As for Eric exploring its impact on education? Hint, hint. Nudge, nudge. A fella can dream.
Stay tuned. Or plugged in.
As for Eric exploring its impact on education? Hint, hint. Nudge, nudge. A fella can dream.
Stay tuned. Or plugged in.
The first real conference I ever went to as a young teacher was held in Madison, Wisconsin at the Frank Lloyd Wright Monona Terrace Convention Center. Amazing spot for architecture. Even more amazing spot for ideas, it turned out. Not sure how a 2nd year teacher convinced his headmaster to send him to a 'thought' conference (rather than one on structuring the 5-paragraph essay or setting up rubrics or analyzing great works of literature), but he was game and sent me on my merry way.
Just noticed that a similar joyfest of ideas is taking place at the same venue this July...and if I were a true gamer, or at least had a decent instinct for the in's and out's of gaming, I'd be there in a heartbeat.
The Games + Learning + Society 3.0 event (what a cool name is that!) is bringing together a pretty enticing group of thinkers in a realm of education that continues to gain more and more attention with each passing day. A land of 'engagement' could have worse friends.
Might be worth submitting a proposal for a workshop/speaking session. Or just being one of those young teachers that convinces their principal or headmaster to fund their trip under the auspice that something profound will happen in the gray matter between their ears.
Video games. Love'em or hate'em, they're here to stay. And in ways we never before dreamed of. Truly. No opinion here, save to say that 'technology' is neutral...and everyone can use it to whatever ends they see fit.
Case in point, imagine being a tech-savvy enemy of the US. You are interested in not only training your soldiers, but you also want to recruit the youngest future soldiers to begin getting ready for future battle. What do you do? Rely on training camps far away from home? Rely on old tactics of training and propoganda?
Or, do you realize that you can take an American video game, play around with the code, turn the American soldiers into the 'default enemy', and allow your little pre-soldier kiddos to use the same game as a mental training tool?
The makers of combat video games have unwittingly become part of a global propaganda campaign by Islamic militants to exhort Muslim youths to take up arms against the United States, officials said on Thursday.
Tech-savvy militants from al Qaeda and other groups have modified video war games so that U.S. troops play the role of bad guys in running gunfights against heavily armed Islamic radical heroes, Defense Department official and contractors told Congress.
The games appear on militant Web sites, where youths as young as 7 can play at being troop-killing urban guerillas after registering with the site's sponsors.
What would you do?
With all the talk of video games being bad for kids, I wonder if this little story will cause a backlash against video game designers...or if we'll realize that technology truly is neutral...and the future of it is 'owned' by everyone regardless of their future.
Do what you want with this one. The ball is in the air. Hit it where you see fit.
While the education and technology communities are working doggedly to prove Moore's Law correct by radically lowering the cost of a laptop (see MIT's $100 laptop program to help connect the developing world), the video gaming industry seems to be taking an entirely different tact all together.
Sony and Nintendo (and that 'other one') are still fighting it joystick to joystick for supremacy in the video gaming industry. Read: big bucks for the winner. Considering the spending power of little kids, this seems to be counter-intuitive, but this also means bigger bucks out of pocket for players who want access to the latest greatest. Sony's latest player, the famed Playstation 3 ,is coming in at a 'svelte' $599 later this November. Gulp.
I remember when I first played that handheld NFL blip-blip-blip white-box machine back in the early 80's. I thought I'd died and gone to heaven. Sure it was expensive by early-Pong standards, but it wasn't out of the reach of the average family. But $599? Oh, they allow you to play DVDs. I...ah...get it. Do they also allow you to write a termpaper or Google search or send email or IM or Skype or blog or podcast? NO?
The new system will be more expensive because of new technologies like the Blu-ray drive and Cell processor. Sony will offer two packages: the feature-rich package will cost $599 (or 599 euros) and will feature a 60 GB hard drive; the other package, which will sell for $499 (or 499 euros), will only have a 20 GB hard drive and will not have the wireless connectivity, memory card support, and high-definition video connection that will come with the $599 package. At those prices, Sony's success will be driven by acceptance of the Blu-ray DVD format and public demand for the high-definition product.
And you want me to pay $599 just to play video games...and pop in a DVD when I'm bored? And not feel like a fool?
Whether you are in either camp, consider John Seely Brown's recent column in Wired magazine that will tell you that the future of work may very well depend upon the ability of these 2 camps to come together. He writes:
Gaming tends to be regarded as a harmless diversion at best, a vile corruptor of youth at worst. But the usual critiques fail to recognize its potential for experiential learning. Unlike education acquired through textbooks, lectures, and classroom instruction, what takes place in massively multiplayer online games is what we call accidental learning. It's learning to be - a natural byproduct of adjusting to a new culture - as opposed to learning about. Where traditional learning is based on the execution of carefully graded challenges, accidental learning relies on failure. Virtual environments are safe platforms for trial and error. The chance of failure is high, but the cost is low and the lessons learned are immediate.
Are you willing to leave your camp and create a decent intersection of opporutunity in between? And how long will it take you to do just that?
Be on the lookout for yet another popular puzzle-based game, arriving Stateside this month. Nintendo DS’ mind-building Brain Age game will feature various memory and reading challenges in addition to Sudoku puzzles when it goes on sale later this month. Brain Age is already a major success story in Japan where an estimated 1.8 million units have been sold.
"Society, however, notices only the negative. Most people on the far side of the generational divide - elders - look at games and see a list of ills (they're violent, addictive, childish, worthless)." -- Will Wright, guest editor at Wired Magazine, "Dream Machines", Issue 14.04 - April 2006
I know, I know, I know...Time Magazine just said that our kids are becoming multi-tasking zombies. And beyond Madison Avenue, that can't be a good thing, right? But why do some just refuse to give up the 'games might not be that bad for kids' arguments? The following might be part of the answer. A short excerpt, but go above to the original link and read the whole shootin' match:
The human imagination is an amazing thing. As children, we spend much of our time in imaginary worlds, substituting toys and make-believe for the real surroundings that we are just beginning to explore and understand. As we play, we learn. And as we grow, our play gets more complicated. We add rules and goals. The result is something we call games.
Now an entire generation has grown up with a different set of games than any before it - and it plays these games in different ways. Just watch a kid with a new videogame. The last thing they do is read the manual. Instead, they pick up the controller and start mashing buttons to see what happens. This isn't a random process; it's the essence of the scientific method. Through trial and error, players build a model of the underlying game based on empirical evidence collected through play. As the players refine this model, they begin to master the game world. It's a rapid cycle of hypothesis, experiment, and analysis. And it's a fundamentally different take on problem-solving than the linear, read-the-manual-first approach of their parents.
In an era of structured education and standardized testing, this generational difference might not yet be evident. But the gamers' mindset - the fact that they are learning in a totally new way - means they'll treat the world as a place for creation, not consumption. This is the true impact videogames will have on our culture.
Society, however, notices only the negative. Most people on the far side of the generational divide - elders - look at games and see a list of ills (they're violent, addictive, childish, worthless).
The maker of the controversial video game Grand Theft Auto is reportedly set to release a new game, Bully, that some officials believe will lead to increased violence on school campuses. The Miami-Dade School Board in Florida has taken local action to limit the sale of the game to minors.
Key Resources from the above link:
Work force of tomorrow? Video gamer of today!
"Scientists, CEOs, nuclear technicians, doctors, lawyers, sales managers, senior trainers and other highly skilled individuals are not walking out the door… they are running. In the next five years, approximately 40 percent of the skilled labor force will be eligible to retire. In the next 10 years the entire boomer generation will be over 50. Simultaneously, a new generation of employees…dubbed "gamers" are entering the workforce with a different focus, mentality and learning style than any previous generation. A mentality forged by playing video games, using handheld gadgets and surfing the Internet." -- Dr. Karl Kapp, "Games, Gadgets and Gizmos: Tools for Bridging the Boomer/Gamer Knowledge Gap" white paper.
Another sound byte?
As the boomers leave and gamers enter, there needs to be an unprecedented transfer of knowledge, information and data. The transfer needs to be smooth and effective or corporations, academic institutions, and government agencies will experience tremendous setbacks in productivity, profitability, quality and even safety.
Or maybe we can just get those darn kids to stop playing games...and focus on one thing at a time so we can keep up. Maybe. (he smiles)
One more thing:
elearning guru pointed me towards this crystal ball blog-cast from xplanazine that takes a look at the major trends that he thinks will impact education in the year ahead. Any thoughts? Do you think one day Moore's Law will make year-long predictions laughable? Will we need 1 month predictions? 1 week? Minute by minute?
Here's what xplanazine points out, trend-wise, but it's only the topics I'm giving you (the rest you have to read for yourself):
"Animation is the only part of film production where quality is going up while costs are going down." -- Larry Kasanoff of Threshold Entertainment, 12.05 issue of Fast Company
Imagine, for just a second, if the same could be said for our nation's schools? Quality going up. Costs going down. And...remaining relevant and dynamic and competitive at the same time?
Quite a vision!
Do you read Fast Company? Anyone who was swept up in the dot.com era, for better or worse, certainly paid some form of homage to this publication. Don't see it on the front of newstands as often as I used to, but I remain a confident reader of this magazine...and believe it does as good a job as anyone else of scanning the globe for innovative organizations, leaders, and change agents. You're just as likely to read about a nun who has restructured her parish via an MBA mindset as you are a naval commnader who broke from the box to turn his ship into the leading vessel for our nation's military efforts as you are about an inner-city educator who has partnered with a group of businesses and not-for-profits to create a new educational paradigm for her kids.
In any event, back to the quotation above...
I'm intrigued by the animation and video game industries as end products...but more so for the way in which they innovate, produce, learn-to-learn, and tap into their team's inner creativities...all of which I think -- correct me if I'm way off base here -- might just be of benefit to the way we look at the 'future of learning'. So, the above quotation and the wide range of articles on the "baby Pixars" sprouting up around the business-economy caught my attention.
You see, this IS part of the future of work, and thus must be considered when we banter about what schools should be preparing our kids for in today's classrooms, esp. when 'video games' and 'animation' doesn't fit the traditional 'Great Books' or today's NCLB viewpoints.
But it wasn't just the recent issue of Fast Company that grabbed my attention. It was also the Chicago Tribune on 12.14.05 who offered up "Web Lessons Brighten Animation's Picture". Here's an excerpt or two that might get to the heart of it:
"It's 10 p.m. Pacific time and Animation School is about to begin. The students take their seats all over the globe. There's Fabian in Switzerland, Susanna in Italay, Gustavo in Spain. Richard and Rafi are just waking up in England.
Then there's the professor, Jason Schliefer, a wisecracking animator at DreamWorks Animation SKG. Instead of standing at a lectern, he plops down in the sunroom of his home near San Jose, Calif., and aims a tiny Web camera at his face."
You see, it's in DreamWorks' best interest to re-think 'school' and all training programs. Their competitive advantage demands it...esp. if they want to remain competitive in the future. Now, what about back-tracking to days well ahead of these virtual 'adult' learners synching up...and imaging how teachers and kids today will create learning environments that will a) foresee this arrangement as the training/working realm of the future...and b) begin to 'do school' in the same sort of way today.
Because it's relevant, it's fun, it's dynamic, and it's where all the 'end products' are shifting whether school gets it or not.
Continuing with the article:
Since its founding in the spring the school has grown to about 400 students from 35 countries. Apart from its global reach, the school, with an 18-month program that costs $14,000, stands out for its unconventional student body. Although some students work in the industry, the group is mostly made up of people outside the field: accountants, a former NYPD homicide detective and a part-time fishmonger from Iceland.
The school owes its existence to a shortage of young talent. Spurred by the commercial success of such hits as "Shrek" and "Finding Nemo," Hollywood studios have largely abandoned hand-drawn animation, instead pouring millions into developing new computer-animated features. About 25 such films are scheduled for release by the end of 2007.
As a result of the production bonanza, biggest in a decade, colleges and art schools have had trouble training enough animators to keep pace with studios' demand. It's not just familiarity with computers that animators need, but the more basic skills, such as building characters and crafting story lines.
"The talent pool is getting extremely thin, making it extremely difficult for employers," said Ray Schnell, chief marketing officer of CreativeHeads.net, an El Segundo, Calif., company that operates a job board for 160 companies that create video games, visual effects and animation. The board has more than 700 jobs posted on its Web site.
This I love:
Bobby Beck, co-founder and chief executive of AnimationMentor.com, said his school was an attempt to fill the gap.
"We honestly felt the need for something like this," said Beck, a former senior animator at Emeryville, Calif.-based Pixar Animation Studios.
Beck had the idea for the school three years ago, when he and Shawn Kelly, a senior animator at Lucas' effects house, Industrial Light & Magic, were teaching a course together at San Francisco's Academy of Art University.
Beck observed that many of his students lacked the kind of skills that Pixar and others were looking for, forcing the companies to spend too much time training new recruits.
"These kids knew how to push the buttons, but not how to push the characters to life," said Beck, who has worked on "Toy Story 2," "Finding Nemo" and "Cars," which will be released in 2006. "I would see the same mistakes over and over again."
The solution, he figured, was something more hands-on than any conventional school could offer: a program that paired top animators at the major studios with students worldwide, using the Internet as the medium.
So Beck made what he called "the toughest decision of my life": He quit his high-profile job at Pixar, and teamed up with Kelly and fellow Pixar animator Carlos Baena to launch the e-school. Kelly and Baena kept their studio jobs, while Beck ran the school full time.
Although the group had start-up costs of less than $1 million, its task was daunting. The team had to develop an entire curriculum from scratch and design proprietary interactive software that would allow mentors to critique students by drawing over their work. To spread the word, the co-founders relied on Internet forums and reached out to their friends and colleagues to serve as mentors.
And for anyone...anyone!...interested in how people learn/develop and re-thinking the ways it has traditionally been done in schools in the past, here's a great reminder of what is possible today:
The mentors were struck by the new ways of learning possible in the interactive classroom.
"We can see raw talent while it's shaping and can help form it," said Schleifer, who works at DreamWorks' Northern California campus, PDI/DreamWorks.