What can you learn from games anyway?

I love video games and I love the lessons that they can teach to kids. So what can we learn? Well obviously a game geared towards math can teach a kid math but that is not what this post is focusing on. What I want to focus on are the FIVE MAJOR skills that you can learn when playing video games such as League of Legends, World of Warcraft, and Minecraft (keep in mind that not all games do these things so you need to be selective):

  1. You will lose. You cannot always win and games teach you that you will lose. I believe this is great because in today’s watered down culture we give kids trophies for trying in addition to winning. Games do not work that way. You only get the prize if you win. This is an important lesson that needs to be fully understood by kids so they know that they need to work hard to win in life.
  2. Problem solving. You will learn to problem solve. You don’t like losing? Guess what, you need to keep playing and practicing to get better just like real life.
  3. Teamwork. This is a skill that kids learn in sports. You cannot win a game by yourself. However, not all kids play sports. If a kid does not play sports I would definitely make sure they learn teamwork from a very young age and multiplayer games are a great way to accomplish this.
  4. Communication. You have to communicate with your team virtual in games. This is a great skill as many jobs are now virtual and you need to communicate with team mates, a boss, and clients in a virtual environment. You will learn how to greet, sign on/off, and online speak in general.
  5. Your imagination is the limit. Games like minecraft allow you to build and construct. Literally your imagination is the limit. This teaches kids to invent and create things that are not there. This thinking outside of the box is a skill that managers want and a skill that innovators like Bill Gates have. If you are passionate about gaming, this streaming setup will be a perfect guide for you.

League of Legends in the classroom?

lol

As many of you know, I am a huge fan of League of Legends. Its a game I play several times a week, if not more. Lately, I have been seeing LoL clubs forming on campuses (there is one at UNCW) and courses about this game. So can this game be used in k-16 education and how?

Can it be used?

It’s definitely a game that could be used in middle grades and up. However, there is not content in the game. Its a MOBA (Massive online battle arena) game where two teams face off to capture a base. But it could be used to teach skills. If you are unfamiliar with the game, think of it like a virtual game of capture the flag. But to answer the question, I absolutely believe a game like this can be used in middle, high, and college grades. But how? For what? and Why?

What?

It would be used to teach skills – teamwork, communication, and problem solving strategies. The game is set up to be played 3v3 or 5v5 so students would need to learn to work together on a team, fulfilling various roles, in order to win the game. You have to work together or you lose. You also need to communicate. This includes chat, voice, and signs (pings). You would need to learn to play the game, read the chat box/type in it, and talk at the same time. Additionally you need to learn strategies, which include solving problems that may change throughout the game. This is a skill that could be taken into corporate settings. Its a skill I have trouble teaching my graduate students so the fact that this game (or similar) can teach it is very helpful. In this way, the game is like real life – you work on a team, you communicate well, and you form a strategy to win. If you do not do it well or not as good as the other team, you lose. And you can keep trying until you do figure it out.

How?

First you would need the game, which is free, computers, and internet. You would also need microphones. Additionally, you would need to make sure students played custom games. You would not want them playing with strangers because when there is a game with millions of players, there are people who will swear and do other things like causing you to lose on purpose (called trolling). Thus custom games would be a must. So you would need either 6 or 10 people to play each game.

Why?

One simple reason – motivation. The game is fun. Why not play a game like this instead of doing another reading case study where students might learn these skills? My philosophy is that I should be making learning as fun as possible so it doesn’t feel like school. I want learning to be fun. I also want students to take learning seriously and if they could take this game seriously then the learning part would come naturally.

 

 

How I replaced Blackboard with 3D Gamelab

In today’s college classroom the LMS is commonly used to manage, track, and facilitate the learning process for both face to face and online learning courses. Most colleges currently run the Blackboard LMS, which is a very good LMS that is designed to meet the needs of today’s faculty. However, I personally have found Blackboard to be a bit dull because it’s used so often and I love to experiment with new things. So I learned about a new LMS called 3D Gamelab which was designed to function like a gamified LMS. Obviously given my interest in games and the fact that I teach a gaming course I was intrigued to find out more. So I got a copy and tested it for 3 semesters. I tested it in 5 courses during the Summer 14-Spring 15 semesters for my Instructional Technology graduate students.

What is it? 3D Gamelab is an LMS that is geared towards gamers. It functions just like blackboard and others but has some different features. For instance, badges, awards, and experience. There are no grades in 3D Gamelab. There is experience. So students rank up levels and earn experience as they complete assignments. This experience is then translated into your grade.

Assignments. Assignments are called quests. So each time a user logs into your course they see the quests that they need to complete. These can be big assignments – like here is your final project or small tasks like a quest asking users if they read the readings for the day. I found using it to have students confirm that they read the syllabus and such to be very valuable (something other LMSs do not really allow you to do).

Badges, awards, achievements. You can set up badges, awards, and achievements in the LMS. Badges are for skills that the students acquire, awards are awards for completing assignments and such, and achievements are for completing tasks. Technically all 3 can be used for the same thing if you wanted. I assign badges for skills such as being a beginner in HTML. These badges can then be transferred to the users Mozilla Backpack, which is awesome. I use the awards and achievements for things like completing an assignment, earning a rank, etc.

Grading. This is something that is both good and bad. It’s great because when I log in I can see what needs to be graded and students can see where they rank compared to the rest of the class. Also if students did not get a 100% on my assignment I return it to them and they will need to recomplete it for credit. The disadvantage is that you can’t give grades other than perfect. So if they got an 80% the only option is to send it back to the student to redo until they get a 100%. This is how games work which is why its set up like this however this makes it difficult for instructors. This works fine for my graduate classes which are project based and I rarely have students that do not get A’s. But this would not work for my undergraduate students who do not turn in perfect work, turn in things late, and do not always get A’s.

Price. It’s relatively inexpensive. The cost is around $100 a year per instructor for all of your classes. So trying it was a no brainer.

Usability. In my opinion is very simple to use and set up. However, I am a ‘techie’. I noticed that my older students tended to have trouble navigating and always seemed to ask me for help. This is not something I experienced with Blackboard but I did with 3D Gamelab. I think if the company offered a really good interactive tutorial that this problem would be solved. My younger graduate students had no issues.

Student reactions. My students loved it. They really liked it. There were a few glitches here and there but overall it was a good experience. They really like the badges and loved the experience/ranks/quests. The comments in their reflections were that it was different and was fun to use. However, they also noted that while they really liked this they thought that if it was used by the university for all of their classes they would probably lose interest quickly and just think it’s dull like they believe Blackboard is.

My recommendation. Try it out. It’s a lot of fun. It’s different. Your students will like it. It’s worth the money.

How will I use it in the future? I have decided that I will use it for two of my courses – gaming and project management. Both of these courses are set up as competition/gamified courses so it will work well. I am going to use blackboard for my other courses as I want to mix things up and I don’t want my students getting sick or tired of any technology in my classes. So variation is best.

Do video games cause violence?

The short answer is no. Video games do not cause violence any more than sports, tv, or play (ie cops and robbers or tag). Here is a look at some of the research on the topic. Note that it tends to go both ways indicating that people are pulling numbers to support their views but not looking at the big picture:

-The 2008 study Grand Theft Childhood reported that 60% of middle school boys that played at least one Mature-rated game
-Violent juvenile crime in the United States has been declining as violent video game popularity has increased. The arrest rate for juvenile murders has fallen 71.9% between 1995 and 2008. The arrest rate for all juvenile violent crimes has declined 49.3%. In this same period, video game sales have more than quadrupled
-Increasing reports of bullying can be partially attributed to the popularity of violent video games.
-A 2004 US Secret Service review of previous school-based attacks found that one-eighth of attackers exhibited an interest in violent video games, less than the rate of interest attackers showed in violent movies, books, and violence in their own writings. The report did not find a relationship between playing violent video games and school shootings
-A 2000 FBI report includes playing violent video games in a list of behaviors associated with school shootings
-Playing violent video games provides a safe outlet for aggressive and angry feelings. A 2007 study reported that 45% of boys played video games because “it helps me get my anger out” and 62% played because it “helps me relax.“

Source of stats – http://videogames.procon.org/

But what about games like Grand Theft Auto where you can literally shoot people, hit them with weapons, or beat them up? Put it this way, Grand Theft Auto 5 has sold over 40 million copies. The biggest selling games in the US every year are Grand Theft Auto or Call of Duty. How many of those 40 million people went out and caused violence due to the game? Not only that but the latest GTA and COD games have sold many more copies than their originals in the early 2000s. In fact, the sales of these games are record breaking. Thus sales of these games has greatly increased yet guess what? Violent crimes have decreased. Am I just pulling numbers to support my conclusion? Yes however these are very telling. If these games were causing more violence, and the games are selling many millions of copies more now than 10 years ago, surely there would be noticeable spikes in violent crime.

Source of image – FBI.GOV – http://www.fbi.gov/news/stories/2014/november/crime-statistics-for-2013-released/crime-statistics-for-2013-released

Now having said all of that, I think that video game ratings are important and that kids should not be playing Call of Duty or Grand Theft Auto. They are too young to always know what is right/wrong and appropriate or not. So parents, games have ratings, please use them. If a child is very mature then I would have no problem giving them these kind of games but I do not think that most kids are ready for them. I think its a case by case basis and up to the parents. keep in mind though that kids are playing these games even though you have to be 18 to buy them so I encourage parents to really watch and monitor what their kid plays. I know that I will be.

 

 

Create a custom lesson or activity in minecraft

So you want to create a custom game or lesson in minecraft? Here are the steps.

1. First you need to create your seed. A seed is your world. Minecraft automatically generates one for you but this tutorials walks you through creating one yourself:

http://www.howtogeek.com/school/htg-guide-to-minecraft/lesson12/

2. Learning how to craft. You need to learn how to make your world. Use this guide which shows you how to create simple mining tools to buttons and levers.

http://www.minecraft-craftingguide.com/index.html

3. Once you know how to craft you need to decide what you want to do. What are your goals? There are so many things to do that its impossible to post even 1% of them here. Once you know what you want to do you need to find tutorials to help you. Fortunately the minecraft community is huge so there are tons out there. For example, here is a good tutorial on how to create a quest in minecraft:

4. Once you have created your world you need to share it. How can you do that? You can use a server or let people download your files. To share your files with others, check out the following tutorial:

http://www.howtogeek.com/school/htg-guide-to-minecraft/lesson13/