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November 20, 2006

Games, Learning, and Society Conference

The first conference relating to games and learning that I want to plug is UW-Madison's very own Games, Learning, and Society Conference.

In 2007, this conference will take place, according to early rumors in JULY (not June as in the previous year) after the Independence Day holiday weekend. Since I will be on the graduate student conference committee, I will probably continue to spread the word and solicit attendance and presentations from friends and colleages. Be forwarned if you fall into that category!

Seriously, this is a good conference, and it is relatively accessible to Midwesterners. Its focus was roughly divided in nearly equal portions between the technical, epistemic, and curricular concerns and research of presenters and attendees. There were numerous sessions in which a little "hands-on" experimentation with games and research methods was offered as well as a small gaming room available all day.

In this, as in many conferences, the research presented is still in its early stages. Presenters can talk about what they are doing in their classrooms and how, but the hard data on success is still coming. Preliminary results are encouraging, but keep in mind that this is still a very new field!!

Naturally, I encourage everyone interested in games and learning to come. Stop by and see me somewhere behind the scenes too!!

November 19, 2006

Return to Star Wars Galaxies

May the Force help me. I don't know why, but I jumped back into Star Wars Galaxies today.

Maybe it is the recurring pull of the Star Wars saga. I have been a closet fan since 1977. I went to one convention in Minneapolis years ago and decided that true fandom didn't fit me, but I have liked the stories - on screen and in text - since I was a teenager. I've spent a fair amount of time in the online fan-fic and philosophical discussion boards over the past 8 years. And I was drawn to U of Wisconsin - Madison's doctoral program because Constance Steinkueher had studied the community building and educational value of the original Star Wars Galaxies game.

So, despite the bad press about the horrors of the new game engine (NGE, as it is called by those "in the know"), I picked up a copy and started playing over the summer. I wanted to see what the fuss, pro and con, was about. I wanted the experience of the game, so I could talk intelligently about it - at least in its current form. (Keep in mind that I play 30+ titles just so that I stay fluent in what's happening in the game world....)

It was a bad as the naysayers said!

I won't get into why here - maybe later I can point out flaws, but I think diehard fans of the pre-NGE version can do that better than I - but it was a definite disappointment, and I set it aside to pursue other games that I found fun. I kept my account open and occasionally stopped by to finish out the orientation quests and tasks, but I never got into it. It was too much like World of Warcraft - but minus the critical mass of engaging people. Face it, SWG was a ghost town, and its game play was not unique enough to hold my interest.

Then, feeling guilty about not giving the game a fair try, I jumped back into the world today, intent on leveling out at least to level 10 (yes, total n00b!). It was magic. Somehow, on a Sunday morning, there were people there, including more experienced players who were willing to answer questions and give advice. Suddenly, the game got more interesting!

So, I'm hooked again, mildly. If days like today continue, this might be fun at higher levels. Afterall, who doesn't want to be a Jedi Knight?

November 18, 2006

Introduction

This is a blog, in the old-fashioned sense of a blog. It is web log, a diary, a place to jot down ideas that are forming and are forming me. A place to write and reflect and grow. Hopefully daily, but possibly not, I will stop at the end of the day to write down something of what I learned. Eventually, as I go back, re-read entries, and make connections between occurances and my reactions, I hope to find important - or at least useful - things to say about being a graduate student in education. Or about being an educational game researcher.

This is not a place for my polished writings - or even my semi-polished writings. I have a different blog for that and will link it up in the resources list eventually. It is not a place for school assignments either or collaborative writing or discussion or a host of other things that have been done using blog software - including newsletters and official, organizational websites. While I understand repurposing of software for new, emerging needs, I would like to point out to visitors that subtle differences in affordances (see Roy D. Pea's work) of various types of software make some uses a better fit for a program than others. As a software designer, I am keenly aware of how different designs do, in fact, work best when applied to the task for which they were created. While I will be interested in comments, if you want a long discussion on a subject, email me!

As a final word, my thanks to Sue, my master's advisor, for the suggestion that I should keep a journal on this process. Being a doctoral student at 46, after several careers, is energizing AND overwhelming at times. I hope that by writing down some ideas and observations, the amount of stuff I'm keeping in my head as somethign important to remember will decrease and let me relax a bit more. Thanks, Sue!