*update – A video I’ve made that is going out as part of Massively Productive Education keynote. Relates to the stuff below.
Gaming has an enviable problem. It provides too much flow and satisfaction missing in real life. Their predictive sense of achievement wired into instant feedback loops is an almost certain guarantee of engagement and it’s spilling over into Twitter.
While education seeks to use technology to engage students in meaningful online work, games such as World of Warcraft actually attempt to deter people by rewarding players for not killing monsters and having rest time – not working.
Players use this time to stock up on potions, get food, repair their weapons, visit the bank and of course buy and sell items won in the auction house. They don’t even need to be logged in to do this – there’s an iphone app for that too. This doesn’t mean they spend less time tuned into the game environment (which extends well outside of Azeroth), but varies the kind of ‘work’ that they do and helps promote discussion and development of game-resources in the numerous wikis and forums so vital to documenting how to play better.
Is this what you do with your rest time? For many teachers, rest-time is used to explore technology – and without it, little innovation would take place in the classroom quite frankly.
Chris Betcher recently blogged about this, how when he went to a teacher-meeting, he already ‘knew’ most of the people who attended, not least though the OZ/NZ Teachers network started by Simon and Sue a few years ago – one of the oldest and long running teacher networks.
Over time, I’ve come to see the thinning of the walls between rest-time and work-time – but a thickening of connection as Chris discusses.
Twitter isn’t just about building your Personal Learning Network (PLN) it’s rest-time turned into fun work. The kind of work being done, is not that different from what Warcraft players are doing. The big difference is that Warcraft players do it from the age of 5 – so imagine how good they are at it by the age of 12.
I see Twitter as a game of sorts. Searching for #edchat or whatever #conference is on today is questing. Choosing to Tweet is not that different from choosing to chase down honour points in Warsong Gulch. Sharing resources and bookmarking what you find is a version of the ‘need’ or ‘greed’ mechanic Warcraft uses to get players to make critical choices.
Twitter demands making meaning from intangible collections of digital artifacts that someway allows others to better understand personal identity and abilities. Warcraft has a much more defined set of variables, common to sets of players (faction, race, class, talents, gear, professions, reputation, experience) – but unlike Twitter, it allows other players to make very accurate assessment of themselves in relation to others. So while I love Twitter – it is really hard to know the people you are dealing with – as there is no Warcraft like attributable profiling.
Those with little concern about their practice see technology generally as related to work (place) and social media as fairly pointless. By not participating – they are finding an exploit. At the macro level – systems ban it or seek to devalue it in an effort break the connectedness, that Chris was talking about.
The best PD, the best experience, the best of people – come from inside these networks, not external to them. Sure there are online spats and disagreements but the social-rules correct undesirable behaviors and generally all players are seeking the same goal. The social rules are determined by sets – not by the technology, and change between the infinite intersections people make in who they interact with.
The world is forever changed around education. No matter how turbulent the surface of educational debate and activity is online (systems talk it up too) – deep below on the ocean floor, non-participation allows life to carry on unchanged. All games are essentially about overcoming avoidable obstacles. And let’s face it, teachers don’t need to be on Twitter.
Twitter is Tetris in that it presents an unattainable victory. The problem Tweeple playing are trying to solve is to improve education (the reward). Twitter gives digital rewards for playing such as greater declarative knowledge, new schemas and digital objects that make you a better player – as long as you are in the network. You can’t leave, you have to come back to play, so any argument leveled at Warcraft, is also true of Twitter.
It is haughty to look down on games such as Warcraft or non-game worlds such as Second Life, and not to understand their rich history. From Multi-User (text) Dungeons to the beauty of Warcraft and Rift, game-designers have mastered that which education hasn’t.