Wednesday, March 25, 2009
Instead of mini-documentaries, Academic Earth features over fifteen hundred videos from professors of prominent universities MIT, Stanford, Berkeley, Harvard, Princeton, and Yale on a range of subjects such as computer programming, neurology, religion, and history to name a few. While lecture videos can be viewed individually, many are also grouped to form a course on the given topic, and some include additional resources like supplemental readings and assignments. If you sign up to make a free profile, you can create your own playlists and favorites, like you can on You Tube, and can also grade each lecture. Average user grades determine the grade given to each lecture, and while there are many in the A+ to B range, there are also quite a few with Ds and Fs.
Academic Earth is still in its beta stages and does have a few kinks to work out, but it’s a great free resource that aims to create an “educational ecosystem that will give internet users around the world the ability to easily find, interact with, and learn from full video courses and lectures from the world’s leading scholars.”
Those who would like to partner with Academic Earth to share their own teaching lectures can send emails of interest to email@example.com.
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
But popular video games like Dance Dance Revolution (DDR) and Wii Fit are quickly proving that exercise doesn’t have to be boring, and schools, fitness centers, and community organizations across the country are utilizing a whole range of electronic exercise games- also called exergames- to get their patrons excited about exercise. As with games that teach educational content, the effectiveness of exergaming comes from the fact that players are too focused on the game play to think much about the fact that they’re exercising and building up a sweat. As Marian Shaw, vice president for game exergame Makoto said in an article about exergaming; “You have to entice individuals who get bored working out or going to a club into an activity because it is fun, and fitness should be the by-product of that activity,” she said. “Only by making fitness an afterthought will those folks engage in it.”
Aside from living room classics like DDR and Wii Fit, other exergames include 3kick, a set of 3 electronic punching-bags with touch-sensitive light targets that you kick, Exterbike, an exercise bike that lets you steer and control speed in racing games, and EyeToy, a motion-sensitive camera for Playstation that puts you on the screen and reads your body movements to control the game.
As an early FYI, the 2009 Games for Health Conference will be happening this June right here in Boston! Don’t worry- you can be sure I’ll remind you about it as we get closer to the date.
Sunday, March 15, 2009
Friday, March 6, 2009
You may have heard of a new study published in the British Journal of Developmental Psychology indicating that text-messaging, contrary to the fears of English teachers everywhere, could actually have a positive effect on students’ reading abilities. According to articles on BBC and the New Scientist (because I’m not paying $25 to read the study itself), Dr Beverley Plester suspects that since texting is phonics based and phonics are often associated with good reading skills, texting actually increases students’ exposure and knowledge of language, and does it in a way that doesn’t feel like learning; "These kids are engaging with more written language and they're doing it for fun."
Since I’m cheap and haven’t read the actual study, I can’t comment on how it was conducted, the results, or its implications. But as someone very interested in how writing is used to develop one’s thinking and communicate with others, I do find the topic quite intriguing. I’ve gone to school with many stressed and panicked middle/high school teachers, frantic about student essays that include textism like “b4” and “iow."
I have very mixed feelings about how the use of language is changing with new technologies. On one hand, language is not static; it evolves and changes as human needs and culture change. We have to expect that how and what we communicate will change as our means of communication change- texting is our modern equivalent of the printing press. On the other hand, writing isn’t just a means of communication; it’s also a process of thinking that makes us articulate and organize our thoughts. I can’t help but worry that consistent use of abbreviated written language will result in abbreviated thinking habits.
So I’m conflicted. WDYT? Have you noticed texting and instant messaging changing the way your child or students communicate? Are these changes just our culture's temporary adjustments to new technology, or do you see a time where text-talk will be the standard?
Wednesday, March 4, 2009
The Education Arcade isn’t the only organization developing video games for explicit educational purposes; the Federation of American Scientists is also studying the science of how video games can be used for learning. Their website includes a remarkable page called Why Games? about the qualities of learning via gaming. While it can be easy for non-gamers to dismiss video games as nothing more than mindless entertainment, the website points out that playing games can stimulate real-life situations and give players experimental learning opportunities- without the real-life consequences- and games provide instant feedback to the player so that he/she doesn't have to wait for corrections or help.
That’s cool enough in itself, but even better is that FAS has 2 free games to download- that’s right: free. Each game has its own website with teaching guides, game manuals, tech support, and feedback pages. In Discover Babylon you must stop an archaeologist who has traveled back in time from disrupting history as we know it, and you need to learn about Mesopotamian culture and history to navigate through this ancient world and solve puzzles. In Immune Attack you control a microscopic robot through the body of a sick patient and follow a chemical trail to the site of infection, trying to activate macrophages and neutrophils (see that- we’re learning already!)) to fight the bad bacteria.
As I mentioned last week, my favorite aspect of educational video games is that you get so engrossed in the challenge of the game play and story that learning specific subject material becomes automatic and almost subconscious; it’s just part of the game. I think it’s just wonderful that organizations make these games free and available for anyone to use- in or outside of the classroom- so you don’t need to break the bank to get access to these resources.