Reflections: Session Eight.

In the same vein as the previous post, this post will concentrate on the activities carried out in Session Eight, in order to sum up what we learnt during that session so as to segue into the next post (and allow me to finally catch up with the few weeks of blogging that I missed!).

This session saw us wrap up the section on peer demos, a part of this course that I quite enjoyed because it allowed everyone to share a bit of what they knew about ICT and its usage in educational pedagogy.

The second half of the session saw us venture into the world of Second Life. (SL) I say “venture” because I’ve never experienced it, although I had heard about SL. before our experience in class. Perhaps the impetus to find out what it was about was never really there, largely because of often derisive comments made by other people such as ‘Why don’t you just concentrate on your First Life?’ So I guess another thing I appreciate about this course is how it acts as a somewhat neutral platform to introduce new aspects of the Web to us, which means that we have a bigger ‘basket’ of tools to pick and choose from in our future roles as teachers.

Anyway, we have been tasked with the following assignment, which is to select, embed, and critique an online video on the educational possibilities of SL in our course blog. This is the video that I have selected:

I thought this video was very well-produced, though the narration could’ve been improved on. Nevertheless, it was the content that struck me, because it opened up many more possibilities for SL to be used in the classroom. A few of the topics which were discussed in the video had already been highlighted in class by Dr Tan, namely:

  • the idea of helping to broaden your students’ education by ‘bringing’ your students on visits to places like the Sistine Chapel in a virtual fashion, as the cost involved in physically going there would be prohibitive, and
  • allowing your students to ‘explore’ the places/things that they are studying in class e.g. the inside of a computer so as to literally provide a more holistic perspective to their education.

The educational possibility of SL which the video discussed and which I found most relevant was the idea of role-play and drama in SL. I have been and will be using these two approaches in my teaching, due to my interest in these two approaches, and also because of the nature of my Curriculum Studies subjects – English Literature and English Language.

I’m glad I watched the video because it started me thinking about one possible application of this approach to teaching in schools – one of the complaints students always have is about the accessibility of the text they have to study. YouTube is already able to bridge that gap through the use of user-created videos such as this one on “Dulce Et Decorum Est” by Wilfred Owen:

After watching the first video on SL embedded above, I started to think: what if SL could take this one step further, and allow students to ‘role-play’ the poem itself? We could recreate the World War I environment in SL, and get students to change the clothing of their avatars to that of World War I soldier uniforms. We could allow students to take part in a mock battle where bullets flew, mortars pounded down on the soldiers, mustard gas was released, etc. It is a scenario that is very much in line with the atmosphere and narrative of the poem, but at the same time, a situation which we definitely would not want to be involved in in real life. SL would thus make it more feasible for us to carry out the above-mentioned simulation as a means of helping the students ‘get into’ the text.

As good as this might sound, I must state a few possible caveats to this: scripting is definitely going to be a problem (it will take me a while to learn how to script in SL, seeing how long it took me to learn rudimentary CSS). Also, who is going to pay for the land to carry out the scripting? I’m not trying to be a naysayer here, but these are possible issues that we must consider at the same time as we think about educational possibilities for students.

Nevertheless, I’m a firm believer in working through problems step by step, and I’m sure these issues can be resolved one step at a time. In any case, SL itself is still developing, still maturing, so we’ll all have time to sort out these kinks as we also evolve in our journey as teachers.

(For my own use in future – links that I found with possible educational value but didn’t manage to add into this post because of time/space constraints:

Reflections: Session Six + Seven.

I must apologise for the lengthy absence; I finally know what the PGDE curriculum @ NIE in full swing feels like! Nevertheless, I will try to cover lost ground in the next few posts.

This post will concentrate mainly on the activities we carried out in Sessions Six and Seven, and will be a summation of what happened and my thoughts on the sessions.

These two sessions saw Demo Groups C – F demonstrating the use of various tools, all of which I found very enlightening in terms of creating awareness. I must say that I very much like the idea of these demo groups – one invariably will never be able to learn as much as one wants to on one’s own, so these demo groups help in sharing information and in knowledge building.

The latter portion of both sessions also saw us carrying on with learning about Educational Gaming by trying out the different games on offer. I found some games slightly tough e.g. Trauma Center (I don’t have the patience or dexterity to move the Wii remote in a straight line, so I ended up killing the patients half the time!) but I also saw the immense potential the games had; for example, the Flash games about Darfur and McDonald’s definitely provided an opening for teachers to discuss issues of much importance with students – topics like ethics, morality, globalisation/localisation/glocalisation are all very much applicable, and I can see the possibility in using these games in G.P. or even Literature lessons.

To conclude, I am starting to enjoy this class the most. It’s not just for the games, mind you. I really feel an immense sense of fulfillment at the end of each class because of the educational value that each lesson has for me. I look forward to each class every week and this is something I want to be able to instill in my students in the future – the desire to want to go to class because of the thirst for knowledge and the enjoyment in quenching that thirst, and not just having to feel like they’re going to class for the sake of fulfilling an obligation.

Reflections: Session Five.

  • K: What I already KNOW about this week’s topic.
    I’ve always believed that for teaching to be applicable to students in this day and age, teachers have to move rapidly away from paradigms of the past e.g. video games are bad and learn to embrace practices of the present e.g. the increasing popularity of video games and how to incorporate it into classroom teaching. I guess this article has helped to articulate some of my thoughts and has exposed me to new ideas too, such as those detailed in the ‘L’ section.

  • W: What I WANT TO LEARN.
    I’ve long recognised that video gaming does teach certain skillsets that are relevant to anyone in the ‘real’ world; I dabble in a bit of multi-player gaming myself, so I’ve encountered situations of conflict caused by a lack of communication, and I’ve also learnt the idea of scarcity and trade-offs from role-playing games, where using a game character with certain strengths also means that the character will have certain inherent weaknesses that are correlated to its strengths. Nevertheless, what I want to learn are the specific and general skillsets needed in English Literature and English Language – my teaching subjects – and games which also provide that fit. So far, I’ve thought about the idea of narrative in Warcraft, and how it might be applicable to teaching composition writing to fans of the game series. But beyond that?
  • L: What I LEARNED this week.
    I’ve learnt that I’m not alone in my beliefs with regards to the idea that “Education has been remarkably resistant to change for [the last] 100 years“! Personally I think it’s possible to move faster, in terms of embracing the technologies of tomorrow for lessons today.

    Also, I’ve realised from this:

    …the fact that they don’t think of gameplay as training is crucial. Once the experience is explicitly educational, it becomes about developing compartmentalized skills and loses its power to permeate the player’s behavior patterns and worldview. (Brown and Thomas, 2006)

    that it’d be good to start thinking about how to get students to similarly stop thinking about curriculum lessons as ‘training’, but rather, as something they enjoy, much like ‘gameplay’, in order that they may also learn at the same rate as game players.

  • Q: What QUESTIONS I still have.
    My most fundamental question is this: how do we get everyone on the same boat? That is, how does one convince others who are resolutely resistant to change that technology really is the way to go in teaching pedagogies of the future?