Gaming Post #1

    Throughout my life, I have had many experiences with video games, both good and bad. While I admit I’m not nearly as big of a gamer as many of my friends are, I’ve spent a lot of time around them and would say I have an above average awareness of the gaming world. This started with my dad’s old Nintendo Entertainment System from college, where I would spend hours playing original Mario games. These games, although they have some tough technical controls, are easy to follow along with and understand, so looking back, it was a great way to learn some of those technical skills early. As I progressed forward, I continued with Nintendo games, getting into Zelda, Super Smash Brothers, Kirby, and much more. It was not until an older age that I got an Xbox and began picking up on open-world games such as Skyrim, which is an extremely long-form role-playing game that has an endless and seemingly ever-expanding list of tasks and missions. This game, when I was around age 14, certainly peaked my interest the most. I enjoyed the idea of an open-world game where I could customize a character and personally navigate their journey. I, to this point, had never really played a game that didn’t guide you through a set path. There was something highly engaging about this, which is something I have kept in mind when searching for games to explore. 

    That being said, I wanted to search for social studies games that could capture student interest through a more immersive, open-ended game, because this is what peaked my interest as an adolescent. While games like Mission US provide some extremely good content, it lacked the level of critical thinking and problem solving skills that I was looking to explore. I wanted to see if more open-ended and immersive games could provide higher engagement. In my searching, I found the iCivics games to be closest to what I was looking for. These are role-playing games where players can act as international leaders, lawyers, congresspeople, judges, and much more in order to learn about United States civics and democratic participation. The site attempts to express content about voting, legislation, local government, and a myriad of other topics by simulating their inner workings. There is no one path to complete most of these games, students are rather required to use their own critical thinking and judgement to succeed as they see fit. 

One of the particular iCivics games that stood out to me was the “Community Works” game. This is a role-playing game where you work as a county supervisor to address needs of the public, grow your county, build community resources, and balance the budget. In playing the game multiple times, I realized that the game and its outcome are indeed highly customizable and volatile depending on the decisions the player makes, which I know was something that drew me in at a young age. This game also stood out to me because it stresses local government, which is something that is actually extremely accessible to students at a relatively young age. I think this game has the potential to open a students mind to addressing issues within one’s local community. On top of this, the game points students in a direction to address these specific issues. For example, one concerned citizen within the game wanted to expand mental health services. As the county supervisor, I assigned the county department of health to expand these services. I think enforcing the idea that substantive change can come from a concerned citizen at a local level is key to getting students interested and involved in civics. 

Technically, this game is relatively straightforward and, in my best estimate, developmentally appropriate from about fifth grade on. There are also varying levels of difficulty for students to choose from, so older or more advanced students may be able to play the high-paced versions. The game required you to click to move to concerned citizens, construction work, or expansion sites. From here you have the ability to click to solve citizens’ problems, develop new community resources, or expand your town. Most of the game is driven by the dialogue and the only true technical aspects are clicking to move forward. This is helpful, as it helps the game be straightforward and to-the-point in delivering content while still being interactive and immersive. 

I think “Community Works” does a great job of expressing local civics content. In order to move forward in the game, the player needs to learn which community problems correlate to which department. This helps students better understand the inner workings of local government and the various bureaucracies within it. They also learn how different community projects can affect the public. For example, when one builds a school, population and approval increase, and when one builds a waste-water center, clean water is provided and community health goes up. These two pieces of content are essential to social studies curriculum, as well as the formation of an informed, active public. Certainly it does not take into account all of the (seemingly infinite) moving parts of government bureaucracies, but  the game certainly can help express the importance and capabilities of local government and public works. 

Pedagogically, I think this game could be implemented into the classroom with ease. While the game can be completed in roughly 30 minutes, its content is closer to Shapiro’s description of long-form games in his “MindShift- Guide to Digital Gaming” (p.23). It is open ended, as the player is autonomous in making decisions about the county and can stop after one year, or continue to develop further. It involves long and short term goals, and involves some level of critical thinking and problem solving. These aspects indicate that it could be highly engaging for students to play. It also has some built-in scaffolds, as there is an assistant students can click at the bottom of the screen when they are stumped as to where to send a concerned citizen. It would take a teacher who is comfortable with the game and technology, and active in bouncing around/checking in on students, but overall I think this game could certainly be implemented into the classroom. Shapiro writes that a similar role-playing game where students act as the US President “supplements typical classroom content, students see how their new knowledge manifests as better in-game performance”, also noting that “The knowledge is contextualized and the motivation is intrinsic (p.23).”

One problem that I could see educators having with this game is time constraints. While the game does not take an extremely long time, it requires students to continue to build on knowledge and experience as they progress through, and it would take a time commitment (perhaps a full class period or two) to reap the benefits of the site. On page 41, Shapiro notes that this is why teachers tend to favor quick, short-form games in the classroom. He quotes Lauri Takeuchi in saying “Few teachers are using learning games of the immersive variety, the kind that lend themselves to deep exploration and participation in the types of activities that set digital games apart from more didactic forms of instruction (p. 41).”  I think as educators we need to push the boundaries in the ever-changing world of technology, and we cannot be afraid to dedicate significant time to games we see to be immersive, engaging, and enriching. There is no denying that technology and gaming are playing increasing roles in the lives of students year after year. This is the direction our students are going, and it is our job as educators to adapt to them, not vise versa. 

Overall, I think I’ve gained a firm understanding of this game, and feel that with a bit more training I could implement it into the classroom comfortably. Still, I recognize I discovered this game based on my own lived experience as a student, and other people may recognize or struggle with different aspects. So, I look forward to hearing from my peers and assessing other strengths and weaknesses that this type of gaming experience may have.

Ed Tech Intro Post

Hello!

My name is Seth and my preferred pronouns are he/him/his. I’m from Batavia, Illinois, which is about 30 miles west of Chicago.

I like to think I’m into many things. For starters, I’m on the wrestling team here at John Carroll. I really enjoy watching and discussing movies. I try to be well-read in literature and current events, as I think these things are important for teachers, but I still have a lot of work to do (if anyone wants to drop recommendations that’d be great). Overall, this semester and in my remaining time in college I want to continue to soak up as much perspective and information as I can. I want to continue to form a more holistic worldview and personal philosophy.

I would say my learning style is pretty collaborative. I have a (maybe bad?) habit of talking through and bouncing around ideas while forming them, so I suppose I work well in an atmosphere that is easy going and active in exchanging thoughts. I really just need a place that I, and other people, feel comfortable sharing and changing opinions in. I enjoy being surrounded by people who allow for perspectives and ideas to change as we go along. I think that’s a lot of what being 18-22 years old is about.

As far as education-related articles/essays  go, there’s an article called “Education Is Not the Answer” written by Dean Baker as a project with the Chicago Teacher’s Union, which has been published/posted in multiple places. It’s a simple article that debunks the idea that improving education alone is a solution to fighting inequality. While Baker certainly acknowledges the importance of education in society, he provides data to explain why it alone is not the answer. He analyzes the deeper political and economic causes of inequality and explains the ways in which wealth inequality is not solely an educated-vs. non-educated problem. Certainly education reform has provided an avenue for economic and self improvement in cases, but writ-large, it’s potential impact won’t be fulfilled without substantial economic changes for low-income and working class families. I think this essay is important because it’s easy, as teachers, to get wrapped up in the idea that education is the sole definer of children’s worldviews, ideologies, general wellbeing, etc. This is simply not true, and we need to remember to work towards improvement in our students’ lives outside of the classroom as well as inside.

I suppose my question for you is does this class look any different from usual now that everything is virtual now, from our classes to our clinical work/pre-student teaching. I would like to know if everything that has happened has changed the curriculum and lessons we do. I look forward to the rest of the semester!

 

Control in Education

The local, state, and federal governments all effect the American education system in a multitude of ways, both positive and negative. The most local government body that affects the education system is local school boards. School boards allow for citizens who know the local area to appoint the superintendent of schools, who can then facilitates the administration within schools. School boards can be effective if the members are representative of the local population, however they are often not representative of the community socioeconomically, and can prove to be bureaucratic barriers for immediate change or decisions within schools. Studies show that school boards tend to be composed of mostly affluent white males, which is not always representative of the student population, which can prove to be harmful and conflicting. Also playing a large role in education is state and federal politicians that are elected by citizens. They create things such as national standards and high stakes tests, as well as create policies such as the no child left behind policy. Both high stakes tests and national standards do not take into account all students of all backgrounds on an individual basis. Instead, these things are trying to place a quantitative value on the education of large groups of students, taking mostly into account the socio-economic and racial majorities. Because of these factors and the No Child Left Behind policy, the federal and state governments now have a more direct control over the education system than ever before.

Queer Theory

The concept of “queer theory” is a modern concept that was developed to break binary norms often found in society. While the idea of queer theory was founded through research in the LGBTQ areas of study, it has become, in a scholarly setting, the idea of breaking free from normalized categorization of different relationships, identities, genders, and sexual orientations. This theory proves to be liberating and helpful in an educational setting, as it shows to be a much more inclusive and open way of thinking that makes students feel more comfortable in their setting. It is still common in America for teachers to turn a blind eye to queer theory and the issues it encompasses, however. The trend of ignoring queer ideologies as a whole can be harmful to everybody involved in the school setting. The traditional heterosexual binary roles of “masculine” and “feminine” are shown to restrict many students as well as cause bullying and isolate students who do not conform to traditional gender roles. Binary gender roles are shown to be implemented at a young age, and can have harmful effects as students grow. These traditional ideas create a power-dynamic that restricts student learning and comfort within the school system. Homophobia and sexism in schools are shown to be continuing trends that have developed over many years and have caused large conflicts, including court cases about same-sex relationships being in school literature. By continuing to ignore queer ideologies teachers and administrators are promoting themes of sexism and homophobia in schools, which makes it increasingly harder for students to be able to be themselves in a school setting if they do not conform to stereotypical ideas of gender or sexual orientation. This makes it harder for all students to express themselves or relate to each other on a personal basis. By incorporating queer theory in schools, teachers can begin to alleviate students of the pressure to conform to binary roles, thus putting less restriction on the student’s lifestyle.

Banking model

In this piece, Paulo Freire juxtaposes two types of pedagogy known as the “banking model” and the “problem-posing model” of education. The banking model revolves around the teacher being the sole depositor of information for students, thus “banking” information into their brain. Freire notes “Instead of communicating, the teacher issues communiques and makes deposits which students patiently receive, memorize, and repeat”. This is a traditional model of education which involves little communication and real-world relation to material. The problem posing model, however, is a model that emphasizes open communication and heavily relies on critical thinking. Problem-posing education is aimed at elevating the consciousness of students and emphasizes cognition in the classroom, with the goal of preparing students to solve real-world problems. It is reliant on communication between the teacher and students, rather than the one-way depositing of information you see in the banking model. In today’s classrooms, I believe the problem-posing model is far more effective for the long-term education of students. Rather than having students memorize and regurgitate information, this model applies to real-world situations and information is attached to a classroom dialogue. Overall, I believe students remember information better when it is applicable and attached to a dialogue. The banking model tends to give students short-term remembrance of information, as there is no application or dialogue attached to it to aid their memory. The banking model makes information seem more pointless, as it gives students no method or reason of applying what they’ve learned to any sort of discussion like the problem-posing model does. Overall I believe that in today’s classrooms the banking model is outdated because of its lack of ability to encourage students to apply information. I believe the problem-posing model does a better job of enhancing the consciousness of students, and provides a better overall educational value in today’s classrooms.

Service-Based Learning

I found the Dunn-Kennedy case study to be very compelling because of the different set of results the study found from person to person. I was interested and surprised to see that in some situations service-based learning has enforced cultural bias, because I find that contradictory to my own experience. I think the underlying theme between the people who had strengthened their cultural bias through service learning is that these people came in with specific assumptions and connotations in their heads. For example, a student Jamie said “I wonder if these children felt angry when we were leaving because it was back to reality for them. Maybe they didn’t want to go home because there was violence there”. This shows me that Jamie entered this service with a mindset that these children couldn’t be happy, and that her life was better than theirs because of her privilege. Another woman, Theresa, wrote about how she didn’t feel she was appreciated enough by the families of the children, as if her presence was a burden to her and had to be acknowledged for her to feel satisfaction. Both of these people entered with a mindset of being above students from impoverished backgrounds, and had already formed assumptions about the lives of students before getting to know them.

My personal service experience is as a teacher for a social justice Saint Francis School in East Cleveland, which is located in an economically disadvantaged area. This program is called Youth For Justice, and it involves teaching students about their rights and about social justice issues. The aim of the program is for students to identify social justice issues in their area, and for them to present a solution to their issue at the end of the year. I work with a group of about 4 students, all of whom are African-American. This leads to a lot of discussions about the history of African-American rights and civil rights movements, as well as discussions about how they have seen racial bias in their society and within their short 12 or 13 years of life.

Within my service I feel my consciousness of socio-economic and racial issues has been raised tremendously. I learn about the states of their public systems and how they different. My students tell me about the public schools they have attended in their area and I realize consistently how much these schools differ from others that I’ve seen in terms of resources and staffing. These students have experienced classes where the teacher didn’t have enough books for each student, limiting their ability to complete activities outside of class time or independently. Realizing how economically disadvantaged schools are forced to operate is quite eye-opening. I also have noticed that my students are very aware to racial issues. One of my students was telling me about a time her family was in the south visiting relatives, and they were harassed at a restaurant they stopped at because they were African-American. These students, at just 12 years old, have experienced horrific racism and that is something that I need to be aware of as I continue to educate students on social justice issues.

If there is one thing I’ve learned about service through these readings and my own experience, it is that it is important to enter these service sites with an open mind and without preconceived notions about the way other people live. I’ve learned the most from getting to know my students on a personal level and hearing their stories first hand. It is also important to not just acknowledge that these people are underprivileged, but to do what I can to change their situation. My attempts to help change their situation in any way I can comes from educating these students on different social justice issues, and inspiring them to want to make a change in their community. The students in the case study who had bias’s strengthened had the overarching tendency to enter their service with a sense of entitlement and being above the people they are dealing with before even getting to understand their experiences. Essentially, it is most essential to go into any service-based learning with an open mind and without premeditated ideas of the people you are dealing with.

Equality of Educational Opportunity II

Throughout the course of American history, different ethnic and racial groups have faced adversity in schooling in many ways. Some of these ways differ greatly from each other, however there were many common themes in the educational history of groups of people such as Natives, Mexicans, African Americans, and Asians. For example, when Native American schools were founded, the schools forced the children into agricultural labor throughout the morning. On the other hand, Mexicans who had an agricultural family background were not even allowed to attend school because white Americans saw them as valuable laborers who should be working with their family. While the experiences of these groups differed slightly, both groups were exploited for cheap labor that benefited the white man. A commonality found in all groups is the white-washing and virtual erasing of culture. In all of these American schools for minorities children were expected to conform to traditional American language, religion, and ideas with no respect to their prior culture. These schools taught only in traditional American English, making it very difficult for students that spoke other languages to succeed. They were brainwashed into thinking that speaking English was something that made them more powerful and respected, despite what they had grown up speaking with their family. They were also forced into protestantism, which most of the time conflicted with their spiritual background and contradicted their culture and upbringing. These students were essentially white-washed in all aspects, in American attempts to reduce cultural diversity across the country.
I believe alleviating racial bias in classrooms, schools, and societies as a whole has a lot to do with what we read earlier in the semester from Maxine Greene. That is, being “wide awake”. Being aware of these issues, being informed about other cultures, and understanding struggles of different groups helps a teacher to gain perspective on students as individuals. It is foolish to act as if these things never existed. Instead, by being “wide awake” about racial and cultural struggles and issues, and spreading this awareness, one begins to understand people as individuals and gain insight into their values and struggles. This will, in turn, make students and people in general want to make a change about these issues, as they now understand the people as individuals and accept them as they are, unlike many people in the past.

Equality of Educational Opportunity

Human capital theory and equality of opportunity are two major concepts discussed by Joel Spring in chapters four and five of American Education. Spring states that human capital theory is the belief that “investment in education will improve the quality of workers, and consequently, increase the wealth of the community.” Equality of opportunity involves all students having an equal chance to advance in labor markets or education after graduating high school–essentially all have the opportunity to forge their life path. I believe human capital theory contributes positively to equality of opportunity  because the human capital theory insists that by investing more money into schools we create a more fit society for the workforce, therefore increasing the wealth of the nation. So, if people saw the validity in the human capital theory they would be willing to invest more into the school system, which would then grant the ability to improve impoverished and low-funded schools who currently have less educational opportunities and less resources. We would essentially be able to hold public schools to a higher standard. It is important to keep in mind that Horace Mann’s idea of equality of opportunity does not promise a 100% equal life for every child, meaning that there is no way to regulate the home life or family of a child. However, it does promise a starting line in the human race- the idea that everyone receives an equal education and has an equal opportunity to continue their life from there. The human capital theory supports this idea because if we can equally and fairly educate every citizen regardless of economic, racial and religious backgrounds, it only serves to improve the economy as a nation as we will have created a more educated, well equipped generation of students. Essentially, equality of opportunity aims to give more people paths to jobs. According to human capital theory if more people are getting jobs, the economy will improve because more people will be spending. Adding to Mann’s point, the ideas of equality of opportunity and human capital theory will undoubtedly provide a generation more ready for higher level jobs than those in the past. With all the recent innovations in technology, many lower level jobs are being eliminated, however higher level, intellectual, and creative jobs are in demand. Therefore, now, more than ever, it is necessary to see the validity in these two theories and how they work together.

Blogpost #3

What I believe Dewey is saying in the quote “I believe that this educational process has two sides- one psychological and one sociological” is that there is a balance that must be struck between educating the individual children and teaching them how to use this education to become productive socially in society. While pure academic knowledge is very important, it is rendered nearly useless if the child does not know how to translate this knowledge and use it in society.

I think Dewey speaks on a major issue education faces today when he says “I believe that education therefore is a process of living and not a preparation for future living”. Often times kids go through school solely with the intention of doing well on a standardized test, getting good grades, getting a degree in college, and getting a job. With their eyes always focused on whatever is coming next, students tend to not wholesomely comprehend anything taught to them in the present, and give all of this valuable information and important no thought other than what they need to use for whatever is coming next.

There are two main ways I see to implement Dewey’s idea of “I believe that the subject matter of the school curriculum should mark a gradual differentiation out of the primitive unconscious unity of social life” into my classroom. The first way is that, as Dewey said, when teaching history it is important to reference historical events you teach about to social life to give it application to the child outside of the classroom. Without doing this, you are simply giving children information to regurgitate. Also, I believe using different teaching methods and activities such as seminars, small group discussions, presentations, and so on improves children’s social well-being much more than consistently showing a powerpoint and lecturing, because these methods promote real-life discussion and the free exchange of ideas.

I believe Dewey’s statements and beliefs are very much still true and applicable to present-day education. This is mostly because his argument was not about methods or strategies, it was more about philosophy of education and all of the philosophies remain relevant no matter how much education and society has changed. The general idea that education should improve children psychologically and sociologically, and the idea that education isn’t simply a stepping stone to the next endeavour, are ideas that will remain true no matter how much education changes.