Terça-feira, 27 de Outubro de 2009
PdD Homework (23 Oct)

I don't know which tags should I use. Bah. Let's get this rolling.



Who will be the participants on your study? How will they be selected?


I have no idea who they are. I know one thing for sure: they speak greek, I don't.


Jokes aside, here's what I know about them: they're the first year undergraduate students from the Department of Physical Education & Sport Science (DPESS for short) of the University of Thessaly, and they're part of this compulsory course named "Computers", which is where we're going to implement this game prototype.


You remember when I explained my greek mentor's situation with these students in another post, right? Students would often becom bored with this course, especially during the theory classes. Working with computers is one thing, getting a lecture about computers is diferent.


There were many studies about games being introduzed in curriculums in schools and high schools, but I'm not aware of many cases done within universities. These are not children, they're young adults facing their first year of college.


What I know is, they're part of the most recent generation being shaped by technology, constantly connected, and (hopefully) ready to learn something new. Claire Raines dubbed this generation as the Millenials, but they're also known by other definitions, such as the Internet Generation, Digital Generation, or even Nintendo Generation (I was more of a Sega fangirl).

They're described by Raines as "sociable, optimistic, talented, well-educated, collaborative, open-minded, influential, and achievement-oriented." They're impatient, and their learning preference center around "teamwork, technology, structure, entertainment & excitement, experiential activities" (all being quoted from her article, it's worth a look)


Do those characteristics apply to the students I'm going to meet in Greece? Are they well aquaitanced with technology as any other "Millenial"? Would they like to learn through a course with a lecture, a game, or another multimedia enviroment?

I'll only be able to answer these questions when I meet them face to face.



What data do I need for your studies?


I'm assuming (but still need to confirm) the students' knowledge acquired with the game and with the others methods is going to be tested, somehow. That way, we can determinated how successful the game will be in educating, or at least, incentivating students.


First, I need to know how are these students before hand. And then I'll need to know what they think of the game:


- Overall Appeal

- Quality of user interface

- Accessibility of learning material and questions

- Educational value

(these were the evaluation elements my greek mentor used for one of her studies, as described in her article)




How are you going to collect such data? Which instruments are you going to use?


I'm thinking of questionnaries. They can't be too complex, but it's a possible way to find out what the students think of the game. At least, in a qualitative way.


Then we'll have those knowledge tests too, but that is something I'll only be able to take a look next year.


And I think stablishing a discussion group would not be a bad idea. I can talk with them individually, but in group, they can generate a hivemind of common opinions torwards the game, confirm "Millenial" characteristics among them, etc.

If we get to do discussion groups, then we should make one before introducing the game, and one after the game. Of course, my main obstacle here is the language.


I should be using typical instruments to retrieve data, like NVivo. If we could implement data tracking inside the game, and keep a database updated with student gaming scores and the such, it would be definitly help a lot with the research, but I fear for my programing skills (We're planning on building the game using Flash/Actionscript, but how far can I go?)



That is all, for now.


Sexta-feira, 23 de Outubro de 2009
Seminarios #3

So, I lied on Twitter.

Theories, models, authors...



There's not much to tell about theories or models. The closest thing to a "model" I have come to face is a pattern found in most articles I have been studying, especially the ones about the introdution of digital game based learning in classes:


- Description about the class, subject and curriculum, what is expected to be taught to students;


- Several problems the class faces, especially the students (from extensive theory to boredom);


- Create a game concept especially for the class;


- Divide the class in two, test one with the game, the other with other learning methods;


- Compare results, discuss.



This is pretty much it, and it's what I'm going to do. Except these guys described the process in about ten pages. I'm describing it in 100-200 pages.




As for authors, meet Thomas W. Malone. This gentleman is found as a reference in many articles, but what left me more curious about him was his article "What makes things fun to learn?", which is from 1980. That's a long time, technology has changed a lot in almost 30 years, yet investigators keep citing his works.


It's no surprise. Malone names several characteristics which make computer games and learning fun (and not just games, these elements can be applied to other situations), and organizes them in three groups: Challenge, Fantasy and Curiosity. I'm certainly using part of his writings as guidelines for my game concept, as I'm most concerned about making sure the game is both educational and fun for the students.


I'll talk about other authors later.

PdD Homework #3

Ah, it's so late. I should have written this earlier, but...


@codebits: Punchline: Codebits Quiz, ruining productivity and good night's sleep since 2008.



It's their fault.





Which methodology is more fitting for your current investigation?



I think mine is  the investigation-action method, but shares similarities with the experimental one.


I mean, I have yet to meet those who'll work with in Greece, especially the class for who we're going to develop the game prototype. If all goes well, we'll test the game with a group, and later compare results between two groups, one who played with the game, the other used other learning methods.


There's an investigation growing right now. I'm currently analizying study cases, articles about others games being used in similar situations.


Correct me if I'm wrong. Well, short post. Off to the next subjects.




(what tags should I add to these type of homework posts anyway?)

Quinta-feira, 8 de Outubro de 2009
Tonight: Computer Games as Educational Tools

Sounds interesting and relevant to my interests. Just letting you folks know if you want to assist as well:





EDIT: Records and Logs from the session: http://www.futureofeducation.com/forum/topics/computer-games-as-educational

Terça-feira, 6 de Outubro de 2009
Investigation question + more homework

Right. I forgot to answer one question on the previous blog post. But first:



Why are you writing in English?


Because I'm a masochist, and I like to write posts filled with typos in another language.

Seriously, I have another blog, and I write in English most of the time. It's convenient because I have several friends/gaming partners/victims scattered around the globe, and 80% of them only know how to say a couple of swear words in Portuguese. Which I have taught them.


Did I mention I'm going to write my thesis in English? Yes, it's going to be f***ed up, but I have two mentors, one speaks in Portuguese, the other speaks in Greek, but both know enough English to be able to interact with each other. And I'll be able to reach a wider audience when I start publishing articles.



With which question do you plan to start the project?

(lol, I translated this the best I could from the slides)


Ah. Good question.


I don't have a defined question, what I have is a problem based on a pattern I have observed so far while reading these articles about creating digital learning games: most of them are meant to be used in classes which students find themselves unmotivated to learn something.


What I could ask is: "What elements should I include in a digital learning game in order to motivate the student -and- teach something at the same time?"




What's been done so far in this field?



Let's start with my Greek mentor, who wrote this article about a game she created "for learning computer memory concepts, which was designed according to the curricular objectives and the subject matter of the Greek high school Computer Science (CS) curriculum". This game was compared with another similar application, but sans game elements, and introduced to two groups. She also observed if there were any difference between boys and girls as they interacted with the game.

She concluded the game did motivate and promote students' knowledge, and both boys and girls' gainings with the game were similar.


Another example comes from Atif Waraich's studies, as described in the article I'm reading right now, about a "prototype multimedia Interactive Learning Environment (ILE)" for students learning about computer architecture. Once again, the issue is to find out how to motivate the students and engage them in learning something, by bringing game elements to their learning process.

It's concluded games can motivate students "to learn abstract domains", but further studies are necessary.


And most of my articles at hand are basically about this: teachers and investigators who seek and create games which can promote learning and appeal students.



Any notable results from the previous studies?


In a nutshell:


- The games used in those studies did appeal students, from children to adolescents, and they're able to learn something with it;


- The games used are not always compared with traditional methods of teaching, but with multimedia/web applications used for learning;


- I have yet to read an article where it's proved that games didn't have an efficient impact in the students' knowledge like other learning methods (if there's one, please tell me where I can find it), yet most investigators still say more studies are required.



So far, so good. Time to resume reading, I have a meeting this week, and my mentor will smack me if I don't read all articles. I also have to set a Gantt diagram to control my schedules.


... I hate Gantt diagrams.






Works cited for the masses:


Papastergiou, Marina. "Digital Game-Based Learning in High School Computer Science Education: Impact on Educational Effectiveness and Student Motivation." Computers & Education.52 (2009): 1-12.

Waraich, Atif. "Using Narrative as a Motivating Device to Teach Binary

Arithmetic and Logic Gates."  (2004).


Sábado, 3 de Outubro de 2009
Introduction to my dissertation.

Here I am, trying to come up with a more decent post, and marking the beginning of my thesis project. Actually, it began when my kind tutors dropped five articles on me, to read over the week.



What's the dissertation about, anyway?


The easiest way to answer is to copy 'n' paste the introduction from the paper:


“Design and development of a computer game aimed at helping physical
education and sport science undergraduates learn basic Information and
Communication Technology (ICT) concepts”


And such game prototype is to be developed in the Department of Physical Education & Sport Science of the University of Thessaly, in Greece.


According to this paper, there's a course called "Computers" being taught to the freshmen of the mentioned University. They learn about computers (as obvious), hardware and software, Internet, etc.

Dr. Marina Papastergiou, my soon-to-be thesis mentor, teaches this class, and she writes in this paper (and I'll quote), that her "previous experiences of teaching conceptual topics in lecture format to non-computer science undergraduates have shown her that students soon get bored and look forward to actually using computers and the Internet."


We've all been there, right? And she's aware of this problem, and is looking for alternatives to keep students motivated while learning. And what's one of the best ways of fighting boredom? Games!

Educational games have been used in classes, but its results are not always recorded to later study. So, Dr. Papastergiou's goal is to create a game (the first level, at least) containing course material, and get two groups of students: one will be using the game, the other will use traditional teaching methods. That way, it will be possible to compare the results, and support the investigation about educational gaming.


And guess who's the wannabe designer who'll help create this game?



Why did you choose this project?


This was my first option when I sent the email to the teachers for the project selection process.


First of all, I love games, and I was really looking forward to work on something related to games for the thesis. My career objectives involve working in videogame studios as a Concept/2D/3D Artist or Game Designer.

And while I don't have good impressions of certain so called "educational games" you see in the market, I do believe in games as a fundamental part in a learning process, keeping the students motivated while they learn.


And it's in Greece, an excellent oportunity to visit a country with a solid civilization history and mythology, while working on my thesis.



What title would you give to your project right now?


Good question. The only option I have thought of so far is "Teaching ICT (Information and Communication Technology) concepts via Digital Game-Based Learning methods."

It won't be too far from that concept.



What I'm doing to do:


- Learn greek, or I won't survive for too long in Greece. If all goes well, I'll spend my first month in Thessaloniki, under an intensive greek language course, then I'll move to Trikala to work on the project;


- Lots of drawings for sure, from concept art of possible characters in the game and scenarios, to storyboards. Hopefully, I'll have a couple of sketches ready to take with me;


- And build a decent theory part for my thesis, by searching over other similar projects and written articles;


- Establish a daily/weekly schedule, be more organized;


- Visit historical sites and Athens' ruins... what, they could be inspirational. And I'll fill SAPO Campus with lots of photos and videos, no worries!



What I'm -not- going to do:


- Avoid informal statements in the thesis. I hate being formal, but it has to be done, I can't post images from xkcd.com this time.

However, don't expect me to be too formal on this blog. Oh no, not on the internet, baby~


- I'm not going to protest, rant about the project (ey, it was my choice), or at least, keep my grumpyness at low levels. I'll leave all the swearing for the thesis aftermath.


- Keep a -neutral- stand about the games subject, this is very important. While studying for my article about violence in videogames and how they affect gamers, I came accross too many biased opinions, even among academic scholars. It was all about "it's either A or B, it can't be both."

I love games, and it's my purpose to make this game work because I do want positive results, but I have to keep in mind things do not always work as we expect.


- Do not slack off, etc, etc, the usual stuff.



What I'll probably do:


- Learn a lot with this experience;


- Publish an article about it, if all goes well;


- Get a foregein boyfriend-*SHOT*


No clues about:


- How to swear in greek. It's fundamental, kids. If I'm going to ask for a sandvich, and I don't know how to say it in greek, I can't run the risk of having others teach me the wrong words, without me being aware of their true meaning.



Ah, and I'll stop here before this post goes down to the underworld. Expect another post soon.



Honey, I fried the css editor.

It seems I messed up too much with the css editor. Enough that no change I'll do in the "intermediate" part of the personalization section will take effect, I have to change it manually in the css stylesheet. Oh well.


I know I have homework to do, but it's 3h AM. Photoshop is telling me to stop beating it with a whip, and the background is eye-bleeding enough. Expect a more decent post tomorrow.


Enjoy the infection..


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