Still have folks in your department who dismiss games as…, well, games? Then you need to check out this article in the latest edition of the Escapist. Todd Bryant has been experimenting with using games like Civ IV in history classes. This is no unthinking use of the game, though. For Bryant, the value lies in exploiting the gap between ‘real’ history, and the way that history is modelled (or argued, as it were: see Bogost) in the game:
A student came to my office last week and asked for help setting up a LAN game of Civ IV in one of the college’s computer labs. He was going to play my Age of Conquest mod scenario with some friends that afternoon. While I showed him in the menu how to set up a multiplayer game, he shared his strategy to play Spain and attack the Aztecs. It’s a bad idea.
For the class, students had to play the game in addition to their readings and discuss whether the scenario accurately represented the period. One of the key concepts students should have learned about was the role of belief systems as described in the book “The Conquest of America: The Question of the Other.” In essence, the book and the game make the same argument: Had the Aztecs viewed the world differently, their clash with the Spanish conquistadors would have been radically different.
He goes on to describe exploration of language teaching through immersing students in a German server for World of Warcraft. Mein Gott! Das ist wunderbar! (all that I remember from a freshman German class; that and a song set to the Blue Danube… perhaps if I’d been gaming language, things would be different…)
There are people doing similar things with Latin, as it happens (I had experimented with old school text adventures for Latin teaching, but this might be a bit more *sigh* exciting) … sign the petition now!
How neat to watch my game venture onto/into new realms – When on Google Earth is now on Facebook.
I’m online enough as it is already; guess I’ll have to start using that dormant account after all.
At a number of places I teach, we use ANGEL as our LMS. One can of course upload content into Angel, and have students look at it – powerpoints, recordings, images, whatever. So far, so ho-hum. One thing that I am concerned about though is ownership of any materials that I have created that I upload into Angel. Depending on where you work, this could get dicey.
So I’ve recently starting using ‘box‘ to upload and host my audio lectures, and deliver them to the students in Angel. I could of course just upload into my space here on wordpress, or onto any number of servers I have access to. But that’s fiddly – and box is free. No messing with ftp. AND, the link to the files is a secure one, so I don’t have to worry that somebody will stumble across my lecture via Google.
Similarly, slideshare does a great job of delivering slides (and it will sync audio to them). When I first started playing with slideshare, anything you put on there was public, but I see now that I can control the privacy to a degree. After you upload your slides, you can set a contact list of people who are allowed to see them. This is a bit more fiddly than box, but if you’ve got the course roster handy, maybe not so much of a problem. And of course you can embed the slides a la youtube, so integration into Angel should be straight forward.
Of course, I haven’t tried that yet; there’s usually some kind of kink needing straightening.
Because these things sometimes contain interesting nuggets:
State of E-Learning in Canada
May 21, 2009
CCL’s State of E-Learning in Canada was written to improve Canadians’ understanding of e-learning—particularly of its challenges, limitations and benefits—so that Canada may move forward in appropriate and relevant ways. [...] Why should we care about e-learning?
E-learning can substantially increase our access to knowledge and information and, as studies suggest, improve access to education, formal and informal learning, and employment opportunities.
The proportion of courses delivered online in Canada is one of the highest among countries studied; however, research suggests that Canadian post-secondary institutions have been slower than those in many other countries to incorporate significant online components into their programs. Likewise, e-learning has not become a standard feature of employee training. Various surveys show that by 2005, the percentage of workplace training delivered online ranged from 15% to 20%
And the report itself:
From the Canada Council on Learning website.
Ah the brain drain, that mythical, mystical device that efficiently sucks talented Canadians into the United States.
I got clogged in the brain drain just recently.
It began, as these things do, with a trip to the border by car. In order for me to work in Phoenix, I needed to obtain TN status on my passport. This is a NAFTA thing, and the websites leave the impression that this is no big deal.
A two-hour drive to the border, and a two-hour interview later, I found myself denied entry into the United States. The major issue was that the agent didn’t believe me when I said a) I was an academic (‘what’s the university of reading?’ ‘reddding‘ I helpfully pronounced…. don’t ever contradict the agent) and that b) the work involved teaching. ‘Try this again, and you’ll be arrested for fraud, and perjury’.
Talk about being humbled with a wee bit of humiliation as I tried to explain to the Canadian customs agent why I was denied entry…
The clock was ticking. The advice I had was that there was nothing wrong with my credentials, or the job description, and that I should try again. I was still nervous about that whole ‘fraud’ thing, since I had done nothing wrong but try to apply for my NAFTA rights. Don’t read the websites that tell you what to do: they’re lawyers, trying to sell their services, and they’ll make you sick with worry.
I know. I did. I puked. My wife talked me down from the edge, and I resolved to try again. After all, I really need the job. I’ve been an academic since 2002, and haven’t yet managed anything more permanent than a single one year postdoc or a perpetual sessional gig. Basic supply and demand. We churn out phds, but nobody knows what to do with us now we’re out. Not like a specialism in stamped brick could go wrong, you’d think! (note to MAs out there: don’t bother with the PhD, it’ll close your job opportunities. Do it only if a) it makes your entire being sing to be an academic or b) you’re married to an existing faculty member somewhere. I’m glib, but that’s not far from the truth.)
This time, I got a new haircut. Put on a new suit, tie. Put all of my documents into a crisp and sharp portfolio. I grabbed every document I could think of, including my house taxes – a random fellow on a forum suggested this would be helpful. Word to the wise: it’s not what’s inside that counts. External appearance is everything. Look the part.
Wednesday, 6 am. Get up, get dressed, drive to airport.
11 am. Embark on first leg of air journey: feeder airport to Toronto.
12am arrive in TO. Next flight: 1.30 pm
12.10 present myself to customs pre-screening
12.15 agent begins to look at my papers (hey! everything’s going great! hands are shaking, but that’s normal for me)
12.30 agent informs me that everything looks great, but he’s going on break, so new guy will handle things.
12.40 new guy picks up my folder.
1.30. Flight takes off. Shawn sits in waiting room, staring at shoes. Tie is uncomfortable.
2.00 new guy beckons me over. “Everything looks fine, but my supervisor wants to see a copy of the contract. Our fax machine is broken, so I’ll take you out to the air canada desk, you can use theirs. Then get a new flight booked.
2.30 queuing for air canada desk, now that I’ve found it.
2.50 agent gives me the fax number. phone call later, and the non-signed copy of the contract is faxed to me (the original having been returned to Human Resources)
2.56 resume queuing.
3.20 very nice agent explains that since I booked the flight as a reward flight, I have to phone Aeroplan, and points me to the pay phones.
3.23 Elevator music.
3.56 elevator music.
4.10 agent. After much ‘can you please hold’ I’m told that there are no flights for me, and I’ll have to rebook for the following week.
4.30 american customs says, gee that’s too bad. here’re your papers back, we would’ve stamped your passport, but you’re not travelling today.
4.35 resume queuing at air canada.
4.40 same nice agent. I ask for a ticket back home. She was an absolute star, one of the only bright points in an otherwise long long day.She is outraged at Aeroplan, and begins to work some magic. She finds me a new ticket, this time to Los Angeles (with connection to PHX). Flight leaves at 5.50pm.
5.20 She runs me back to customs, jumping the queue, and takes me back into secondary processing. I sit down. She goes and talks to the second customs agent who looked at my stuff – who’s about to have a shift break. There’s another fellow with him. He looks upset to being harangued by the ticket agent, other agent doesn’t seem upset. Ticket lady leaves, says she’ll be waiting outside with my itinerary, once it gets printed.
5.25 I get called over. ‘Why did you give us all these photocopies? You’re supposed to give me originals!’ shouts the newest agent. previous agent points out that he took the photocopies. I present the originals. ‘why did you get denied entry five days ago?’ I retell my tale. This agent is not impressed, but other agent intervenes. ‘This contract isn’t signed! Why should I let you in, with an unsigned contract!’ I point out that the signed version has already been sent to HR, and I wouldn’t have even bothered coming to the airport if HR hadn’t said, Ok, great see you soon.
‘Why haven’t you got an I 94?’
‘I don’t know. What’s an I-94?’
‘We can’t process you, without an I-94. This is an I-94. Fill it out!’
‘This is in Spanish.’
…nobody likes a smart arse…
Other agent intervenes, fills out form. Silence ensues, then I’m sent to the cash to pay the fees. TN status is mine!
5.44. I leave customs, proceed to security. Shoes off, laptop out, change in the bin. Old lady in front of me. My nervousness, stress, tiredness and hunger attract attention.
5.48. I clear security. Shoelaces untied, I race down the looonnnnng corridor to the gate.
5.51. Gate is shut. Plane is gone. Aircanada lady says, ‘we paged you. you should’ve been here’. New ticket for tomorrow morning is issued. Please leave airport.
6.00. Canada Customs. ‘you don’t have anything to declare? no duty free?’ I patiently explain – again – that I’ve missed a flight, and NO, I certainly WOULD NOT be doing ANY BLEEDIN’ SHOPPING.
One should always be polite for customs agents.
7.00 Safely ensconced in an airport hotel, I try to drown out the noise of the party next door with my pillows, hoping to get on the flight in the morning…
Thursday. 6 am. Leave hotel for airport.
6.30 in the customs queue.
6.35 cleared the queue. Angels sing; balloons fall from ceiling; fireworks.
8.00 on plane to LAX
– no idea what time it is when I get to LAX, but I have to get from the one terminal into terminal seven. This involves crossing several lanes of traffic. I re-check in for the final leg of the flight – a stroke of luck! I can fly standby on the earlier flight. All I have to do is clear security. I go up to the security level.
There’s one x-ray machine.
For the entire bloody terminal.
The queue stretches out of the terminal, across the bridge to the parking garage, into the bright LAX smog. I miss the earlier flight.
But victory is mine, and by 9ish PHX time, I am in Arizona. One last leg to the hotel: where do I pick up the shuttle? Instructions are sought, given, and I stand out on the median, watching the shuttle go by on a different road entirely.
By god, I’d better like this job.
Amazon has just announced the launch of the Kindle DX, a digital book reader with a 9.7″ diagonal screen. Their stated aim is to target the textbook market – and it will provide support for PDFs. From Wired Gadget Labs:
NEW YORK — Amazon on Wednesday launched a next generation Kindle, an e-reader with a large, textbook and newspaper-friendly screen dubbed the DX.
With a screen that measures 9.7 inches diagonally — two-and-a-half times the size of the current-gen Kindle 2 — the DX is aimed squarely at penetrating for the first time the potentially massive and untapped market of textbooks, as well offering some life support for the struggling business of subscription-based electronic newspapers.
In its product launch, hosted by Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos, Amazon announced partnerships with three major textbook publishers representing 60 percent of the higher-education market. He also announed that three newspapers — The New York Times, the NYTimes Co.-owned Boston Globe and The Washington Post — will offer a reduced price on the Kindle DX in exchange for a long-term subscription:
He also announced The New York Times, The Boston Globe and The Washington Post.
“A particular class of book that shines with this display is textbooks,” said Bezos. “We’re going to get students with smaller backpacks, less load.”
Among the new feature are an auto-rotating screen, technology iPhone users will be familiar with, and a native PDF reader, finally adding support in that ubiquitous digital format.
The device measures one-third of an inch thick. Shipping summer, the Kindle DX costs $489 and is available for pre-order.
Product Page [Amazon]
For those of us who’ve been producing Lulu-books, which may be marketed on Amazon, or pdf’s of research reports and other gray literature that will never darken a publisher’s door, this potentially is a game changer for how archaeological info gets out there…
One of the main attractions in playin ‘The Nethernet‘ is the ability to lead people a merry chase through the internet. In its beta days, I created a ‘puzzle’ mission that ostensibly taught students how to research properly using internet resources. It took the player by the hand through a number of related websites, pointing out the who, what, when, where, why of that particular site, as it pertained to research. Handy for distance ed students.
To make sure that students were paying attention, I tossed in a broken link at the end – the mission could not be completed unless the student correctly divined what URL to go to. The performance of the task demonstrated that the learning had taken place – plus I also got a list of players who successfully completed my mission.
There was a puzzle mission contest for Nethernetians (? perhaps the wrong word) this past April, and my wee little mission won first place. I now have 10,000 more ‘data points’ than I did before. The accomplishment would be more meaningful had more than three people submitted their puzzle missions, but hey, they loved me! They really loved me!