Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Notes from Annoying Yellow

The Google Docs experience incited that techno-skeptical part of me that disagrees with the belief that online spaces actually decenter the classroom. I am still not convinced that face-to-face (or atleast real-time phone or chatting) interaction can be divorced from digital space interaction when working on a joint document. Synchronous chat is one thing—I don’t think anyone is ever trying to get anything cohesively created with synchronous chats. Without one common agreement on where a thesis is going, I think the writing will remain fragments until (eventually) the ideas meld together through active editors in the text. In many ways, I think this format forces one person to become an editor (as Shawn mentioned in class). Look, I think it is possible to make a cohesive paper through Google docs without meeting with the other collaborators; but I think it will take a whole lot longer if the group doesn’t hash out the motives over the paper over coffee.

I feel like some old dogmatic comp teacher here, but I just can feel the frustration with the lack of focus. It seems contradictory to work towards an argument and yet not spend time planning with a group of voices. I don’t mean to say that multiple voices won’t be apparent in the document, but having a document written by as many as 12 people requires some serious face time before it become somewhat cohesive.

On the flip side, I had fun writing a paragraph with Shawn when it was just him and me. He wrote a sentence; I wrote a sentence in reply; he wrote in reply to me; etc. And, oddly enough, it read like a cohesive paragraph. And small groups (2-3 people), if they worked slow or not simultaneously, could put together a very cool collaborative document. However, I am still skeptical of collaboration w/o f2f.

Also, as long as I am sounding like a old codger, my opinion is that Google docs is most helpful as a revision tool. Collaborating with others to write a document requires much more social interaction; but when someone posts a draft on Google docs, it becomes a great forum for outside editors to revise and add to the document. This type of revision is a type of collaborating towards a document, yet it deals more with established text instead of the pre-writing process. For the pre-writing process, I would recommend using other social tools in cyberspace (a/synchronous chats, etc.)

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Dispositions, Weapon Bags, and Toolbars

I thought the Thomas and Brown article was incredibly informative to our classroom discussion regarding design and pedagogy. Through engaging with the World of Warcraft and reading this article, I was reflective of the learning processes occurring in my quest. Here is my central observation: awareness of the toolbar is a key dispositional ability and this connects gaming learning to software composition.

I logged onto to WoW and the first thing I saw was a bar at the bottom of the page; I logged onto Photoshop, Comic Life, Word, etc. and the first thing I saw was a toolbar. In Thomas and Brown’s article, they discuss disposition and awareness of the learning environment. Action in the learning environment is accomplished through the toolbar. What am I selecting? What is the tool I am using? What will it do?

A game like WoW encourages the user to select and place things in the toolbar and experiment to find out what these tools do. If you can’t use it, the game indicates when and why you can use. (ex: certain weapons cannot be used until you reach a certain experience level). In the same way, a palette in a design software program encourages experimentation. The main difference between Wow and a program like Photoshop is that WoW starts you in a world and gives you direction while Photoshop gives you a blank digital page. Both encourage imagination and both require dispositional knowledge. So how do we combine creating and playing? Is that the big question in this class?

Monday, March 17, 2008

I Killed a Cougar, and I Felt No Remorse.

Damn you, World of Warcraft! I told myself that I would play it from 10am -12pm today, and I ended up starting at 9:30 and playing until 1:30. I had a lot to do today: I had a book review and a blog to write, some research to do, and a computer lab to manage. But instead, I just couldn’t stop myself from killing little beasts alongside the road. Ugh. . .I have been told that WoW is addictive, but I did not think it would appeal to my insatiable desire to acquire fake money and weapons.

Okay, I’ll back up a little and share my whole experience before I start venting about by weird fetishes and lack of time management.

I initially chose to be a member of the Undead because they looked freakin’ cool. But, for my first tour of the World of Warcraft, I wanted to have friends to share my experience and help me out. So, I abandoned my aspirations to be a wicked awesome zombie killer and I became a Tauren: the Native-American, large teddy bears with horns-type characters. I prompt hung out with Chris, Rachel and Jerry.

Initially, it was fun hanging out with the group for a little while. Yet, the “Playstation-gamer” in me wanted to go off on my own and do individual tasks. The social aspect was a little frustrating at first—I really just wanted to call Chris on the phone and ask him what I should do. Once I figured out how to text, I kept just wanting to talk to Chris because I just wanted to learn how to talk, joke, dance, fight, jump, etc. Basically, I just wanted to know how to maneuver my character to be able to play the game.

I was not that interested in socializing. When people wanted to socialize or duel, I just ignored them or declined. Once, I got help from another guy to kill the head of the razorbacks; but that was the extent of my social interaction with people in the game. I was all about the task-oriented game. Because of this, I found a few aspects of the game to be frustrating. First, I am all about fast-paced action fighting. It seemed like it took forever for me to kill plainstriders and boars. I am used to games like God of War where I press a whole bunch of buttons and my arms become nuclear warheads to kill everyone on sight. It irritated me that it took me five minutes to kill things, especially when it was part of my current task.

Second, I hated having to stride slowly across fields. Although the view of the plains and surrounding mountains were depicted in beautiful hi-def graphics, I couldn’t stand lumbering for minutes on minutes to get to my task.

I guess I am impatient with the game and I am not sure exactly why. Is it because I just wanted to earn my gold star and leave? Is it because I wasn’t excited playing a Tauren? Am I just not a social gamer? Regardless, I am sure that there are people like me that just want to do their thing and get their prizes. That is probably where much of the addiction comes from: there is always a new level and a new achievement. However, my anti-social behavior is something I want to address in class. If someone like me, who doesn’t care much about interacting with people, treats the game as more of a goal achieving experience as opposed to a social experience, is the pedagogical significance of the game still relevant?

Ugh. . .I think I am going to go back and play the game. . .stupid addictive game. Nothing says St. Patrick’s Day like Beer and mystical creatures. Maybe I’ll go play some rockband tonight to offset the fantasy buzz.

Sunday, March 2, 2008