Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Level 28: Write the great American novel (ED504)

Today in class we continued the discussion of how learning is related to games. Jeff pulled out the same quote that I featured in the previous ED504 blog.
A science like biology is not a set of facts. In reality, it is a “game” certain types of people “play”. These people engage in characteristic sorts of activities, use characteristic sorts of tools and language, and hold certain values; that is, they play by a certain set of “rules”. The[y] do biology. 
Math is not only like a game, math is game. Each problem is another enemy. Sometimes one algorithm will defeat them (Just jump on them). Sometimes that same algorithm won’t work (I can’t jump on them because they have spikey shells). Each class is its own level. You’ll occasionally come across old villains, but then you’ll come across something completely new (Random guys who throw hammers or boomerangs at you). Math, like Tetris more than Mario, never ends. It just keeps going to ever higher levels.

Along the ideas of levels, we recognize that we are not just looking at different skills in each level, but successively more advanced skills. For the Game of English, Level 1 requires someone to learn the letters to spell her name. Level 8 involves writing in complete sentences. If you want to get to Level 28, you are going to have to master a whole host of foundational skills.

Any subject matter is like a game in the understanding of the rules. There is a level or execution involved. I have the rules to chess memorized. I can set up the board and tell someone how each piece moves. I still lose slightly more than half of the games that I play. I know how to play chess, but I am not a chess –player. In the same way, a student might be able to recite a formula but have no idea how to use it. Knowing the rules is a necessary condition, but math is about doing something. The same is true or knowing the parts of speech in English. I know the difference between nouns and adverbs, but I still don't write particularly well.

Finally, there is a suspension of reality in the world of gaming and in the world of learning. In science, you can see it in the way they dress. Scientists dress up when they go into a lab. It is like they become a new character in this virtual world. In math, we don’t wear costumes. Anytime we do a calculation about real world phenomenon, a mathematician suspends reality. We turn the real world from the complex and blurry watercolor into a 8-bit colored image (i.e. "For this problem, we will ignore drag, wind resistance, friction and the fact that the earth is round.")

I suppose with all this in mind, I can walk into my first day of class with students and ask them, "Would you like to play a game?" It will only take the rest of your life to win it.

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