Thursday, February 26, 2009

Game Play 4: Finally, Tycoon!

After extending my time of playing my RCT 3, I finally passed the Entrepreneur level. Awesome! Here are some features that I also added.

My game RCT 3 is a rewarding experience for me. At first, I found it so difficult especially in familiarizing the right icons in adding rides, stalls, facilities, etc. Also, I have to do multi-tasking in checking the finances, adding staff, making advertisements, and all. It was really challenging! However, after playing every week, there is this feeling of intense - just do it! Eventually, it drives me to do more and to take care of my amusement park. "Flow" is very much present to this game. Playing video games are not bad at all (as I perceived it before). As a first timer "addict", I am proud of what I achieved and created. This is something new. I am not a businessman; however, I am able to run my own through RCT 3.

This holds true with my student selected selection Video Games, Mind and Learning by James Paul Gee. We imagine and this technology externalizes what is perceived in our minds. In the article it mentions that "Video games usually involve a visual and auditory world in which the player manipulates a virtual character. The player can make a new landscape, a new set of buildings, or new characters." This is indeed true in RTC 3. This technology offers the opportunity to make, create and realize one's goals and desires. One might be frustrated, but there are always challenges in achieving such goals (just like in real life). This is where the spice comes in... how to face them!

Student Selection: "Video Games, Mind, and Learning" by JP Gee

Gee, James Paul. "Video Games, Mind, and Learning" The Interactive Digital Media & Arts Association Journal, 2005 -, 1-12. (

This article mentioned that, "More recently, some cognitive scientists, inspired by distributed parallel-processing computers and complex adaptive networks, have argued that the mind works by storing records of actual experiences and constructing intricate patterns of connections among them," (Clark 1989; Gee 1992). Thus, this new technology enhances people's memory, and establishes connection to real-life experiences. This also allows to externalize some functions of the mind through the use of video games as a new tool for learning.

As of this moment, I am a novice of this technology. From time to time, I learn more and more, but also I evaluate what web 2.0 and other instructional technology tools that I could use in my home country. I am interested to use these tools because the attention span of the students is just so short. The challenge is on how to sustain it. This article argues that "video games usually involve a visual and auditory world in which the player manipulates a virtual character/s." I would say that it also influences the learning environment. Maximizing the use of this technology attracts colors, increases vocabulary, and gauges students' interest.

Sharing an experience (like storytelling) using the target language is one of the skills that students are challenged to learn. In using video games, I could ask students about the protagonist/s and antagonist/s, the setting, the plot (conflict, climax, etc.) and theme (purpose or moral of the game). However, there is a twist. I also came across with this article of William Vitka's "Once Upon A Time Will Video Games Ever Have Their 'Moby Dick' or 'Citizen Kane'?" which he wrote on March 24, 2006. He said, "For all their advantages, video games don't allow for stories to be told in the traditional manner. The player is, by definition, not the same as the reader of a story. The player is the catalyst for the events in the game. He is not passive." If students will make their own characters like Arcanum as cited by Gee in the textbook, they are making their own story where students are not passive. They are not only reading but also involve themselves in the story reflected by the characters and events they made in their game. For me, this is a good idea of making students engaged to the experience. It would be interesting to know how they make their own characters, setting, plot and theme. This will be a good challenge for me and the students.

Flow: An Optimal Experience

When I read the article, it reminded me of my college professor who talked about the hierarchy of needs by Abraham Maslow. She said that each of us will never be satisfied unless we achieved "self-actualization". That is why we always have inner drives to do something to reach our goals. On the other hand, this is not a guarantee that the person felt "intrinsically rewarding" as mentioned by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.

Some games have the presence of optimal experience - the "flow". The features of some games that lend them to inducing flow is the experience itself. Games serve as the "opportunity for action that humans are able to respond to." This statement of Csikszentmihalyi drives players to pay attention. Let us take for instance video games. There are rules that they need to follow. There are tasks that they need to respond. They are levels that they need to accomplish from time to time until they conquer all the tasks. This is where addiction (addiction to game) comes in. The levels of the game "drives the self to higher and higher levels of complexity." Towards the end, there is a feeling of ownership that leads to "a feeling of transcendence, or oneness with the activity" (Csikszentmihalyi).

I love to play chess. This is the game where I consider experiencing "flow". When I started, I was confused. Each character has its own distinct moves that I need to master. When I mastered them, I need to learn some wise moves in order to outwit the opponent. It takes time to think and to make a game plan. Even I was frustrated, I never gave up. I kept on playing and playing until I learned. I was addicted to it until I felt being one with the game. It is like putting one's mind, heart and soul into it. Some people say it's boring, but I eventually fall in love in playing chess. It is like in the educational setting. There is always this challenge of making students be intrinsically motivated (be addicted) to learning by saying, "I am here because I want to learn," (in a way that students will not be reminded from time to time of their homework or project because they feel that they are responsible of their own progress). On the other hand, it is also important to explain to the students the purpose of attaining education to have a clear vision why they are doing this. This will hopefully help them to set their own goals.

I would say that flow is not antithetical to traditional learning. This is just to heighten their motivation that learning is not only for the grades. The most important thing is they gained something from the content of the course. Grades are good to impress employers, but the skills are also necessary. For instance, an architect needs to design a building. He has impressive records, but he does not know how to deal with his colleagues. He could never achieved his goal without the help of others (carpenters, suppliers, etc.). Thus, "flow" is a way of learning not only with the technicalities but also for skills - motivating oneself to consider all aspects that leads to happiness and satisfaction.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Game Play 3: Picture 3

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Game Play 3: Picture 2

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Game Play 3: Picture 1

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Game Play 3: My Entrepreneurship Career

After the Apprentice, my new challenge now is the Entrepreneurship level. I was already successful in attracting 500 visitors, but I still need to work on with my park value. I am pressured on how to achieve this. I already added some rides and stalls. In fact, I increased the ride fees to earn more, but still there's so much work to be done. I think I need to spend more time than two hours. On the other hand, I also read some guidelines on how to post my game pictures in my blog. I could never find the icon on posting pictures (which is usually under the title box). I downloaded Picasa 3; then, click "BlogThis!". Finally, I made it! However, please see "Game Play 3: Game Pictures" because I do not know how to insert them in this particular blog account.

Gee's identity concepts are also realized in my game RCT 3. The amusement park businessman (virtual character), me (real-person - "me" as businessman), and projective identity (me "as" businessman). There is a sense of ownership. I discovered new ways and values - that in the game, one has to consider even little things. For instance, I only focused on having more rides. I forgot that toilets, information booth, A.T.M. machines, garbage cans, and food stalls are very important elements. These are like basic necessities. In life, I should learn on how to pay attention to little things. In my experience, I usually forget my slippers. I should always include this in my checklist.

Malone and Lepper's intrinsic motivational learning elements are also present in this game. The challenge is to attract 500 visitors and achieve the minimum park value. I am also curious on how people run this kind of business (especially me who is not good in numbers and budgeting). I am also in control of the game. However, I should also be consistent of the objectives of the game. With this fantasy experience, I experienced as if I were really the owner of this amusement park. With this kind of game, learners could have some idea on how to run a business.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Malone & Lepper: Intrinsic motivation leads to sustainable learning

Malone and Lepper's point is to make learning intrinsically motivated. Using good video games can arouse and sustain students' interest through challenge, curiosity, control, and fantasy.

A game that I have played that exhibits these four individual intrinsic motivational elements is Nintendo Wii. My supervisor took me to her house. They have Nintendo Wii on playing tennis, bowling, baseball, etc. Her children taught me how to play tennis using this technology. I have not played tennis for real. I do not have any idea at all. However, I was challenged by her daughter. I was also curious on how to play the game. When I tried, I was sweating! My virtual opponent was good! I needed to put effort, force, and timing in order to bounce the ball properly. It was like having in control of the ball. Obviously, the first game was a disaster. As I kept on playing, I improved! Even it was just a fantasy, I felt great! When I went to the dorm, I watched the movie Wimbledon through At this moment, I cannot stop thinking of trying it in real life. Unfortunately, it is still snowing here. I will try it when I get home to my country.

A traditional learning experience that also reflects these elements is being part of the CAT (Citizen's Army Training) when I was in high school. Military training was a requirement of the Philippines' educational system. This time, it is already optional since there are other options like Civic Welfare Training Service (CWTS) and Literacy Training Service (LTS) which are community service programs. During the officers' training, I was challenged to live like a soldier. I lived according to their rules. I was also curious if I could stand the hard training. I was assigned and in control of my platoon. It was hard! Mistake of one is mistake of all. Even it was just like a fantasy, I survived, and I felt that I was a soldier.

Gee's Chapter 3: Tripartite Identity Model

Gee's tripartite identity model made me reflect of my profession as a teacher. There are times that I am already out of patience with my students. I forget that they are not me. They have limitations that I have to accept. The challenge is how to compromise or interact with them. It's like bridging the gap between two worlds like Gee and "Bead Bead" that there are times in our lives that we need to live with some limitations.

This reminds me of a mini-Broadway contest during the English month three years ago. Using the tripartite identity model, let's say that the students are the virtual character and me as the real-person. I suggested to the class some ideas, concepts, and choreography on how I wanted the class to present their piece. During the rehearsals, I kept on insisting to have live singers for Miss Saigon. This would be a plus factor; I wanted them to win. I pushed them too hard. However, the reality was that not everyone could sing. I have to live with their limitations that the class were not the actors that I wanted them to be. At the end, we decided to do lip sing. Then, we doubled our effort in the acting part as if it were a live singing. It was not that bad, though. The experience was like I would like to create a masterpiece that was beyond my reach. My former students (which served as my virtual characters of my desire as a good director) and me (the real-person) have come up to this point of projective identity that even there were limitations, there still something that could be done. It's like playing a game. I was struck with that answer of one of my classmates in playing Crazy Machines that there are many solutions in a problem. If one is into, eventually, one will discover new ways and values in dealing with everyday life.

Practice Principle - In studying English as second language, they could practice their vocabulary using these games that I just discovered: Taboo, Catch Phrase and Mad Gab Game. At home, they could play Text Twist, Kangaroo, Bookworm and the like. Not to forget, the classic game Scrabble that they could play with their family and friends.

Amplification of Input Principle - In learning English songs, students can enhance their listening, pronunciation/speaking, reading and writing skills. "Darfur is Dying" is also a very example on this principle. One does not only play but can also look at the hard realities that some of the countries are experiencing today.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Student Reflection: "Why Are Video Games Good For Learning?" by JP Gee

Gee, James Paul. "Why Are Video Games Good For Learning?" Good Video Games and Good Learning. April 2007, 1-25. (

James Paul Gee highlighted six points that indeed made video games good for learning:

1. "They can create an embodied empathy for a complex system" - He emphasized that good video games have underlying learning principles that educators should consider as well. For instance, "Civilization III" allows the player to experience a complex system and learn basic principles of history and social sciences.

2. "They are action-and-goal-directed preparations for, and simulations of, embodied experience" - In "Civilization III", the player externalize their understanding of ancient history and civilization to the present by building, manipulating this virtual world in a fun and challenging way. The goal is in the mind, and the simulation leads them to action. This video game embodies the whole experience.

3. "They involve distributed intelligence via the creation of smart tools" - Another example is "Full Spectrum Warrior" where the player acts as a professional soldier. The virtual characters (smart tools) made one internalize not only the knowledge but also "shape and explain how and why knowledge is developed and applied in the world."

4. "They create opportunities for cross-functional affiliation" - In playing some video games like "World of WarCraft", players across the globe have affiliations.In this case, social differences do not matter. In fact, it developed learning communities.

5. "They allow meaning to be situated" - With this experience, "they allow language to be put into the context of dialogue, experience, images, and actions."

6. "They can be open-ended, allowing for goals and projects that meld the personal and the social" - In playing these games, players have a sense of ownership. They "made their own goals based on their own desires, styles and backgrounds."

Knowing why video games are good for learning is important to me. Honestly, I am overwhelmed with my readings of Gee and Squire. However, it helped me to realize that games are not bad at all. As a language teacher, the fifth point of Gee is true. There are students who know the meaning of the words but do not know on how or when to use them. Sometimes, I am guilty of this, too. When students see the words with pictures and actions in video games, I believe students will understand better the usage of words. In fact, in my case I watch movies with subtitles. With this effort, I knew what is whirring, wince, squeak, squeal, and fidget because it accompanies with the action. Also, in the game "Darfur is Dying", that's the only time I knew what is forage. Amazing!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Squire: The videogames as medium of learning

Squire's perspective is making video games as literacy by itself. Video games serve as "designed experiences", making them as medium of learning. For instance, "Supercharged!" was developed at MIT for students to learn basic concepts in electrostatics. Making it a medium, this video game "hoped to give an experience of what just physicists do." Therefore, he viewed video games as an important part of the curriculum. On the other hand, Gee's view is to make video games as tools of learning based on the learning principles that are present on video games. He viewed video games as a "research and development lab" for educational theory and practice.

If we are to actually use games and simulations to teach, the barriers in my professional environment are accessibility and affordability. In my school, there is limited access of computers. There are only 150 computers for more than 1500 students. Then, they mostly use it for their computer class. As a language teacher, it's difficult to use the lab because the schedule is already fully loaded. Moreover, there is still a great number of students who do not have PCs. Also, due to the limited budget, I usually buy my materials from my own pocket. That is why I enrolled to instructional technology subjects to find web tools that are available and accessible. I understand that there are plenty from the Internet, but I just don't know where to go. Now, I already knew photo story, more features about the PowerPoint and some helpful websites. In fact, I would like to use PowerPoint as my final project since it is most accessible to us.

I believe that "games and simulations for learning" is not simply a fad. Playing a game is already part of the culture. It is one aspect that a child should experience. In the past, there were no video games yet that are very much accessible unlike nowadays. Whether these games will be replaced with much more complexity, I believe that games and simulations can still be used for classroom learning.

The future of these technologies as a part of formal learning is possible. I believe that learning should be student-centered. Thus, there are teaching styles in the "old school" that are not applicable anymore to the present. Today, teachers are competing with the media like video games. It is difficult to only have chalk board or white board comparing to a colorful and interactive video game. The challenge is how to integrate these video games to classroom learning. Making video games as educational tools would best help making the experience more fun and enriching. For instance, the example of Squire on "Civilization III". Instead of making a 3D model project of "Borubudur" (Indonesia), "Taj Mahal" (India), "Hanging Garden" (Babylon), "Eiffel Tower" (Paris) and the like, why not ask students to make their own through this video game. Students can save and improve it based on what they read from the books than throwing the 3D model project after it has been graded. This is a significant input that I could share to my colleagues in the Social Studies department.

Second Gameplay: I made it through the apprentice level :-) Yehey!

For this week, I finally passed the apprentice level! I was so happy! After four hours of labor and hardship, I made it through. I was able to attract 400 people and beautify my amusement park. Beforehand, I received two "Most Disappointing Park" awards. I was also worried because I did not gain any profit for months. At this time, I needed some help from Matt. He advised me to add rides to attract more visitors. Also, I should increase the price of the rides to earn some money. With this, I got the tidiest park and safest park awards, and passed the test!

With my two weeks of playing the video game, I start to like it. Indeed, there are things that I can learn from video games. It tests my creativity, managing, budgeting and aesthetic skills. Kurt Squire mentioned from his article "From Content to Context: Videogames as Designed Experience" that games are overlooked by educators. Just like me, I have my own biases that students do not study anymore and spend their allowance in the Internet Cafe (in my country, internet cafes are famous pastime because majority do not have access to computers). But now, just like James Paul Gee said why not use these games to make students get crazy too to academics (though for sure I will have a difficult time to convince the "old school" colleagues of this - this is a challenge!). Squirt also said that "Tycoon" (just like my video game) could be an effective learning tool. In fact, Matt and I agreed that this game is good for business people. It is learning by doing. It somehow prepares students to the real world that there are many things to consider to put up a business - management, human resource, maintenance, budgeting, design, and the like.

From my chosen article "Why Are Video Games Good for Learning?" by James Paul Gee, it reaffirms my query on why play video games. There are video games that are rooted through the learning principles which educators should consider, too. Roller Coaster Tycoon is an example of "action-and-goal-directed preparations for, and simulations of embodied experience." This game is just like in real life. If I were to put up a business, what things should I consider? Then I will start imagining. Through this game, I can have my blueprint on what should I do through manipulating the game. Thus, I should get myself ready for the next level!

Friday, February 6, 2009

First Gameplay: Help!

My first hour of the game - I was lucky that Matt was there to help. He gave me some basic tutorials on how to go about the game. He helped me in the downloading and led me to the buttons that I need to familiarize and master. When Matt was already out, I explored the game all by myself. I did not read the manual anymore because I was super excited! I read the tutorial and instructions though over and over again. I did the zooming many times by using pageup and pagedown keys. I felt like a child - so happy with every achievement I take even just pressing the buttons :-) . I was confused at some of the functions of the game interface. I want to put water in the pool but it did not work. I want to put more beautification in my amusement park but some features did not allow me to do so. I will just explore more next time.

The second hour - Just like what Matt mentioned in his blog, the beginning part in the career mode was pretty simple since all I need to do is beautify my place, hire workers, and attract people to take rides. At first, I did not understand the things (which were scenarios) indicated every time I play. I realized that these were tasks which I need to accomplish. I never knew that until 30 minutes. Then, as I kept on playing, I realized that there were a lot of things to be done. I was the manager, budget officer, HRD officer, etc. It is multiple-tasking! I ended up bankrupt. The figures made me dizzy. But at the end, I enjoyed playing the game. There is much to be done, discovered and explored to this game. I should be patient and creative too!

Gee mentioned about mastery. Gee argues that "the mastery a gamer gains in a given semiotic domain can prepare them for future learning and problem solving in the domain or even quite possibly related domains." This game is good for people who would like to manage their own business. This serves as a simulation game where one has to take a role. One is challenged to the real business world! It's like experiencing the real world through immersing oneself to the game.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Gee, Chapters 1 & 2: Something I discovered about video games

At first, some terminologies are new to me - semiotic, multimodal, and metalevel. Also, the games mentioned like Pikmin, The Sims, and Frogger, are jargons. I only knew Tomb Raider from the movie of Angelina Jolie, Time Machine from Back to the Future and Winnie the Pooh from Disney. I like Gee's book though because he gives definitions that make my life easier. He also describes the games that I never encountered in my whole life. I believe that games and simulations are important tools for learning but video games......... As a person who is against playing video games (influenced from the complaints of my parents), I am now curious on how do really video games enhance learning. I am also guilty because I have not really tried this myself yet. This is probably why I am led to this course.

Gee stated that "Semiotic domains are human cultural and historical creations that are designed to engage and manipulate people in certain ways. They attempt through their content and social practices to recruit people to think, act, interact, value, and feel in certain specific ways." In my own understanding, semiotic domain shows how a group of people define things. For instance, as a language teacher, I discovered that Americans use different expressions than we have in the Philippines. For example, when answering a telephone Americans say hold on, for a moment, and for a sec, while Filipinos answer is for a while. I never realized that for a while is already a long time for the Americans. Another example is in the restaurants or fastfoods. Americans would say for here or to go while Filipinos would ask dine in or take out. When I came in the U.S. last August 2008, I was so cautious with my expressions. I was afraid that Americans might not understand what I am saying. This shows that register matters on how a group of people define their own language. Thus, as an ESL teacher I am challenged not to stick on the traditional ways of teaching the language but also to be updated with the new trends like integrating educational games and simulations in classroom learning.

"Content Fetish" - Honestly, I love memorizing. However, I am poor with analyzing. When I was in elementary, we memorized poems, vocabulary, parts of the microscope, and notes in playing a piano. However, I never used a microscope not until college. In my music class, I memorized the notes in playing a piano by having a drawing on a cardboard. I'm glad that schools nowadays in my country mostly have these facilities. That is probably why I am not good in logic. Now that I am teaching, I do not want my students to be like me. I want them to experience the real world and not only on rote memorization. As of this moment, I am struggling in terms of using the technology because our classrooms have limited facilities. In fact, I bring my laptop in my classroom to make it as LCD projector at the same time. Only one sentence per slide so that my 45 students can still see it at the back. On the other hand, with my subject on Teaching With Technology last Fall, I just realized that there are free software that I can even use in my country like making a Photo Story and web tools that are accessible for classroom teaching. These are all blessings because the school does not need a big amount of money for these tools.

Active, Critical Learning Principle - Instead of memorizing subject-verb agreement, students are to listen to native American speakers in You Tube, video or movie clips, and songs. They will explain how subject-verb agreement is important in communicating a clearer message to the receiver.

Design Principle -
I would like to consider Gee's questions from his book Situated Language and Learning: A Critique of Traditional Schooling- A Final Word: The Content Fetish, page 118 in designing a learning environment: "What experiences do I want the learners to have? What simulations do I want them to able to build in their heads? What do I want them to do? What information, tools, and technologies do they need? What games do I want these learners to be able to play?" I discovered that video games could be used as a pragmatic way of learning things if students will be guided accordingly like discussing in the classroom what they learn and reflect on the game. For instance, learning prepositions through giving directions. I have read this article entitled Video Games - What are they good for? by Kandie Demarest ( She said that one of the therapeutic benefits that her son has gotten from his use of video games following and giving directions (understanding prepositions, etc.) This would be a good idea!