with, and yell at.  So we developed some physical games like the hanging ball, described in my course,” Tom explains.

Math_games_-_Big_Brother_Mouse_activity_day“Games in classrooms and rehabilitation centres had been traditional. However, the psychometric properties of games were somewhat new at the time and they remain controversial. How would parents feel if Johnny failed on a ‘game’ version of a test and didn’t get into med school? Duck and cover.My early research in hospitals sought to bridge the psychometrics between ‘task’ and ‘game’. Were there principles by which any tasks could be transformed into games? Could drills be gamified so that patients would find them more fun? Could games, despite their chance element, replace psychometric and academic tests?”

Games are a traditional teaching and learning tool. Direct instruction is the proven superior way of presenting information, there are only so many hours in a day and in a human concentration span, so games have long been a welcome alternative to drill and listening.

In the “Gamification in Education” course, we learned that games don’t have to be technology based to be effective.  They need to capture a person’s attention, draw them into a believable “world” or “story”, and challenge them into being and understanding more than they normally would. Gamification_techniques_5

“We knew for centuries that a lot of learning takes place out of school. And the success of commercial games speaks for itself. Little kids would not likely spend hours reading off quiz questions to each other at home or doing mortgage & probability calculations. But toss in some rules and dice and call it Trivial Pursuit or Monopoly and they’ll spend hours. So this is nothing new,” reminds Dr Benjamin.

 

 

“My personal advice is not to feel guilty and not to get sucked into the black holes of multimedia and the latest techno-bandwagon fads. You can spend countless hours downloading and installing software, let alone learning it. I do. And teachers often end up doing this unpaid (and unthanked) at home. So I’ve always recommended setting up a multimedia club or lab rather than trying to do all this admin yourself.” ~ Tom Benjamin

Flashcards, hangman and spelling bees all have a purpose – to develop the mind, just the same as tech based games.  Including gamification elements such as unpredictability and competition will help make the learning fun and memorable.  Tom Benjamin states, “I still treasure my dictionary I won in the class Spelling Bee at Washington Elementary school!”

His advice for teachers who are looking to use games in the classroom, “My personal advice is not to feel guilty and not to get sucked into the black holes of multimedia and the latest techno-bandwagon fads. You can spend countless hours downloading and installing software, let alone learning it. I do. And teachers often end up doing this unpaid (and unthanked) at home. So I’ve always recommended setting up a multimedia club or lab rather than trying to do all this admin yourself.”

On the Gamification in Education MOOC

As a student of Gamification in Education, I found that the course whet my appetite for more information.  I researched, read, watched videos, listened to additional pod-casts, anything I could to gain a fuller understanding and to be able to better answer the quiz questions. Imagine the surprise I felt when Dr. Benjamin further explained his views on the course… neuropsychology

“Gamification enrolments have far outstripped my psychology courses. This surprised me because of the interest in what people think forensic psychology is all about from their TV shows. And neuropsychotherapy is another buzz area.”

 

 

gamification

In his course on Gamification, Dr. Benjamin used many elements of gamification – he created a quest of knowledge and understanding that motivated the learner, he used text, pod-casts, quizzes and movies to capture our attention.

“A short movie with a text version can pack in a lot because the viewer can save, rewind, and replay or just read the text the old-fashioned way. And with the OpenLearning platform the real work will be your own research to answer the quiz questions. So the heart of education remains as always: reverse-engineering from what I hope you’ll learn back to what I have to deliver to help you do that.”

What’s Next for Tom Benjamin?

“I want to expand the MOOC offerings so they are better integrated. My next series will be Personal Branding. It will expand on the multimedia resources I’ve started to put together under the Neuropsychotherapy course, which is aimed at therapists. Branding is useful to job seekers,businesses, community groups with a ‘cause’, and anyone wanting a web presence.”

Dr. Benjamin has started a new venture known as the Multimedia Institute of Technology to continue offering free courses, but he is open to developing commercial courses as well.  “My courses will focus on skills that will be useful for those already in employment such as teachers and therapists. Job seekers and businesses may well find these skills a good investment when building their portfolios.”

Interested in learning more about Dr. Benjamin and his future plans?  You can follow him on his blog or on Twitter, Google+ or LinkedIn.  For the full interview, click here.

Thank you to Dr. Tom Benjamin for taking the time to speak with us at Accredible.  Also, thank you for joining us for this series.  We hope you’ve enjoyed your own Adventures In Gamification! If you’ve not yet had a chance to take Gamification in Education by Dr. Tom Benjamin via OpenLearning, there is good news – you can join in at any time!  Add it to your To Learn list today!  

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The Complete Interview: Dr. Tom Benjamin

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To finish our series Adventures in Gamification, we had a special surprise for you - Dr. Tom Benjamin, who teaches the Gamification in Education course on OpenLearning,  had kindly agreed to participate in an interview with Accredible to discuss Gamification, MOOCs and his future plans.  By the time we were finished, we had so much great material that it was hard to pick and choose what to share! As a student of his course, I was fascinated by his answers.  I couldn’t put down the notes as they were sent back and forth!  As a writer, I had so much good information, I hardly knew where to begin!  After I finished the initial article, I felt compelled to share the entire interview with you.  Without further ado, here it is.

Accredible (A):  Thank you for taking the time to chat with us today.  Could you tell us a bit about yourself – your education, any interests or  anything fun you might like to share?

Tom Benjamin (TB): I graduated from University of Michigan in Psychology then did an MBA at Michigan State. I was a late starter in sport, playing water polo for MSU and Sydney U while in grad school. I moved to Australia where I’ve worked as a psychologist and researcher. Although I did some casual school teaching in Detroit I’ve mainly taught & researched at tertiary level across a number of disciplines including economics, IT, and demography.

Music is intrinsic to development of my game research. My Detroit music career was best described as a frat party and wedding singer. Although I went on to academia some of our old rock band members continued on in the entertainment sector. This article explains our early experiences with multimedia.  We were the first generation of kids with access to electronic gear. With our paper route money we bought stereo recorders and the same mics and amps as the Beatles!

Karaoke, campfire singing, and blues jamming have many properties of gamification. Our local Rising Star karaoke was #1 in Australia and they allowed me to test out my multitracks with a live audience. Often someone would hear one of my public domain songs and ask if it was “an 80s song”. I nodded without telling them that it was actually 1880s.

My MOOC participants will recognize in karaoke gamified elements of competition and unpredictability. Capability to change pitch of the song to fit a comfortable key is a huge leveller. You could sing anything from bass to soprano with a push of the button. And you get intermittent reinforcement as with a 10,000 song list you’re bound to kiss a few frogs before finding the songs that fit you like a glass slipper.

An old college buddy from Detroit emailed me to ask about a guitar system I had developed years before. I literally dusted it off from the shed (where it resided on an ancient Mac). I sent it to a Professor of Music in a bundle of educational resources I was developing. He spotted the guitar system and, in his role as Editor, asked me to publish it via the Australian Music Association. Some months later it went up as the ‘Instant Play’ system.

The music education system embodies many of the principles that I’ve applied to gamification such as reduction of cognitive load, intermittent reinforcement, controlled unpredictability, and heavy use of multimedia. I’ll probably run some online courses around this system. It’s pretty revolutionary as you can not only be playing useful music in 10 minutes by ear with 1 finger, it’s that easy that you could be teaching the next guy a few minutes later.

So the courses have allowed me to tie all of these interests together.

A: What was it about Gamification that captured your attention? When? How did you first use gamification in an educational setting?

TB: I was working in the hospitals as a psychologist in acute neurological and psychiatric wards. These folks had the same needs for recreation and exercize as before their accidents but it was a bit more difficult now that they were paralyzed or otherwise disabled. So I could see the potential for computer game-based interactive tools. These had advantages over human therapists as they were infinitely patient and there was never an ego problem. It is embarrassing to be waited on hand and foot in a hospital and have to say ‘thanks’ all day for the simplest acts you can no longer do for yourself. Most people welcome a chance to do something on their own and have a machine they can control, interact with, and yell at. So we developed some physical games like the hanging ball, described in my course.

I kept up music interest as ‘music therapy’ while working in the hospitals and these influenced my subsequent gamification principles, particularly the OrffSchulwerk approach, with its restricted set of notes that eliminated discords, hence fear of failure.

The digital era gave my music a new lease on life with multitracking allowing me to do the whole studio gig from a coffee table. For example, this version was done over a lunch hour with digital piano and myself multitracking with a podcast mic the backing choir vocals and lead. Colorize an old B&W public domain movie and presto.  I show students how to do this sort of thing in my courses.

From my clinical psychology masters’ thesis I published papers on the psychometric properties of games. Several careers later our state education department appointed me as the Senior Researcher for the Centre for Learning Innovation. They asked me to explore applications of video games. My early finding was that the multimedia may have accounted for as much of the engagement as the actual game properties (chance, competition etc) so I put my music background to good use in exploring the capabilities of multimedia, which was only just becoming affordable. I bought a studio.

A: Is Gamification a new fad or a new twist on something that has long been used in the classroom?

TB: Games in classrooms and rehabilitation centres had been traditional. However, the psychometric properties of games were somewhat new at the time and they remain controversial. How would parents feel if Johnny failed on a ‘game’ version of a test and didn’t get into med school? Duck and cover.
My early research in hospitals sought to bridge the psychometrics between ‘task’ and ‘game’. Were there principles by which any tasks could be transformed into games? Could drills be gamified so that patients would find them more fun? Could games, despite their chance element, replace psychometric and academic tests?

A: Why do you think we pay so much attention to the concept of gamification today? People seem to be embracing this idea, like it is a saviour for the classroom – is it? Or is it just another tool that should be used when the situation calls for it?

TB: What has changed since Grandma’s day is the price/capacity of computers and multimedia. No one had predicted that we would be able to run our own international radio, movie, TV networks from a coffee table. So while the psychological principles of games remain the same as ever, the costs of delivery have changed. So even if games can’t equal direct instruction methods they have some logistical advantages.

A: Any advice for teachers wanting to use elements of gamification in their classroom?

TB: Most are probably using elements of gamification in their classroom already. I still treasure my dictionary I won in the class Spelling Bee at Washington Elementary School. The Bee had plenty of game elements of unpredictability and competition.

My personal advice is not to feel guilty and not to get sucked into the black holes of multimedia and the latest techno-bandwagon fads. You can spend countless hours downloading and installing software, let alone learning it. I do. And teachers often end up doing this unpaid (and unthanked) at home. So I’ve always recommended setting up a multimedia club or lab rather than trying to do all this admin yourself.
And there is no proof that the latest whiz-bang software enhances student learning. The grey thing between the students’ ears is what we’re developing. So if you prefer or find it easier to do that with old-fashioned paper flash cards from grandma’s day, rest easy until someone shows an actual controlled study that proves you’re missing out. And don’t hold your breath waiting.

My courses only claim to show you how to do things ‘quicker, simpler and cheaper’, not ‘better’.

A: How about for parents who want to use gamification as a method of incentives for their children?

TB: We knew for centuries that a lot of learning takes place out of school. And the success of commercial games speaks for itself. Little kids would not likely spend hours reading off quiz questions to each other at home or doing mortgage & probability calculations. But toss in some rules and dice and call it Trivial Pursuit or Monopoly and they’ll spend hours.

So this is nothing new. Games are a traditional teaching & learning tool. Although direct instruction is the proven superior way of presenting information, there are only so many hours in a day and in a human concentration span, so games have long been a welcome alternative to drill and listening. The big error by some game enthusiasts has been to extrapolate Pentagon-level war games down to primary schools. The market failure of edu-games ought to have been a warning against this.

A: Do you think gamification works in the workplace?

TB: Workplace training is partly about politics. Adults can easily be insulted by having to do inane ‘professional development’ or ‘protection certification’ courses. Dressing up an inane hated exercize with a game version is like putting spice on rotten meat. That was my point about ‘eating your own dog food’.
However, there is a long tradition of using simulations for risky or expensive learning such as pilot training or surgery. Unleashing trainees on these things in the real world can kill people. A plane crash can wreck a suburb.

To the extent that a flight or surgical simulation has interaction and unpredictability it could be termed a ‘game’.

A: What drew you to MOOCs?

TB: I worked at University of NSW in Sydney where we had one of the largest distance education courses in Australia. We sent reams of paper materials to our international students. I introduced the use of digital technology, including CD and Web. There was initial resistance but it soon took over as the dominant format.
Later, at the Department of Education’s Centre for Learning Innovation, I had a number of internal departmental channels to promote my innovations to our 50,000 state system teachers but they are very busy bees and it was quite hard to get take-up on resources.

So I turned to external public avenues. For example I presented at international conferences and did video and podcasts for the International Year of Astronomy, online games through the Tournament of Minds, the music system through the Australian Music Association, gamification via Classroom Aid, forensic psychology through the Australian Psychological Society, maths and spreadsheets through an international Excel guru …etc. indeed, just like we’re doing now through Accredible.

I found OpenLearning which emanated from my University of NSW alma mater, contacted them, and they were very helpful in setting up my free MOOCs. I’m particularly grateful given that my current courses have no revenue I can pass on to them. So maybe one day we’ll do some commercial courses.

A: What role do you think MOOCs play in education? Are they the disruptor of education as they have been labelled?

TB: Disruptive Innovation is among the most-misquoted terms at the moment. The classical example was the motorcar which took a while to outperform the horse cart then improved exponentially, eventually making the horse obsolete. The same was projected for the impact of radio and TV in the classroom but the impact was more at home, where kids were exposed to the same news and material as our parents, often far in advance of what we were learning in the classroom.

The casualization of the academic workforce and cost-cuts probably contributed to the initial over-the-top enthusiasm leading to the online education and MOOC bubble bursts.

One of the huge looming issues is the descent to the low denominator of free courses. Kids are growing up expecting free software and education. But it isn’t really a ‘free lunch’. Many app-developers hope to get paid consulting work so it’s more advertising than charity.

I’ve been happy and able to offer my courses for free only because the government had paid me over many decades to do research, so some of it was my paid duty and I avoided conflict of interest. However, part of the cost was borne by my family life. My wife didn’t always appreciate trying to get my attention through my ever-present headphones. And I suspect many app-developers are in a similar situation.

Other big remaining issues revolve around administration and certification more than content. For example, I often purchase a CD rom education series that is as informative as any live university lecture I ever attended (and I’ve been to decades of them). And I don’t need interactivity as I’m not likely to challenge these professors on topics like Viking History or Black Holes so don’t need student interaction. This is pure learning.
But all changes when I need a piece of paper. I’m forced to spend hours biting my tongue and muttering through some dreary tome to get the dreaded ‘professional development’ points I need for certification. Whether I learn anything is irrelevant. Sometimes I know the ‘information’ to be dead wrong. But I need that damned piece of paper.

Indeed, I don’t at the moment mark assignments on my own MOOCs. Participants can say anything they like, even if I fall on the floor laughing so hard I bite the chair at the answers. I rely on the social media element. Hopefully, they will see others’ answers and think again. For me to mark & grade assignments and by implication fail some students opens up a huge number of issues. There is no way I would attempt such with a free course. My own costs and indemnity would rise exponentially and I would have to charge fees just like any conventional institution.

So the short answer is that the information element has already been disrupted. I couldn’t even dream of offering these courses without the massive heavy lifting subsidy from OpenLearning and YouTube. We can put up post-grad quality material limited now only by our time investment.

What may not be disrupted will be the administrative and social elements of tertiary education. Primary and high school levels will be even less susceptible to disruption as students there actually need to learn skills to a Piagetian timetable so they don’t fall behind. And direct instruction was essential to me as a kid. I would still welcome it as an adult so I didn’t waste countless hours ‘discovery learning’ software with no manuals.
As an adult, If I forget who Harold Bluetooth the Viking was or why it matters that black holes rotate, who cares? But it could matter if I were an academic in those fields.

So the learning per se is no longer the issue. It is the context.

A: Or are MOOCs a method of regaining public interest in education, a sense of community with like -minded individuals, an opportunity to share ideas in a safe environment that many adults find missing in their workplace?

TB: Some years ago my wife and I put our collective interests up as an e-Chautauqua in recognition of the early 20th Century’s pioneering forms of adult education. We realized that we were covering many of the topics that used to draw people in their Ford Model-Ts to tents around the USA: astronomy, music, reform, philosophy. The MOOCs seem to be tapping much the same general public interests.

What I had been trying to do in the Education department was to show teachers that they could now make their own international e-chautauqua’s with ‘educational documentaries’. The money and time investment was reaching affordable levels. For example, they say that Ken Burns took longer to make his Civil War series than it took my great granddad to fight it (hence the flag puzzle in the movie in my Gamification course), but I was able to make a Ken Burns style Civil War documentary with a podcast mike and netbook  and many more. Each year it gets cheaper and easier.

These sorts of educational resources can be as you say “an opportunity to share ideas in a safe environment”. Safety requires removal of threat. Courses you can’t ‘fail’ are one way. Social media with identified people, rather than anonymous trolls, is another safety mechanism.

A: Do you plan on offering any additional MOOCs in the future? If so, can you share a little hint about the future classes?

TB: I want to expand the MOOC offerings so they are better integrated. My next series will be Personal Branding. It will expand on the multimedia resources I’ve started to put together under the Neuropsychotherapy course, which is aimed at therapists. Branding is useful to job seekers, businesses, community groups with a ‘cause’, and anyone wanting a web presence.

I’ve called the whole venture the Multimedia Institute of Technology. The bulk of it will be free courses. However, if there is demand, I’ll develop commercial versions. For starters, if people want contemporary examples of audio-visual content instead of the ancient public domain material I rely on at present I will have to shell out $thousands up-front. Add marking and the paperwork of accreditation and we’re soon in the same expense league as conventional institutions.

So I’m investigating liaison with software vendors so I can offer my little niche better value for money than traditional institutions. For example, there are many upmarket ‘industry-standard’ tertiary multimedia courses where you pay $thousands and they let you play with their 56-channel mixing desks, TV studios, and other ‘state of the art’ gear. But when you leave the course, do you get to take the gear with you? Or just a piece of paper and a head full of skills? What I hope to do is make sure you walk away from my commercial courses with tangible software and simple methods you can implement immediately with low time and money budget.
The music system will be embedded in the larger multi-media context but could take on a life of its own as there are many people on this planet who probably wish they could have learned guitar in 10 minutes with 1 finger and I think the system will work particularly well with community groups. It needs a critical mass of people to try it and put up some videos so the viewers can say “Hey, I could do that even better”. So I’ll eventually make it a separate OpenLearning course.

I want to avoid the certificated-course route to large extent. Certification introduces massive overhead expenses and nightmares of how to accredit someone from another country. And I don’t want to teach ‘industry-standard’ software courses as there are plenty of these already and the gear costs a fortune. You don’t get ‘academic price’ on software when you step out into the real world. So I will focus on the prosumer level rather than industry level gear.

My courses will focus on skills that will be useful for those already in employment such as teachers and therapists. Job seekers and businesses may well find these skills a good investment when building their portfolios.

A: What was your biggest takeaway from offering Gamification in Education? Were you surprised by the interest and/or participation in your class? Why/why not?

TB: Gamification enrolments have far outstripped my psychology courses. This surprised me because of the interest in what people think forensic psychology is all about from their TV shows. And neuropsychotherapy is another buzz area. On the other hand, I purposely made the Forensic Psychology course comprehensive and long, even to the point of expecting high drop-out. I intended that as one message is that a lot of what passes as science in the courtrooms is highly questionable. So if people aren’t prepared to put in the hard yards it will remain that way.

On the other hand I realize that I have to fit the attention spans of online viewing. Hence one of my next instalments is going to be “Neuropsychology in 10 Minutes” as PD for our state branch of the College of Forensic Psychologists. Again, there is a political message – you don’t even get 10 minutes in the expert witness box to explain neuropsychology, more like a few seconds before you’re savaged by a rabid barrister trying to discredit you. So you need some quick answers rather than mumbled neuro-jargon.

Another message of this movie will be that you don’t need a Hollywood studio to produce a useful documentary, even on a complex controversial subject like neuroscience. A lot of such TV documentaries are padding, with flutes playing and talking heads waving their hands on long walks in the fields. Their credit rolls take longer than my entire movies! A short movie with a text version can pack in a lot because the viewer can save, re-wind, and re-play or just read the text the old-fashioned way. And with the OpenLearning platform the real work will be your own research to answer the quiz questions.

So the heart of education remains as always: reverse-engineering from what I hope you’ll learn back to what I have to deliver to help you do that.

If you are interested in the works of Dr. Tom Benjamin, check out these links below:

Thank you to Dr. Tom Benjamin for taking the time to speak with us at Accredible.  Also, thank you for joining us for this series.  We hope you’ve enjoyed your own Adventures In Gamification! If you’ve not yet had a chance to take Gamification in Education by Dr. Tom Benjamin via OpenLearning, there is good news – you can join in at any time!  Add it to your To Learn list today!  

Adventures in Gamification: Wrapping it up!

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Welcome back!!

Well, we’ve worked through the six modules that make up Gamification in Education.  We’ve learned a lot and had fun – but now comes the big question…how do we SHOW and TELL anyone what we’ve learned? By creating an e-portfolio to display your incredible learning!  During a previous course, I learned and blogged about e-portfolios as I searched to find one that best fit me – which is how I found Accredible…learn more about that here!

Gathering Your Game Pieces (This is Always the Trickiest Part)…

Using your Accredible Learning Profile is a great way to showcase your work and that is what I’ve done for this (and many other classes)!  Before you can begin, you need to make life a little easier for yourself by following these basic steps:

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Step 1 -Did you use the blogging tool on OpenLearning?  It made it easy to take notes while watching the videos!  If you used that function, download your blogs now! (Or screen capture, or print as a PDF…there are ways to do it, regardless of technical ability and know how!)

Step 2 – Did you handwrite your notes?  Then start scanning!!  Showing that you did more than just watch the videos is important!  Even if your handwriting is slightly (or in my case – very!!) illegible, scan it into a document.

 

Gamification - pic 1 - group forumStep 3 – Did you participate in the forums?  Time to take a selfie – of your comment that is!  Try to get your comment without capturing the name and image of your classmate…if they haven’t given you permission to use their image, you should avoid it as much as possible!

 

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Step 4 – Did you share your learning in a personal blog? Perhaps sharing information, posing questions, solving said questions, producing gamelets for your readers?  If so, gather the links to share in your portfolio! (Also, please share in the comments below – I would love to read your experiences too!).

 

 

Step 5 – Did you answer any of the “homework” questions in a document or on paper (not the quizzes!!)?  You can add that too!

Step 6 – Did you try any of the lessons out on your friends and family?  Did you make any notes on their responses?  Put those together too!  This will allow you to show active demonstration of your learning!

Every single gamelet that was posted on each of the 6 weeks of Adventures in Gamification was tested by my kids (ages 7 & 9).  Every classroom game that was considered was practised first on them and (perhaps) also on my (ever so patient) flatmate who may never admit to playing hangman or reviewing history facts!  No one escaped testing out the ideas – my husband, my Mom, even my Nan (who had been a teacher).  We would try, discuss, debate, try again, etc, until we were (or at least I was) convinced that the idea could work in a classroom setting.  We all learned a lot about the Statue of Liberty for week 5!

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Step 7 – If you took the course with a friend, did you by any chance record the conversations?  If you did a Google Hangout on Air, you could share the link to your video!

As an FYI – these can be a lot of fun to do – but as a lesson learned the hard way…test the set up before you record your entire broadcast.  Yep, I did one, we didn’t check and the entire hangout is of little ol’ me…it should have gone back and forth depending on who was speaking…Live and learn!  And now, I am sharing that lesson with you (but…not the video!!)

 

Basically, anything you’ve done to help study the material should be included.  With one MAJOR exception!  Please, do not upload your quiz answers!  Feel free to share images of your scores but not the questions and answers!  This is for 2 major reasons – one, it violates the terms of agreement for the course and two, you would be making work for Prof. Benjamin if he had to create new quizzes every time someone shared their quiz!

One last piece of advice when gathering your “game pieces” – don’t forget about the “mistakes”.  First, there is no such thing as a “mistake”, just an opportunity to learn even more the second time.  Second, if you can show a “mistake” AND how you learned from it, how you changed your thought process, and how you resolved it, then you’ve shown perseverance, motivation, and a truer understanding of the material.

“I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” ~ Michael Jordan

 …Setting up the Game Board…

Once you’ve gathered all of your work, you will want to upload it to an e-portfolio.  What I like best about Accredible is that it is easy to upload my work and to sort into folders.  There are 3 to get you started – “Course Materials”, “Notes” and “Assignments and Projects”, but you can add your own if you would like more!

Remember, you can upload any type of file – picture, document, video, podcast…whatever showcases your learning!

…And Playing the Game!

After you’ve uploaded and organized your material you still have a couple of things that you can do:

1) Share a link to your “Slate” via LinkedIn (which is a great way to keep your resume up-to-date!), Twitter or Facebook.  This will give the viewer an opportunity to find out the details on the course goals and what you did to achieve those goals.

2) Update your profile!  Add a picture or set the tone of your portfolio by updating the background to a style of your choice!

3) Search for your next course and add it to your “To Learn” Wall!  OpenLearning has a great selection of courses, so you are bound to find one (or more!) to suit your interests!

4) Find your course mates – by clicking on the Course Name, it will take you to the description page.  There you can see how many people on Accredible are taking the same course and how many have added it to their “to learn” list.  At the bottom of the page, you can see who has signed up for the course – and you will have the option to follow those individuals.  Maybe you came across someone who made some fantastic comments in the forum – why not write them a quick reference (This link takes you to my page, FYI)!  A quick note saying “Elizabeth offered some great insight and ideas when discussing the Hero’s Journey!  She completely changed the way I thought about the “call to adventure” and it’s role in game format.” adds credibility for that person, their work, and the course.

And the Winner in the Game of Learning is….You!

You’ve done the work and you deserve the credit for it!  By creating an e-portfolio you are offering a potential employer or school an opportunity to get to know more about you, your learning style, your commitment to furthering your education and professional development.  So share your work!  You should be proud of what you’ve done!  Let us know in the comments below which OpenLearning courses you are taking next!

Phew! You’ve done 6 weeks worth of coursework and now created your e-portfolio!  We’ve wrapped that up nicely…but I think our package still needs a bow to be complete!  Keep watching – Tom Benjamin, OpenLearning and Accredible have one more surprise coming up just for you!   

 

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Adventures in Gamification: Week Six – The Active Ingredient in Games and Multimedia

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Welcome Back!

This week marks the last week of Games in Education – Gamification on OpenLearning.  I hope you’ve had as much fun on your Adventure in Gamification as I’ve had – starting from the Introduction, strategic uses of games,  how to apply games in education, using scenarios as levellers, to the Hero’s Journey.  We’ve covered a lot of topics, played a few games and had a bit of fun along the way! If you’ve followed along but not yet signed up for the course, you can start it at anytime.  Add it to your To Learn list or start it today!!

The Active Ingredient in Games and Multimedia

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When using games one thing is really important – selling it in the first few minutes.  You really have just a couple of minutes to convince your audience that you have a great product that is of great benefit for them, that will improve their lives exponentially, regardless of their issues, place in life, financial situation, grades in school, etc.

You must become one with your inner Charlatan.

Picture yourself standing on stage or on a wooden crate, shouting out to all of the passing people about this great opportunity you have for them!

 

Attention! Attention!  Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls of all ages…step right up and prepare to be Wowed, Amazed and Dumbstruck by the sheer Brrrr-ill-iance and Geee-ni-us of this deceptively simple ed-u-cational deeeee-vice…the one…the only….the Gamified, Achievable, Measurable, Educational Device – or GAME for short!

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Why your inner charlatan?

Simply because you want to take advantage of the Placebo Effect…AKA taking advantage of new “treatments” or “tools” while they still work.  The belief by an individual that something is going to work to make them learn or understand more, to become smarter, to get better grades is half the battle!

 

 

Tailor the Game to the Learner

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As an educator or trainer, you probably have tools that get the job done.  Worksheets, quizzes, projects, exams.

What if you could tailor a game to your learner? What if you had a test that could tell you about your students’ personality traits so you could create activities that would work with their strengths and develop their opportunities?  Using Holland‘s RIASEC testing you could do just that…

But is that practical?  Perhaps not so much today on an individual basis, but in a classroom setting, you could determine overall opportunities and include opportunities to develop those skills within the grand scheme.

 

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So what does this all mean?

It means start with what you have.  Keep it simple. Add layers as necessary.

A meta-game has it’s place, but when a gamelet will do, why bring out the big guns? Remember, we want to use the tools while they still work.  We don’t want to misuse games in the same manner in which penicillin was misprescribed.  Using a meta-game when a riddle will do is the same as using penicillin for the common cold. At best, it’s useless, at worst, it reduces the overall effectiveness when things really count.

In Summary

This week covered a lot!  To pull together a few key points:

  • Be a Charlatan! Sell the game well for the best buy in
  • Customize to the group
  • Size matters!  Use the smallest, simplest tool to get the job done!
We’ve now finished the course – but we will come back next week to wrap it all up!  We will do a final review of key points, the tools available on OpenLearning and show you how to tie a pretty bow around it all by posting your work to your Accredible profile!  

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Adventures in Gamification: Week 5 – The Hero’s Journey

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Welcome Back!

We are into week five of Gamification (Games in Education) from OpenLearning!  So far we’ve covered what are games and gamification, strategic uses of games, application in education and scenarios as levellers. This week we will learn about the Hero’s Journey before we cover our final week of the course – The Active Ingredient in Games and Multimedia.

The Hero’s Journey

What is the Hero’s Journey (aka Monomyth)? According to Wikipedia

In a monomyth, the hero begins in the ordinary world, and receives a call to enter an unknown world of strange powers and events. The hero who accepts the call to enter this strange world must face tasks and trials, either alone or with assistance. In the most intense versions of the narrative, the hero must survive a severe challenge, often with help. If the hero survives, he may achieve a great gift or “boon.” The hero must then decide whether to return to the ordinary world with this boon. If the hero does decide to return, he or she often faces challenges on the return journey. If the hero returns successfully, the boon or gift may be used to improve the world. The stories of OsirisPrometheusMoses,Gautama Buddha, for example, follow this structure closely.

This structure is commonly used in myths, stories, 30 minute sitcoms and movies.  Walt Disney Studios have become experts in using the Hero’s Journey in their movies.  The video below reviews 5 popular movies from the 1990′s in relation to the Hero’s Journey.  See some of your favourite films again from a fresh perspective!

So how does this relate to Gamification and Use in the Classroom?

Well, besides the obvious use in literature classes, imagine inviting your students on a journey in which they worked through the various stages? How exciting would that be for them?

In K-6 classes, I can imagine this being super fun to create – a week-long journey that required completing tasks from various disciplines (math, geography, history, literature, etc) to gain the necessary boon (information) to resolve an issue in a mystical world and then be applied to the real world (i.e. by answering questions on a test or reflecting on what had been learned that week).

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Perhaps you want to teach your class about the Statue of Liberty.Instead of telling the class that, you tell them they are going to solve a mystery about a world landmark – and by the end of the week, they should be able to tell you all about it.  But you don’t name the landmark.  In math, you give them special clues to solve that give the height or width of the landmark.  In geography, they solve problems that will lead them to places like Paris (where it was built), Philadelphia (where the torch was displayed during the 1876 World’s Fair), Boston (the city that nearly stole it from New York by making a play when fundraising stalled in NY), the Suez Canal (where it was originally designed to go – bet you didn’t know that!) In science, you cover metals, specifically copper (of which she is covered) and gold (which was planned). I could keep going….the ideas keep flowing!

We covered a lot more on the Hero’s Journey, but you will have to check it out for yourself!

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Want to grab a learners attention? Use Superheroes!

By using age appropriate characters (real or fictional), learners may already have a “relationship” with the character and relate to them and their struggles.  They might be aware of gifts or special powers that the character has or is given.  They might even be able to see themselves as a superhero in your classroom metagame – with special powers being “granted” – perhaps for completing a gamelet (task or assignment) first or with the best answer.

There are so many things I could share about the wonders of using superheroes in your hero’s journey style metagame, but I really think you should take the course to learn more!

In Summary

  • The Hero’s Journey format is commonly used in stories, shows and movies.  Disney does this really well.
  • The possibilities are endless in using the Hero’s Journey in the classroom.  Remember: creating a challenge is a great way to get people to want to learn!
  • Known superheroes make it easier for your audience to buy into the story, empathize and start their own hero’s journey through your metagame.

Come back next week for Adventures in Gamification: Week Six – The Active Ingredient in Games and Multimedia!  From my quick peek ahead at the topics, it’s custom-made to suit the program!!

 

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Adventures in Gamification: Week Four – Scenarios as Levellers

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Welcome back to Week Four! So far we’ve covered the introduction and trying to define what a game truly is, the strategic use of games and applying games in education. Phew! We are now into week four of six and are investigating the use of scenarios as levellers.

What is a scenario?

From WikipediaIn the performing arts, a scenario (from Italianthat which is pinned to the scenery[1][2]) is a synoptical collage of an event or series of actions and events. In the Commedia dell’arte it was an outline of entrances, exits, and action describing the plot of a play, and was literally pinned to the back of the scenery. It is also known as canovaccio or “that which is pinned to the canvas” of which the scenery was constructed.”  
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So a scenario sets the scene.  In video games, you often have an opening introduction or vignette that explains the mission or the premise for the game.  It’s what catches your attention and gets you to “buy into” the game.  When I think of the games I play regularly on Facebook, they all had a opening scene that was designed to catch my attention and tease me into playing for a few easy levels, which gradually get harder or feature a change in the conditions required to advance to the next level (more points required, more tasks to complete, etc).
How can you catch the attention of the learner(s) in your life?  By making things seem like an adventure! Check out Module 4 for more information!

Levelling Options

So, once you have devised a game, how do you keep in interesting?  Challenging?
As previously mentioned, you have to make it harder to advance or to complete a challenge.  This is done in many ways.  I will only review a couple, and you can find more when you work on Module 4 yourself!  Be sure to let us know what other examples you came up with in the comments below or in the unit forums.
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Weightings –  For example, ending a game on an exact throw.  Remember when Trivial Pursuit was played on everyones coffee table?  You earned your 6 wedges but couldn’t win unless you solved a final question on the middle cog.  If you rolled past the hub, you would answer a regular question and then wait for your next turn to try again.  Wasn’t it frustrating to get the answer wrong and have to roll all over to try again?
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Abrupt Change of Conditions – You are mid way through a football (soccer) game and a teammate trips an opponent.  The Ref then awards a Penalty Kick to the opposing team.  Now you have to play by a different set of rules while the kick takes place, giving the opposing team a chance to get ahead. (See Law 14 for more information).
There were many more Levelling Options provided…I just don’t want to give away all of the secrets from the course.  I will share another secret though…I knew absolutely NOTHING about football (soccer) and had to research all of it to share with you!

Intermittent Reinforcement Schedules and Cognitive Dissonance

Perhaps you have heard of B.F. Skinner who was an American Psychologist who developed various theories – but one particularly interesting one was one that focused on Intermittent reinforcements.  This theory was tested on pigeons who were more prone to act when they could only sometimes get what they want.  Basically, strictly positive reinforcement wasn’t enough.  The withdrawal of rewards occasionally make the process more interesting and exciting.  Motivation and Human Behaviour….
Changes in the probability of reward can cause a change in motivating properties.  This partially explains gambling addictions.  Who are more likely to be driven by Chance?  Extroverts!  Introverts tend to want to be rewarded in a more linear relationship to their abilities.

In psychology, cognitive dissonance is the excessive mental stress and discomfort[1] experienced by an individual who (1) holds two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas, or values at the same time or (2) is confronted by new information that conflicts with existing beliefs, ideas, or values. This stress and discomfort may also arise within an individual who holds a belief and performs a contradictory action or reaction.[2] ~ Wikipedia

Long and short of it?  Having to earn the opportunity to learn means you will appreciate the learning all the more!
Want to learn more about the differences between men and women?  Module 4 has some interesting commentary!  Worth checking out and relating to your own life and the people in it!  There’s also a lot more information on Cognitive Dissonance…and a fun little project to do – see mine below!

In Summary

We covered a lot this week. Here are a few key points…but once again, not all of them!

  • Setting the scene provides the background info – can be realistic or far out there!
  • Making a game increasingly difficult keeps it interesting!
  • Earning the opportunity to learn makes one appreciate the learning more!

Next week we will learn about the Hero’s Journey, AKA the monomyth.  I admit to looking ahead a little…mythology is very interesting and I think I need to re-watch  a mythology based movie to see if I can apply the steps of the Hero’s Journey to it…perhaps Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief will do!  Don’t forget to add your projects and notes from this week to your Accredible profile and come back next Friday to find out what happens next!

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Adventures in Gamification: Week 3 – Application to Education

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Welcome back to Adventures in Gamification!  Previously in this series, we reviewed the Introduction of Gamification, tried to define what a game happened to be and talked about a few quotes from Tom Sawyer.  We also reviewed the Strategic Use of Games, discussing how to use gamification to reach adult learners, the magic of gamification, and the importance of maximizing the students participation and involvement and minimizing that of the instructor.   The first two weeks were exciting – let’s go on a journey through Week Three.

Remember back in Week One when we said it has to be challenging to be fun?  Well Tom Benjamin has made this week a challenging and fun thinking week!  I found the videos to be very interesting…yet each of them left me thinking and trying to puzzle through the next step.  The chase is on to solve the mysteries!

We start off looking at using principles from popular games and applying them to the school syllabus.

Hangman

I distinctly remember the daily use of Hangman in my Grade Two class – it was the first thing we would do after attendance.  We’d each get a turn to guess a letter or to solve the phrase.  The phrases always had something to do with our work in one subject or another (now that I look back at it, what a great way to teach kids words like chrysalis and photosynthesis!) and thus, tied into not just language arts but science, social studies or health class too.  The joy of solving the puzzle and the disappointment in failing still sticks with me.  I can’t recall too many lessons from Mrs. Higgins Grade Two class, but Hangman…still makes me smile!  Oh – and the game did help me to become a very good speller (at least until the invention of spellchecker which ruined my poor little brain!).

We also looked at how changing one rule can change the entire game.  Prof. Benjamin gave an example of Basketball and changing the height of the net or adding in the 3 point line.  Now, this means nothing to me because I don’t really understand basketball, but I could relate it to hockey.  Every year the NHL Board of Governors and the Executive Board of the NHLPA have meetings in which they discuss changing this rule or that…one current rule change is changing the size of the trapezoid in which the goalie can play.  By increasing it, the goalies will be better able to assist defensemen and that will change the game.  Something that seems so small on the surface (Increasing one line by 4 feet) will be huge in the game.

How does that relate to education?  Let’s return to the Hangman example from Grade Two.  When we played everyone had a chance to either guess a letter or the phrase, but not multiple turns (which was great because I remember this one boy who would have played every turn!!).  I have since played the game elsewhere and the player could guess letters until they made a mistake (thereby not allowing everyone to have a chance to guess).  Small rule change, big impact on the students who might not have otherwise had a turn.

Games as Tests?

Using games in testing has caused some debate.  Can you get reliable results?  Turns out that if a few more games are played, then yes, you can get reliable and even somewhat predictable results.  Professor Benjamin gives a much more detailed explanation…but there is a connection to the number of baseball games played in a year!

Chaos…or Perhaps Just Unpredictability

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Unpredictability…its the Zig to the Zag of an otherwise boring game.  It is the uncontrollable variables that makes it F-U-N!  Think about rolling the dice when playing Snakes and Ladders, a Chance card in Monopoly or saying “Hit Me” when you play Blackjack.  Or perhaps it’s the competition when playing chess or heads up Texas Hold’em…times when you have to figure out what the other person is thinking and going to do next. It’s hard to be sure and it leaves you a little nervous and uncertain, your adrenaline starts pumping and suddenly, it’s a ton of fun!

There was a lot more covered, but you need to take the course to find out more!  Work along with me and share your opinions in the comments below!  See you in the course!

In Summary

  • Changing a rule, changes the game (for better or worse)
  • Unpredictability creates tension and F-U-N
  • Education needs CAN be met through a game

Come back to find out what we cover in Adventures in Gamification: Week Four – Scenarios as Levellers!  There are three weeks left to this session, but remember, you can join at any time!  New participants are joining all the time.

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Adventures in Gamification: Week 2 – Strategic Use of Games

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Welcome Back to Week 2 – Strategic Use of Games

Thank you for joining me on my Adventures in Gamification.  I have just finished Week 2 of Games in Education: Gamification via OpenLearning and I am very excited to do so!  I first came across the concept in a course on designing Blended Learning courses and it stuck to me.  Like Crazy Glue. In true gaming fashion, sometimes an idea may threaten to drive me crazy…but then I have to figure it out and well, that’s half the fun!

No Significant Difference Can Be a Big Difference

I’m going to admit it, I am having a hard time wrapping my head around this one.  On a small scale, no significant difference really means nothing – 15% of a class of 20 is only 3 student benefitting.  When you look at MOOCs or using a strategy for multiple classes over multiple years, 15% of 2000 is 300…and that can be a big difference. It’s all about scaling…See?  It was hard and I had to figure it out…refer back to Week 1 for more details on this!

When preparing activities, there are many pieces to consider – supplies, knowledge and time.  You want to get the “biggest bang for your buck” and it is important to consider long term use of the activity.  Investing a few hours in researching and programming a simple game like a search-a-word that can be embedded on your class site and used over and over again for a specific module seems like a good investment.  Finding a site that just requires you to provide a wordlist and it create the puzzle for you in just a few minutes seems like an even better investment.

Make Your Own Word Search

The search-a-word above uses words from Module 2.  See how well you can do!

 

Reaching Adult Learners

Adults can be a hard group to train (trust me, I have spent years in training Adults – some days I thought kids would have paid much more attention!).  When attending training, they are often there because they are forced to be by the employer and they have very little interest in participating.  Worse yet, the material is dry and boring.  Sometimes overly technical. (Prensky, 2001)

How can Gamification help? Well first, it can catch the attention of a bored learner.  It can simplify complex materials by breaking it down into mini games.  It can help the learner develop “What if” strategies and analyze the results.  Of course, it can do much more…but you need to sign up for the course and watch the videos for more details!

 Gamification has the Magic Touch

If it’s boring, if it’s difficult, if it requires the analysis, evaluation, judgement or creation, then Gamification may be right for you!

Think about it…want to learn how to strategize for war?  Learn to play chess.  If you want to understand how city planners do their job, play Simcity or Minecraft (oversimplified, perhaps, but it still teaches valuable lessons in planning). Want to teach a complicated subject that can be broken into smaller, more manageable pieces, gaining the students interest and reward them along the way?  Use badges or a completion task bar.

Teaching map making in geography and primary and secondary resources in history?  Create an interactive group project that requires each team to create a map of their country to paste onto a “globe”.  Toss in “chance” cards along the way – your country has to share a border with Group B.  Or you are a landlocked country and need access to fish, develop a trade agreement with another country.  Or still – your country is large in land mass, but small in arable land, yet rich in precious metals, what do you do?  With whom? It’s not easy, it requires some research, analysis, evaluation and creativity….most importantly, it will grab their attention on what could otherwise be a boring topic. Trade agreements?? Maintaining security along a shared border? Not necessarily the most exciting topics when read from a textbook, but as a game?  Super fun!

 But note: for this to work well, students need to be hands on and teachers more hands off!

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Even fact retention can be made more fun with a game – think about Jeopardy.  There’s risk and strategy involved beyond the simple knowledge of facts.  Group that into team play and learners will be sharing their knowledge quite quickly!  This was one thing I used to do in Orientation sessions – especially in large groups.  It always drew out their knowledge and understanding, but by calling it trivia, we created a fun environment and developed a team.

Quests and Metagames

A quest is always a journey, made up of opportunities for the hero to learn new things and try new missions, all of which better prepare him (or her) to complete the quest.  Gamelets are mini games that help the student learn and try new things in preparation for the overall quest.

Metagames are more complex and have many games within a larger overall game.  Check out the example shared in the second video of Module 2.  I had an aha! moment there and you may too…so I won’t make this too easy on you!!

So that was week 2 in a nutshell!

In Summary

  • Make tasks into a game for more engagement
  • Maximize learner involvement, minimize instructor involvement
  • “No significant difference” can still be a big difference – on scale

There were a lot more takeaways, but I can’t share them all – so sign up and take the class along with me!  I’ll be back next week to continue the Adventures in Gamification: Week 3 to further discuss its application in education.   Don’t forget to share your comments in the forums and to upload your notes and work to your Accredible profile to keep building your e-portfolio as you go!
 
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Adventures in Gamification: Week One – An Introduction to Gamification

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gamification

Syllabification: gam·i·fi·ca·tion Pronunciation:

gāmifəˈkāSHən/ NOUN

  • The application of typical elements of game playing (e.g., point scoring, competition with others, rules of play) to other areas of activity, typically as an online marketing technique to encourage engagement with a product or service: gamification is exciting because it promises to make the hard stuff in life fun (Oxford Dictionary)

Welcome!

Thank you for joining me on my Adventures in Gamification.  I’ve just started taking Games in Education: Gamification via OpenLearning and I am very excited to do so!  I first came across the concept in a course on designing Blended Learning courses and it stuck to me.  Like Crazy Glue.

Why settle for a boring “Sage on Stage” when you can have F-U-N in class?

How much can you absorb when listening to someone read their notes?   (¡ǝןʇʇıן ʎɹǝʌ :ɹǝʍsuɐ)  We stop paying much attention after 20 mins if we aren’t taking good quality notes.  

How much can you absorb when you are having fun, being challenged, overcoming obstacles and FINDING answers? (¡¡ǝɹoɯ ʇoן ǝןoɥʍ ɐ :ɹǝʍsuɐ)

Tom Benjamin, PhD from the University of New South Wales (Sydney) has designed a course that encourages interaction and participation to enhance learning through games.  Along the way we will cover the Strategic Use of Games, Application of Gamification in Education, Scenarios as Levellers, The Hero’s Journey and to round it out, The Active Ingredient in Games & Multimedia.

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Module 1

This week I worked through Module 1.  At first glance, it looked deceptively easy: 3 components and 2 activities. As I watched the first video I took advantage of the awesome blogging tool offered by OpenLearning.  I could watch the video, see some text below and make my own notes and reflections on the fly!

So this great CGI filled video comes on and its fun and exciting.  Tom Benjamin takes you through the intro tossing activities at you to try on the fly (i.e. the Jigsaw puzzle that might give you clues about him) to show you a few things – empathy (don’t create games that you hate…your learners won’t like them either), relevance (not every point needs a game to be made) and an understanding that constantly forcing the participant to find their own answers is frustrating.

Here were my first impressions and thoughts of the course (created by said awesome blogging tool!):

Gamification - blog 1

Games are just the vehicle in which to deliver the message.  In studying Gamification its a case of the “medium is the message we should study”….looks like Hugh McLuhan was right again!  Well, that deceptively easy intro just got a whole lot deeper!! With those thoughts in my mind, I moved on to the homework…if you want to know what it entailed, you can sign up and work alongside me!

Forums

As I was exploring the group, I came across the forums located at the bottom of each page (Wow!  How easy – the forum for a topic is on the page of the topic! Sweet!!).  People were posting their definitions of a game and so did I. As you can see below, there were other ideas shared:

Gamification - pic 1 - group forum

Words like engaging, interactive, obstacles and objectives popped up.  I had only considered a structured environment (a place, a set of rules) but not why it was needed.  So much to consider!

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer?? A Lesson Waiting to be Learned…

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The second video looked at further understanding games.  Two quotes from The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain were called out:

“Work consists of whatever a body is obliged to do, and that Play consists of whatever a body is not obliged to do.” ~ The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain

 

“He had discovered a great law of human action, without knowing it–namely, that in order to make a man or a boy covet a thing, it is only necessary to make the thing difficult to attain.” ~ The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain

So…make it tricky and people will want to try it.  Make it something that isn’t an obligation and it becomes fun. Take learning from being a task, to being a game – I guess this is why gamification works…You should watch the video and try the game – there is a lesson to be learned there!

One clear idea from the module is that you don’t ALWAYS need to use a game.  Simple points don’t require anything but a short answer.  the more difficult concepts need to be delved into and explored – and a game provides a strategic way to do that. The games can range from the simple riddle; to creating a drama, a song or sculpture; to tests and competition; to the tricky meta-game (I’m thinking like Dungeons and Dragons or some type of RPG game).

Wow!  So that was Week 1.

 In summary

  • Games are the vehicle in which the message (learning) is delivered.
  • By making things tricky, people naturally want to achieve it.
  • If its not an obligation, it is a lot more fun.
  • You don’t have to make everything into a game – simple points don’t need a game.
  • I can’t tell you everything!
  • To find out more, you know what it do…join me on this journey!

I’ll be back to share my Adventures in Gamification: Week 2 on the strategic uses of games soon! I hope you will take the class along with me and share ideas and thoughts in the comments or in the forums – don’t forget to upload copies of your blog to your Accredible profile to build your learning e-portfolio as you go!

 

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