Archive for August, 2008

Current Games

August 28th, 2008 Bartman 1 comment

With no courses to teach this fall and the first three chapters of my dissertation in the hands of my committee, I’ve had a bit of time to get back into gaming. Three games have jumped out at me recently:

Castle Crashers – I started reading about this game a month ago, and purchased it via XBOX Live Arcade last night. A few friends and I logged in and had a couple good hours of button-mashing fun. The interesting aspect of Castle Crashers is that it combines classic arcade hits such as Double Dragon, Golden Axe and TMNT with a tactical element similar to an RPG or MMO. As you and your friends progress through levels, your character gets stronger and you receive skill points to customize your character (melee, spellcaster, ranged, etc). I’ve never seen a game combine these two genres and make it work. Also of note is the humor in the game: all three of us playing the game broke down in hysterical laughter during some of the levels.

Caste Crashers

Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning (WAR) – yes, Bart might take the plunge into another MMO (which is scary, but I’d like to think I’ve learned from my days playing UO and WoW). Several people are calling WAR “WoW 2.0″, and I can certainly see why. The first time I played the beta, the UI for WAR is VERY similar to WoW (I’ll have a much larger post about the WAR UI after the game goes live). I’ve blogged several times about game UIs, and I think WAR is an interesting case study in UIs. The folks at Mythic took a lot of the negatives of Warcraft (travel, group quests, PVP, looking for group) and made improvements to alleviate some of the issues many players faced in WoW (which is a lot of ‘down time’…trying to organize/travel different places). WAR will likely come up again on the blog in a few weeks.

Warhammer online

Titan’s Quest – This has been around for a while, but I only purchased it a little over a month ago. At the core, it’s a Diablo clone but set in Ancient Greek Mythology. It contains more classes than the Diablo games, and also allows you to select a secondary class once you reach a certain level. This makes the combination of skills/abilities almost limitless, which leads to a high degree of replayability. I’ve started playing online with a few friends which is a lot of fun.

In the next two months, a LOT of games are hitting store shelves. I don’t own a PS3 yet, but I may have to pick one up soon for Little Big Planet. I have not seen a console game successfully implement user-created content to this point (yes, I know you CAN do this with some console games, but it hasn’t taken off).

It should be a fun couple of months…

Categories: Games Tags:

Results from my IST 110 summer sections

August 26th, 2008 Bartman 3 comments

Another two sections of IST 110 are in the books. Teaching every day, from 11-2, for 6 weeks is definitely a challenging experience. I’ll have more to reflect on later, but for the time being I want to share some results from my post-course survey. I posted results from my Fall 08 IST 110 post survey in the past. I changed the course up a bit this semester (syllabus here), and wanted to point out what I found to be very interesting.

Course statistics

The two primary modules dealt with social networking and games/virtual worlds. It was very interesting for me to see the numbers above regarding the learning vs. fun angle for the modules. It’s almost an exact reversal when comparing what students liked vs. what they learned the most. Also interesting to note is the number of students who plan to continue using an RSS reader. Only 3 students had active readers at the start of the course. My Fall08 students reported they were much less likely to continue using RSS readers after my course…I wonder why this class is much more likely to continue use?

The podcasting assignment was the big winner from my Fall 08 course, but this semester a new assignment edged out the podcasting assignment by 1 vote: the Game User Interface & design document assignment.

I used a 5-point Likert scale for several questions, including a string of inquiries about what they learned in my course and if they feel it is applicable to the rest of their education. Beating out both the social networking and virtual world modules, the students felt that working in teams for the entire semester was the biggest learning experience they could take away from my course and apply in other areas of their college careers.

Overall, I was very happy with how the course turned out. I’ll be teaching a section of 150 students in the Spring for IST 110, as well as a capstone section of IST 440W. Should be an interesting semester.

If anyone is interested in seeing the entire data set from the post survey, let me know.

PS – I think the blog is fixed now. No more flags for dangerous content on my site. Upgrading to the new WordPress install and deleting all trackbacks must have done the trick!

Categories: Learning, Teaching Tags:


August 12th, 2008 Bartman 1 comment

I just got back from the first talk at the Learning Design Summer Camp, an event that Cole has blogged about recently. Cole and Scott gave a good recap of their graduate course on Disruptive Technologies. They had a slide or two about “identity” and how students felt about publishing course-related work to publicly open spaces (blogs, twitter, delicious, etc). I asked how many of their students continue to use these tools outside of class. But as they talked, my thoughts shifted to “Have their online identities changed once class ended?”

I was recently pulled into a research project on identity in online game worlds, so the concept of identity is generating a lot of ideas. I started to look at my identity (more likely, identities).

I have my professional identity. This could be broken down even further:
- my teaching identity (how I portray myself to my students and act in the classroom)
- my IST identity (how I interact with my IST colleagues and projects)
- my ETS identity (which is different than IST, much different organization, culture and projects)
- my blog identity here

Then if I move to my personal identity:
- friends and family identity
- World of Warcraft identity (which could probably be broken down into in-game identity, forum identity and ventrilo identity)
- online social identity (Facebook, other social sites my friends and I use)

I could break this down further, but the point I’m trying to make is that each of the audiences I interact with in the above scenarios, I interact with differently. Each group of people sees me in a slightly different light…am I portraying different identities? Certainly, especially when you look at the professional vs. personal identities. Some overlap definitely exists with friends that are also colleagues, Warcraft guildmates that I interact with in real life, etc.

It got me thinking about student identities in the disruptive technology course. Twitter seemed to be THE tool for the course that was used heavily, mostly for course-related conversation. But after the course, did students start to migrate to social identities within Twitter? Or in any of the other tools that were used for learning purposes during the semester?

On a side note, I did learn about two technologies I plan on leveraging in my Spring courses:
- Harvard’s Live Question Tool. This appears to be a GREAT way to generate questions while giving a presentation, and allowing my students to guide the direction of the talk. Seems to work similar to clickers, but a very inexpensive yet powerful alternative.

- Pligg. I wish I had a link to Cole and Scott’s pligg site. Basically each student had to post a single blog reflection each week of the course. Students evaluated one another’s posts through a voting system. Each student had 3 votes per week (18 students total). Once a blog post received a certain threshold of votes, it was promoted to the front of the Pligg site. Again, a great way for instructors to gauge interest and the students to help drive the direction of the course.

Cole and Scott made a great point about teaching a course in this manner: you, as the instructor, are giving up CONTROL of your course. You need to be agile. This likely scares the hell out of most faculty members, but if it’s something we can embrace and experiment with…it could lead to MUCH more engaging course experiences, for both the instructor and the students.

Categories: General, Research Tags:

Why Teaching?

August 11th, 2008 Bartman No comments

I’m really starting to find my groove in the classroom. I was given the opportunity to teach Pennsylvania Governor’s School students about 5 yrs ago here at IST and have taken every opportunity since then to get back into the classroom. The PhD is coming along nicely and will hopefully be complete by the end of Spring and I’m beginning to think longterm: where do I go from here? The one aspect of my job I definitely want to continue is teaching.

But why? I do not have a teaching degree (like most university faculty). My degrees are in Mass Communication and Instructional Technology. I suppose the itch began in graduate school, working with various instructional design models. We used a wide variety of models in grad school, then we created some of our own models in the Solutions Institute to guide our online learning projects. I finally made a connection this weekend between my itch to teach and past education:


It struck me when reading a post by Stubb’s:

Things can change a lot in 8 years and to be honest, its nice to reconnect – to be back in the classroom watching, listening, and realizing how in touch, or totally out of touch I really am, even if only for a few hours. No disrespect to any of the tools, metrics, or surveys we use to guide our efforts here at ETS – they are all top notch. But they are no substitute for taking it to the street, at least not for me.

Nearly every design model ends with an “E”, which usually stands for Evaluation. In IST we did track basic usage data for our online courses, but we rarely delved any deeper aside from informal feedback from students. Faculty provided some insights on how they perceived the students’ engagement with the online materials. But everyone has his or her own filter if you will. How one faculty member perceived a reaction by students could be very different than how I would perceive the same reaction.

So here I am, taking it to the streets. Once again, I plan on my own post-course survey this week to find out more about the course structure and layout, from the perspective of 50 18-yr olds. The final “E” of all those models needs addressed.

Categories: Teaching Tags:

Summer Blog Cleanup

August 8th, 2008 Bartman No comments

I spent some time this morning pruning all the trackbacks to my site. A few colleagues sent me the results of Google searches lately, and apparently some of the pages directly linked from my site had adware/malware. I’ll be disabling trackbacks from here on out in an effort to avoid this stuff. Hopefully the domain will return a clean scan the next time a Google bot comes around. Sorry if I accidentally deleted a legit trackback or comment!

Back to grading and dissertation writing.

Categories: General Tags:

Re-visiting the OCHO

August 4th, 2008 Bartman 2 comments

So many ideas, so little time…

Cole has an interesting discussion taking place around blogs in the academy. I’ve been using a blog to take notes from meetings, which makes searching and reviewing notes very efficient. But my main goal was to try and extend the conversation/brainstorming once the face-to-face meeting ends. My experiment failed in that regard.

On to the OCHO. The OCHO was a project the now defunct IST Solutions Institute was prototyping. The general idea is to make a YouTube-style object repository of educational content. It would house graphics, PDFs, DOCs, videos, and other resources contributed by faculty and staff. All the social features that make YouTube so powerful would be part of the OCHO. Not only would the final files exist, but where appropriate the source files would be available (.fla, .psd, etc). In addition to assisting faculty in creating and sharing assignments and classroom materials, the OCHO could also be used for secondary activities like preparing grant proposals and assisting students who might want to learn about Flash or PhotoShop by providing the source files.

“Most learning takes place indirectly.” – R. Pausch

I think those of us in the Academy need to think critically about this idea (and some have RE: informal learning), and put systems like the OCHO in place that could be leveraged in such a way.

To get back on track, for those of us that blog regularly, a blog often turns into a personal content management system of sorts. I’ve been involved at some level with teaching and learning for 8 years and have developed a wide assortment of labs, problem assignments, graphics, presentations and videos. So my big question for the week:

How can I create an OCHO-like system that is linked to my blog and manages all my teaching and learning assets? I’d want this to be completely open, and allow for other instructors, staff and students to comment, rate and utilize all the materials in the system.

I think an overarching system would be much more powerful obviously, that connects hundreds of content contributors in the same space. This might be an interesting baby step though, to see how successful such a system would be for personal content management aligned with a blog.

Categories: Design, Educational Technology, Learning Tags: