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Pic of the Week: Dubai  Cruise
Cruising past Atlantis, Dubai October 09

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Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Day 4 & 5

I thought I would put these 2 days together as they were very similar. By now the kids have the routine down pat and we arrive and they just get into it. I barely have time to set the camera up and they are away. The camera is still recording the room and their interactions but no game play. I am relying on the desk top recording software for that... The three kids working together are slightly more advanced than the other three but we are seeing some lovely cooperative play and amazing conversations. I have been observing their play and their conversations;they have this ability to concentrate and play the game, as well as have three or four conversations at he same time going on. When someone needs help they sometimes direct a question to a player that is near them or in a more advanced situation, and sometimes just call out randomly and someone from the group will usually, but not always answer their question. Both days produced some stunning play, but the big disappointment was the desktop video recording software which didn't record the play properly. gasp

The internet cafe guy, Justin, said he had tested it, but on another game!It showed the player logging on and clicking on the play icons, but as soon as the game screen came up the screen went black, which meant only the video recordings of the room and discourse survived the fifth day. So I have scheduled another days play and we have installed another piece of desktop video software called "hypercam" Which we tested and it worked. So we have rescheduled another special session where I will record the play with the new software. Thanks to Flynn, my 12 year old son who suggested it after playing World of Warcraft, and reading in the forums that players use hypercam and "Frapp" to video their game play. So we figured that if it worked with WoW it would work with Rappelz!

I have also remembered some research spoken of by Dr John Edwards called "stimulated recall", You can read about how researchers used this method to examine student in-class thinking . In this method they had two video cameras, one pointing at the student and one pointing at the teacher giving a lesson. They recorded the lesson and the teacher as well then did a very quick edit and dubbing at the end of the lesson on to another tape using a split screen. The student then watched the teacher teach and themselves during the lesson, the student was able to stop and start the tape to talk about what he/she were thinking at certain points in the lesson. They discovered some amazing things about what students were actually thinking about during a lesson.

I have an idea to create a variation on this method, by using the video of the game play and have the students watch themselves playing on video and be able to stop and start the video and explain what they were thinking during the game. This I hope to match to James Paul Gee's 36 learning principles which are embedded in "good" video games and that he feels are too often neglected in schools. These include points such as the self-knowledge principle (learners should learn not only about an external domain but also about themselves and their capacities), the situated meaning principle (the meaning of signs are situated in embodied experience), and the discover principle (overt telling should be kept to a minimum, allowing opportunities for learners to experiment and make discoveries.) As Derek W rightly commented on this blog, that I might have some hunches about what is going on but I have to try and show evidence for what I think is happening. I think Gee's 36 principles might be a good start.

James Paul Gee in "What video Games have to teach us about literacy and learning", discusses how video games teach children about semiotic domains, or systems of symbols and meaning, such as those found in a video game, which he describes as a form of literacy. A traditional concept of literacy is being able to read and write, whereas in this context we are talking about a broader definition; the ability to decode images, symbols, graphs, diagrams and artifacts in specific contexts. Gee argues that video games provide opportunities for learning in a virtual environment where players can experiment with solutions to problems without severe consequences for error.

This element of “play” and experimentation leads to the development of systems of mastery that are constantly challenged by higher levels of play. True learning is based in experiences that the learner is able to build on.

Learning in a real situation or authentic way gives opportunities for meaningful learning, this is called situated cognition.

StevenJohnson argues that over the last thirty years popular culture has becomes more cognitively demanding. Despite television being passive rather than interactive activity, the plot lines and narrative devices used in today's television shows are much more demanding than they were thirty years ago - compare "The Simpson's" to "The Mary Tyler-Moore Show".

Johnson's argument is that same skills exercised in modern pop culture are useful in the modern world and also correlate with the type of intelligence measured by IQ tests. As generations grow up more engaged in behavior that exercises this type of intelligence, their IQ scores rise. He asserts that this may be an explanation for the Flynn Effect, a steady increase in IQs over the last forty years.

He also discusses the different aspects of gaming psychology. The driving force that keeps you hooked on a game is what he terms “seeking.” He uses Grand Theft Auto as an example; the player drives around wherever he wishes, seeing new scenes around every corner.

“. . . Most of the time when you’re hooked on a game, what draws you in is an elemental form of desire: the desire to see the next thing. You want to cross that bridge to see what the east side of the city looks like. . . .”


Probing is the action that seeking induces. Computer games now are not self-explanatory and obvious. The player has to explore the world before he can reach his goal. This includes exploring the rules of the game and the physics of the game world.

You sit down at the computer and say, ‘What am I supposed to do?You’re supposed to figure out what you’re supposed to do. You have to probe the depths of the game’s logic to make sense of it, and like most probing expeditions, you get results by trial and error, by stumbling across things, by following hunches” .

Some of these rules you can learn just by reading the manual; others have to be discovered by playing. My students did not read the manual, they improved their skill by playing the game itself, gaining new knowledge then applying that knowledge in new situations. So the learning is situated in an authentic context, but skills and competencies learned to progress to one level might not work at a higher level, so they need to be adapted and re-learned in the context of prior learning or experience.

Probing constructs the hierarchy of tasks that facilitate telescoping. This means that the gamer must keep long-term goals in mind as well as the current objectives at hand.

I call the mental labor of managing all these simultaneous objectives ‘telescoping’ because of the way the objectives nest inside on another like a collapsed telescope. I like the term as well because part of the skills lie in focusing on immediate problems while still maintaining a long-distance view” .


According to Johnson, multitasking is the action of doing multiple, unrelated things at once, and telescoping is doing multiple actions with a single objective in mind. Johnson differentiates between the two by saying, "Telescoping should not be confused with multitasking. Holding this nested sequence of interlinked objectives in your mind is not the same as classic multitasking teenager scenario, where they’re listening to their iPod while instant messaging their friends and Googling for research on a term paper. Multitasking is the ability to handle a chaotic stream of unrelated objectives".

Johnson talks about the result of multitasking which he calls Continuous Partial Attention. He explains this by saying, “It usually involves skimming the surface of the incoming data, picking out the relevant details, and moving on to the next stream."

Multimedia pioneer Linda Stone has coined this valuable term for this kind of processing: continuous partial attention. You’re paying attention, but only partially. That lets you cast a wider net, but it also runs the risk of keeping you from really studying the fish. In other words, continuous partial attention is the result of multitasking where things don’t get studied in depth; they are only looked at on a surface level. Johnson differentiates multitasking and telescoping even further by explaining this idea of continuous partial attention.

Mark Prensky in "Don't Bother Me Mom I'm learning", argues that the increased complexity and cognitive demands of video games is changing the way the human brain develops, that "the Digital Natives" actually think differently. Repeated exposure to video games and other digital media was found to develop and enhance certain thinking skills, for example, the ability to read visual images as representations of three dimensional spaces, and Inductive Discoveryacting like a scientist by making observations, formulating hypotheses, and figuring out the rules governing the behaviour of a dynamic representation.


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This is Lawrence Lessig's TED presentation, On "How creativity is being strangled by the law." Lawrence Lessig is Professor of Law at Stanford law school and founder of the Creative Commons Movement. See Lessig.org

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