JOURNAL #1

1.Describe your background and history with video and computer games.
I have little to no experience with video or computer games, so taking this course is definitely helping me broaden my horizons! When I was around eight, I played Harvest Moon as a bonding experience with my brother. A little bit later I was introduced to playing the Sims on the computer, which I enjoyed for several years. (I found it interesting and slightly amusing Gee noted women tend to play Sims at a higher rate.) Apart from these two experiences, I never pursued playing video/computer games in my spare time.

2.What are some of the real and/or virtual ‘identities’ you take on?
I do not feel that I have any virtual identities that are different from myself; all of my social encounters online (i.e., Facebook, Twitter) are genuine. The “real” identities that I associate with are divided into two categories: professional (teacher, program specialist) and personal (daughter, sister, girlfriend). Although I am similar in both capacities, there is a clear line when I act in my professional settings that separate different parts of my personality from my personal experiences. One example of this would be my love of sarcasm and dry humor – I use it frequently with friends and family, but I do not feel there is a place for it in K-5, especially with the younger grades.

3.What impact might James Paul Gee’s definition of ‘literacy’ have on your teaching?
I found Gee’s (2007) definition of literacy intriguing – having literacy being all-encompassing and authentic. As noted by many professionals (and those with first hand experience), authenticity and relevancy are crucial to learning and motivation. Additionally, I liked the central idea that “different people ‘read’ the world differently just as they read different types of texts differently” (p. 6). This is vital to remember in the classroom; students come from very different backgrounds and therefore will interpret and contextualize concepts and readings based on their own schema. Having a view on literacy that is flexible allows for rich and complex dialog in the classroom among peers in all subject areas as they discuss/debate different perspectives.

4.What experiences have you had learning in new ‘semiotic domains’?
When I first started working for the university, it was a big change in environment. My job calls for a myriad of tasks, from secretarial work (answering phones, e-mails, filing, databases) to event planning (e.g., curricular travel, advising nights) to recruitment trips. Since my predecessor left unexpectedly early for another position, I began the job with minimal training. It took a while to become accustomed to all of the daily processes, important connections, and higher education jargon. I recognized my place in the affinity group, and by proxy who was not in the affinity group, when I worked at the Preview Days and SOAR dates. I was able to fluently switch between chatting with professors and other faculty and parents with their prospective students – both of which require different communication techniques. In a way it is very similar to learning a second language; you must be able to quickly and effectively describe complex processes and change jargon into common terms to those who may be completely unfamiliar with the field.

5. Reflections on any games you played or examined during the week. Educational games for the week include: Resilient Planet, Evolver, Betwixt Folly and Fate, and Ludwig.

The two games that I played this week were Betwixt Folly and Fate and Resilient Planet.

With Betwixt, the demo time was short so I ended up playing the game a couple of times. I am not sure if it was my lack of experience with computer games or the controls, but many of the actions seemed awkward. One aspect about this game that I liked was the moral choices. An example of this was the lost pocketbook. A man in town lost his wallet and one task is to find it, however once it is found there are two choices you can make: 1) turn the wallet in for a small reward or 2) keep the large sum of money to help pay off your mother’s rent. These types of situations provide real life examples of the power of choices in a safe learning environment.

At first, Resilient Planet seemed to have far too many controls to remember! However, I began my playing time by simply doing the “Free Dive” option to become accustomed to the controls that helped greatly. One feature I really thought was neat was when you use the camera to photograph the sea life, you are given the chance to deduce what it is through a series of questions. On the actual missions, I enjoyed that it had a nice combination of facts and play. You are given mission goals from “videos” you receive and have to complete a series of tasks. In my time spent on the game, the best mission I had was a timed expedition to create an advanced food chain – I realized how useful this time of game play would have been during my food chains/food web lessons last year!

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JOURNAL #2

1. How might virtual and projective identities be important in your teaching?
I equated the virtual identities in my teaching to the different “hats” my students wear. For example, with my second graders we spoke often about thinking/acting like a mathematician – referring daily to an anchor chart showing the key traits attributed to being a mathematician. The younger grades especially, in my experience, lend themselves to openly discussing these types of identities; terminology/jargon is learned, viewpoints are created, traits are asserted, and rules/procedures/expectations are set. This is true of all subject areas. By explicitly teaching this early on, students begin to create projective identities for those different content areas. It is a mixing of what they’ve seen as ideal virtual identities and their ideas of what type of specialist they want to, and can, be. I think this has a direct connection to self-efficacy and future career aspirations.

2. Describe an experience you’ve had in teaching a student with a “damaged” identity.
Currently I am working one-on-one with a student who has a “damaged” identity about reading. It breaks my heart to watch his frustration and self-doubt grow exponentially with every word he doesn’t read automatically. In the beginning, we created goals together, ranging from increased reading levels to why reading is important for him (e.g., being able to read the menus/dialog in his video games). I have focused on increasing his self-efficacy and confidence in reading, with lots of focused practice and abundant positive reinforcement for his achievements. While it is definitely still present, it is important for me to watch his progress and see our results. Educators, in whatever capacity, must always be cognizant for students in their classrooms who have “damaged” identities, and respond quickly and positively the best they can.

3. Give an example of a situated meaning in your content area, and describe how you might help students gain a more embodied understanding of it.
Since I am not currently in the classroom, the first example that popped into my head was teaching math last year. I conducted my thesis work on Dewey’s theories of experiential education in a unit on fractions for 5th graders. Because math is difficult for many people, myself included, I felt the best way to teach was through an embodied experience – as authentic and relevant as possible for the students. After learning the basic procedures, my students and I embarked on a journey to learn adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing fractions through art, music, and cooking. In this way we were able to show how people actually use fractions in real life situations and students could better understand the words, artifcats, and symbols in that particular strand of math.

4. Describe a recent learning experience that involved using the probe, hypothesize, re-probe, and rethink cycle.
My most recent learning experience involving this four-step project was trying out a new game that my boyfriend recommended called Sound Shapes. Despite my minimal experiences with gaming, this Indie game was very different from games I had seen played before and I instantly fell in love with it. I began to play with very few instructions so it was a lot of probing the various parts of the environment (shapes, sounds, jumping blocks, different characters) to see responses. I created a hypothesis during the first level I played on how to grab the sound notes situated over a boiling river – if I were to jump to get the first few notes, then land in the middle on the turtle and repeat this process, I wouldn’t die in the red river (in this game everything colored red kills you). With this hypothesis in mind, I re-probed the environment to see if it was possible. Although the process was correct, I had to rethink my starting position because I landed short of the first turtle. It took me a couple times (thank goodness for the frequent save points!) but I was able to move on to the next scene fairly quickly.

5. Reflections on any games you played or examined during the week.
The first game I played for the week was the ReDistricting Game. I thought that the title sounded familiar, and as I opened it up I realized this game had been used in my AP Government class back in high school. It definitely was a different perspective looking at it now! The controls and missions were very straightforward and I liked the option to play on “Basic” or “Advanced” modes. The concepts were focused (i.e., one main concept per mission) and students could play through them at their own pace with little need for an instructor’s help. It was an interesting experience for me to play around with my “political power”, but I think it’d be effective in the social studies classroom!

The second game I played was Mission US – “For Crown or Colony?”. I did not really enjoy playing this game; I felt the dialog was slow, I had no control over where I went outside of pre-selected locations (i.e., couldn’t just walking around to explore), and the items to look at had too much information. For example, if you clicked on the plates it would provide character information (“This is the best tableware your family owns. It’s not fancy”) as well as facts (“Pewter plates and cups were common in colonial homes. Pewter is a metal made…”). The prologue was useful for giving the back-story, explaining the map, how to converse with characters, and what “Smart” words were. These important vocabulary words were added to a tab on the bottom for review at any time; just clicking on the word itself pops up the definition. It was clear early on that you could make dialog choices either in favor or against the Red Coats. Overall, I felt this game was a little too slow for my personal preference.

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JOURNAL #3

1. Give an example of ‘Just in Time’ information presentation in a classroom activity.
For many of my students, their experience with technology is limited to simply texting. This means any project, or event, that occurs on the computers requires just in time information presentation. During the spring (i.e., extreme testing season in schools), students must log into computers with special numbers and codes while doing tasks in a certain order. If the teacher provided all the steps and information before going into the computer labs, it would lead to chaos. Another example would be if students were working on a blogging project for the first time. Although initial instruction would be provided, frontloading the information will just get lost and be relatively useless during the actual process later. Instead, teachers can utilize on the Just in Time information to work with students once they began the actual process themselves.

2. In a content area of your choice, how might you incorporate teaching in a ‘subdomain’ of the ‘real’ domain?
Within any type of content area, teaching in the subdomain of a real domain should always be occurring. In the K-5 classroom, each grade level is essentially creating the “fundamental learning” built on “simplified versions” of the educational settings – each grade level increasing in difficulty and expanding content knowledge. For example, in second grade science the students were required to learn about habitats, which included the four main types, plants and animals that might live there, and what a basic food web was. By fifth grade, students are still required to learn about habitats, but must know several more types, their locations on the globe, their location’s effect on flora/fauna, and how to create realistic food webs/chains. Habitats in itself are subdomains within science, as well as they increase in difficulty – and with later grades are able to be contextualized.

3. Describe a technique that you might use to help students ‘transfer’ early learning to more complex problems.
One process is to teach two different processes that are similar in nature back to back. For example, addition and multiplication – multiplication, in its most basic form, is repeated addition. By teaching the foundational skill first, quickly followed by a secondary near-tandum skill, students are better able to visualize and complete the secondary skill.

Another example would be using sentence frames. When working with English Language Learners (ELLs), it is important to teach basic frames in context of language:

  • Describing sequence of events: First, ( ). Next, ( ). Last, ( ).
  • Cause and effect: If ( ), then ( ).
  • Defining: ( ) is/has ( ).

By learning these basic sentence structures, ELLs can begin to utilize them in every day conversation or with more complex vocabulary within content areas.

4. Describe a learning experience you’ve had where one of your ‘cultural models’ was challenged.
I was struck by two different examples when I thought about Gee’s (2007) definition of cultural model as “images, story lines, principles, or metaphors that capture what a particular group finds ‘normal’ or ‘typical’ in regard to a given phenomenon” (p. 149). The first example I thought of relates to cultural model as an image. Growing up as a United Methodist, I had seen many images of key biblical figures depicted visually in my children’s bibles, curricular materials, and images around the church. Although I was not overtly cognizant of it at the time, each image was of a Caucasian person. During my year of confirmation, we were all required to visit, and learn about, other religious establishments. One of the first other churches I attended was a black Baptist church. While thoroughly enjoying the service, I flipped through a children’s bible in the pew. Something about it was different than what I was used to but I couldn’t pin it down. All of a sudden it hit me – every person depicted in this bible was black. It was then that I had a moment of crucial and critical self-reflection, realizing that my entire life I was used to a particular image that was considered “normal”, not even considering that it might not be the only view. This learning experience was further deepened and challenged as I explored the significant implications on what I considered normalcy surrounding the geographical location of bible.

The second example that came to mind was during my Special Education course as an undergraduate. One assignment we were given was to find children’s literature staring a lead character who had some form of disability. As we searched and scoured, it became obvious that it was atypical for a child/person with disabilities to show up within a classic children’s book. The point of the exercise was to challenge the “typical” book and cultural lifestyle we are sharing as educators with our students – and the importance of critically looking through the lens of race, culture, sex, and diversity to help prepare our students to be accepting of differences.

5. Reflections on games you played or examined this Week.
The two games that I played this week were Villainy, Inc. and CSI: The Experience. While I think younger children would enjoy the playful feeling of Villainy, Inc., the video interludes were very long – and there was no way to skip through them. An aspect of the game I did find interesting was that each person you could ask to join your team was presented with both pros and cons (e.g., was a genius, but also crazy busy so might be distracted while helping you out). On the flip side, I think the CSI game might be interesting for older students, despite being text heavy. While some of the tasks were seemingly mundane (i.e., click for more text or to see a basic process), it represented a wide variety of gaming techniques. For example, to answer the first set of questions in the Firearms section, you had to read the definition and “shoot” the answer through a scope. I also liked the push to think about college within the personality quiz that reported what kind of career path you could be in. All in all, I might use Villainy, Inc. as a reward for students, but the CSI game might be too “textbook” feeling.