The reading group I started a couple weeks back is underway and I’m having a blast. I’m facilitating a face-to-face cohort at my University as well as an online group (that you’re welcome to join!). We’re in the middle of What Video Games Have To Teach Us About Learning And Literacy by Dr. James Paul Gee and are discussing games, learning, and literacy within higher education and beyond.
I’m halfway through the book and loving it so far (I figured I would though). Here are some of Gee’s big ideas that stand out to me from the first four chapters:
- Learning happens in (semiotic) domains of knowledge. I think about this like I do Media Literacy or Digital Literacy, there’s knowledge in those spaces specific to those ideas. Similarly, there’s a domain of Chemistry Literacy and inside that both Laboratory Skills Literacy and Lab Report Writing Literacy that can each be the focus of teaching. For me, it’s also a cautionary tale to not exclude certain domains of knowledge from teaching.
- Learning and language are situated to these domains of knowledge. Rather than describe this one, Gee explains this perfectly in a few seconds here:
- Each domain of knowledge has identities that play into supporting (or not supporting) learning. Gee describes science students who can view themselves as scientists as opposed to just learners and are more willing to engage with the content of scientific domains of knowledge because they feel empowered. I draw a parallel to his ideas and those of Mindset (fixed versus growth mindset).
- “Critical Learning in any domain should lead to learners becoming, in a sense, designers.” This idea from Gee is something I latch onto because of the work I’ve done with game design and Twine already.
- There are so many ideas that I can’t list them all. It’s a good problem to have when reading a book to facilitate discussion around learning. 🙂
I’m looking forward to continuing the conversations around these ideas, both online and face-to-face.
The curriculum for this reading group is published openly (like much of my work) and available at gll.keeganslw.com. Besides housing the discussion questions and resources for our cohort, I’m using the website to explore the pedagogical value and community building potential of various technologies.
I’ve dabbled in Flipgrid for several months now, but this is my first time using it as part of my own curriculum. So far, it’s been a great fit for our online cohort since there’s no need for colleagues to setup or signup anything to participate in the discussion. In fact, this video discussion has been the main form of interaction for the online reading group.
However, one aspect of Flipgrid that’s lacking is how responses work. If someone submits a video and people respond to that video, there’s no mechanism to then respond to those responses. In other words, Flipgrid lacks true threaded discussion as replies are only possible one layer deep. In practice this leads to some awkward submissions that are technologically in response to a video, but are meant to be a response to another response. This can make following the conversation confusing since there’s no way to see the progression of discussion when responses are listed out chronologically (and chronological order doesn’t always reflect conversational order).
That being said, I’m still really enjoy the positive aspects of Flipgrid, the opportunity to see people’s faces and make visible connections, the accessible recording on both computer and mobile devices, etc.—but I feel other technologies would be better at facilitating deeper dives into conversations within a virtual space. Granted, like many tools, Flipgrid could be updated and fix this shortcoming in the future.
If you’d like to see one of the Flipgrid boards from the reading group, checkout the “introduce yourself board” or the first weeks conversation below:
AccessPress Anonymous Posts Pro + Thumbs Rating
Another tool I implemented into the curriculum, the AccessPress Anonymous Posts Pro plugin, grants the ability for participants to submit blog posts directly to the website. Just like with Flipgrid, I chose this tool because there’s no need for participants to setup anything to contribute. Paired with a rating mechanic plugin that you can view (at the bottom of the page) here, I implemented this tool as an automated part of the website.
Functionally, this implementation is slick because when people post from a page of the website, it automatically associates the submissions to that weeks topic by sorting posts by assigning WordPress categories. Then the Thumbs Rating plugin can display the most “up voted” content from specific categories on any webpage. In other words, publishing content from each page automatically stays within the page because both plugins work in tandem to facilitate publishing and displaying the content produced.
However, I’ll admit that I haven’t been able to fully test this tool because I’ve been the only one to submitted content this way. Participants may have been comfortable with the Flipgrids, but haven’t been compelled to submit any of these blog posts. Reflecting on this, I’m worried that the layout of the page or my instructions weren’t sufficient to entice people to participate here. No worries though, if that’s the case because I’ll revisit this for the next iteration.
Lastly, I did end up using the pro/paid version of the AccessPress plugin because I already own it from a (recently) decommissioned project. So, if a free alternative exists that provides me with the same (or better) functionality, I may substitute this tool out altogether.
I really like the curriculum structure and tools for this online reading group. In fact, I’m considering reusing many of the ideas from the format and website in the next reading group (or other professional development) I facilitate. At the end of the day, I gravitate towards tools that don’t require any setup from the users end to maintain focus on conversation. Those are the educational technology tools I enjoy the most. 🙂
Keep rocking everyone! If you want to see more about this reading group, checkout Kevin’s blog post about the first week. I love reading his perspective and like the Flipgrid submission from people, they’re all pushing me to study more as I reflect on games, learning, and literacy.