Martin's E-learning and Digital Cultures Blog


April 3, 2011 · No Comments


What a busy end to the Lent term this week has been, and as such, there has been a distinct lack of blogging, but certainly not a lack of thinking…what might my game design look like, how should I present my blog essay, do I *need* an iPad2?!

As Week 12 looms, Gee should be revisited before the blog summary commences…

…if I am to summarise effectively.

Game Design.  I recently discovered the idea about the journey to Ithaca, the focus being on the journey itself rather than, unlike many games, the end result.  What might occur en route, chances to show truth, virtue, ingenuity, honesty or integrity?  Perhaps, but how best to demonstrate these is what I must consider, and quite quickly at that!

Blog Essay.  Should it be ‘traditional?’ or something a little more unconventional?  I wonder whether something like the Steve Jackson novels I have discussed might work…if you enjoyed the pixton summary, turn to page 5, if you would like to read a learning trajectory, turn to page 7…could work, though not sure whether this would really hit the ‘clarity’ of expression mark!

iPad 2.  I have now played with them twice.  On discussing with an Apple store employee, his advice to me was ‘don’t play with the magnetic cases, otherwise you will definitely want one!’  On a more practical note, I am wondering the feasibility of integrating gaming and curriculum subjects, could we play lots of flag match up games, on iPad, during lessons.  Most interestingly is that the iPad2 allows for display mirroring, so now matter what the app, I can project it on to the board…how exciting.

Bon voyage.  Sadly this week, one of my very bestest friends jetted off to begin work in Sydney.  You will be very missed Team Lush.

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March 30, 2011 · No Comments


Time seems to be slipping away, like a level of a game in which many (many!) tasks must be completed, before the timer counts to zero.  Lots to do, increasingly less time to do it!

Nice to be back from my travels to chilly Stockholm, and the choir tour provides a great starting point for this weeks blogging…While away I was exposed to ‘Adobe Ideas’ for the iPad and its incredible powers.  Put simply, the ability to use a sort of mobile photoshop to take notes, and uses layers is incredible.  One of my travelling companions utlised the game/tool/application to take a picture (with his iPhone), transfer it over, and then draw over the top.  One can then remove the photo to leave behind a ‘sketch’ – the geographical possibilities are endless.  And  with the ability to project the iPad screen using a VGA adaptor, the collaborative gaming and learning potential is vast.

Collaboration.  On the flight home, I was involved in an ‘Angry Birds’ tournament, where high score challenges were the main aim.  Of course, learning through play and failure was instantly highlighted – ‘how did you do that?’ ‘wow!’ and other such comments prevailed.

One last bit, perhaps I have abused my position as an educator slightly.  On discussing games recently, I have challenged a group of students to move away from ‘Call of Duty’ and engage with WoW.  At present, there are two warriors and one elf.  Maybe I will develop a guild, assuming I return and they keep playing…

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March 24, 2011 · No Comments


(pixton taking a back seat…normal service will resume)

Before I head off to the (so I am told) beautiful city of Stockholm, for a school trip for the weekend, I wanted to add a few thoughts, and blog further regarding Gee’s learning principals.

Firstly, however I wanted to (again) say a big thankyou to both Fiona and Hamish for their time during WoW.  I know how frustrating it can be to wander around after inept players, offering really positive tips and suggestions!

At school today, I was sent a ‘meeting reminder’ for a proposed meeting regarding the VLE/VLP.  I won’t retread ground which I have already covered, but I have never been more sure that personal spaces, or extremely well design collaborative ‘play’ spaces are what will aid learning the most. ‘You have to play to learn’ (Turkle 1995:70, in Steinkuehler 2004:527).  ‘Off the shelf’ walled gardens will not aid this!

A tentative return to Gee’s learning principles:

6.”Psychosocial Moratorium” Principle, WoW certainly allows risk taking, and while I am rapidly becoming increasingly frustrated by having to resurrect myself, one can ascertain which direction to approach a battle from.  I endeavour to establish a similar culture of risk taking and ‘happy to have a go-ness’ in my lessons.

27.Explicit Information On-Demand and Just-in-Time Principle, one thing that is certainly true in WoW is how the UI manages to provide you with just the right amount of info at just the right time, something which is so much harder to do in RL classes.  Maybe a perfect lesson would do this?

Off to pack now…until Week 11 :)

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March 23, 2011 · No Comments


…more pixtons to do again!…

Wow!  What an enlightening article the Brown paper was, long in parts, but nonetheless very, very interesting.  ‘In this environment, it is critical that we shift  our focus from education to life-long learning’ (2005:1).

Many similar quotes can be taken from the paper, but it was perhaps (conveniently) the games information, as well as the ‘growing up digital’ sections that sparked my interest the most.  The latter is more pertinent as I continue my quest to introduce iPod touch’s (touches?) to the older year groups to instigate an ‘always on’, free usage mobile learning culture (which doubtless would also mean gaming culture too!).

‘…life moves to the net…in Korea…very little time is spent reading newspapers and watching TV’ (2005:14).  Perhaps the most exciting thing here is the notion of the ‘intelligent, multimedia, mobile device’ (2005:14) – I want these for my students, because in order to ‘become’ (better) Geographers, constant access is needed to the web and specific apps.  And indeed, just as hazard responses unfold in real time, and are tweeted about, so could my charges become involved.

Sometimes Geographical concepts are hard to master.  Do many children persevere? No, the learning path is simply not as fun as playing a game.  And yet most video games ‘are incredibly difficult to master’ (2005:15).  Such devices, as a I have previously mentioned, allow the ability to test and re-test and find dynamic information sources.

The notion of ‘building a guild’ was almost like picking a team, or in my case forming a group to attack a practical task.  Most recently this has included making an ‘oil pipeline’ and constructing a ‘real’ oil rig.  This then considers the ‘studio learning spaces.’  My initial thoughts were that this might only be possible in RL, but sites such as and can help make this possible.

One final point, to try to draw some of these points together…in looking to the future (awful phrase!) we must, as Gillett suggests, aim to 1.create a vision, 2.find, recruit and evaluate ‘players’3. create a learning/apprenticeship program and encourage group, collaborative problem solving.

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March 23, 2011 · No Comments


Briefly…talking to one my colleagues (a techie!) who is our ICT support manager, and chatted generally about games and online games.  He has in the past (and I believe still might be) developed an online game based around different WW1 battles.

Time passed, I mentioned briefly that ‘my course’ was based around digital games…the conversation then went something like this:

mcg: we had to play WoW for a tutorial last week (and it took up huge amounts of HD space!)

tjb: oooh, WoW, that’s a blast from the past

mcg: oh, have you played it then

tjb: oh yes, be careful with WoW

mcg: (slightly puzzled) why?

tjb: its dangerous, very dangerous

mcg: why is that?

tjb: I spent too much time playing! Hours and hours of my life [that I won’t get back] on it

mcg: excellent, its great isn’t it? What level did you attain?

tjb: yeah, I loved it, I got to the very top, level 70 or 80 I believe, was a guild leader and everything else you can imagine (I even learned gold crafting)

mcg: impressive

tjb: just be careful, my favourite character, by the way, was a paladin, had lots of characteristics of other types

…and so the conversation drew to a close.

So wonderful to hear someone else’s positive experiences, though tainted with cautionary undertones.  What do I do?  As one friend pointed out, approximately £8 per month, is £96 annually – uh oh!

Still considering whether to continue with Izic, or to set him free.  One thing that did ‘help’ was this iPad 2 story

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March 19, 2011 · No Comments


Ahead of next week, I wanted to begin to turn my attention to the 36 learning principles which Gee (2007) puts forward.  Even from browsing them, it became apparent how pertinent some of these are, when judged alongside WoW.  And so to begin…, critical learning…

absolutely, the player is constantly doing, even if this is moving from one settlement to another, or indeed venturing out on a new mission.  One must constantly evaluate and consider siutuations also, is this weapon ‘damaging enough?’ or ‘should I fight all of these orcs on my own?’ principle

while I am yet to discover ‘how’ to design aspects within WoW (except for the various accessories of Izic, my priest), I cannot help but appreciate the design which leads to learning.  Beautifully immersive, relatively easy to get going with simple tutorials along the way

3.semiotic principle

have I learned about a variety of sign systems, very definitely.  Has it been ‘complex’ not especially, particularly true, as a new player many helpful hints, pictures, dictionaries etc re all offered to aid learning.

4.semiotic domains principle

I am yet to enter into any WoW groupings.  Should I play it beyond the trial period, I would imagine it is only a matter of time before, as a group, we defeat legions of  trolls.

More principles to discuss too…

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March 18, 2011 · No Comments


Before I briefly discuss ‘The Internet is over’ which appeared in The Guardian online on Tuesday 15 March, I wanted to very briefly discuss something I discovered regarding WoW.

How do I sit down? (something I continue to try to find) but more importantly I wondered whether I could pause the game, perhaps to answer the phone or eat supper.   A brief glimpse on the web led me to find comments such as ‘you can’t pause the game, imagine what would happen if you were part of a 25 man group, the other 24 would have to wait!’ or a slightly more worrying ‘you can’t pause RL, so why should you be able?’  Fair point, though quite whether WoW is ‘real’ is rather debatable.

The aforementioned article discusses many aspects of how the use of technology, or more specifically, the internet will become so ubiquitous that we forget ‘what the internet is.’

Most interesting for me, and IDGBL, was the concept of ‘education system…as a badly designed game.’  Having contemplated this, I couldn’t help but think exactly how true this is.  Do children become too disheartened during tough lessons? Yes.  Do they try again in a game, rather than with algebra? Of course.  So what do we do?

Seth Priebatsch suggests a shared (instant feedback again?) leaderboard, upon which the most able might typically compete for the high score.  A colleague today argued that this would still exclude the less able.  However, one must then consider that other factors (group collaboration, ingenuity etc) would be rewarded too, just as my priest Izic receives experience points in WoW.

I have resolved to try this during the Trinity term, we shall see how it works…

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March 16, 2011 · No Comments


First of all, a couple of very brief points.  1.need to catch up on my ‘Pixton’s’, 2.I will endeavour to include some more ‘intellectual’ discourse (references etc) in my next blog, 3.I may possibly have found the biggest (most enjoyable?) time waster ever…

YouTube Preview Image

So, the opening, ‘proper’ evening of WoW, what did I think?  It was just great.  As ever, a fab tutor in Fiona, who, as all good teachers do, flitted around the various warriors, priests, mages offering relevant advice, instructions and pointers, which were certainly needed.  Thereafter, we accepted quests, and therefore a sense of purpose or responsibility that someone is relying on me/us.  General (or Major) McBride was extremely helpful, suggesting I went to slaughter some rather unhelpful invaders and so on and so forth.

Perhaps most telling is the instant hook I have felt.  I wolfed my supper at the end of the tutorial, and then played for a further 2½ hours, all the time thinking, must blog, must blog…

But why is this so?  The inner challenge (perhaps brought about by Fiona’s enthusiasm and encouragement) to Level up, was ever present in my mind, I *needed* to go to defeat the shadow goblin, or be trained to use a new magic, or indeed to defeat Kurtok the Slayer (though in fairness, anyone with the name ‘slayer’ is really asking for trouble!!).

The relative sense of freedom to explore is undeniably interesting.  It is exciting, in quite a different way to RL, to come across a new country pub.  Of course, when one wanders, you are just as likely to come across a vicious spider, or a ‘damsel in distress’ (vineyard on fire!).

Power ups, perhaps as tangible indicators of success, are also compelling.  A new staff, a wine stained cloak, or new armor mittens all added to the ‘just a couple more minutes’ feeling.

So, to find a WoW therapy is next, or a second mortgage when funding my new found ‘addiction.’

Great fun!

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March 15, 2011 · No Comments


(two pixtons to do…)(and now done!) :)

While I wait for the WoW installer to finish doing everything it needs to (including using up massive amounts of hard drive space – 20gb!!), I wanted to blog some initial thoughts about the adventures to come this week and next, and also to mention a few other points.

I am hopeful of attending the Apple Teacher Institute 2011, the only hurdle remaining is my often forward thinking, but equally fierce bursar.  Of the many highlights, which look so exciting, is the opportunity to learn how to enable mobile learning, using iPod touches no less.  Even more fun looks to be had with an introduction into the creation of apps for iPods/iPads.  Just think of the possibilities.  Watch this space.

Sitting with my WoW information to hand, I have now chosen my WoW name, with the help of this handy WoW Cool Name Generator, becoming Elpenor, wild purple haired ‘human’, night elf preist, all very intriguing!  Hopeful I will be in the right place (at the right time) for tomorrow evening’s tutorial, we shall see!

One of the most striking things is the level of ‘professionalism’ suggested by the impressive visuals and the easy-to-use (perhaps I should reserve judgement?) interface.  One certainly gets the impression that WoW is a really big deal.  This coupled with the Alton Towers-esque music leads me to believe an exciting (educational?/learning?) adventure is about to commence – so, until tomorrow (maybe I will gain some inspiration for lessons too!)…

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March 13, 2011 · No Comments


As the section on game informed learning ends, I reflect upon my lack of time to really do it justice.  This is certainly not to say that I haven’t been inspired by the thoughts and concepts raised by Michael, and of course, at least some of my thoughts have remained thoughts, lacking just a little time to put pen to paper (or finger to keyboard).

What this has made me question is whether or not my learning has been hindered slightly, having been a passive learner.  Gee (2007:66) notes that such a style ‘will not lead to much power and empowerment in the contemporary world.’

I often look upon the student who is reluctant to become involved as not making ‘as much’ progress, simply because they are not as involved.  And while their work is full of the ‘right answers’ (or not!) they are often just following the rules.  Much as in the ‘game world’ where, as Gee discusses, routinised players can ‘only go so far’, students without creativity, who have not learned actively, will often not achieve (in exams?) the very best scores.

So I have endeavoured to chip away with the nodes of labyrinth, and the goings on of COBRA, because, evidently, it is always better to be involved, even just a little, than to not be.

One final question, how does one become addicted by games?  This is one to come back to I think, but it strikes me that time invested in playing is vital.  This coupled with the most compelling back story or narrative seem to be the first ingredients, but what are the others…?

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