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21st Century Learning Leadership Forum 2012 - Banff, Alberta, Canada

by badbuddha0 on Oct 17, 2012 at 10:56 PM}
I have spent the last two days at the 21st Century Learning Leadership Forum in Banff, Alberta. I leave the forum (early, sadly) with some clarity for how to go forward, not only with game-based learning tools, but also with a new paradigm of education altogether*.

Game-based learning was definitely a primary topic of conversation. Mostly in the context of digital technology, games received attention as potential sources of engagement for disengaged youth. On the other side, there were at least a few attendees who felt that they had to resist "drinking the kool-aid" of what they consider to be a fad at best and a total abdication of responsibility at worst. Most constructively, in my opinion, was what seemed to be a prevailing attitude that society will be most likely to benefit from meaningful partnership development between K-12 education, higher-ed institutions, industry, social enterprises, and (most excitingly) young people (the prevailing attitude from Marc Prensky was that it would be ideal to release an army of 10-year olds, equipped with a host of digital weapons of collaboration, on the problems of the world).

What was clarified for me is the importance of valuing individual "amateur" experiences as credentials in themselves. While taking nothing away from existing systems that provide credentials to experts, I think the time and the means to provide "micro-credentials" for the varied skill sets developed by people when they pursue their interests. I think these formative credentials (the kind that are offered by all sorts of digital games and worlds) can support summative credentials to provide a better picture of what a learner/employee can do in a given occupation or vocation. Valuing these skill sets and growing them within people is what is at the heart of true mentorship/coaching...and this is something that has centuries of play-testing in the real world. It is a proven teaching tool that can (and often does) involve game mechanics as a motivator.

In the end, the forum provoked me to action just as it was meant to. Happily, I was able to send all of you some things that I thought were cool.

Drop me a line if you'd like to discuss more.


*Readers can review forum tweets by searching #banff21st or #21llf
Comments

6 Comments

Hawkye
I'm with Marc there, except I think we need a team of 4- through 12-year-olds. The younger ones will actually say the things that the older kids might not, and the older kids have a bit more experience.

This is why I'm not in charge of education.
Leedale
I love the phrase "formative credentials". It encapsulates a lot of what I like about the game-based learning trend, now. It reminds me that there is value in the process of learning and that grades are as much like learning as fossils are like the living breathing dinosaurs. (Can you tell I don't like grading?)

I think the thing that I've taken away the most from the trainings, meetings, and postings in this course is the idea of valuing learning with higher granularity. Too often I feel like students are "dropped" in between assignments without good feedback, but on the other hand I don't want to drown them in required assignments.

I will say that I understand why some of the folks you saw at the conference were concerned. We could easily abdicate too much responsibility when using games in the classroom. We also have the same potential when simply using technology in the classroom. There will always be people who think that better learning will take place simply because there are clickers in the room, for example.

Thank you for sharing, badbuddha0!
Thanks BADBUDDHA0 Your comment, "On the other side, there were at least a few attendees who felt that they had to resist "drinking the kool-aid" of what they consider to be a fad at best and a total abdication of responsibility at worst. . ." really got my attention. I think this idea of "drinking the kool-aid" (actually it was flavor-aid at Jonestown, and none of my students know the derivation of the phrase any more) is true, I have seen this in other industries and in theories. It is like a gold strike, one finds, others follow and some are lucky, then the strike may finally give nothing. Sometimes we are too quick to accept a new idea that isn't fully proven.

However, having said that, someone needs to take the plunge and enough people need to follow them to prove or disprove it is a good idea. I do think that instructors may be "throwing a game" in their class regardless if if it fits or teaches anything because they don't understand the theory, mechanics, of gaming and what they put in doesn't support the class competencies. They just think they should do it because someone else did.

An example of misuse might be taking your English class into WarHammer and write about the experience without preparation as to what they should look for that relates to the class. The game, for game's sake, kinda like "badging" yourself as an "expert on gaming in the classroom."

An example of good use would be, and was, the use of WarHammer in an Anthroplogy of Folklore class in 2010 at FRCC (with Kae) where we had discussed archtypes, the concepts of good/evil in cultural application in religions around the world (cultural universal), why they chose the good or evil path in the game, why they chose the character they did, and then play the game. They discussed the hero's journey as the free-play to level 10, does have quests. Afterwards they wrote an essay answering some questions, also they had discussions in class after the experience regarding the competencies this experience fit. They had cooperation as well as competition. We also discussed why character choice was limited and why those particular characters were chosen by WarHammer.

I am not saying that I am that good, I am not, but there was a lot of pre-thought and planning on what and how the game would be used.

My theory is that people shouldn't jump on the band wagon unless they have an instrument and know how to play it.


Micro credentials are a really great concept to build confidence/skill sets for developmental students. I am going to think more seriously about this concept for sure. Love the Prensky as Pied Piper image... that's what you were saying, in essence, right?
:)
~XQC
badbuddha0
This sentiment was a refreshingly common theme at the forum. Having instructional reasons for everything...from a smartboard, to a game, to a paper and pen...these were discussed in terms of serving instructional goals. I think the major paradigm shift flagged at the forum, though, was not that sentiment alone but that some technology (know-how in the purest sense) allows us to set instructional goals that were perhaps not possible (or not easily possible) in the past. So crowdsourcing solutions to major problems, taking anthropological field trips into virtual worlds, etc are the kinds of things that can allow teachers and students to discover the world of knowledge together in a way that wasn't really possible before. Games and game mechanics can be part of the conversation, I heard, but perhaps are best seen in the broader context of providing access to experiences never possible before.

I liked learning goals being at the forefront of the discussion, personally. It made me glad that so many big players agreed on that.
Hawkye
Even from a purely gamer standpoint, I have to agree. Organization is a must-have, and concrete goals are very important. Otherwise you end up with games that don't really know what they want to be or who they want to appeal to, or, in the case of GBL classes...they don't know what they want to be or who they want to appeal to. Huh.

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