In the article, “Mirror Images: Avatar Aesthetics and Self-Representation in Digital Games” by Suzanne de Castell, I was once again reminded of an article we read in Carolyn’s last class about the role of selfies in self-representation. This article discusses the ‘transaction’ like relationship between those who play games online, and their real-world context. In particular, de Castell argues that there are clear relationships between what can be observed of gamers in the virtual world, and their behaviours, political views, and social interactions on real-time. In addition, she talks about how players can alter their representation through anonymity.
I was reminded of my youth in which I became obsessed with the game “The Sims” and lived out my fantasy, future life using an Avatar that I created. As a child, I made sure that the avatar had the same hair colour and eye colour as I did, but I was always excited about the opportunity to pretend I was a grown up, and dress my character up in fancy clothes. There were endless possibilities in creating your dream home, marrying another Sim character, getting a job, and even having children. While I was too young for any of these things to exist for me in the real world, the choices I made in the game absolutely reflected my beliefs, values, and political views in real-time. I feel that this is essentially a large part of the article’s argument.
I believe that de Castell made an excellent point when she brought up the idea of the internet providing anonymity. She states that, “It’s long been supposed that the internet could provide for us a ‘new frontier,’ where the baggage of inherited prejudices, deeply entrenched inequalities, traumas, insecurities of appearance, capacity and disability could all be at long last ‘leveled’ by the anonymity of the Internet” (2014, 217). In her discussion, she previously mentions gender stereotypes, and seems to mostly apply this argument to the fact that women have been thought to have been able to participate equally in the online world because it is so easy for them to become whoever they choose to be. She does mentioned, however, that the online gaming world has become more like a working environment than a gaming environment and for this reason, this piece of evidence may not be realistic.
I want to point out that while I believe gaming, and the internet, have many benefits, I have always felt that anonymity can sometimes be very dangerous. Obviously, there are issues surrounding children using the internet unsafely and dealing with strangers posing as people who they are not, but to revisit some of our previous discussions on self-representation, I’m not sure that condoning anonymity is positive when it comes to self-esteem and bullying. I also believe that face-to-face communication is losing value as we become more and more technologically-savvy. People are becoming confident online, but when it comes to real-time communication, they cannot always apply the skills they’ve learned in the virtual world, to the real thing.
I completely agree with Suzanne de Castell when she concludes by stating that our world needs us to become activists rather than just avatars, and that we must begin fulfilling our responsibilities as citizens in both worlds.
I've had the privilege of taking two courses this spring/summer with Carolyn Guertin, and what seems to have made the most significant impression on me so far is a lesson about the importance of ensuring that our students are producers of media, rather than just consumers. Not only is this a valuable part of critical media literacy, but it is also allows for critical thinking and in my opinion, enhances student engagement largely.
I grew up in a lower-class family, and owe much of who I am, and what I've become to my parents. My mother was a hard worker, and the most amazing care-giver, and my dad worked part-time as a painter. While my mom is probably my best friend to this day, my dad and I spent a lot of time together, and much of what I consider to be my interests and hobbies, I credit him for. One of these interests (though it often upset my mom very much), were horror movies! Even at a young age, my dad would secretly let me watch some of his favourite horror movies like Salem's Lot, IT, and The People Under the Stairs - all of which gave me nightmares of course.
Okay, so how can I not write a post about this incredible article by Robert A. Saunders, entitled, "Imperial Imaginaries: Exploring Science Fiction to Talk about Geopolitics"? I mentioned in a previous post that I am a massive fan of several of the types of franchises that Saunders mentions, and I was completely captivated by what he had to say. While his discussion was closely related to the International Relations classroom, my brain was constantly making connections to the history classroom, and ideas were igniting like wildfire in my mind. As you can see, this was an exciting read for me.
I found it really intriguing that Virginia S. Funes started her article entitled, "Advertising and Consumerism: A Space for Pedagogical Practice" with such a bold statement: "Advertising is, overwhelmingly, an enemy of the classroom" (Funes, 2008, 159). My first thought was that advertising can be such a great tool for teaching. I've taught several media units, and have found that if taught effectively, it can be both engaging and informative, not to mention the higher level thinking skills it can awaken.
Growing up, I was the type of kid who always got hooked on the latest craze in pop culture. Sometimes they were just phases, but others have lasted well into my adult years. I am still an avid Harry Potter fan, and a master of Lord of the Rings Trivia. I even find myself, still discovering new worlds for me to cling to. If you've seen Game of Thrones, you'll understand. I am thrilled to be taking a class that will allow me to hone in on my inner 'fan'.
For my final post, I have decided to further discuss and expand on some of the ideas my group came up with last night for our game. First of all, in my last blog post, I stated that while the article we'd read brought up some convincing points, using games too extensively made me uncomfortable. I have to admit, however, that when thinking of games that can be used in teaching, for some reason, I was only thinking about 'computer' based games, or using technology in game play. I had somehow overlooked or forgotten that a game can be a simple, face to face, activity as well, such as playing a board game or a sport. I think this new knowledge has made me realize that there are many more benefits to the gamification of content, than I'd originally believed there to be.
This week's reading was entitled, "Theories Behind Gamification of Learning and Instruction" and essentially talked about game design and how it can be beneficial to learning. The article took a look at psychology behind game design more than anything else which was a unique perspective, and for me, probably the most convincing evidence that could be given.
I personally, am of the opinion that games are not something that should be used extensively in the classroom. I do see that there are certain benefits to using them, and after reading the article this week, I'm further convinced that there are benefits, but I think that games must be used sparingly. They appeal largely to visual learners, but in terms of differentiated instruction, I feel that with games, you miss out on the kinesthetic piece, which for many is an equally big part of learning. Many of our elementary schools today are noticing such an issue with fitness and daily exercise, that DPA (Daily Physical Activity) has become a mandatory piece of education.
Growing up, I sometimes played video games, but I always found myself getting restless. Many people today believe that our youth are spending far less time outdoors, and far too much time engaged with technology, and that as a result we are becoming a lazy and unmotivated society. I'm not sure how much of that can be blamed on games and technology, but I do believe that technology takes away from our ability to communicate person to person.
The author does mention a few things which made me think more positively about the use of games in instructional design. Firstly, I liked what was discussed when it came to motivation because I buy into those kinds of arguments. As a teacher, we challenge ourselves to make our students instrinsically motivated, so I liked what was said about success and confidence according to the ARCS model. When students feel that they can achieve something, they tend to believe in themselves more. As with scaffolding, small successes ultimately lead to big successes. As someone who has played video games of all types, this is true of many of them.
As a media studies teacher in the past, I also buy into the argument about the 'fantasy environment' because as with television and movies, people love the chance to experience something that they wouldn't in their ordinary lives. If we can use this to foster motivation in students who are curious about life in another country, or perhaps historically, we can absolutely peak curiosity.
Another point I found interesting was the discussion on episodic memory and how we recall information more effectively in the same environment from which we learned it. I couldn't help but think of testing and exams at the post-secondary level. I can still remember how intimidating it felt to have to go to a huge gymnasium to write exams and it's interesting to see that it's like this, despite proven psychological research about learning environments. Should we not be running exams and tests in the same classrooms that we use to teach then???
Finally, the article made an excellent point that challenged my belief about technology (and games) taking away from our ability to communicate. It is argued in the article that games make a person feel a sense of connectedness with others (especially multi-player games). It went on to explain Social Learning Theory which evidently requires people to be working together. I think that multi-player games can be stimulating, but I would still argue that when people are physically together, there is a certain level of communication that can't be matched.
After finishing Dirksen's book, Design for How People Learn, I'm once again pleasantly surprised by her writing style. She not only kept me engaged for the entire nine chapters, but she also used such relevant examples and allowed for me to understand all of her discussion points. In the final chapters, I was particularly struck by her thoughts on transferring skills to the real world, providing feedback, and learning through experience.