Introducing Le book

April 21, 2007


ok, this is just too funny. had to share.

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Something just for fun.

Traditional education has relied on textbooks to convey factual information, and the teacher to interpret that in a way the students could understand. The emphasis was on what happened and when.

What has been missing from education is the exploration of why things happened as they did. Educators often express a desire to encourage students to develop Critical thinking skills. Other than the occasional gifted educator, pedagogy has been lacking the ability to develop this in their students.

I believe that the use of gaming technology in education will develop critical thinking skills in students as well as encourage use of the textbook and other resources to provide a deeper learning experience that will translate into real-world value and use.

The new students are different than their predecessors, with different learning needs and approaches to information gathering and processing. This is the Digital Generation.

Who are they? This is the generation that has grown up with computers around them. They have been using computers since they were toddlers, and have come to increasingly rely on them for information gathering and sharing. Their world is one where they decide what they want to know about, then decide where to find it and how to extract and utilize it. They have learned to ask friends how to do things and find information, and they freely share it with others. In their online gaming experiences they have learned to ask more experienced players how to do things, and have taught newer players in turn.

In these online gaming experiences these students have developed co-operative team work and information gathering and sharing skills. They are very much aware that nobody knows everything, but everybody knows something. They operate with a sort of distributed intelligence.

Education traditionally, has been focused on information delivery. The techniques and tools of pedagogy have been centered on teacher-oriented presentation needs rather than the student-centered needs facing education in the future. The digital generation doesn’t want to be talked at, they want a participatory experience, utilizing various resources and integrating them into a personal learning experience.

This generation has grown up playing digital games. They have been role-playing, creating experimenting with scenarios and strategies since they were little. These games are the new Chess. Students in colleges today are still playing various games online, or computer-based, so there is something compelling about it.

Gaming has their attention and has proven that it can engage these students deeply. Education has this same goal. So why not combine the two? If education was as much fun as a video game, yet as informative as any textbook or teacher presentation, wouldn’t that be the ideal pedagogical paradigm?

This model already exists in such games as Civilization, where students can experiment with different historical societies and events, by exploring different outcomes and possibilities if certain situations had happened differently. Students playing such games often seek further information to deepen their knowledge on a topic, but also to play better at the game. Ideally a teacher facilitates the activity, and helps them process it at the end. The student learns critical-thinking, having a deeper understanding of historical events and why they happened, not just what and when.

To prepare for this modality of teaching would require an odd pairing of professionals. Ideally you would need an educator to be involved in the design to direct the educational value of the overall game, and you would need a game designer who knows how to create compelling interactive content.

I believe any student could benefit from education done in a game-like environment, but with the digital generation I believe it will be a necessity if we want to engage these students and better prepare them for the team-oriented, collaborative working world they will be creating and an integral part of.

Shift Happens

April 19, 2007

This clip is an amazing look at how our technology is rapidly evolving, and some of the effects it has on us.

It’s a little longish, but worth looking at.

Shift Happens

Snow Crash

April 7, 2007

When I first started reading this book, I was put off and very disappointed. Every other sentence had the “F” word in it. I saw this as a cheap attempt at trying to be instantly cool in a Cyberpunk culture. I dreaded having to read this very long book where I would have to tolerate this self-congratulatory coolness.

I was wrong. As I got further into the book, I realized the “F” word was a purely stylistic feature completely suitable to the genre. Then I got swept up in the story.

Hiro Protagonist is the primary protagonist in the story. He’s a skilled hacker, who was instrumental in the creation of the Metaverse, which is a 3-d virtual world.

He and his friends live a life of geeky coolness in that world, being somewhat icons, and Hiro, who wrote the program for swordplay, is the “Greatest Swordsman in the World”.

As it turns out, their real-world life becomes quite similar. The boundaries blur, and the two worlds coalesce to save the day. But more on that later.

Hiro is a fringe person; a coder who is delivering pizza. The world has devolved into an organized chaos. There are a lot of small countries and enclaves that handle their own laws and security. It’s all about having the right access, just like a coder. Hiro gets by making deliveries, and hacking into the Metaverse for information he can later sell.

Enter Snow Crash, a new drug. He witnesses it completely debilitating a fellow hacker and friend. His exploration of what this new drug is brings him into a fantastical world of computers and power plays, with all the deceit and mind-boggling occurrences that one would expect in a taking over the world-themed story.

Eventually the basis of all is revealed, and it has to do with ancient Sumerian culture. It seems there is a language that is so basic (yeah, you get the reference), that it talks to our most primitive self; one that we don’t even have access to ourselves. Essentially this becomes the basis for theories of humanity and how a virus took us over by capitalizing on this weakness. One extra-talented human was able to break away from the viral code and create his own. This led to the conscious mind of man. It was found that certain “codes” could keep the virus at bay. The book is about someone who is trying to use modern technology to use this viral weakness of humanity to his own advantage, and others are trying to inoculate us against it.

At this point, the book reminds me a lot of Dan Brown’s DaVinci Code. Stephensen takes historical facts, and weaves them into his fantasy rendering it as a believable concept, and one we can take sides on.

To resolve the crisis, not only does Hiro use his coding and real-world sword and motorcycle skills, but he makes heavy use of the Metaverse to work out problems, and coordinate his real-time activities with cohorts.

The book relies heavily on Viral modeling. Most of what happens is somehow related to how viruses work; human, as well as computer. It’s an interesting model; one we should pay attention to. We talk about “Viral Marketing” in the digital age, which utilizes this same model. Basically, you have an entity that finds its way into a system, computer or human, and it replicates itself. It needs a vector to spread, which can be a program, or bodily fluids, or, words.

I think the book portends how we may be using the internet in the future. It’s fairly clear how Snow Crash was a progenitor to “Second Life”, a current 3-D virtual platform. But beyond that I think the model of going “in-world” to work on real-world problems, or to coordinate otherwise difficult to communicate information is a direction we will be moving in as we come to find value in virtual environments.