May 5, 2011

Hype, Reality, Insights on Cyberbullying, Videogaming, and Learning Institutions

Category: Edtech
older student helping young student with computer work

At the top of the not-to-be-missed list is “Good and Bad Cyberbullying PSAs: How to Tell the Difference,” an exceptional blog post by childhood expert Rosalind Wiseman, who insightfully frames the cyberbullying issue. As more and more organizations are creating public resources about cyberbullying, criticism has grown, and not just against the over-reaction. Recently, we’ve seen a number of examples of resources explicitly designed to fight cyberbullying that have been criticized as being more harmful than helpful, and in some cases extremely harmful. Some underlying messages in some ads, for examples, would seem to promote suicide. Wiseman offers concrete ways to identify whether a cyberbullying prevention PSA is beneficial or not. She gives us striking examples of videos, too, both positive and detrimental.

Game-Based Learning: Hype vs. Reality (blog)

President Obama recent said the following to a group of students at a public forum: “I want you guys to be stuck on a video game that’s teaching you something other than just blowing something up.” Alan Gershenfeld, founder and president of E-Line Media, had been in the game design industry for more than two decades (and currently owns Gamestar Mechanic, which we have used for years in our programs). Gershenfeld used the opportunity provided by Obama’s remark to highlight the “surprising alignment between the core elements that make video games so deeply engaging and the best practices that many of the most effective teachers are employing in the classroom.” This brief overview describes five alignments: project-based learning, personalized learning, 24/7 learning, peer-to-peer learning, and 21st century skill development.

Be a Gamer, Save the World (article)

“Videogames make players feel like their best selves,” begins the subtitle to this Wall Street Journal article, “why not give them real problems to solve?” Penned by Jane McGonigal, director of game research and development at the Institute for the Future, the article is a nice summary of the key ideas in her new book Reality Is Broken, which itself is a combination of ideas developed from a talk (such as TED2010) wrapped around remarkable case studies from her work. The subtitle sums up the two main ideas in the book: playing games makes us better people and properly designed games can make the world a better place. The first idea has often been the focus of Jane’s appearances on popular shows, like Colbert Report, that are fascinated by the meme that we should increase, not decrease, our game playing diet. The book does an excellent job of grounding this provocative idea in psychological research. The second idea, however, taps into a growing interest/frustration amongst the gaming community with the notion of gamification, the idea that game design can be placed around non-gaming systems to increase engagement. Seth Priebatsch, of SCVNGR, advocated for gamification recently at SXSW and last year in a popular TEDtalk (“The Game Layer On Top of the World”). Jesse Schell gave a popular talk in 2010 painting a picture of a point-driven life. Gabe Zichermann, who coined the term, is in a dialogue with others on the topic in this CNET video. Others, however, find the notion somewhat icky at best, dangerous at worse. A recent talk at the NYC Media Lab amongst noted game designers was entitled, “Gamification – Good or Evil,” (slides here) while Slate featured a short piece by Heather Chaplin taking Jane to task while The Guardian derided gamification. As co-founders of Games For Change, and proponents of the use of badges for education, Global Kids finds a strong case for using the power of game mechanics to support learning objectives. At the same time, we also try to keep a critical eye to see past anything naive about the approach and welcome the ongoing debate. In the end, Jane’s book raises some crucial ideas and, even when devolving into fascinating case studies, can inspire educators to consider new ways to think about games-based learning.

The Manifesto for Media Education (website)

The Manifesto for Media Education is an online project featuring reflective essays or manifestos, if you will, from more than 30 educators and experts in the field of new media and learning. Presented online as downloadable PDFs and offered under a Creative Commons license, the site seeks to bring together this cacophony of voices and opinions reflecting on the role of media in education. The project asks “Are we seeking to develop the media producers of tomorrow, or to nurture individuals capable of holding power to account…?” As a project that aims to both reflect on some twenty-plus years of scholarship around media education, and give voice to multiple directives for its future theory and practices, it is crucial that skills related to critical thinking, interpretation and advocacy remain prominent.

PLAY SCVNGR @ JOSLYN: Integrating Location-Based Gaming in an Art Museum (case study)

Laura Huntimer, the Interpretive Media Manager of the Joslyn Art Museum in Omaha, Nebraska, offers this entertaining, and detailed case study of incorporating SCVNGR, an interactive location-based gaming platform, into the visitor experience at her museum. Encountering results that were at first dispiriting, as the museum wrestled with restrictions around media usage within their galleries (the taking of photos and videos, for example), Huntimer lauds the employees of SCVNGR, a Boston-based start-up, who offered technical support as she worked to integrate mobile technology at the Joslyn with SCVNGR. This is of great interest to us at Global Kids as we too have begun to explore the affordances and limitations of SCVNGR, in a new project for the New York Public Library in which middle school youth in the Bronx are developing a geolocative game about their community.

Global Kids does an awesome job each month flagging epic resources emerging from the digital media and learning space. Please share what you’re reading and watching, too.

Global Kids’ NYC-based programs address the need for young people to possess leadership skills and an understanding of complex global issues to succeed in the 21st century workplace and participate in the democratic process.

Banner image credit: Global Kids