Thursday, August 4, 2016

C.E.S. - Communications Report

This is my report I did for the last unit/ part of my communications class in academic upgrading (AU). As I asked on Facebook (FB) if anyone would be interested in reading it, I was surprised with the response. Thank you for your interest.

So here it is:
Educational Video Games – A Future Essential 
By Christina E. Sweitzer

The farther we go into this digital-information age of education and technology, the more we gain awareness of the on-growing sources of inspirations and our undeniable growing of needs. Growth expands with inspiration, and outside the box thinking has been playing a major role with changing education and technology since the beginning of time. Change brings improvements just as much as outside the box thinking can, and with such innovational thinking in the systems to cause continual growth, it’s easy to see how much we as people and our world is changing for the better - even in the world of gaming. Educational video games are quickly becoming the essential key/ tool for our educational future. The educational games of yesterday are changing drastically with the technologies of today, and as they aim for our future they are full of potential for improvements in the areas of school and industry, technology, and social movements.
Educational video games’ roots started in the late 1920s, with the early flight simulator created by Edwin Link, called the “Link trainer”. It like many, were created out of educational needs with the present-day technology, and started the commercial-use industries of educational simulations (*1 & *1a). With the dawning of the computer age, came game-based learning in the school system with LOGO Programming (1967) and Oregon Trail (1971). Oregon Trail became an instant success when it was released in 1974 by MECC, and was found in school computer labs through both the 1970s & 1980s (*2). Among the giants of the 1980s, none caused the educational gaming industry to grow as much as the combination of DOS (Disc Operating System) being introduced on the 8-bit IBM PCs. While DOS enabled millions access to computing and became a main gaming platform, IBM was instantly successful with a sales rate of “a system-a-minute every business day” (*3 & *3a). With technology advancements virtual environments were available for training, and with DOS & IBM at-home-gaming had begun. So when the World Wide Web launched in 1991, the public’s opportunistic doorway was wide open (*4, & *4a). From simulations in training to game-based learning in the school systems to home-based options with DOS, IBM, and the World Wide Web, our world was changing and we were changing with it.
Since simulation-based training became a standard method, the advancements within the systems of school and industry, technology, and the effects on society were huge and changed everything! When the government partnered with the University of Minnesota in 1973, they started the first educational company called The Minnesota Educational Computing Consortium (MECC). MECC released Oregon Trail in 1974 with worksheets and projector slides as supplementary lessons for the classroom, and this made way for other educational companies like The Learning Company (1980), and Spinnaker Software (1982) (*5). As the early games created a solid foundation for future educational games, technology was growing with multiple ways to enjoy them, and many more “firsts” in the industry. Some “firsts” worth noting (that haven’t already been mentioned) include the invention of the CD-ROM (1984), the key chain-based game (Tamagotchi, 1996), the first MMO game (“Ultima Online”, 1997), the first program to enable the masses the ability to make their own game (“Scratch”, 2003), and the first motion-sensing console (Wii, 2006); all of which brought us into virtual reality (*6, & *6a). With all the acceptance in the school systems and the advancements in technology, it was no wonder there was a growing interest in educational games. Even homeschoolers took advantage of the different ways to play (*7).  As standards and companies were developing, technology was advancing, and more people got involved; we were changing just as much as our world.
                With all this change in the educational games industry and a growing global population of gamers, it makes sense that video games are now being used for teaching. The more educational video games come into the classroom, the easier it is to see they are more than just tools to teach with; they are motivational learning experiences that can cause a life-long passion for learning (*8). The benefits don’t stop there, as students can evolve doing twice the work 30% faster at their own pace with more satisfaction, and a much higher success rate of 93% with As (*8a). Simulations are still being developed and used today, but they are unbalanced in advancements between fields. For example, health care still needs to catch up to aviation since 1979, due to only a small portion of educational training needs being met (*9).  In 1979 a collaborative and supportive company called “Communitech” started, that aimed to help grow more talent, better support, and global recognition for their tech community. Now with nearly 1,000 tech companies calling our Waterloo Region “home”, Communitech’s industry-led innovation centre has become a valuable asset to our community (*10). The evidence here shows there can be many benefits, we just need to keep things balanced and on-growing.
                Change can inspire growth in so many ways and areas, that we are continually evolving in our perspectives and actions as people. As outside the box thinking is often needed to change our world for the better. For example as Chris Haskell states “Crazy ideas deserve to be tested.”, he tells us of a theory about classes being a game, and how we try to win from the moment we walk in by how we talk, how we prepare, and even how we interact (*11). Technology is continually moving forward attempting to develop better-built products and services. Now virtual products using simulations are available from several companies, that are tailoring them to specific training needs; so learners of all kinds can benefit from mixing virtual simulation methods. (*12).  There is an open education movement of which Open Education Database (OEDb) has been a leader since 2007, when they were the first to offer online college rankings (now every January). To continue helping with finding the best fitting opportunities through education for learners, they now feature a collection from the world’s top universities of over 10, 000 free interactive resources and open courses (*13). When we are inspired we can think, build, and even create movements for the betterment of our world now and in the future.
As the future is fast approaching, we must think of positive potentials, and what we can improve on now. It is believed that schools will change 10 times more in the next 10 years than they already have in the last 100 years, and that educational video games will be just as important as the textbooks. If we want to help our systems to change, we need to look for better outcomes by using different-than-traditional methods when they no longer work (*14).  Welcome to VR (virtual reality)! - A realm of potentials now and in the future with not just simulations and learning, but jobs too. As there is currently 200 employers looking for employees, anyone with talents in areas of education services, information, professional scientific and tech services, or retail & manufacturing should consider the job opportunities (*15). Since 2004, the New York City based non-profit corporation “Games for Change” aims to impact society for the better by using digital games. To advance the field’s growth they also help with best-practise highlights, new projects investment creation and direction, and assembling stakeholders, and even have a lab page to check out (*16). With all this growth it’s not surprising how much change has occurred along the way, nor how much it may change in the future.
The future holds so many unknown golden opportunities, that we as a species need to expand our thinking and ways of doing things – now is the time to start. There is always room for improvements, and as Chris Haskell said “Let’s play a different game” (*17), he tells us of a game-designed class they built. We can see the bigger creative innovational thinking that led to their success from the mix of educational video games and the following criteria:
·                  No letter grading, no homework, and no deadlines.
·                  A failure allowance and reward system.
·                  Student feedback, curriculum progress, and a “winning condition” defined and always visible.
·                  Students choose activity and/ or quests from multiple pathways.
·                  Point value and minutes for activities and/ or quests given by students.
·                  Achievements earned with experience points, badges, and rewards to represent expertise.
·                  Quest completions open new activities and/ or quests, and level-ups open new curriculum.
·                  And teachers tracking the learning. (*17a)
As technology continues to transform our world, we will continue to enter into new digital information-ages with everything accessible online and beyond. But despite the infinite amount of gadgets and gizmos to be found, the best are those that provide exactly what we want at the best possible prices (*18). With today’s ever-growing society, it will be even more important to be able to communicate across cultures, have a digital mindset, and collaborate virtually. Our global citizens may need to take on a multiple disciplinary perspectives, to better understand real-life experiences and connect new knowledge (*19). Whenever change is afoot, it is always better to keep perspectives open and test the unknown, before we can conquer the unexpected.
                Taking this look back at our past with educational video games shows our interests in the growth of technology and the growth of educational video games in the systems (school and industry, tech, and society). It also shows that educational video games were not only being incorporated into the systems, but design-minded thinking was and is continually on the rise within educational video games and all three of these systems. Educational video games are quickly becoming the essential key/ tool for our educational future. And as simulations have become virtual, so has our reality. Just like simulations, there are a lot of hidden learning opportunities in educational games just waiting to be discovered, developed, and used.

1.              AACN Advanced Critical Care (AACN ADV CRIT CARE) History of Simulation” (Michelle Aebersold, March 16, 2016) Used: D1a: Intro - *1, & Pt.3 - *4; D2a: Pt.2 - *9 & *9a, & b: Pt.2 - *12. 
2.              Tiki-Toki “The History of the Educational Gaming Industry” (b-phats, 2016) - See list on master file. From sections: “LOGO Developed“, “Oregon Trail Released”, “DOS ushers in IBM era”, “The World Goes Online”, “MECC”, “Edu-Ware Founded”, “The Learning Company Founded”, “Spinnaker Software Founded”, “CD-ROM is Invented”, “First Tamagotchi Sold by Bandai”, “ “Ultima Online” Released”, “ “Scratch” Released”, “Nintendo Releases the Wii”.  Used: D1a: Pt.1 - *2, Pt.2 – *3, & Pt.3 - *4a, & b: Pt.2 - *6a.         
3.              IBM “The birth of the IBM PC “ (IBM, 1981/ teacher says 2016) Used: D1a: Pt.2 -*3.      
4.              Teach Thought “A Brief History of Video Games in Education“ (Terry Heick, Sept.12, 2012, par. 1, & 2) Used: D1b: Pt.2 - *6; & D2a: Pt.1 - *8.  
5.              Open Education Database “50 Educational Video Games That Homeschoolers Love“ (OEDb (Open Education Database), Aug.28, 2012) Used: D1b: Pt.3 - *7; & D2b: Pt.1 - *V2.        
6.              TEDxAmmon “(“Blowing up the Gradebook- Using Video Games for Learning” by Chris Haskell, March 17, 2014) Used: D2a: Pt.1 - *8a, b: Pt.1 - *11; D3a: Pt.1 - *14 & 14a, b: Pt.1 - *17a, & Pt.3 - *19.
7.              Communitech (“About” by Communitech, 2016) Used: D2a: Pt.3 - *10.  
8.              Open Education Database – OEDb (“About” by OEDb, 2016, par.2) Used: D2b: Pt.3 - *13.      
9.              Ben Lang (“200 Companies Now Hiring – A Look at the Growing Virtual Reality Jobs Market” by Ben Lang, May 29, 2015) Used: D3a: Pt.2 - *15.   
10.       Games for Change (“About” by Games for Change, 2016) Used: D2b: Pt.3 - *16    
11.       Gadget Review (“Gadgets, Gizmos and Gear Reviews For 2016”, 2016) Used: D3b: Pt.2 - *18.   
12.       Greenwich Public School (“Transdisciplinary Learning Approach: A Hands-On Workshop”, 2006) Used: D3b: Pt.3 - *19a.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Tribute - Ode to Club Abstract

I will try to keep this short for those with a short attention span...

    I grew up in Calgary, Alberta and remember what the nightlife was like back then, and I got to re-visit some clubs when I lived out there again back in 2006/ 2007. I recall many across Ontario in various bigger and smaller cities/ towns, and have fond memories of a few in Toronto. 
 Club Abstract (Kitchener) is a favourite nightclub of many, and my personal favourite - compared to many across Canada!Yes I have purposely compared for many aspects of within the bar, and it's possible extension(s) outside. 
These included the following criteria:
~ friendliness of the clientele, staff, and owner(s).

~ the general atmosphere.
~ what music style(s) are played, and if the songs get cut off.
~ how much dance floor space.
~ how many rooms/ spaces within that people can gather.
~ recreation other than just dancing.
~ how many bars to get a drink at.
~ if there is a smoking area.
~ parking space, and the distance to/ from the club.
~ and of course how easy is it to access the location - Example: Kensington Market (T.O.) - not so easy to get to for parking, or if you have never been there before.
The results:
MANY do not even come close to what Club Abstract here in Kitchener has to offer! A disappointment for sure, especially counting London, and Toronto, Ontario. 

   I have been attending Club Abstract for 22 years now, and I am heartbroken (like many) that it has to come to an end. It has been such an amazing place to call my "home bar", for so long. It has always been a "comfort zone" for me, where I can truly be myself, express my creative O.A.D. (overall appearance designing) ideas freely, where I can "dance like no one is watching" (although I have always been aware that others watch me), and gain friends that truly understand me - at least to some degree.
   The people and staff have been amazing throughout it all for so many - "like a family" that's always been there when you need them (whether they have known it or not). Always willing to look out for us, and even stand up for our rights - sometimes when we didn't even know it. A perfect example of this was shown in an article from our local newspaper - The Record.
Quoting it:
Ibrahim recalled an incident a few years where a regular customer, a man wearing a dress, was dancing in the club. A group of men started to harass him.
So Ibrahim went up to them to see what was going on.
"What seems to be the problem?" Ibrahim asked them.
"They said 'I can't believe this guy is wearing a dress,'" Ibrahim said. He was stunned at their attitudes and asked them to leave.
"If you are so narrow minded that you can't accept people for who they are then this is not the club for you," he said."
For these and so many more reasons... I have always had a respect for the bar, the staff, and of course the owner (Ibrahim mentioned here).
   Many have expressed their feelings on Facebook, now it's my turn to do it here! For all that has been given to us "regulars", the non-regulars, and our community through this club I am eternally grateful and I will always cherish the memories! With the club only being leased and not sold, there is still hope for the future.  
   Tears are flooding many, the love felt is overflowing, and can be overwhelming. Carrying me into other worlds of thoughts and wishes for our beloved club (with the music we want), to come back some day! We can dream about it all we want, but we must accept the facts at the same time. Sadness looms, but so do new beginnings. I thank you all for so much for so many kindnesses and matters of acceptance. That it's impossible to express how much love I have for this place and the people here, and how truly grateful I am. 
   To Michael and Michelle, 
I hope you never change from the beautiful positive and awesome people you have always been to us! I know you will spread love wherever you go and through whatever you do. May your paths always be visible, positive, possible, enable creating dreams, and give you wonderful choices! I wish you all the best that life has to offer in your retirement! 
You have gained my friendship forever - life & death! (^&~)
Until next round...
Take care & Safe travels!
Chris E. S. (*@^@*)