Monday, April 23, 2012

Teacher Teaching Teacher Gaming Educator Reflection

I had the opportunity to participate in a podcast/google+ hang out last week with Teachers Teaching Teachers about Minecraft (thanks to @liamodonnell for including me and  @MzMollyTL).  It was interesting to talk to other educator about Minecraft in the class, and share ideas and experiences.  I wish we had more time to talk, and really dig into what we believe the educational value of the gaming is, and debate our philosophies on game based learning in general.  That being said, there were still great things discussed.  One of the topics we touched on has been bouncing around in my head since then. We came close to discussing the idea of planning activities for students to do in game vs. allowing students to explore on their own and it stuck with me all week.

There were some interesting points for planning structured activities for students and one of the scenarios discussed appealed to me. However, generally speaking, I am in the ‘just let them play’ camp.  The discussions, problem solving, team building and discovery that come out of the exploration of the game is amazing (just letting them play).  The writing that the game inspires gives opportunities for students to write about something they are interested in, and have it be authentic too.  In the case of the wiki we are working on with students in our Minecraft club, it give students a place to vent, ask questions, share what they are doing, and the resources they have found that have aided them.  

One of the interesting things that was said about planning activities for students to do in Minecraft was that there is a segment of the student population who get into Minecraft and say: ‘I don’t know what to do.’  Hence the need to have a structured environment with tasks the teacher has set to complete.  I get that, and it reminds me of a discussion I had with another teacher who came by during one of my club day and was observing what students were doing.  He expressed that he didn’t think this game would engage students for a long period of time because there was nothing to do in the game other than kill sheep.  My counter argument was: there is everything to do!  The possibilities of Minecraft are as endless as your imagination.  Something I, and the educators hanging out on Wednesday at Teachers Teaching Teacher, saw as we toured @MinecraftTeachr’s server.  (I am still geeking out over the replica of the Enterprise).

Which brings me back to the students who log in and say ‘I don’t know what to do.’  This is not an unusual comment to hear in class when students are faced with a blank page in their journals.  Being given a blank slate can be very intimidating.   And I think the problem is roughly the same in writing as it is in Minecraft: the number of possibilities is too much and sometimes you just don’t know what to do or where to start.  This got me thinking about what we do in language to address that problem: we generate lists of things we can do/write about and refer to it when we are stumped.  It would be interesting to see the kinds of lists students produce if given the same task to do for Minecraft.  

I think I’m gonna try that today in my club. (I’ll post pics here for now).

Decided to put them here too.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

I'm a Woman Gamer Hear Me Roar! (If I am successful at my d20 roll)

I have a small problem; I sometimes feel embarrassed to admit that I am a gamer. I'm not ashamed of being a gamer.  The embarrassment I initial feel is just the automatic/default response I have when I let it be known in conversations with non-gamers that I have  firsthand knowledge about MMO's, tabletop, or video games.  Non-gamers always seem to look at me as though I have just loudly announced: "I am the Queen of Fairyland and I ride a plaid pony! Whee!"

(Not that I would ride a pony if I were the Queen of Fairyland, especially a plaid one.  Everyone knows I prefer traveling by hippogriff.)

Anyways, after I get over the looks ranging from quizzical, pitting, confused, and sometimes more than a little bit disgusted, I feel a sense of indignation wash over me.  What gives them the right to make me feel 'less than' because of the way I choose to have fun?  Is it because I'm a girl?  Would they be less surprised if I announced my love of gaming if I were a man?  More and more these days I am beginning to think the extreme reactions I often get are more because I am a female gamer and less because I am gamer.

For example, I was at a meeting this morning and gaming came up in conversation during a break.  One of the women I was talking with was surprised by my depth of knowledge about gaming and said that I would get along well with her husband.  She then followed up by saying something along the lines of how it must be hard for me being a female gamer when there are so few women into gaming.  This surprised me a bit, because I realized just how often I hear that in conversations with non-gamers.  And while many of the people I game with are women, we are not perceived as the norm.  Is it just that I have been been fortunate enough to be surrounded by female gamers, or are there really so few women gamers?

What is it about being a female gamer that is so taboo?  Is it some weird 'nice women don't...' throw back to the past?  Are only men allowed to have all the fun?  And when you really think about it, gaming is not that much different than any other social gathering.  People (women) often meet socially under the guise of accomplishing something; whether it is a knitting group, a book club etc. (To which, incidentally, I both belong.)  These are social gatherings around a common interest.  Gaming is no different.  Why is it seen as different?

Lot of questions.  Maybe I need to do some research.

On a happier note, even though I still have run ins with gaming Luddites, my 'circle of gamers' is increasing.  In the passed month I spent a lovely evening gaming with MzMolly, and I am going to a gaming evening with a new friend from my knitting circle in couple of weeks.  Zombies beware!  AND there is a new gamer friendly You Tube channel: Geek and Sundry, that has a very strong female voice, and a great tabletop gaming, lifestyle program.  Life is good and it is only going to get better.

Hippogriffs for everybody!