I posted today a review of James Paul Gee’s new book “What Video Games have To Teach Us About learning and Literacy,” (www.marcprensky.com/writing/default.asp) which will also appear in Vol. 12 No 3 of On The Horizon. The title of my review is “Escape from Planet Jar-Gon : What Video games Have To Teach Academics About Teaching and Writing.”
Quick summary: I give the book 100 out of 100 for the approach and ideas, and 0 out of 100 for the way they are expressed, except for the lucid descriptions of the games themselves. I hope you'll read it and comment.
To complete my military training, the next week I attended the Connections Wargaming conference in Rome, New York. This is the 13th year for this Wargaming get-together and it was even more stimulating than I expected, with some first-rate minds and great presentations. In fact, in terms of the brain power and ideas, it rivaled many of the high power business conferences I’ve been to, and this one cost only $95 for three days (plus a $55 a night at the Quality Inn). The conference sparked several thoughts related to learning. Dr. Steven Rinaldi from Sandia National Labs spoke on work he is doing modeling critical systems. I suggested he add the educational system as a critical component of our infrastructure (albeit one with a long time frame to change). Col. John Warden (ret.) spoke on winning wars through massive parallelism – hitting the enemy on several fronts before he has a chance to react on any. I wondered whether we couldn’t do this with learning, assuming the “enemy” is ignorance. I think we are much too linear in pretty much all our educational approaches, especially since video and computer game playing has trained our young people to think much more in parallel. More info about the conference at https://extranet.rl.af.mil/connections/
It was a full military week. On Thursday I stopped in at yet another military conference, this one on the Joint National Training Capability, which is a serious, well-funded effort by the Office of the Secretary of Defense to transform and upgrade the way the US military trains. Speakers included Dr. Paul Mayberry, Deputy Under Secretary of Defense (Readiness) and a lot of brass. More info at www.trainingsystems.org/events
The next day I attended another DC Conference, on Cultural and Personality Factors in Military Gaming, this one sponsored by the Defense Modeling and Simulation Office (DMSO). The big question there is whether we can get a better feel for the cultures and people we are fighting though gaming and modeling. Speakers of particular interest to me included LCDR Russ Shilling, audio researcher and sound designer on America’s Army, and Dr Helen Altman Klein, a psychologist from Wright State University studying culture.
On July 7 I attended a conference in DC on Massive Multiplayer Gaming for the military, sponsored by the Institute for Defense Analyses (IDA). Their goal --as is that of much of the military’s sudden interest in MMORPGs -- is to collect and mine player data to see if anything useful emerges in terms of new strategies, playing styles (especially playing styles from outside the US), or anything else. For the military the game itself is, as one said “a necessary evil” to get to the data. Lots of issues were raised, including the funding model, game design, privacy, getting the right numbers of the right players, etc. This is only one of several efforts in the MMORPG area by the military. Others include the Army's project with There, Inc., DARPA's DARWARS (sort-of), and another as-yet-undisclosed effort inside DARPA. The America's Army recruiting game, although not an MMORPG, (it is played in limited size teams) is also talked about as a source of data mining, with almost 2 million players having signed up.