Shall we play a game?

If you are familiar with that decade (the 1980s), or perhaps enjoy stories about computers with the power to destroy the world, then you are probably familiar with that phrase.  In the movie, War Games, the computer named Joshua wants to play a game of chess with a young hacker named David.  David however doesn’t want to play chess; he wants to play global thermonuclear war.  Joshua reluctantly agrees which sends David into a frantic race to stop Joshua from launching the United States’ entire nuclear arsenal at the Soviet Union.  David was interested in playing a game of war, but when it came to reality he was horrified at the thought.

There is something about games that allows us to distance ourselves from the reality of a situation and put ourselves in the possibility of another.  When playing board games, like Monopoly for example, the way that the game plays out depends upon which properties you and your opponents own, and on how you develop those properties; in essence you become a businessman and landowner.  When playing games like hide-and-seek or kick-the-can you become the prey trying to outwit the hunter.

And if you consider video games and the variety and abundance of them…

Video Game Walhalla By localjapantimes retrieved from flickr


…and the different types of formats they are available in….you realize that the way we play games has totally changed from those schoolyard games of the past.

Video games are interesting in that they allow you to travel to different planets or dimensions, or to engage in lifestyles that you had never conceived of before.  You can have the opportunity to wield a virtual sword or gun. You can create a virtual family and build yourself a life from the ground up.  Maybe you are interested in exploring an alternate history.  Or it could be that you like games that let you test your problem solving abilities through a series of puzzles that increase in difficulty.

When you consider the popularity of video games in our society it seems foolish not to utilize a similar sort of game play in learning environments.  Talk to any game player who has beaten a game level and they can tell you in detail how they solved the tasks that allowed them to move to the next level of the game.  Some of those game levels require repetitive play to beat so it is understandable that the game players would remember the steps that led them to success, and probably apply those concepts to the next levels.

So when you consider that games allow us to distance ourselves from reality to engage in these fantasy situations, wouldn’t it make sense that we could apply that to the reality of real life situations?  For example I’m not sure that many people would be interested in a game called “Adventures in Librarianship” but I do think that future librarians might be interested in role playing opportunities that could model certain skills that would be useful in real life situations.

The United States Department of Defense seems to think this sort of modeling is useful, and here are only a couple of the things I found:

Researchers Examine Video Gaming’s Benefits

Computer Game Trains ‘Art of Battle Command’

Advanced Equipment Maintenance Training Using Revolutionary Video Game…

Simulating Warfare is no Video Game

Exploring e-portfolios and Independent Open Learner Models:  Toward Army Learning Concept 2015

In this decade it is likely that some of us have played a game that might resemble David’s almost end of the world scenario in War Games.  Some of us have played games that simulate gardening, cooking, commerce, and planning.  Why not take that a step further and modify those games for education?

Now if only I were a game designer….the game designing librarian?  Why not.


Tell me a story…

…one that tells me who you are and where you come from.  Tell me about a time in history that made an impression on you.  Show pictures that make me feel like I’ve been there before, or that makes me want to go there in the future.  Play music that expresses the poignancy of a moment.  Tell me in your own words what happened and what it felt like.

Once you have put all of that together you have created a narrative, and if you have put all of that together successfully then you have potentially created a learning object.

After perusing this week’s readings I took a look at a learning object I created in a previous semester.  At the time of making this video I did not realize that what I was creating was a learning object, which I should have, but at the time I was just concerned with completing an assignment which required the use of various web 2.0 tools.

Looking at the video now I cringe a bit at the excessive dialogue, and the sloppy audio editing, and the use and arrangement of the pictures I used.   (And I must say that listening to one’s voice play back like that is a bit uncomfortable.)  I also wonder if I should have made this more of a personal reflection but at the time of creation I was more interested in creating something that resembled a documentary.

Wondering what else I might have done when I previously created this video to add more interest to it, I  looked around the internet this past week to see what else I could have added to my story.

My first stop was MapsGL where I created a map of Mount Saint Helens utilizing the “My Places” feature which allows you to place specific points on the map (you need to sign into your Google account to use it).  There are a bunch of cool features that you can use once you create your map and I took a few screenshot examples.  If you click on the images below it will just take you to a bigger version of the image.  I included links to the actual app in the caption portion of the pictures, and hopefully they work…you might have to enable MapsGL to get it to work, though.  I couldn’t make the links clickable so I’m sorry but you will have to copy and paste the URLs into your browser.

This link should take you to this version of my map. You might have to enable MapGL for it to work.

With this map I clicked the map icon in the upper right of the screen and chose the "Webcam" option

Hopefully this link works right because it looks pretty cool as it zooms you down to street level. Once you are finished playing around with this screen if you click on the little minus sign in the upper left it will take you back to the main screen. To try out this feature yourself grab the little yellow person that will appear in the upper left and drag him down on top of the highway. This only works if you put it down on the road because this follows the video taken by Google street filming.

This is the "Pictures" view and if you notice the little tiny gray squares those are pictures too. Just click on them and they expand and if you double click you are taken to the photo viewer Panoramio

This is an example of the expanded view of one of the picture icons.

The following links lead to various photographs, videos, and information regarding the 1980 eruption of Mount Saint Helens.  There were many more but I figured that this list was probably long enough.  I hope that this story gives you some idea of what it was like to watch these events play out on the news, or in my case the local news because I lived close enough to the mountain to see the cloud plume in the distance.

CVO Photo Archives: Mount St. Helens

Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument  Mount St. Helens 30 Years Ago

USGS Multimedia Gallery:  Mount St. Helens 1980 Ash Cloud as Seen From Space, Mount St. Helens: May 18, 1980, and Mount St. Helens: A Catalyst for Change


Educause Learning Initiative.  (2007).  Seven things you should know about digital storytelling.  Retrieved from

Center for Digital Storytelling.  Retrieved from

Barrett, H.  (2009).  Digital Storytelling: An introduction.  Retrieved from

Too many toys to choose from

I had planned on playing with Voicethread for this latest assignment because I had already had experience with most of the other suggested social tools.  The two tools that I had no experience with were Library 2.0 and  Upon investigating Library 2.0 I realized it was using a Ning platform which I was familiar with so I turned my attention to is promoted as a method to aggregate and curate information found on the web.  Users, or curators as they are called, create topics which they then provide keywords for. uses these keywords to search resources on the internet which are then aggregated on a “Suggested Content” page for each topic created.  Curators then choose, or curate, which articles they want to add to their topic.

I could not help but to compare to Pinterest as I began organizing and curating my own topics. has “Topics” while Pinterest has “Boards.”  Both social tools have a bookmarking button that you can add to your browser’s toolbar.  Both social tools are similar in that they aggregate information for you.  Pinterest does this in a couple of different ways:  you can look at the content of pinners that you follow, or you can look at Pinterest’s subject list under their “Everything” tab and choose one of their suggestions. does this differently in that it uses keywords to aggregate information which seems helpful until you realize that you do not know if you are using keywords that will find you the results that you want.

Where both tools seem to differ is in the presentation of content. is formatted so that it appears like you are reading an electronic magazine.  You can read whatever tagline that the curator adds to the “scoop” and if you find it interesting you can follow the link to the original content.  From what I have observed among the friends that I follow, Pinterest seems to be used mainly for adding and browsing pictures of clothing, or decorating ideas, or pictures of must try recipes.  This is not to say that Pinterest does not have the capacity for being a place that can be used for more serious content, because I have found boards where the content focused on learning.  These boards are difficult to find within Pinterest however, and I find it easier to locate them using a Google search.

I had originally created my Pinterest account because I was looking for a more interesting way to organize my bookmarks rather than keeping them in an uninteresting list.  I was also looking for an alternative to my RSS reader for the same reason; too many lists and not enough visuals.  I found myself too distracted by all of the images in Pinterest however, to use it effectively.  Organizing my boards was also a problem because it is difficult if you want to reorganize which I did a few times.  Pinterest also seems to be utilized by more women than men which makes the content a bit too (I’m not going to say girly although I’m thinking it) female centric.

Now that I have worked with for the past two day I find that I like it better than Pinterest.  I like the way that it is formatted plus I like that it suggests content that I have found useful.  Another advantage with is that its aggregators go out and look for content on the internet rather than just pulling from their user’s content.

As for it being a substitution for my RSS reader, I am not sure yet.  It doesn’t let you know when a blog has posted new content.  It does allow you to follow the topics of other users, and pull from that aggregated list, but I’m not sure that I really need more content on top of all of the feed I am already subscribed to.  There is such a thing as too much information.  I do think that it could be useful for bookmarking and I am going to stay with it for a while for that reason and see if I like it.

Signal to noise ratio

The Networked Student (Drexler, 2010), Chris P. Joblings Photostream, Flickr

The reading this week on personal learning networks (PLNs) has been interesting. I had not realized that the combination of stuff that has been feeding into my Google reader, or my always growing list of bookmarked websites, was in fact my own version of a PLN.   The variety of resources that make up my reader and bookmarks, however, makes my PLN appear to be a semi-organized mess with no recognizable focus.  Perhaps that is what learning is: a process of organizing concepts that may not make sense to begin with but after manipulating information and putting it together in different combinations it becomes of tangible value to the learner.  As a PLN is personal this makes sense.

The networking aspect, though, is a bit intangible.  I am networking right now, as I type this blog post that somebody may or may not read.  If somebody does read it and/or comments on it then that networking has taken an extra step.  If I reply: then another step.

But what does it all mean?  I suppose I hope that somebody has something useful to add to my thoughts, or a different perspective because that is better than the alternative; my thoughts being published and then just floating off to nowhere.   But simple affirmation of the existence of my thoughts is not what I am looking for.  What I am looking for in my personal learning experience are ideas that I have never before considered; points of view that I never before would have conceived.

This need for informative feedback cannot happen spontaneously.  It requires writing and posting those thoughts; reading and responding to what other people write.  This in turn requires frequenting online places that will give you the sort of feedback that you want, or as our text states: “it’s all about the quality of the connections you make, not the quantity” (Richardson & Mancabelli, 2011, Kindle location 961).  And how do you find these places except to go out and read and follow links and see where your curiosity will lead you.

This is where my curiosity led me today:

TED Ed – Sharing the Spark of Curiosity

Behind today’s TED-Ed launch

TED-Ed’s YouTube Channel

It will be interesting to watch this channel add content and grow, and it makes me wonder which other YouTube channels I should add to my PLM.  I find the thought of adding more to what I already follow a bit daunting.  I suppose it is time to start pruning.

Richardson, W., & Mancabelli, R. (2011). Personal learning networks: Using the power of connections to transform education. Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree Press.


I found the section on persona, in Char Booth’s book fascinating.  She talks of balancing one’s teaching persona with that of your personality so that your teaching style is more genuine.  It made me think of how that translates into online learning where one must rely upon the written word for the most part to present oneself.

There is a realness that is sometimes missing with virtual learning, a lack of immediacy.  Recordings, either video or audio, allow participants a small glimpse into what sort of person that their instructor might be.  Real time meetings make the person on the other end of the internet even more real, as you can hear them interact rather than just lecture.  This is aided even more if the person enables video so that you can see the expressions on their face, their posture, or the way that they might talk with their hands.

How does an instructor construct a learning environment that ensures that realness?  How does he or she create an online persona that is genuine to their real personality?  Perhaps the answer to this depends upon each person, and how well each person works in an online world. Of course this does not only depend upon the instructor, it also depends upon the learner who is also a participant in this learning endeavor.  I suppose this means that however much an instructor creates an environment that is conducive towards communication, if the learner does not want to participate then even the most careful planning may go astray.  This in a way should not be looked upon as a failure as it is an opportunity to see what methods do not work and to improve upon them for the future.

Booth, C.  (2011).  Reflective teaching, effective learning.  Chicago:  2011.  Kindle edition.