Monday, August 8, 2011

Computer Games Chapter Three: Escher's World

Chapter three focuses on how kids can use game situations to participate in complex tasks that adults accomplish after years of study and practice.  The author looked at Escher’s World, a game that he created in which middle school students who had not had geometry instruction used a program called Geometer’s Sketchpad to create images based on mathematical principals far beyond their classroom knowledge.  The kids went through a four week course where they were treated like young architecture students, and were expected to be as independent as possible, with minimal adult interference. 

One of the interesting things about this chapter was the math problem example at the beginning.  It was a basic geometry problem followed by an in-depth explanation of how to find the answer.  The explanation was dry, difficult to follow, and it was supposed to be.  This was followed by a story of a girl who participated in Escher’s World, and came to the answer of the problem via a completely different route, yet still understanding the basic principles that make it true.   We found this whole example somewhat ironic, considering the author does this to us to a small degree when he goes off on his long-winded descriptions of the Oxford Studio, an architecture studio course at MIT after which parts of Escher’s World were modeled.  We both had the same reaction: confusion as to which program we were discussing here and there, followed by an “aha” when we figured out we were experiencing some of what “Melanie” from the chapter had.

Escher’s World shows how you can definitely take certain games and use their structure to teach a separate instructional concept in a real-world situation.  There are other examples that discuss some of the other Escher’s World participants, but they mainly get the same points across: a.  You do not need to directly instruct about a concept to teach it.  Using games to teach concepts is just (if not more) effective, like using Roller Coaster Tycoon to teach business concepts or using Bridge Builder to teach Physics.  b.  Teaching this way helps kids internalize their skills so that they will be able to use them again in separate situations.  c.  Innovation can not and should not be standardized.  If you want a kid to be creative, you can not tell him or her how to do it.  

Mike and Erin

1 comment:

  1. I did really like the math problem and wondered as I was reading about the transference of knowledge. Apparently that knowledge, linked to experience, did stay with the students. That's a really good thing. I also liked that the studio assignment was broken up into pieces. I think that is something that should be done with all large projects so learners don't end up with nothing done and two days left before it is due. I know in middle school, while learners need to know how to manage and budget time, they often don't.

    Towards the end of the chapter, (90), the author stated that “how students think about themselves and about their learning is an important part of how they do in school.” They are familiar with how to play games and can maneuver themselves through a familiar protocol. When they have done will doing something, and managed to learn, they feel more capable of learning. And that is a very good feeling.

    There was another section, (92) on declarative knowledge and procedural knowledge. We test declarative and need procedural. How much sense does that make? We do need to change.

    I felt validated after reading the “reflection-in-action” section as I called that surfing. I had to define how I teach the first time I had a student teacher and decided I was a surfer. I choose my objective but leave open how I am going to get the understanding across as it can be different for each class. I related it to surfing where the surfer chooses a wave and then decides, second by second, how to manage to stay up for as long as possible. That was what I figured I did but now I know it is just reflection-in-action.