This post is something that hit the cutting room (word count) floor in the “Learning in Virtual Worlds” volume I’ve been writing with Judy O’Connell, but I think it’s worth sharing. The focus is to look at just how much you can do with a ‘free trail’ to an online game – and in fact never play the game.
Gaming online invariably offers a ‘free trial’. This is very handy for schools – who might sign students up for Mathletics, but a game such as EVE Online is unlikely to get a run. For one thing, some of the ‘content’ is a little ‘dark’, but never the less is no more apocalyptic than novels such as Bladerunner. It seems that narratives in writing, take on new ideology when played out online. But games are now online and millions of teens ‘play’ them – and socialise.
MMOs lead themselves to Digital Story Telling – and though as not seen as a ‘tool’ as such, and maybe could be added to Alan Lavine’s 50 ways to tell a story. They are both the tool and the media – the imperative to use them – is motivation and interest. We are at a point in educational technology where we should at least be exploring where virtual worlds are fitting into learning – as students increasingly move to MMOs, creating new communities as part of the social network nexus.
Clarance Fisher posted “Events are new. Events are different and exciting. Events are something we take part in and play a role in. Then when we put a bunch of events together, they build up into an experience. I would much rather that students have an “experience” of something rather than “study” something.”
EVE Online provides a range of multi-demensional experiences and within a ‘free’ trail, teachers could easily use it to engage students in a range of experiences and discussions. For example, without playing the game; create a comic strip or explore identity and representation using the narratives from the eBooks and screenshots provided in the site. Students can read the stories, or add their own new race to the back story. Of course doing any of this requires the teacher to be digitally literate themselves – and schools need to create opportunities to ‘discover’ these teaching tools.
Teachers could explore some of the narriatives; and suggest how the writer in (or is not) talking about things science is interested in, or how science affects natural evolution. EVE has a range of stories – sections of which will resonate with student interest such as
“The Kameiras are one of the products of the infamous Human Endurance Program (H.E.P.) that the Amarr ran on their Minmatar slave populace. It began as an attempt to measure the Minmatar tribes’ durability and effectiveness when it came to various labor tasks – to see how far they could be pushed before breaking, much like a tool would be stress-tested. Over time it evolved into much more than that, becoming a tale of horror for the Minmatar as Amarr scientists began to explore the true limits of their body and psyche.”
Games, far being from a waste of time, are highly motivating and well thought out. The collatoral activities such as the art; concept; stories; forums and film that many ‘fans’ create provide a rich source of stimulus materials than can be easily recycled in cross-curricula approaches. Looking beyond ‘its a game and not appropriate’ allows teachers to see that what is happening in them is much more than ‘pac-man’. The offer rich resource materials, which is often literature – outside the game, but connected with it. We have to then think that a great deal of creative expression in the future will include MMO experiences, but not be limited to it. If anything MMOs generate more artistic and creative work that crush it.
EVE Online is one example of hundreds of ‘worlds’. They offer teachers opportunities to use the ‘burr’ of motivation; to connect wider learning activities – from science to design, music to personal development. There is a dimension that can be exploited – without necessarily ‘playing’ the game itself. But we have to look beyond the prescribed texts and start to notice how literature is changing, and being used differently – and ‘building literate communities beyond the classroom”