Saturday, April 11, 2009

Game Hunt: HABITAT by Shih Lin and Maria Angeles Dano

In our Game Hunt, our topic is all about HABITAT. The three critical things that we considered are climate, conservation, and preservation. Habitat is the place where we live. Thus, we need to conserve and preserve not only ours but also the animals. They are part of the ecosystem.

The two principles that could be applied in the games that we found are Discovery and Situated Meaning. With these principles, the learners are allowed to discover the habitat of the animals that they have not seen yet and understand the context and meaning of where they live.

The names that we captured in the games are from and The first game is all about the habitat on the right place and climate to stay for a particular animal. The other one is all about simulations on Ants Pheromone Trails, Water Motion, Earth's Biomes, Topographic Map, and more!

Final Game Play: RCT 3 - My one of a kind video game experience...

My game play of Roller Coaster Tycoon 3 gives me the idea that playing video games is fun! I did not only enjoy but also learned from this experience. It allowed me to make my own amusement park. It allowed me to become a manager. It allowed me to experience challenges that I need to face and resolve. This makes RCT 3 an all-time favorite game not only to business fanatics but also to everyone. Indeed, games and simulations allow one to explore, learn, and enjoy!

This experience challenged me to integrate video games in classroom teaching. Since English is the universal medium in these games, it will allow my students to learn new vocabulary and expressions. It will allow them to understand the context and meaning of the words. In reading the instructions, I believe that it uses formal English. With this, it could also help them in their sentence construction. What interest me most is the use of prepositions. We only have two prepositions in our native language. This is the most challenging one among the parts of speech.

The strengths of my game are its easy to learn instructions, colorful graphics, featured rides, and language used. As a first timer, I did not experience major difficulties. The colorful graphics especially with the rides gave me an idea on how these rides look like. Honestly, I have not seen most of these rides in real life when I started playing the game, but I was happy when I went to Navy Pier, Disney World, and Universal Studios. I was able to see and identify the rides which I put in my amusement park. Thanks to RCT 3!

I believe that the game could be more improved if the game allows multiple players. With this, it is like a group of people who will act as a manager, an architect, engineer, and the like. This would help in giving inputs and promote cooperative learning. The more the merrier! Another element is its features. In my game, I was not allowed to buy a piece of land. I want to have more rides and expand my amusement park. It somehow limits my world. I want to have more rides so that my guests can experience more.

As this semester is about to end, I am thankful to experience video games. Thank you for giving me this chance to play a variety of games and simulations. It is cool!

Gee's Chapter 6 & 8: Cultural Perspectives

Culture is important in the society. It is what defines patterns or behaviors among each group. We act according to what is expected from us. There are also times that we challenged the norms and moral standards of the society. In Gee's perspective, he defines cultural models as images, story lines, principles, or metaphors that capture what a particular group finds "normal" or "typical" in regard to a given phenomenon. In his example on what is "normal" or "typical", I am intrigued with these statements, "Normal teenagers rebel against their parents and other authority figures," and "Normal children respect their parents," made me reflect on the definition between "normal" or "typical". It is true that these theories are usually unconscious and taken for granted. I am one of them. Once a teenager rebels to authorities, it is "typical" to them. However, they are expected to be respectful and obedient. Most of the time, people accept what is "typical" instead of what is "normal". This is where conflict comes in because we know what is right or wrong.

On the other hand, playing video games has a different perspective in terms of defining what is "good" or "bad". Gee mentioned that people in real life and games playing as virtual characters differ. In playing video games, it is the final goal that is important. It is just like the soap operas that we watch on the television. This reminds me of an incident in my country. An old woman was so devoted in watching this soap opera and hated the antagonist so much. When she saw her in one of the malls, the old woman approached her and spanked her in public. She was so mad! Just like in video games, we have stereotypes that once a child plays first-shooter games or Counterstrike he/she is violent. Now that I have played some of these games personally, this is the challenge - educating the parents on their child's interest of playing video games.

Jim Gee's book educates people who hate video games. His perspective on how video games can be used in the classroom opened new opportunities for students to learn more and better.

Gee's occasional critique of traditional education makes me reflect on my teaching practices. He mentioned that allowing students to master a set of facts and memorizing information from teachers and books are not bad at all. However, learning does not only stop here. He is advocating to involve active and critical learning in classroom teaching. Students should also learn and understand the why and how questions and not only the what. This challenges me to give students the opportunity to be actively involved in their language learning. Allowing them to play video games and immerse themselves in learning the language through following instructions as well as communicate with the other players would widen their experience.

The two principles that I would like to highlight in Gee's work are Discovery Principle and Situated Meaning Principle. Discovery Principle allows my students to explore new things. It is allowing ample opportunity for the learners to experiment and make discoveries. Also, Situated Meaning Principle allows the learners to know the meanings of signs like words, actions, objects, and the like for an embodied experience. They do not only see it but also experience, at least virtually. Playing video games allow these learning principles to be experienced by the students. I experience it myself. Thank you Gee for this life-changing experience!

Saturday, April 4, 2009

MMORPG Reflection: A New Experience...

MMORPGs are fundamentally different from other games and simulations because it is represented by large, sophisticated, detailed, and evolving worlds based in different narrative environments. It is also a fully developed multiplayer universe with an advanced and detailed world (p. 53). Examples of these games are EverQuest and World of Warcraft. Gee also mentioned these two popular games in his chapter. In EverQuest and World of Warcraft, players log on to special Internet sites and they play simultaneously with thousands of players all over the world. Unlike games and simulations, the MMORPG experience could not be the same at all because one cannot repeat the game anymore since one could be playing with different players every time one is log on to these worlds. This is also played with affinity groups that are not necessarily present in games and simulations.

These games are similar to virtual worlds like Second Life. One is identified through his/her own avatar. The players can also chat by simply typing in the chat box. They can even talk using their headsets. Like MMORPGs, you could also meet different people across the globe. On the other hand, one of the differences between the two is that Second Life is not a game at all, although there are some features that allow people to have simulations. I came across in the Internet about sims in Second Life like Ancient History Ramblings. It says that it does an excellent job of demonstrating the ins and outs of archaeology. I also believe that SL is mainly used for educational institutions for giving lectures. It is like an online instruction.

A learning problem in my environment that might be addressed by a MMOG is knowing how non-native English speakers communicate in this game. As an English teacher, I feel guilty because there are times that I focused on the content. The main goal of learning a language is to communicate. Thus, it is important for the students to have a chance to practice the language. I believe that the most important goal is for them to express themselves using the target language at the same time be understood by the other. Since some of the students are already fanatic with video games and English as the universal language, asking them of their experiences how they communicate with other players would be interesting. I am sure they will learn more idiomatic and other expressions that they have not encountered. Just like me, my immersion to the native speakers here in the United States helped me to understand better in using the right words and expressions both in formal and informal communication. It is really a great help to go beyond the borders.

Game Play 7: Almost there...

My game play experience this week is full of ups and downs. Last week, I was overwhelmed with the experience that I was in the tycoon stage. With this, my visitors got decreased. Some of my staff were not happy anymore. In my latest experience, I got more challenges! Some rides needed to be fixed simultaneously. Then, it was recommended to have constant check up with my rides. I wanted to add more features, but it did not allow me because I do not have enough space. However, I slowly recover with the number of visitors in my amusement park. I am hoping that next week I will be able to conquer the tycoon.

This game play experience helped me realize not to jump right away in making decisions. Because of that overwhelming experience that I finally knew the basic features of the game, I just put the rides, stalls, and facilities anywhere I wanted to. I should have made a floor plan. Sometimes, I have this attitude that because it is new I will use it right away before carefully studying it. It is always best to experience it myself first before I will implement it.

Gee's Chapter 7: A Network of Fun and Learning

Video games are powerful tools of having a network of gamers who enjoy, learn and share each others' common goals and experiences. Whether it is violent or not, these gamers look for their respective identities and take a number of hours in order to alleviate their status and be recognized in the affinity groups. It is amazing to know that people all over the world can have communities of players that can communicate through chatting by typing and talking through their headsets. As long as you have the right gadgets, you are ready to go. I also knew that some of these games are really expensive. However, they do not mind at all because in playing they feel ownership of their respective identities. Moreover, they can also express themselves. They can explore, make, and recreate. They feel that they belong. It is also interesting to know on how players are so affected to the game like the story of a 15-year old boy who's name is Adrian. When he died in the game EverQuest, he kept murmuring, "I'm going to die," as if he is going to die for real. He really tried hard to be resurrected by communicating to his playmates.

I also agree with Gee's point about the social mind - if the human mind is a powerful pattern recognizer-and the evidence very much suggests it is-then what is most important about thinking is not that it is "mental," something happening inside our heads, but rather that it is social, something attuned to and normed by the social groups to which we belong or seek to belong. As human beings, we do everything that we can in order to be accepted, appreciated, and recognized in the group just like the affinity groups in video games. If we affiliate ourselves in a group like a network of teachers, we are trying our best to be updated and even go back to school for graduate studies. We do not want to stop learning. If we join professional networks, we also learn more from each others' experiences. This makes networking a powerful source of knowledge.

With my RCT 3 experience, the principle that is reflected in my game is Insider Principle - the learner is an "insider," "teacher," and "producer" (not just a "consumer") able to customize the learning experience and domain/game from the beginning and throughout the experience. RCT 3 allows me explore and create my own amusement park. With this, it gives me freedom where I can put my rides, stalls, and facilities. As I achieved the tycoon stage, it gives me a sense of fulfillment that I made it!

Dispersed Principle and Affinity Group Principle

I would like to use one of the groups that I joined in Facebook - Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistant (FLTA). I knew about this when we had our workshop in Washington, D.C. last December 2008. Out of 420 participants, it was difficult to reach them all. With this, the FLTA network in Facebook allows us to share each others' experiences. Even if this is a diverse group, it never hinder us to share each others' interest. This network also allows us to share some strategies on how to teach our languages to non-native speakers. I learn a lot from them. With the use of this technology, the world is not far beyond me.