Personal Waffle – Confession time!

Every now and again, I feel that I would like to write more of a personal waffle. When I say personal, I mean that rather than sharing my views or thoughts about teaching, technology and twaddle, I want to tell you something about myself and how this impacts on my learning and, in some cases, my teaching. This is going to be one of those waffles and I am going to start with a confession…


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I thought I might waffle for about half a page and then write the personally bit but I am sure you will just be scanning the waffle to find the ‘juicy gos’ so here it is…no more scanning. I am a gamer – there I have said it. From my teenage years I have played games. Not like snakes and ladders, but role playing games and online games – commonly known as MMOs games (Massively Multiplayer Online). From the early beginnings of these games, probably Gary Gygax’s Advanced Dungeons and Dragons, through Meridian Online, Everquest and Dark Age of Camelot to the more recent World of Warcraft, Elder Scrolls Online and Star Wars the Old Republic. I spend some of my time engaged in quests and guild chat, progressing my way to maximum level and reaching what might be considered the end game achievement. I enjoy playing and I enjoy the engagement – so why am I telling you this?

When I was thinking about this waffle I became aware how I think playing these games might have actually impacted on the way I learn. Now this might just be a coincidence or it might be that the way I learn has meant that I enjoy the online games. It might even be that this is how everyone learns and it is only through the responses for this waffle that I will realise this. However, there are certain aspects of both my gaming and my learning that appear to be connected.

  • Levelling – Most games require you to progress through some sort of levels in order to reach an eventual final level. For example, within Star Wars the Old Republic (SWTOR) this is currently 60th level. These levels are probably my main motivational incentives, encouraging me to return to the game in order to work towards this achievement. When I started to play Minecraft I was at a loss what I needed to do every time I logged on since there appeared to be no ‘levelling’ aspect there. Essentially, the levelling aspect of the games are all about progression and within my learning and blogging, I am really motivated by this idea of progression. When blogging and or creating Youtube videos, it is all about views and likes, while with my learning it is more about achieving end points. These end points can be certificates (for example to become a Certified Member of the Association of Learning Technologists – CMALT) or to achieve qualifications such as my degree, post graduate certificates or even my PhD. Once this end point has been identified and the strategies and processes for getting there made clear to me, then my motivation is completely intrinsic and progression will ensue.

  • Classes and Study – You might essentially think that I mean classes or sessions for learning, but within the MMOs you tend to progress within a class and/or profession. This is a role that determines how you interact with the online world. These could be represented by the initial archetypes of fighter, healer, magic-user and thief, although many more exist now with specialisms which can occur within each ‘class’. Throughout my gaming life I have found it difficult to focus on a specific class or role within the games, always considering something else to be more beneficial or helpful or even rewarding. If you are accompanying me on my PhD journey, you will probably be aware already of the similarities between the class dilemma I have in games and the decision making process for a question or even a subject for my PhD. As I read I encounter new areas of study and see other directions my research could possibly progress in. The other day I actually wrote down, in a brain storming session, several ideas for research, all which I would like to complete. However, just like trying to decide a class to play in the games, I am now struggling to decide in which direction I would like to progress.

  • Maybe a loner – Gamers have this reputation of staying locked in their darken rooms for hours on end focusing their entire life and being on the game. Although I am sure that this does happen as the extreme, there are many of us who have jobs and lives and ensure that these take priority with the gaming coming second. As a facilitator I wanted to provide a Minecraft server which I did not actually ‘play’ on but more provide a place for others to play the game. Although there is an option to only have the server running at certain times, my server runs 24/7 so that it can be accessed at any time. This is one of the aspects of online games I like. Apart from maintenance the servers are up and running 24/7. Anytime you want to log on and play you can do, and there will be others there as well playing. This idea of a 24/7 virtual world appeals to me – not only for my gaming but also for my learning. As the bounds of international learning continue to be pushed, attending the usual ‘classroom’ sessions I am sure will become a thing of the past. I want to learn when I want to or when I have the time, and virtual learning allows me, in a similar way as gaming, to achieve this. I am currently using Lynda.com. For me, as an independent virtual learner, this suits my style perfectly. At any time, I can watch the next video and further my learning. In the same way, online forums allow me to interact virtually with people at any time which is appropriate to my learning style. Although you might be thinking at the moment – loner!!! – when related to my preferred way of learning, it suits me perfectly. It is interesting that ‘party goer’ or socialite doesn’t seem to quite have the same negative connotations as loner.

  • Depending at which stage you are engaging with my waffles (see last week’s waffle) you might have not even got this far – the exciting conclusion. We all learn in different ways – and I’m not referring to the outdated learning styles of visual, kin…I’m even going to say them. These ways link our interests, to our motivation, to the environment in which we learn. I’m not sure whether the actual way I learn has impacted on my enjoyment of online games or whether the reverse is true. I enjoy the games based approach to learning and even react well to gamification incentives such as levels and open badges. It is evident from research and feedback from recent projects, that these are not how everyone learns or how they want to be rewarded. Some consider open badges pointless or even ‘childish’ while others see them as a challenge and a reward which is worth attempting to achieve. As a gamer, I fall into the second category and recognise my learning style as the online gamer motivated by rewards and levels, focusing my learning to achieve that ultimate level or end point. And, of course, I consider them both to be enjoyable and fun.

    I look forward to hearing your comments and ideas, please add them in the comments below or send them to me via Twitter(@iwilsonysj), Facebook, Google+ or email.

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    Have fun and I’ll catch you later