I am hugely excited about this blog post. I mean it!
The first thing I want to discuss briefly in this blog post is the integration of virtual worlds such as Second Life into the teaching toolbox of the future.
I was inspired by one of the videos in the Topic 3 resources for this week that discussed the practical uses for Virtual Worlds in Education. One of the things the guy said that stuck with me was “It’s not a game, it’s a space”. He was talking about how places such as Second World can be made into whatever it is you want to make it into and It got me thinking, aren’t classrooms just like that too?
The only reason we think that games cannot be used for educational purposes is because we think of them as places only for games. Similarly it’s like saying that you can’t play games in a classroom because classrooms are only for learning. I don’t know about the rest of you but I’ve been in many classrooms that are being used primarily for game play rather than learning!
The benefits of using Virtual Worlds for educational purposes include being able to target and develop particular skills, promoting teamwork and problem solving and getting students to use their initiative and be independent thinkers in order to create something…and you can’t forget how much awesome fun it would be for the students! It seems to me that what we as teachers need to do is think creatively and just be open to integrating new and unfamiliar methods into our pedagogy. Personally I think it is massively cool to be able to hold a virtual class!
Now, the video that really got me thinking was the TED talk by Jane McGonigal on how gaming can make a better world. About half way through the video I realised I had actually seen the exact same talk a couple of years ago… never mind, it’s even more amazing the second time through!
If you haven’t watched it go watch it now, it’s really worth the 20 minutes! It basically talks about how playing video games creates “super empowered hopeful individuals” within the virtual world and how if we can find a way to have these “super empowered hopeful individuals” in reality, we’d have a better chance at solving critical world issues such as poverty, hunger & war. McGonigal believes that video games teaches gamers to be/have –
1. Urgent Optimism: this is basically extreme self motivation combined with the belief that we have a reasonable hope of success. Games teach us this because we are often given quests etc. that are difficult but never too difficult. If we’re thinking with the Quality Teaching Framework in mind we could say hey, this sounds a little like high expectations.
2. Social Fabric: Basically playing games with someone makes you like them better because we put a lot of trust in other people when we play games with them. It’s also just an awesome way to interact and communicate with others… any QTF Elements jump out at you here???
3. Blissful Productivity: pretty much that gamers are happier working hard than relaxing when they play games because they are working towards something that has meaning to them. Gee, do you think this might be useful in teaching?
4. Epic Meaning: Gamers have a purpose when they play games, they go on awe inspiring missions and World of Warcraft is the 2nd biggest Wiki after Wikipedia. This isn’t just some game, this is a way of life. What if students attached that much meaning to learning outcomes in the classroom??
The thing that I loved the most was the discussion over the “epic win”. Pretty much this is when you’re about to achieve something or get something that is so great that you never even thought it was possible. What if our students in the classroom thought like this? What if we as teachers had the ability to provide students with the hope that with the right guidance and tools that they too can achieve things they didn’t think were possible?
To me this sums up what teaching is about. It’s not teaching kids dates or facts, it’s about trying to get them to want to change their world and giving them the support to believe that they can.