July 2016, Manchester: Playful Learning

Website: conference.playthinklearn.net/blog

13-15 July 2016, Manchester Metropolitan University, Manchester, England.

The conference is being chaired by Mark Langan, Alex Moseley and Nicola Whitton

Call for papers: conference.playthinklearn.net/blog/call-for-papers

From the website: “Playful Learning is pitched at the intersection of learning and play for adults. Playful in approach and outlook, yet underpinned by robust research and working practices, we’ll be providing a space where teachers, researchers and students can play, learn and think together. A space to meet other playful people and be inspired by talks, workshops, activities and events. Based in the heart of Manchester, we’ll also be exploring some of the city’s playful spaces with evening activities to continue the fun and conversations after the formal programme ends.”

(I’m on the conference committee and therefore officially endorse this event 🙂 )

April 2016, Tampere: Money and Games

Website: gamemoneyseminar.wordpress.com

18-19 April 2016, Game Research Lab, University of Tampere, Tampere, Finland.

Organised by: gamelab.uta.fi

From the website: “It may be the classic view among scholars of play to see games as separate from everyday, and to maintain that nothing of value is created in them. In contemporary perspective, this notion does no longer appear as valid. Games have evolved into commercial, designed products and services, which influence the surrounding economy and culture. Furthermore, although games may be free, games set up endogenous systems of meaning with proprietary monetary systems, virtual economies, that are natural monopolies for the companies that created the games. Yet, even these monopolies have several links to global networks of monetary flows. The game industry is a major player in world economy, and effects like regional tax subsidiaries, playbour performed by participants, and sweatshop work on consoles are archetypical examples of information labour in a network society.

In addition to monetary effects of games at macro level, also micro level effects are significant. Money influences how games are experienced at the individual level of players and games influence players’ perception of money before, during and after playing, for example in gambling games. Games have various currencies and reward systems comparable to money and, on the other hand, money itself can represent these same reward systems, which have also social and cultural meanings for players.

Money and Games is the 12th annual spring seminar organized by University of Tampere Game Research Lab. The seminar welcomes any and all scholarly work on the intersection of money and games.”

As I’ve happily said before, the Game Research Lab at Tampere University are also a friendly group of pro-active researchers; the best conference I have ever attended was their 2007 Gamers in Society seminar.

Digital Games, Design, and Learning: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis

In the April 2015 edition of Review of Educational Research can be found:

Digital Games, Design, and Learning: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis.

Authors: Douglas B. Clark, Emily E. Tanner-Smith, and Stephen S. Killingsworth.

Abstract: In this meta-analysis, we systematically reviewed research on digital games and learning for K–16 students. We synthesized comparisons of game versus nongame conditions (i.e., media comparisons) and comparisons of augmented games versus standard game designs (i.e., value-added comparisons). We used random-effects meta-regression models with robust variance estimates to summarize overall effects and explore potential moderator effects. Results from media comparisons indicated that digital games significantly enhanced student learning relative to nongame conditions (g = 0.33, 95% confidence interval [0.19, 0.48], k = 57, n = 209). Results from value added comparisons indicated significant learning benefits associated with augmented game designs (g = 0.34, 95% confidence interval [0.17, 0.51], k = 20, n = 40). Moderator analyses demonstrated that effects varied across various game mechanics characteristics, visual and narrative characteristics, and research quality characteristics. Taken together, the results highlight the affordances of games for learning as well as the key role of design beyond medium.

My notes: One swallow doesn’t make a summer, and one paper doesn’t “prove” that digital games are jolly useful things to use in education, learning and teaching. However, every so often an article, paper or report of the thousands (yes, thousands) published on games in learning every year comes along that does show something significant, has some persuasive analysis in it, and is definitely worth a read. This recent paper is one. The work looks at research published between 2000 and 2012 and was funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. There’s a brief, and far less technical, summary document which introduces the various hypotheses. It’s a long text; the statistics within are somewhat hardcore (and my first degree was in statistics), and it’s a good few hours of concentrated reading. The reference section is also pretty good.

More information at:

n.b. Thanks to Doug for a copy of a version of the paper.

Review: Understanding Gamification

I reviewed the ALA report “Understanding Gamification”; it can be found in Ariadne.

The print version is a little pricey, but it’s free to read online or download each chapter. Overall, the report is a pretty good text if you are new to the concept.

Understanding Gamification

October 2015, Ann Arbor: Gender and Gaming

Website: www.lib.umich.edu/events/university-michigan-gender-gaming-symposium-2015

24 October 2015, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA.

From the event website: In the past few years, issues of gender have become prominent in the discussion around gaming, both as relates to the games themselves and in the larger gaming culture. This symposium aims to critically engage these ongoing narratives, explore how gaming culture can impact broader social spheres, and indicate how gender relations in gaming can be improved going forward through two keynote talks, a series of roundtable discussions, a panel discussion of student gamers, and a game gallery of significant texts. Attendees can expect to participate heavily throughout the day and leave with a deeper understanding of game culture, its social significance, and what its future might entail.

Keynote Speakers:

  • Rabindra (Robby) Ratan, assistant professor, Department of Media & Information, Michigan State University. “Avatars for Empowerment: A research trajectory aimed toward reducing social disparity in education through avatar use”
  • Adrienne Shaw, assistant professor, Department of Media Studies and Production, Temple University. “Representation Matters: Reframing arguments for diversity in digital games”

Sponsored by: University of Michigan Library Computer and Video Game Archive; University of Michigan Library Diversity Council; University of Michigan Institute for Humanities; Ann Arbor District Library.

Minecraft in Northern Ireland schools

BBC News has a short piece today on the use of this particular software in schools:

Fifty-thousand schoolchildren in Northern Ireland could soon be playing one of the world’s most popular video games in class. Minecraft will be made available to every post-primary school as part of an innovative technology project.

The Guardian follows up with Minecraft free for every secondary school in Northern Ireland:

Minecraft will be given to secondary schools in Northern Ireland as part of a project organised by the annual CultureTECH festival and funded by the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure. The hugely popular building-block game will be supplied to 200 schools and 30 libraries and community organisations, which will all receive download codes for MinecraftEdu, the educational version of the game.

(Update: August 2015)

More from BBC News: Northern Ireland teachers to attend training school in Stranmillis:

Topics covered in the camp include classroom leadership, e-safety, helping pupils with dyslexia, using Minecraft in teaching, pastoral care and effective science teaching.

August 2016, Dundee: DiGRA/FDG

Website: digra-fdg2016.org/

1-6 August 2016, Abertay University, Dundee, Scotland.

(From the blog of Frans Mäyrä)

Abertay University is the home of the Europe’s oldest computer games program and the UK’s first university Centre for Excellence in Computer Games Education, offering undergraduate and post-graduate degrees in games technology, game design and production management, and computer arts. The city of Dundee has been a major hub for game development since the release of Lemmings in 1991 by DMA – now known as Rockstar North.

Dundee is less than an hour away by train from the city centre of Edinburgh, and the 2016 conference will be held in the week immediately preceding the Edinburgh Festival (including the Fringe), the largest annual cultural festival in the world. Abertay also hosts the Dare Protoplay festival, one of the largest indie games festivals in the UK, and the Dare to be Digital game design competition, which will be held just before the conference.

(Updated information, from the DiGRA website)

For the first time, the Digital Games Research Association (DiGRA) and the Foundation of Digital Games (FDG) will partner in an unprecedented gathering of games researchers. We invite researchers and educators within game research, broadly construed, to submit their work.

DiGRA/FDG aims at being a venue for game research from all research disciplines. In line with this, it accepts and encourages submissions in the following six tracks, on a wide range of subjects including, but not limited to:

  • Game design: Design techniques, practices, methods, post mortems, etc.
  • Game criticism and analysis: Close readings, ontologies and frameworks, historical studies, philosophical explorations, and other humanities-informed approaches
  • Play studies + Interaction and player experience: studies of play, observations and interviews of players, and research based on other methods from the social sciences; game interfaces, player metrics, modeling player experience
  • Artificial intelligence: agents, motion/camera planning, navigation, adaptivity, procedural content generation, dialog, authoring tools, general game playing
  • Game technology: engines, frameworks, graphics, networking, animation
  • Game production: studies of game production processes, studio studies, software studies, platform studies and software engineering

Due to the interdisciplinary nature of the DiGRA/FDG conference, authors and reviewers alike will be required to describe their research background and field of study as part of the submission process. The intention for this is to help reviewers be conscious of when they are reviewing work outside their own field as well as making clear the proportions of contributing fields.

The DuoLingo experience

At the end of last year, I met up with the Jisc Futurist again for what’s becoming our seasonal meal out. This one was ‘winter’, spent indoors in a pleasant Mediterranean restaurant. Once I’d gotten used to DMs and RTs illuminating on his watch, we were served some excellent vegetarian and burnt animal foods.

Med food

And in our meals one thing we regularly do is, inevitably, discuss DuoLingo at some point. Martin has young children who do this, without parental support or prodding, so he sees how they use it. I keep coming across DuoLingo (and am using it, albeit haphazardly) as it keeps being mentioned as the flagship for gamification-enhanced education, though the gamification and game elements are arguably the least interesting (neat though they are).

DuoLingo is a persistently interesting example. As TJF points out, there are a lot of people using it; the kind of numbers that the education sector need to keep an eye on. It’s free, easy to use, quick to get started, and there’s the nice intrinsic hooks of achieving through earning gamified things and learning a language at the same time. In fact it’s so easy to get going (old tech is fine; seconds, not minutes, to start) that there’s little excuse for EdTech commentators to not try it before commenting.

And, and this may be the attribute that makes it so usable, it is ferociously quick to move through a lesson – even though you have to achieve more right answers than wrong. Got a few minutes? You can do a new lesson or repeat a previously completed one.

basics

It’s not perfect. Languages come out of an incubator somewhat rough around the edges, and not of academically rigorous quality. Volunteers, rather than certified experts, develop this initial content. Speech and sound, vital to speaking a new language correctly, is of variable quality. And the translations that players are given (which are part of the business model) are sometimes random, irrelevant or things you will never say.

But it’s been around for a few years and the numbers do add up. And by that I mean the large number of users/players/learners, and the proportion reaching advanced stages and completing (as opposed to MOOC drop-out rates). Not everyone benefits; there’s always losers. While taxi drivers complain about Uber taking away their business, there’s less in the press about the language teaching and translation sectors taking substantial damage with individuals fearing for their futures. But it’s happening.

mistake

So, yes. Worth a “play”, at the very least.