31 oktober 2014

Economics with World of Warcraft

I started one other project yesterday, the one we're doing just for fun, some students and I - to learn more about Economics while we (anyway) play World of Warcraft.

Just like some of my students I play WoW (I actually met my wife Tulipe in that game) every now and then, just to relax. Some came by and suggested me to have a course using WoW as a tool with the explanation "if you anyway believes in learning through a game (Minecraft) you should test WoW (as we know you play)..."

For a few weeks I've tried to set this course up. On one hand gather motivating students and on the other hand get support, help and motivated colleagues to help me. Learning through a game is so new ideas that students are often skeptical and teachers get terrified. I also feel that many teachers would see me fail with those projects just to prevent prevent the development of new pedagogical and/or didactic solutions.

My second try to get one of the teachers of Economics to help me was a real success. He thought the project itself sounded so interesting that he didn't thought about the money. His enthusiasm yesterday surprised both the students and me and while he has no interest to play the game self he told us he wants to do his very best so they can learn as much as possible. He even appointed himself mentor during the project, which surprised me because we havn't talked about it and I don't know if there's money to that, but he said he wants the experience more. It's such a joy when you find someone who thinks like that.

Besides Economic skills, and key competences for life long learning, there will also happen a lot with the group. At the moment there's first, second and third years students and six different classes/areas, in total 13 students and me playing. I'm trying to have all participants answer questions about group dynamics and expectations as well as doing The Bartle Test of Gamer Psychology.

As mr E (Economics) never have played any computer games, we started to show him the game. I opened the Auction House, he glanced at it and immediately began to draw parallels to the stock exchange. The learning process had started...

As our guild has been set up, 
we now also have our rank system working. The Our guild reflects a real company so now we have a board of directors, players who have invested their savings in the project. There is an operational management team consisting of the CEO and management team, Last but not least: employees. 

CEO and management team now have to come up with our mission, what we want to be good at? That thing we are going to develop the next weeks. 

We also talked about introducing incentive pays, you earns 50% of the profit and the other 50% goes to the company (guild).

Corporations are not a democracy.

CCEdu and bridgebuilding

A class of 16 students, 7 went home so I only had 9 left. The replacement before me probably was a bit boring. Even though I had Minecraft and they knew it, they left early :(

Ok, so I had 9 students left to challenge with bridge building, MinecraftEDU and ComputerCraftEDU. Suddenly there was 3 groups: 4, 4 and 1 (!). The single one you can't call a group, but he is a couple of years older and if I remember correctly, has dysphasia; blue, red and green team.

Red team
Immediately the red team turned out to be the group with less collaboration and none existing communication. They were more concentrated to build a wall against the other groups than to actually do the bridge building mission.

First one, later two students found a way out of the test area and started to build a bridge. Not a nice one but a working one.

The other two suddenly realized they could leave after completing the bridge so they run away building something similar as a forth team, yellow, just to be able to leave 1 hour before time. The carrot turned out to be leave early :P

Blue Team
The other two teams took the challenge more seriously and followed the steps, tried their best to do a nice bridge (just for fun!) and the one man army continued.

While blue team was testing they ran into some problem which they tried to correct, as a never ending loop (picture below). Second try the guy had connected his remote to the turtle and could stop it before it had went away too long. One of the team members is the one with ADD I've talked about before and this way of making code suits him perfectly, he was as equal as the other members contributed code.

Green team
One man army
Well, he's a bit stubborn and a bit older. He said he would learn more if he could, would be allowed, to do it himself. So I let him to do that. It took a lot of time, the final code had some mistakes but he will continue from home. 

Funny thing with these two students with diagnose, this was the right way to teach them make codes. Both of them turned out to be brilliant programmers just because of the drag & drop in combination you could test all the time what happened.

Today's mindmap

When communication and collaboration works, everything goes (black boxes). When it don't work it creates stubbornness and I, the teacher, has failed. And this last try, teach through a game is not working. On the other hand, nothing works and the problem is more individual, they have no interest what so ever to participate in an education.

I do have lots of experience to the next course in the same area, introduction to codes but with the first years students.

24 oktober 2014

What happened yesterday?

Now when I have started to melt what happened yesterday I thought I should write down the thoughts. So many of my line colleagues has tried but not reached their hotspot. What did I do that was different?

I refuse to think it was the Minecraft because half of the class is not even interested in the game. Or at last, not usually interested but if a teacher tells you to play, then you play. I start to think it was because I made it simple. KISS

When I've talked, or more exactly, tried to talk with my colleagues they just shake their heads and compare my lessons with kindergarten. If I should be a real teacher I should forbid games (dot) (end) (stop talking). 
And I'm doing the opposite, I allow them to play.
And I allow them to play a game that simple everyone can play it.
With a low learning curve, everyone can do it.

Some more open minded colleagues has told me that's easy for me, because I have the knowledge.
Sorry, they are all wrong. 
Knowledge of the game, nah... more of getting experience of the game. Hey! My daughter, AquaVera 6yo, gives me tips every now and then how to play Minecraft. 

Knowledge - wrong.
Know how - wrong.
No, what I'm doing is more scary than that.
It's spelled: D-A-R-E

I know where we're going, I have the policy documents, I have my goals as with every subject or method as you usually have. The method changes; it took a while before I had courage to let go of control, I don't have to master the method (Minecraft) as long as I have control of everything else

And the benefits are huge! 
I meet students at their own stadium and catch their interest. Proof that I got yesterday, everyone stopped what they were doing and started to participate in the learning. 

And they realized:
  • Learning is fun.
  • Learning is multiplayer.

When we went through what they had learned at the end of the day, they told me not exactly, but close enough.
  • This was a fun way of learning.
  • You tricked us to learn.
  • Now I finally understand the WHILE loop.
  • I have never before been this active!
  • I have had fun!
  • It was easy.
  • "I like this way of construct code better (design view)", the guy who said that has ADD (abbreviation for Attention Deficit Disorder). Finally he understood how to make code and he could also keep up with the others instead of always being the last (which is bad for self-esteem)
  • Another one, with dysphasia (and probably design difficulties) said: "I could check my code by testing all the time". He was learning while testing and swore long chants every time he lost control of the turtle, but give up? not an option!

They, students of today, learn in an opposite way than we are used to. Face the fact, you should not teach yourself, it is today's youth (the millenium kids) who is your target audience. You have to change your didactics to fit them.

And yes, CAD or Blender gets better graphics than Minecraft, but you have to catch them (and their interest) before they can learn the more advanced stuff. Don't make it harder than it needs to be!

The key words:
Keep It Simple Stupid
D A R E !

23 oktober 2014

We have learned the WHILE loop!

A week ago one colleague became father and, as the rules are in the Nordic countries, left his workplace for three weeks. Of course I'm happy for him, but at the same time a bit pissed because he didn't left any materials to us who suppose to be his replacements. One of the courses, basics of object-oriented programming (python) we're three teachers to share, the other two usually works with C++ and Java so they are more familiar with our problem.

As a remedial teacher I have some knowledge of everything, but to refresh object-oriented programming over a weekend, heeey c'mon... :P

So I've been stressing a lot of this course the whole weekend before I decided to face the problem my own way and go against the flow: what you can't fix with Minecraft ain't worth fixing... So MinecraftEDU, ComputerCraftEDU and the truly awesome map the Land of Turtles!

And yes, I know
  • the Land of Turtles was designed for 9-12 yo kids
  • Lua isn't object-oriented programming (but kind of reminds of one)

My students are between 18-22, double the age of what the map are designed to. My students should also be the third years students of Business Information Technicans (datanom), but as I understood after the beginning of the week they are not any programmers. 

In fact, none of the teachers in my school has succeeded in learn this group any programming at all, and one of the reasons why is because they have used conventional methods, code code code and nothing else but code.

And here we face on big problem, teachers that don't understand that Generation G (Global) learn in an opposite way than we're used to. Too many learn through games...

The target group:
  • 18-22 yo
  • Don't know how to code
  • Can not analyze code
  • Conventional methods don't work
  • Can't concentrate
  • Makes noise and talks all the time

Selected methods:
  • MinecraftEDU
  • ComputerCraftEDU

My colleagues hope I fail, the students don't care (they have decided to not listen before I even start) and I'm getting nervous... If my way works, they might have to do the same, so guess what's easiest :P

"The Land of turtles" is in truth an absolutely stunning map, split into small pieces, chapters, lessons. It begins with the turtle museum, two floors of turtles with example code. I had written down all codes (text) and gave them their own code to search, describe and analyze. I thought maybe 15-20 min would be enough.

It took 45 min, mostly because students that age has forgotten to follow instructions, don't read, don't listen and getting confused when the solution does not fall down in their outstretched arms...

As many teacher had told me they can't analyze code, understand what the code does, they did fairly good I must say

Explanation 1: 
"What is happening here: Turtle goes first forward, then up, turn about 180 degrees (right). Then I go through a blank area in the wall, then down and swings about 180 degrees again and goes back to the same place from where it started."

Explanation 2:
"The robot is called up and trough 
turtel.forward = breaking up a block 
turtle.up = turtle goes up a block 
turtle.turnRight = turtle turns to the 180 to the right 
turtle.down = turtle walking down a block 
turtle.turnLerft = turtle pivots at 180 on the left"

When everyone was ready I open the gates to the intro to turtles section where they could start practice. Suddenly they were in the next area a bit too fast (I wasn't ready): Faultline Island.

A chapter that didn't work at all, my students need someone who tells them what to do otherwise they loose their interest. So I teleported them one by one to the Sky Turtle Island and my students started to be creative. They also stopped racing and came up with own goals: nicest code, best code, to win the game/outwit the creator and more.

A block every second spot. Why? He told me he wanted to save blocks for later use...

Same challenge, two different solutions. One goes over and the other through... And the challenge to outsmart the creator: you can't leave the Sky Turtle Island because you're not allowed to build or to jump from the plattform. But you can use your turtle to make a bridge over the fence...

Some stuff wasn't working, as the sandwall which should close behind you when you enter the second floor's new rooms. When we removed the redstone (yellow star) the sand went down and closed the door. Two students entered the room together to collaborate through the challenges. 

After 2,5 hours non-stop working with code, turtles, problemsolving I was totally deflated and wanted to be alone. I had to kick them out and promise we'll continue next week. Before they left we talked about what they had learned. 

  • Everyone had learned something.
  • All had at least (finally) learned the WHILE-loop.
  • Those with dysphasia could keep pace with the other.
  • All told me they have, for the first time, actually been doing what the teacher asked for the whole time (!).

14 oktober 2014

The asthma girl got pneumonia

Saturday 11th of October we had our wedding day, six year anniversary, and I thought I had planned for everything: food, wedding cake, flowers, present. The only thing I hadn't planned for happened. 

Our daughter AquaVera, the asthma girl, got pneumonia.

Instead of having a nice weekend we have spent it at the hospital, my wife the first night and I the second night. And yes, of course it's nice the health system works that good and that she got treatment in no time, and yes she's doing much better thank you.

So what to do with a sick but restless 6 year old girl? Well, yesterday we build a 3D jigsaw house to her My Little Ponies but today I didn't had any energy to that and she also asked when I'm going to "work next time in Minecraft..." 

So we started the My Little Pony mod and started to play. Some stuff I have been giving us (as an operator); mostly armor, weapons, some food, fishing rod and the enchantment table, but the rest we've craft and built. Why? Well, try to play with a 6 yo and you'll pretty soon realize they (1) don't always has the patience and (2) she's scared about the mobs.

This time we have started to play with mobs and easy, so our enemies can't climb in the trees nor open fence gates (Thank God!) but when they're moving a bit too close she screams: 
(Thank you! I only have ten zombies chasing me...)

The hunting tower (with the windows) is her invention just like the fishing site (to the left). The closest tree house is our library and enchanting room. 

Behind the house is a two storey house with a kitchen in the "ground floor" and bedrooms above.

Because of the exploding nerds (creepers) we had to move our farming place from the ground up in the trees. Carrots and potatoes are loot from mobs and both wheat and sugar can be found outside. She has also started to make hamburgers after been looking at Everyday Minecraft (bread+beef+bread=nam nam!).

And back to the hunting tower, here we can safely kill the mobs... She needs to practice both aim with the bow as be used to the mobs. But a good thing if you compare survival peaceful and survival easy mode is it actually make sense to collect and make food. At the moment she force me to fish so we can tame cats...

Yep, lots of fence, someone was falling down in the middle of the fight, logged out, I had to clear the area while she was pissed and then she could log back.

Dusk and dawn have to end this little report from the sick leave...

6 oktober 2014

Small thoughts on gamification

AquaVera, my 6 year old daughter, trying to learn to ride a bike. Or more precisely, she tries to find the courage to ask her father let go. Yesterday, when she tried and tried to find the courage to go by herself she came up with a solution.

Suddenly she screamed "let go", whizzed down the hill and when she stopped, she rang the bell seven times. 

A bit later, on flat ground, she said, "let me try myself", and so she swerved off to the next hill. When she stopped, she rang the bell ten times.

I had to ask why she use the bell so much, I mean, usually you use it to warn others you are coming.

She explained: "I get points. Downhill was easy and was worth seven points. On flat ground it was a bit harder, maintain balance, pedal and steer."

Gamification doesn't have to be harder than that.

So what did I learn?
There is always something to learn!
Our kids truly learn in a different way than we do or did. To use game experience to overcome fear sounds high tech but all it takes is some fantasy. When you as a teacher creates your lessons or courses, don't forget your imagination. 

Remember KISS: Keep It Simple Stupid!

3 oktober 2014

Skills test

Now our first period has ended and we should finnish our courses, grade our students and start with new courses on Monday. So, what happened during my course 'PCs and Peripherals'? Did my Masterplan worked?

Usually when you force someone to do something, 25% loves it, 25% hates it and the rest can live with it. In my case when using Minecraft & MinecraftEDU 67% loved it and 33% could stand it. To have that many students loving it, even though they are 16-18 tells me the ways of learning starts to change. 

And to see those students have their 'epic wins' (succeed with a minecraft problem) and be able to take that feeling out in the real world is truly amazing. I've said it before and tell you again, from being the best to be worst, they have now aim to be the best of the best.

Instead of a written test we thought our Business Information Technican (datanom), first (14) year and second years (13) students, would have more benefits of a skills test. The 13-class has learned the same course I have had for the 14-class in an opposite way and it was very clear last week my masterplan have been working better.

You should also be aware of the 13-class had the course (I have run 14) last year with another teacher, the same one I hi-jacked btw... so they should have the same skills and lot more comparing to the first year students...

Instead of a written test in each course we also believed they could prove lots of knowledge (courses) with a skills test because of all the parts. We also put together the groups so there would be one strong and one weak student in each group, but both students in one team could have dyslexia. The strong/weakness was more about actually knowledge then diagnoses.

The skills test briefly: 
  • get an old computer up and running, make a documentation of the process.
  • Make sure the choosen computer works
  • Install an old OS (win98, winXP SP1 or win2000) where plug and play doesn't work.
  • troubleshoot and correct (drivers)
  • Install Chrome, Firefox, firewall and antivirus (upgrade winXP to at least SP2 to get it working)
  • Install MS Office, free of choice
  • Connect a printer, print testpage
  • Documentation at G Drive, share with the teachers.

The 14-class turned out to be much better problem solvers, they were more creative and collaborated even outside the groups. They wasn't scare to ask the teachers if they needed something, like if it would be possible to upgrade winXP to SP2 or a licence key to MS Office. The 13-class on the other hand, in the same situation, started to yell about how worthless the organisation was, how stupid the teachers were but had to face the fact, no matter what, they had to solve the problems.

When it came to the documentation, it was vice versa, the 13-class was a bit better, structure and layout but only one group (of nine) scored with highest marks, a team from the 14-class.

The average time for a 14-class was 3,5 hours and a 13-class 4,5 hour. In both classes there were students with crappy computers, as a result of lack of attendance, if you have been in school you would have had the chance to pick a working better computer. We had told our students there will be a skills test and they had a possibility to prepare themselves: chose computer, clean it, test run, search for drivers. They were even allowed to install the computers before the test, but the groups who did that installed winXP with service pack 2... You get more problems to solve with SP1 so that was also a good experience. 

And as you know: 
"Chance favors the prepared mind"

Before this course and during it I've asked myself these questions:

  1. What will happen if I allow one game during class, a game of my choice? 
  2. And within that game I give the students challenges, quest to solve?

One thing for sure, I havn't had any of those problems my colleagues usually have, negative energy to ban the games. The 13-class either play card games as often as possible or looked at youtube... 

In one class (13) games are not allowed, there the games and youtube is the wild factory. In the other class (14) one game has been allowed and only that. Those students (14) have became, as it showed in the skills test, better problem solvers, was more creative and could collaborate over the borders (with other groups/the other class).

Another thing, when I allowed the one game and they understod they could play that game, they could also better concentrate on the other tasks which is not gaming.

Finally, when we gathered feedback about the skills test we also realized there had been another, tenth, group: the teachers. With similar challenges and also one stronger/weaker group member. But as we told them, the strong/weak role depends on the challenge or task.

We asked them several questions, here are some results 

What did you feel about having a test like this?
The scale 1-4, 1 lowest, 4 highest

What did you think about the challenge?
The scale 1-4, 1 lowest, 4 highest

How important do you think this knowledge would be to you?
The scale 1-4, 1 lowest, 4 highest

What mark will you give the teachers?
About the marks below, 0=not passed, 3=excellent

Self evaluation, what mark do you deserve?
About the marks below, 0=not passed, 3=ex

Besides the fact I had one student with several epic win, me myself also got an epic win. My colleague saw what happened when I allowed one game and challenged them inside that game. He has now signed up for a Majong account and will use Minecraft to practice (challenge) stuff like Logic Gates...