Minecraft as an educational tool…

16disrupt-span-tmagArticleMinecraft as an educational tool…

A NYT article on games and learning…

I would like to find out more about the studies mentioned in the following paragraphs:

Earlier this year, for example, a school in Stockholm made Minecraft compulsory for 13-year-old students. “They learn about city planning, environmental issues, getting things done, and even how to plan for the future,” said Monica Ekman, a teacher at the Viktor Rydberg school.”

A study by S.R.I. International, a Silicon Valley research group that specializes in technology, found that game-based play could raise cognitive learning for students by as much as 12 percent and improve hand-eye coordination, problem-solving ability and memory.”

And children who play games could even become better doctors. No joke. Neuroscientists performed a study at Iowa State University that found that surgeons performed better, and were more accurate on the operating table, when they regularly played video games.”


With Fire TV, Amazon is ready to fight for your living room

It would be interesting to see what all competitors have planned against #Netflix. #Apple, #Amazon, and #Hulu through devices such as the Google #ChromeCast, #AppleTV, #Roku.

The Innovating Mobile Technology for Development Pitch Competition – FIRST PRIZE!!

Around this time last year I heard about a competition that peaked my interest. Previously at Teachers College, Columbia University, I have taken a class called ‘Video Games and Education’ with Professor Joey Lee and its final project was to create a game from scratch. Three colleagues and I got together and tossed around ideas till we landed on a decision to make one that addresses the current obesity epidemic in this country and the rest of the world. Keeping the design principles and game mechanics as we have learned in the class in mind, we thought about engagement, fun, education, generalizability, reproduction, commercial potential, development and innovation. Hence, our game Monster Appetite (MA) was created. MA is a game that potentially remediates some aspects of the concern by promoting awareness of the content of food consumed by children. Through play, children learn about caloric amount in various food items that a child may select and intake daily. Through constant decision making and competitive game play, the hope is that children will start thinking more about their food choices with newly obtained information of the food items and be able to make informed decisions such as building healthier eating and exercise habits.


When I walked into the room at SIPA last year as one of the final contestants of the Innovating Mobile Technology for Development Pitch Competition I was quite nervous as it was my first time ever in such a competition alone with no familiar faces. Other people were members of a team and each member seemed to know people outside of their team members. Although I was there alone, it was not my first time standing up in front of many people all staring at me as I have taught before in classrooms. The competition itself only allowed a five-minute pitch with a 10 to 15 minute Q&A session to follow. Once I was up at the podium it was my time and my gig. I took advantage of that time and introduced how in our game you want to take the subversive approach and make your monster avatar as fat as possible by consuming the highest caloric items in the deck. You see the consequences of overeating and you think about real life consequences if you were to do that to your own body. Judges as well as the audience seemed like they were on board with the subversive approach. They thought the humorous touch was innovative, fresh and unheard of. That is what we were aiming for and sure enough I took the first prize!

One of the most interesting things that I received as a feedback from the judges that day was how my idea was the only one that has actually been tested out. The judges loved all the brilliant and innovative ideas that were presented to them that day, but an idea is worthless till it is made into something tangible. And one way to make an idea tangible is to develop a prototype and beta-test it and test it and test it again. I have informally tested out my tabletop game with numerous students ranging from the elementary to graduate school level. The feedback I received from those informal testing sessions pushed me further to develop this game and consider making it into a mobile app, which is why my game fit into the competition’s intention well. 


Grand Theft Auto to the rescue???


This week’s reading on Open-Ended Video Games came to me in such a timely manner as I have been introduced to so many video games lately through a friend who actually works for Rockstar, the company responsible for the Grand Theft Auto series.

Having an extremely limited experience with video games growing up, I was never really fascinated by video games and did not really understand many game fanatics’ obsession with game play that would last for hours, days and even months. Coming from South Korea where video game play became a social concern as people have literally died playing games because they would not eat or sleep during game play the obsession with video games simply remained as a further obscure world for me.

That being said Squire’s (2007) article truly, for the first time, really opened my eyes how games could really help students learn complex concepts, such as those in natural sciences like physics. Supercharged! seems like an AWESOME game that I would have personally enjoyed playing to understand the complex and abstract concept of a particle. Now that video games are delving into natural sciences as well I am truly starting to appreciate their invasion (?) into education, probably because I was a science major in undergrad. I would have loved to have had similar games to understand scientific phenomena in neuroscience, chemistry and quantum mechanics since they all are so abstract and hard to visualize.

However, the interesting thing is that as I read the author’s qualitative interview data among three different high school group GTA game players I realized some games that I thought had absolutely no educational value could really start discussions and discourse. I found it extremely interesting and yet natural that Honovi’s game play was “a performance…that arose in context, shaped – in part – by the other participants in the gaming experience” (p. 9). With his peers the game was a source for him to participate in a discourse of masculinity and by himself the game was merely an outlet for him to explore the possibility of the future as a car designer. 

It was also fascinating to see that depending on students’ race and SES what they gained from the game and what they were concerned about the game were drastically different. White students were more concerned about racial discrimination and stereotyping in GTA while black students were more concerned about the misrepresentation of the black community’s economic mobility.

If it were not for this article I would have never thought such an allegedly “merely and only violent” game could produce such in depth discourse of social issues among game players.

Indeed video games could be used in positive ways in many different contexts. It took two years in a master’s program, a class about video games and education, numerous articles by famous game designers and developers such as Gee, Squire, Salen, etc., and this class and particularly this article for me to really open up on the idea of video games’ usefulness and potential in education. If a MSTU student in instructional technology takes this long to really open up, I wonder how long it might take for adults and seasoned teachers who are resistant to technology all together to open up to new forms of teaching for the new generation of learners.   


Blog or not to blog….that is the question!

What are uses and benefits of technology use(s) in K-12 and higher education settings beyond just uses with students in classes? How can technology and social software improve education and educational experiences in areas not related to just use with students in classes and by students for academic purposes?  Remember, teachers, administrators, school boards, parents also influence schools and schooling.

The link includes: good old technology tools that led to where we are today with iClickers, iPads and handheld computers.



To answer Professor Kinzer’s questions briefly on examples of technology, social software in particular, used in less-academic oriented contexts:

  • Christine H.’s article on admission’s offices using SNSs to reach out to prospective students.
  • There was a presentation in the MSTU 4000 Core seminar about a tracking pen that could be used to record all students’ work and how the tracking pen is being adopted by android so that parents can track what their students are learning and producing. This is a classroom experience but the parents are getting access to what is happening inside the classrooms when they cannot be there physically to monitor their children’s work.
  • If you think about it DOE’s requirement for teachers to use Teacher Ease was to provide parents access to their children’s academic progress.
  • From a personal anecdote, private institutes in South Korea give students cards they swipe when they arrive and leave the institute to confirm their whereabouts for the teachers, instructors and parents.
  • TC has the text message TC alert system that notifies students and staff about emergencies such as the snow day from last year.
  • In the Chronicles article this week: “Hoping to capitalize on students’ preferred technology, colleges sell cellphone plans that supply campus information” (para. 1). I get a discount for using AT&T’s service because there is an affiliation with Columbia. This is a way college campuses could make money by pairing up with corporate(s) to get more customers, students who probably will be “loyal” customers in the sense that they would be rigorous cell phone service and data users. In this way colleges and other educational institutions can disseminate information about their colleges and events that occur on and off campus.

I am glad that Schroeder’s (2010) article discussed the drawbacks of using social software in the educational environment because we do tend to focus on the benefits of technology integration because in this field we are strong believers that technology does and can have more benefits in many contexts including within educational institutions. However, unfortunately our public education, if anything, is a far cry from an environment in which technology is effectively and efficiently integrated. I was having a two-hour long discussion/debate with a current special education middle school teacher in the Bronx, my roommate, about her perspective on technology in the classrooms. And I realized there are so many drawbacks of technology, which are not discussed enough. We kind of touched that a little bit last week during class by addressing the CONCERNS of the parents who are not so eager to immediately allow their kids to jump on the band wagon of Internet use in all kinds of contexts and situations.

As I started reading Schroeder’s (2010) reading for this week I could not help but notice what we do for our class. We all have our own blogs and continue our class dialogue(s) throughout the week on different topics but still within the same realm of educational technology and its social impacts on us, the society. I also could not help but think how useful this blogging requirement has been for me. A lot of the times once class is over it is so easy to drop the discussion(s) which, of course, is never over. However, the blog in particular has allowed us to continue the discussions and debates we have had, open up new topics in relation to our readings, and share related weblogs, wikis, websites, articles that come into the picture as our discussions go deeper and more complex.

As Schroeder (2010) puts it “As social software allows large numbers of students to not only present their own insights but also consolidate and refine each other’s contributions, the enthusiasm about the potential impact of these applications on teaching and learning seems to be well justified” (p. 160).

The Improved Learning section in Schroeder’s (2010) article really resonates with me because I feel like that is what I have been gaining from my peers in this class via our blogging activities. Lindsey D. wrote on her blog last week that her benefit of the class network is that she can read and connect with the rest of the class and her classmates’ thoughts through the blogs.

However, as mentioned in the article, in relation to blogging, there is an uneven participation among students, potential that some students stay hidden behind the “collaborative work” that goes on in the class as a whole, etc.

So while we can see clear benefits in this class, at least for me, the instructor or anybody in the educator position and title need to clearly understand the risks and drawbacks of these social software tools. This is a good lesson for me because I tend to ignore the drawbacks as opposed to address the drawbacks and improve from the potential disaster the drawbacks could cause.

Social capital maintained based on appearances???

This week’s articles really got me thinking about the kinds of relationships and social capital I maintain, keep and/or manage with my friends, families and acquaintances on and offline.

Starting the Hancock (2007) article on online dating I was concerned about what the gender differences might represent on the values we prefer as a society. However, I was pleasantly surprised to find out females, no more than males, tended to deceive their counterparts only slightly that the deceptions (such as height and weight) would not even be recognizable by the naked eye. Though it was interesting that women lied more about their weight more so than men did and men lied more so about their height than women did. I believe this is because there are different kinds of expectations for women than men in our society. Females are expected to look thinner, tidier, prettier, cleaner, etc. more so than what is inherently expected for males in modern society, at least, in my opinion. As a female I catch myself in surprise judging females if they are overweight, sloppy at times and making up excuses for men if I spot them with a beer belly, with a stain on their shirt, with a bushy, unkempt hairstyle in the morning, etc. What does that say about what we came to believe whether consciously or subconsciously of how we are “expected to appear in public?”


“Extensive research in sociobiology and evolutionary psychology suggests that men and women use different strategies for enhancing their reproductive fitness, according to the requirements of their biological makeup. In general, men look for youth and physical attractiveness in their partners, whereas women look for ability to provide and indicators of social status, such as education and career” (Hancock, 2007, p. 450).


This is EXACTLY why women are more likely to care about their appearances because that is what men, in general, look for in women. Ahhhh what a pity! However, such an interesting study, I must say.


As I started to tie Hancock’s article with Ellison’s (2007) article I wondered if we were more likely to try harder to maintain a relationship and therefore social capital with people based on their appearances. And then I got a little scared.


FB is a unique tool for me and obviously many people find it fascinating, useful, fun, etc. I find it useful because it allows me to maintain many “weak ties” and bridging social capital as Ellison (2007) describes. When I took a closer look at whom I maintain the online to offline relationship with I realized that a lot of my friends were attractive, accomplished men and women. Obviously the scale of attractiveness is very different person to person but it made me wonder…am I self-selecting whom to hang out with because of what I might be perceived as by hanging out with certain types of people with certain looks and resumes?

“The Technology is Re-Wiring Our Brains”

This week’s readings are, I believe, the first that really got me thinking and worrying on the subject of multitasking and how that is affecting my personal life and/or life style. Before I think I was complacent and ignorant because I just thought I would not be one of “those” who get addicted to Internet-based activities, but this may no longer be true…which is really frightening me!

In Richtel (2010) article, he notes that new research shows that “Computer users at work change windows or check e-mail or other programs nearly 37 times an hour.” I was not surprised at all. Also he states that according to RescueTime “Computer users visit an average of 40 sites a day” and at the time I was reading this line at a computer lab at butler I had 19 different tabs open in a window and had a moment of shock that was delivered to my heart (that I swear stopped beating for like 2.5 seconds -_-).

As my concern grew as I read through the article I could not help myself but try the games that tested how well you switched between tasks. Fortunately, the results showed that I did better than heavy multi-taskers who showed lower efficiency in juggling problems. However, I noticed that I was zoning out frequently (mind you that the game/task was about a minute or two in total) and did not remember if “letter” or “number” was flashed in front of my eyes literally milliseconds ago. It really was a disturbing realization of how easily unfocused I could become.

Another disturbing fact is how people interrupted by e-mail and other computer/mobile alerts had increased stress levels and a lot of people will remain “wired” and “hyper” or “alert” even after tech devices are turned off and your brain is “off.” This week with Lindsey’s survey I expressed to my two neighbor discussants in class that my Google account is part of my life. I chat constantly about life issues with friends, life updates with families, check-ups on homework assignments and deadlines with schools friends, etc. I communicate with almost about everybody through email. I set up meet-ups, meetings, schedules, daily plans, etc. through my e-mail. I expressed to my colleagues that I would not be able to function without my Google account. So it would not be a stretch to say that the majority of my planning and life style depend on this account of mine. But, it seems like the very “identity” of my life, this account I have, could be stressing me out to the point it is hurting me. It is true that I am constantly refreshing my gmail account and talking to people on it. I am a little bored and uncomfortable when there is little to no activity on my gmail account and I have experienced that during extended school breaks.

Though there were certain positive aspects on usage of technology such as (1) playing video games developing visual acuity (that could prevent traffic accidents in the future, still need to be verified), (2) multi-taskers being more sensitive to incoming new information, and (3) the evolutionary development of the constant growing neural circuitry in the brain (though still need to be proven), the seemingly more obvious negative effects really got to me this week.
Ironically after I took the survey below for MTA I was furious with the “bad idea” group. WHY NOT??? EVERY OTHER CITY IN THE WORLD HAS CELL RECEPTION!!!!! See, this type of behavior is scary, to say the least. Where do you stand?

LINK: Straphangers Campaign Poll

Click here to view results of older polls
http://www.straphangers.org | http://www.nypirg.org