Tutorial responses

SECOND LIFE
Tutorial 1

Questions:
  1. What do you know about Second life already? Second life is a virtual world where individuals can be whoever they want to be. Either exact replications of themselves or a completely different person: Second life provides the opportunity for freedom. It's a place where individuals can share ideas and connect with people from all over the world. It is a fascinating place where people can go on adventures, join groups, and look for support they might not find in the real world.
  2. What were some of the key ideas made in the video? Creativity from artists, musicians, sculptors, painters and people who didn't consider themselves any of those were able to reflect and share their ideas and search for new ways to convey meaning. Everyone participated whether they were famous or not. The symposium was a true collaboration. People were free to be creative.
  3. What range of spaces were reflected in the wiki and in the SimTeach 12 report? It is amazing to see that Second Life has such a strong focus on the educational value. There have been symposiums from many of leading specialists in Second Life. The Wiki highlighted how Second Life allows for flexible online education. Students and facilitators come together and use slides, videos, discussions, group projects and other means of learning that would usually happen in the real world. One of the most interesting ones I found was "The Infinite Mind" in Second Life - Through the looking glass. It's fascinating that the weekly radio program covers topics such as behaviour and mental health. The Training and Skills Development is also very impressive where people can train for skills to be used in real life (Cisco and Microsoft Certification). Second Life also allows for self-paced Tutorials where individuals can explore topics that interest them and learn more. The Displays and exhibits are very impressive. I particularly like the Remember Me- Alzheimer's Exhibit. It is informing but engaging at the same time, similar to what is offered through the Immersive Exhibits. I can't get over how much is offered and how much Second Life really reflects the real world: Anthropology research, Fund raising, Support for people with Disabilities, Politics, Business, Real Estate and a whole slew of Architecture communities. I really like that the SimTeach talked about the Global Kids Island and how they're trying to bring youth development into the teen world. I also thought the Educator's Workshop was interesting and could have been fascinating to attend.
  4. What are the questions you think would make an interesting discussion? I think asking how realistic it really is for teachers to use second life in the classroom because of limitations put on school by the department of education.

Reflection:
a) What makes Second Life unique and of interest to so many different groups of people?
Second Life is a blend of fantasy and reality. It lets people be as similar to their real self as possible, or lets them experiment with genre, race, class, to escape any judgment they may experience in the real world and to join groups and sub-cultures. It gives people the freedom to try new things, and can even affect the offline self.
b) What do some of the stories and case studies tell us about the worth of a space such as Second Life in their lives?
Denver noted that she has blossomed offline after participating online. The character of Spiderman explained very well the freedoms he's encountered in Second Life: freedom of sexuality, of ender, the ability to promote himself, to show off his fashion. The space of Second Life is liberating to many people and may be the only way some people feel they can truly express themselves.
c) What are some of the potentials for using Second Life in and across a range of contexts?
I think the use of the groups and sub-cultures is very important. It allows people to learn from each other, explore themselves without worry of consequences and can be used in any context. One avatar in the presentation put it very bluntly: she uses her avatar to hide, and maybe that's what some people do, they hide themselves behind their avatars to explore a new self, to feel free to act on their inner desires and live out fantasies.
d) How might you now answer your own questions before viewing the slides? What is left unanswered?
I still don't think my question has been answered. Maybe it could be an extra curricular activity that students can participate in, because you can't assign it for homework as not all students have access to computers and the internet. Hopefully Second Life will be incorporated in the classroom in the near future as it can really be used for any subject, and give students the freedom to explore an alternate self, one they might repress due to the constraints of social norms.

Reflection:
  1. What are some of the key themes and issues related to life in virtual worlds? I think a key theme in Second Life is about how people represent themselves and the freedom they get to explore who they are and participate in experiences they wouldn't try in real life. It is interesting to think that because Second Life has it's own economy that a lawsuit has come about. It worries me that if the case is won it will open a floodgate of other users suing each other, but i guess that's just one real life representation that carries over to Second Life.
  2. Some say that 80% of internet users will have a second life within the next few years - do you think this is probable? Do your own bit of future speculation :) I don't know if 80% of internet users will have it. As addicting as Second Life is, I think it's really only the people who are clued into the online lifestyle and gaming culture who will become a part of it (unless of course, they use if for class). I know that there is a huge population and that it is growing all the time, and maybe I'm underestimating the popularity of it, but I'm thinking maybe half of internet users will have an account (after all, there are a lot of internet users out there).
  3. What questions do you still have unanswered? I think anything I'm still wondering about would be answered through experience in Second Life. I think it would be fascinating to attend symposiums and visit some of the Slurls that were presented in the wiki about second life. I would really like to explore the educational side of the virutal world, not just the social one (but that makes me wonder, would I change my avatar to look more presentable in the education realm, or leave her as is?)

AVATARS
Tutorial 2:
I find the quotes at the beginning of the youtube slideshow intriguing because it questions how avatars express a person: act of self-expression or of belonging to a group. I also find the slideshow impressive because it really shows how many types of avatars there are (including animals, and alien looking beings). I especially like that the last avatar turns into the actual man.
I like that people use their avatars in unconventional ways (wearing wings, full body tattoos, or being an animal) to express themselves in a way that isn’t necessarily possible in real life. I believe avatars give people a lot of freedom to try on alternate personas if they so choose to. Ii allows them to represent an inner self that individuals might not be able to express in the real world.

PLAY AND FUN
Tutorial 3:
It’s interesting to think that Magic (games etc.) works because it has structure. Looking at the grammar is also interesting—at how bits fit together. Underlying all the ways in which we communicate and structure information.
Games are just like that: made up of a bunch of little games. Each individual game has to be fun and entertaining. There are different types of fun in games—Hard fun: meeting challenges. Easy fun: moments of aesthetic delight—that’s really pretty. Visceral fun: where you stomach fall out from of your fun. Social fun: they are a social media.
Games mostly focus on hard fun.
Things that make the magic: Where you meet the challenge matters. When you buy it matters (what you had to do to get there). How you buy it. Has to be a range of challenges. What you do it with (what tools you bring to the problem). What you’re buying it for (needs to have feedback). In games it matters that sometimes you don’t get what you want—that drives people to keep coming back. When you fail it’s important for games to tell you so, because fun comes from learning and failure is important to that.
The core of games is competitive—against challenge, yourself, and others.
Users are seeking novelty and new scenarios and situations. This is the topology of the environment. The things that surround the task should affect how you accomplish the task.
Engagement leads to learning. We should be embracing play for all ages. It’s really interesting that people created a story through “gootube” with one narrative, and that people create videos to tell the story. It has even made it to a second series, and the characters are meeting each other. Very cool!
It’s funny that play is supposed to help cognitive and creative freedom yet there is less and less of it as students get older.
The fantasy characters help people address problems in the real world. For example, the fantasy character of Eowyn allowed one girl to explore how she wishes she could have handled a bully in her past.
Literacy is the driving force behind a lot of communities. It’s really creative that kids are rewarded with participating and that’s how they get clothing and other things.
It’s funny that participants love exploring teenage angst and that role-playing is a healthy way for the teens to release. It’s really great that students can explore parts of themselves through their characters, and that often the role-playing affects themselves in reality.
Play is for everyone.
Role playing and gaming allows kids to pretend to be experts and encourages them to actually become an expert as you adopt that role. It’s amazing that kids learned Elvish to be able to participate in The Middle Earth.
Fanfiction allows for peer reviews and critiques to help her improve her writing.
The machinima made by Nathan (Taken) is absolutely beautiful. The way he writes and expresses himself is inspiring.

GAMING
Tutorial 4

1. What sorts of learning are connected to commercial video games?
Gee described the benefits of learning through video games as problem solving, whether by yourself, with artificial characters or with other people. Kenneth Burke said literature is “equipment for living”. Games, by giving the opportunity to have careers and histories to develop lives through time in your own unique way then compare and contrast with other people is a new way of equipping you for living. These are so good for leaning because it is problem-solving skills. By the end of the game it is your story and your trajectory by how you solved the problems. It is collaborative problem solving between you and artificial players or other people.

2. How does this learning relate to real life?
You can gain professional knowledge through certain games (ie. The military game) if the characters have the professional knowledge. You can build up knowledge—learning of performance before competence. As the learner coordinates with the characters they are contributing knowledge that they’ve learned. It teaches you the content, skills and value systems of a particular profession without having to sit and reading books but with performance without competence. It is not done well for professions that don’t involve killing. You want the learner to have performance before competence, learn how to look at the world in a different way, and to how to operate and solve problems within the value systems of that profession. The department of military in US now is creating a game to teach soldiers Arabic and the cultural views of Iraq so that they can interact with Iraqis without offending them.
There are also games where you build and share a history (eg. Civilization games).

3. How can games enhance learning? And does this learning transfer to other learning contexts?
All thinking has an emotional component—and when given emotional charge it is learned and stored much more deeply. The problem with school here is that if there is no emotional attachment, students don’t process it well and schools have trouble eliciting emotions. Games combine cognition and emotion in a very powerful way. If educators can capitalize on how to combine emotions with learning, it is likely that students will learn more deeply. Games also increase problem-solving skills, a type of learning, which definitely transfers to other contexts. Also, playing the games is a productive process. Students can redesign the game these days (mod the game)-an amazing type of literacy, as if books come with the capacity to give you the material to rewrite it as you see fit.

4. Can this learning be implemented without the use of games (using other non-technological mediums)?
I think that the same learning benefits that come from gaming can come from other means as well. You can use games in the classroom (eg. Jeopardy, or clue) to help students problem solve and get emotionally involved in the subject. It is about keeping the learning entertaining and engaging.

5. Can this learning lead to better models of assessment?
I think it really depends on the type of assessment. If students are really learning to improve their problem solving processes by playing games then assessing students through problem solving would be an effective way to gauge their learning. The models of assessment need to take into account the aspects of gaming that get students so enthralled in the first place: ownership of your destiny, learning from the characters, and getting emotionally involved.

6. How does this learning relate to demographic categories? Will this learning widen or narrow equity gaps?
If we are looking at gaming as an integral tool to education then it will most likely widen the equity gap. In school districts which don’t have enough computers or proper resources to provide students with the ability to become gamers, they will not, in theory, gain the same problem solving skills as those students who get the experience. However, as I mentioned earlier there is the possibility of bringing the games offline, through classic board games for example modified to the aspects of the subject. I think it is a matter of creativity. If you are looking at the alternate modes of gaming then the gap will not be widened, but it won’t necessarily narrow it either.

7. What is the impact of this learning on global society, individuals (identity, learning and thinking) in the future?
I find it really interesting that you can gain professional knowledge from certain games (like the war one) and learn content. As a global society this type of learning will help to educate a large group of people on a certain subject and is a fascinating way to engage individuals in their profession. As individuals, being a gamer allows you to explore your identity and focus on aspects of your talents that you would like to pursue. Granted, as Gee explained most games are about killing, but the underlying theme in a lot of them really comes down to problem solving, and I think it can be an important way to capture students who are reluctant to explore their abilities.


2. I remember in middle school spending hours during lunch or recess playing “The Oregon Trail”. It was a fun way to learn about how life was like for explorers trekking across America to expand America. I don’t know how much of it was very realistic, but I do think I learned some of the hardships and problem solving skills.
I use games in the classroom (eg. Jeopardy) to try to involve all the students. These games can’t be used every lesson of everyday but they can be fun reviews of units or rewards for a job well done. I think it’s important to have fun in the classroom otherwise you’ll lose students. It will be really interesting to see how the game that Gee is talking of creating (about science, social studies, etc) that don’t focus on killing fair and how they will influence the teaching that goes on in the classroom.