First Reflection on Learning for Games and Learning ILT5320

Reflection is an important element of learning. It is a chance to look back at activities and thinking and fit them in with a big picture of what is being learned. For my learning and games class I will be reflecting on my learning every few weeks in a series of blog posts, this being the first of the series. For these reflections I have a bank of questions to guide my thinking.

How did your participation in course activities this month contribute to your understanding of games (generally) and the relationship between games and learning?

One activity that has put me out of my comfort zone but has helped me understand some theories from our readings in practice was playing a Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game or MMORPG.  The game I chose, Champions Online, is a style of game I have not ever played seriously. I ran into many obstacles that I did not know how to overcome. In the past when I learned new video game my problem solving methods have been to use trial and error followed by reviewing the manuals or tutorials, and finally searching the internet for a walk-through. Playing this new style of game, however, inspired me to try a new approach to problem solving by turning to the Champions Online online community, also referred to as an affinity space. Gee and Hayes wrote, in the article Nurturing Affinity Spaces and Game Based Learning, that members of an affinity space “rely on personal contact, through forums and messaging, to pass on their own craft knowledge and tricks of the trade” (2012, p.19). In the online forums I was able to find the information I needed when I was stuck in the game and was given unsolicited advice to not only pass obstacles but ways to do so the earned greater rewards. This was my first look into what can be learned from interactions in a interest based community and how that information can be more useful and expansive than what is in a game manual.

What preconceptions about games, play, and learning have you changed because of your course activities so far?

I truly believed that this course would be about teaching content through games. Looking at what is available and analyzing games effectiveness, then possibly finding or creating our own games to use in practice.  I have had this idea turned on it’s head. Even in this first segment of class I have seen that it is much more important to think about how game are designed to be engaging and find meaningful learning moment in the interactions, cooperative and competitive, that arise because users are motivated to master game play.  

How have you relied upon networks – with peers, via social media – to advance your learning in our course?

I have leaned on twitter as a way to stay informed with content my classmates have produced and to share when my blogs are posted. Twitter also give a nice opportunity to share short public comments to classmates that I hope are lighthearted and encouraging of their thinking and sharing. Finally I like using twitter to attempt to communicate with the authors of the articles and publications that I am looking at and open my content to a larger audience pool.

Ask yourself a question about games, play, and learning – and provide a meaningful answer.

I has a revelation during this semester about fantasy football as a game with potential to support math instruction. A few years back I purposed an after school fantasy sports program to support math practice, it was approved but I moved on to a new school before the program launched. After I have thought about how fantasy sports could be a good motivator for students who have low intrinsic motivation for math. This class is giving me the opportunity to find if others have looked into a connection between math instruction and if so to see how programs have be designed. My initial research has been promising I found a fantasy football lesson plan on the New York Time education blog and a teaching with fantasy sports website. The website has resources and video about fantasy sports math programs. One video, of a California school, was particularly interesting because of the firsthand testimonials from the motivated students.

What are your ongoing curiosities about games and learning, and how might you pursue these interests?
I read an awesome study about how playing video games helps increase affection and prosocial interactions in siblings for in cycle two, and in cycle three a popular press article that provides a brief real world example of how interactions around video games can help students develop empathy. These articles have started me on a path to find more about a connections between prosocial interactions and playing video games. I have found a chapter Pew Research Center study called, Video Games Are Key Elements in Friendships for Many Boys, which seems to have potential to discuss the connections between playing video games and developing social skills.

First Reflection on Learning for Games and Learning ILT5320

Are You Ready for Some Fantasy Football Affinity Space!?!

football header.pngI have been a participant in fantasy football for 12 years and throughout that time the game has meant many different things to me. I love to watch football and have been a lifelong Broncos fanatic so in some ways fantasy football was a logical extension of my passions. Fantasy football, however, is more than just an extension of loving football, it is a community experience that is shared with the other members of a league. I have played in leagues that are social and made new friends, such as a league that I joined in at a new school I taught at. I have also been involved with a league of friends that use our shared love of football and the competition of fantasy to stay close even if we are far away, which I was for two years while teaching in Ecuador.  For me playing fantasy football is a four month extension of social media in which all discussion revolves around the athletes and the game of football. My friends and league members, new and old, became my fantasy affinity space.

But there are more people in the fantasy football niche culture and joining them in an
online affinity space seems to be my next step to being a member of the participatory culture that is evolving around fantasy football. It is the off-season for fantasy football but that does not mean that the players of the game are resting. This is the time that league champions are starting to do their homework about off-season moves for the biggest names in the NFL and the newcomers, who will have high value on teams come September, because these players will be overlooked by novices but score big points for team managers who are willing to take a chance. An affinity space for  fantasy football is a great place to tap into members’ knowledge and strategies.parkscallions-champion

I looked at a few fantasy football affinity spaces before choosing to join FF Today’s Fantasy Football Community. What I liked about FF Today was that not only did membership connect the user with discussion forums and tailored news from FF Today staff, but even early in the off season there was active contributions from the community about player contract news, injuries, drafting/keeping strategies, and and most exciting individuals sharing news items from local papers that were not being picked up by national sports media.

I have started my contributions as a newcomer to the group, looking for guidance with my fantasy roster. The way my long time friend’s league works is that we can keep three players each season and so I have reached out the the FF Today community for a fresh perspective on which players form my roster are gems and which are busts. The replies have been few but thought provoking, and similar to the responses that others have received to similar posts about their teams. I hope that as the NFL off-season moves into free agency there will be more interest from community members  to discuss and analyze keeper rosters as they get ready for the season.

Are You Ready for Some Fantasy Football Affinity Space!?!

Popular Press Impression of Video Games and Learning – A Scholarly Critique

In my pursuit of further education I am enrolled in a course on games and learning. Part of the expectations for this course is to take ownership of my learning and explore the connections between games and learning for myself, this blog post is a continuation of the documentation of my learning.


I have been struggling in my games and learning class to find connections between the theories I have been exposed to and finding tangible connections to my real world teaching practice. I know the direction of the course is to first introduce the qualities of good video games and games design. Our readings have already shown that good design make video games compelling for users to keep playing and mastering in-game skills, called pleasurable frustration, and that games with good design motivate discourse between players about the game and how to be a better player. This discussion of how game design supports these higher order thinking skills will lead into discussions and readings about how to employ games in an educational setting, both traditional and nontraditional.

I know myself as a student,  however, and I am impatient and want to start finding examples of how these concepts are being applied by others now. To start this investigation I looked to the popular press to see how games and the thinking skills they foster are being reported to the general public.  I wanted to also find an article that spoke, now only, generally about gaming and thinking skills, but that also provided ideas about possible directions to take my individual investigation in the next few weeks.  I found a list style article by Huffington Post blogger Kara Loo, called “7 Ways Video Games Will Help Your Kids in School”, this post not only connects seven distinct ways that video games foster 21st century thinking skills but also does a great job of linking to the studies and articles that Loo researched to support her claims.

Of the seven reasons that Loo claims video game play supports today’s learners three strike me as concepts that bridge the theoretical learning I have done in class and the practical real world applications I am looking for, these three are:

  • For most gamers, gaming is a highly-social activity
  • Games teach new technical skill sets
  • They offer a fluid and literary-like engagement with ethically- and morally-complicated situations (Loo, 2015)

“Their teamwork abilities are put to the test, and they must hone their communication and interpersonal skills in order to progress” (Ibid.)

The need to master communication and for proactive teamwork comes from intrinsic motivation to be successful in the game. The games that are well designed to promote motivation though engagement provide a platform to show students what is possible when communication and teamwork are applied properly.  This experience can be used as an exemplar for students when working in teams in different contexts.

“Video games are a powerful way to get kids interested in technology from an early age, and teach them basic technical skills that will reap rewards down the road” (Idib.)

Video games are increasingly empowering users to make changes to aspects of the game, these could be the customization of characters to the design and creation of new levels and worlds within the game platform. There is even a segment of the market that creates games (or activities) around employing user friendly coding languages for users to develop their own games from scratch, including the aptly named, Scratch program from MIT. These experiences let learns see what is possible and open imaginations for what could be created next.  I have always believed that new languages give new perspectives and problem solving avenues and a programming language is the same concept, a tool used to make sense of the given environment and solve challenges to mold that environment.

“Empathy . . . is not something that can be instilled from a book or verbal repetition. It emerges in emotional situations, which video games can simulate” (Idib.)

Multiplayer video games give students a chance to interact in a simulation of life and rehearse roles that they could eventually fulfill in life.  What a player does well in-game, be it communicating, creative strategizing, or giving directions, are areas that can understood as strengths in the real world. Conversely prosocial collaboration skills that learners do not possess yet can be promoted and practice in a virtual world. Knowing their strengths and developing other prosocial skills helps a learner understand themselves and solidify their personal identity.
I am quite pleased with the connections Loo helped create, for me, between the theoretical qualities of good game design that supports learning, and the directions she has pointed me in to continue my self inquiry are great.  My next steps will be to try to look deeper into each of these connections between 21st century thinking skills and games to find what evidence has been collected to support these claims, which, because of the great reference links provided by Loo, I have a head start on for my next critique.

Popular Press Impression of Video Games and Learning – A Scholarly Critique

Can Coplaying Increase Prosocial Behaviors? – A response to chosen text


In my pursuit of further education I am enrolled in a course on games and learning. Part of the expectations for this course is to take ownership of my learning and explore the connections between games and learning for myself, this blog post is a continuation of the documentation of my learning.

Inspired by the required readings for my class, I have decided to focus on an article, this cycle, that explores the outcomes of playing video game with others in the room, also called coplaying. The periodical I was assigned to read, In-Game, In-Room, In-World: Reconnecting Video Game Play to the Rest of Kids’ Lives, not only looked at what happens while a user is playing a video game, but also how the interactions with others in the room, during coplay, affect learning and social development. I found it fascinating that a lot of learning was happening during the interactions about and around the game. My construct of learning through games was that the game was doing the teaching and I had not focused on the elements of coplaying in my approach to games and learning. Anecdotes, from the study, of children engaging in coplay pushed me to find more information about how interactions around video game play could support learning as opposed to learning from the game itself.

The article I chose to analyze is a study by Sarah M. Coyne, Alexander C.gaming-familyJensen, Nathan J. Smith and, Daniel H. Erickson for the Journal of Adolescence, titled: Super Mario brothers and sisters: Associations between coplaying video games and sibling conflict and affection. The authors studied the effect of coplaying video games had on siblings in terms of their levels of reported affection and conflicts. The authors predicted that the act of playing together on video games would support the learning of prosocial behaviors in brothers and sisters, such as increased affections and decreased conflicts.  



The authors observed an increase in the reported affection between siblings that spent time playing games together. This increase was attributed to the shared experience of playing together and “strengthen sibling bonds” (Coyne en al., 2015, p. 55). I remember playing video games with my brother, we would be immersed in new games and reflecting on our play became key topics of our discourse. Coyne en al., also found that contrary to their predictions that coplaying video games, in boys, increased conflict. Which also does not surprise me because the longer my brother and I did anything the more likely there was going to be an argument. I think that all social play, weather cooperative or competitive, has the possibility of leading to a conflict in thinking between those participants and the opportunity for learning behaviors to turn conflicts into learning moments.

I would like to see how the interactions between siblings in coplay would play out with peers. As an elementary school teacher it would be nice to put “playing video games together” in a bag of tricks to help increase affection, like in siblings, and develop bonds between children. Then using the experience as a launching point for discussions about play, inevitable conflict, and problem solving.

Can Coplaying Increase Prosocial Behaviors? – A response to chosen text

Play Journal – Champions Online

This is the opening entry into a series of blog posts for my Games and Learning course. In this journaling exercise I am going to play social games and analyze the game mechanics, design, and play experience, to identify how the game can be applied to learning in formal or informal settings.

I decided to kick off my game play experience with a game that was both comfortable and out of my comfort zone. I have never been interested in online multiplayer role playing games, also refereed to as Massively-Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game (MMORPG). I have tried them before but have been overwhelmed by the number of tasks to be undertaken, having to explore, find materials, conduct missions, build or upgrade, etc, are too much for me to enjoy the game play. I never know if what I am doing is making me a better player and I get bored or frustrated and quit. I also generally don’t enjoy the settings or genre of role playing games – fantasy – I am more or a science fiction or superhero guy in my nerdy pursuits.  So while I wanted to try a game that is out of my comfort zone, the MMORPG, I decided to try  to find one that had content that more closely matched my interests.

The game I settled on was Champions Online, this free game lets users create and design a superhero based around a specific class of powers, for my character Fire, I chose the ability to create and manipulate, you guessed it, fire. The game starts with a lengthy tutorial that runs through the basics of game play and upgrading offensive and defensive powers. The tutorial also connects with a community forum where further questions can be asked or answer can be searched for from previous questions. I found this forum useful because I wanted to better know how to take advantage of my character’s abilities. I have a ranged attack and learned that if I let other players, who can take more damage, spearhead attacks, then the focus of the enemies will be on those players and I can provide support with my ranged attacks. This information may have been shared in the tutorial but I missed it and was getting frustrated at how fast I was dying as I rushed into battle. By leaning on the tacit knowledge shared by the others in the Champions Online affinity space I was able to overcome my frustrations and be a better contributor in battles (Gee & Hayes, p 19, 2012).

To support learning I think that this game would good to encourage students to apply a trial and error approach that lets them identify what they can solve on their own and where they need help. For me I learned that I was not effective in my original approach to how I attacked the bad guys. I ran head first in and died too quickly to be an effective contributor. This trial and error highlighted that my approach to the battle could be wrong and I was able to refine my query about how to improve my play. Students could be supported in other learning endeavors by playing this game if they transfer skills around attacking problems with a trial and error approach to determine specific challenges that they need scaffolding for to be successful.

Play Journal – Champions Online