I Started playing vide games at a very early age. My first memories of video games include Pong for Atari and the first Super Mario Games for the 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). As the years went on, my fascination for video games continued to grow. I specifically remember how difficult NES games were and how obsessed I would get about beating them. I used to subscribe to video game magazine so I could find cheat codes, new playing strategies and learn about up-and-coming releases.

I have vivid memories of anticipating the arrival of new gaming systems with better graphics. One of my favorite activities as a kid involved going to the local arcades so I could play the newest releases and compete with friends as well as strangers. This is right around the time that the mass media began to demonize video games because of simulated violence and gore. As a result, these stories made me even more interested in the bloodiest and most violent games that were on the market. I’m pretty sure I still remember most of Sub-Zero’s attack combinations from Mortal Kombat I.

I have very little experience taking on different identities within the context of a video game. What comes to mind for me is the experiences I’ve had playing open “sand-box” style, free-roaming games for newer systems (Fallout, Skyrim, etc). Even when I play these games, I usually choose a human-like character, make his features similar to mine and give him skills/powers that I would want if I was an actual character in the game.

I really like and agree with James Paul Gee’s definition of literacy. I agree that “language (reading, writing and speaking) is not the only important communication system. Today images, symbols, graphs, diagrams, artifacts, and many other visual symbols are particularly significant (259-260).” In terms of music education, It is very important to comprehend multimodal literacy. I do of course expect my students to be able to read, write and analyze musical notation. However, I also expect them to be literate performers on their instrument. I also expect them to be able to identify good tone and intonation, which means they need to be literate when it comes to ear training.

Learning how to conduct a concert band had been a huge and humbling challenge for me when it comes to semiotic domains. Not only do I have to be able to read and analyze the musical score (sometimes for as many as thirty instruments at once). I also have to conduct tempo, cue the entrances for specific instruments and employ the use of dynamics and articulation. This requires a lot of multi-tasking and hand-eye coordination.

This week, I fired up my Super Nintendo Emulator and played Super Mario RPG. I have really been enjoying it and forgot have much strategy is included. This is the only game I have ever played that employs RPG style fighting, in which individual players take turn attacking, defending and casting spells against each other. In these games, it is very important to collect items and monitor each player’s and stats. I can see how games like this could be beneficial to student education at the middle or high school level. I will write about an education-based game specifically next week.

Journal Entry 2

I see a direct correlation between virtual identities and the identities that musicians create outside of their real world identity. The musician's alternate identity is first established when they pick an instrument they want to learn how to play. For example, when I decided to play the saxophone, I established an identity as a "saxophonist" that exists in addition to my real-world identity Adam Harris. In terms of teaching a band class, each student has a specific role depending on the instrument they decide to play. In concert band repertoire, high wind instruments like flute, clarinet, and saxophone usually play more complicated and technical passages due to their timbre and design whereas low brass instruments like trombone, baritone and tuba usually play slow moving lines that provide the foundation for the high winds. In this respect, choosing an instrument to play is very much like choosing a video game character. Each instrument and/or character has different attributes that will significantly affect how the player will interact in the game or piece of music. When a person first begins to play an instrument, they recognize very quickly that they have a lot to learn in order to achieve a high level of musicianship. The first obvious sign of a novice musician is poor tone. It takes years of practice and development to learn how to get a good on most instruments. Next is technique, in which students need to learn flexibility and accuracy on their instrument in order to play increasingly difficult music. This is where the projective identity becomes important as a musician. They real-world identity needs to constantly think about how it can improve the skills and attributes of the musician identity

I am currently teaching several students who have damaged identities. In band classes, I have noticed that weaker musicians try to hide behind the stronger one by playing very quietly or not playing at all while they pretend to. Unfortunately, playing most instruments at a quiet volume for long periods of time can create a lot of bad habits. As a result, I have gone out of my way to root out these weaker musicians and force them to get better by giving them exercises that break their bad habits. This had been a difficult process due to their damaged identity. In their minds, they have reinforced the idea that they are not good musicians so strongly that it is difficult to get them to put in the effort it takes for improvement to occur.

Many instances of situated meaning take place in the realm of music. The first one that came to mind involves the use of alternate fingerings on the saxophone. Most instruments have alternate fingerings for the same note. This is due to the face that certain passages or combinations of notes can occur in which one fingering is easier to play than another. On the saxophone, there are three different fingering for the note Bb. There is the side Bb fingering, the bis Bb fingering and the "one-and-one" Bb fingering. The bis Bb fingering is used whenever a song or exercise is written with an excessive amounts of flats. Therefore, when a student is confronted with a piece of music with lots of flats, the bis Bb fingering takes on the situated meaning the Bb fingering that is easier to use with lots of flats.

I am currently learning how to play the trumpet. In order to learn how to play any instrument successfully, one must use the probe, hypothesize, re-probe, and rethink cycle. As an example, one of the most efficient ways to become a better trumpet player is to play consecutive long tones, which strengthen the muscles around your lips which helps you produce a better sound. When I do this, I notice that is difficult for me to create the same sound every time I play a long tone (probe). As a result, I hypothesize ways of achieving a more consistent sound (faster air, more stomach support, etc.) and try again (re-probe). As I continue to experiment with long tones, re-think and go over the process while trying to find alternate ways to achieve progress.

For this week's journal entry, I played the game Quandry. I think this is an excellent critical thinking game for middle and high school aged students. The player's role is the leader of a small human colony on an alien planet. The player is responsible for helping the colony make important decisions that affect the future of their existence on the planet. The challenging aspect of this duty involves the fact that most of the human colony members don't agree or have one opinion about the decisions being made. As a result, the player is responsible for hearing all of the opinions and facts relating to the decision and choosing an option that is best for the colony as a whole. The games has great graphics, sound effects and intuitive controls. It is displayed in a comic-book style format that makes it easy from kids and young adults to understand. This would be the perfect game for a student that is interested in a career involving politics or government.

Journal Entry 3

Give an example of 'Just in Time' information presentation in a classroom activity.

James Paul Gee defines “just-in-time information” as explicit information the learner needs that is given at the point where the information can be best understood and used in practice. One example that comes to mind is the teaching of a frog dissection in a high school biology class. The instructions for dissecting the frog are given in real-time instead of days or weeks in advance. Receiving this information “just-in-time” ensures that the student can perform the dissection without having to rely on the retained knowledge from a previous lesson.

In a content area of your choice, how might you incorporate teaching in a 'subdomain' of the 'real' domain?

As a band director, I teach in a “sub domain” by nature. The high school band room is a sub domain for performances. During band class, I conduct the students through pieces of music and correct errors such as wrong notes and incorrect articulation as needed without the students having to worry about any potential consequences. Throughout the year, the high school band performs at annual concerts, festival and competitions. During these performances, students are expected to perform their music to the best of their ability and aren’t allowed to stop and restart songs to fix errors. These public performances are the real domain and the high school band room where the practicing takes place is the sub domain.

Describe a technique that you might use to help students 'transfer' early learning to more complex problems.

While teaching music lessons, I constantly look for ways to transfer early learning in music to more complex musical concepts. In most circumstances, I help students tackle a complex concept or passage of music by breaking it down to a common “denominator” that is easy for the student to understand based on their earlier learning. If it’s a piece of music, I will have the student slow the tempo down dramatically and isolate the notes or rhythms that are causing the problem. Next I will have the student play the isolated passage over and over again until they can play it consistently without making a mistake. Afterwards, I gradually speed up the tempo and add more notes until the student cam play the entire passage with ease.

Describe a learning experience you've had where one of your 'cultural models' was challenged.

Due to my ethnicity and liberal upbringing, one of my cultural models includes the notion that all people should be treated equally regardless of their race, gender or sexual preference. This cultural model is constantly being challenged in my daily life. The recent string of national events in which white cops murder innocent black men and get away with it have been especially damaging and challenging to this cultural model of mine. As a result, I can’t help but pay close attention to these tragic events by reading stories about them in the news. What disturbs me in particular is the overwhelming amount of hateful and racist comments that populate the discussion section of these articles. They reinforce my belief that I live in a deeply divided country, in which my cultural model does not align with many of my fellow Americans.

Reflections on any games you played or examined during the week. Educational games for the week include: Villainy, Inc., CSI: The Experience, Oncology, After the Storm, and the Sports Network 2.

This week, I decided to play Oncology. This is one of the most boring games I have ever played in my life. The players assumed the role of a doctor who is responsible for diagnosing and treating several varieties of cancer that are found in multiple patients. The game utilizes a two-dimensional playing field that shifts from an oncology lab (where you are debriefed by a senior doctor), to a patient’s room and then to an operating room. After you are debriefed by the senior doctor, you meet the patient, discuss their health and consult your medical notes to see if you can find a correlation between their habits and their illness. As an example, the first patient complains of problems with his throat, mouth and tongue. After reading in the medical records that he has been a heavy smoker, you come to the conclusion that he probably has tongue cancer. Here comes the really boring part: the most hands-on portions of the game occur when you use medical equipment to scan the patient for cancer cells and when you actually try to alleviate the cancer with lasers. During the scan, the player has to sift through multiple layers of x-rays and use a marker to highlight the areas ridden with cancer. The only way to tell where the cancer is located involves the use of a radar machine that starts to beep when you are close to the right area. The actual cancer treatment is equally boring. You have to line up laser beams to surround the cancer ridden area by shifting their placement, angle and beam width. The game features really tacky electronic music and horribly drawn cartoon characters. I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone.