Over the past several days, I have observed the aftermath from the TLT 2012 Symposium from afar. This synthesis explores the symposium through the highlights, ideas, moments, and design elements that surfaced in blog posts for our class. Roi, Dan, Phil, MJ, and Laura attended the symposium due to their affiliation (and instructor coercion - no harm intended!) with this course (albeit Phil clearly is a committed tech follower and likely would have attended... I believe a couple of the others would have been eating elsewhere... or sleeping).
Yet, for whatever reason, they gathered and shared a mutual experience. My intent is to explore their conversations formed as reflective posts for this blog. I am interested in pointing out both singular and common threads in their comments. Although not all offer interpretations of their experiences, I will dare to tread as I offer my own reactions to their writing and extend the conversation through questions or comments inspired by ideas they offer.
TLT Symposium: Design & Lasting Impressions...
The sections appearing later in this post offer comments to specific presentations. However, to begin, I offer brief comments on the design elements of the symposium that seemed to leave marks upon the bloggers for this course.
- Food, food, food, and a little drink - Make people happy and focused (on more food if nothing else).
- Online broadcasting facilitated distance attendance that accommodated peripheral participation - A key benefit as noted by our classmate who made the choice to participate at a distance due to food and comfort desires. However, additional advertising prior to the event related to the types and abundance of food may have modified his choices for the morning. Given that designers can never be certain and will likely increase overall participation, distance options benefited both participants and designers interested in expanding the audience.
- Weak or inconsistent wireless signals were observed - an ironic aspect given the purpose for the day.
- The mobile app, Guidebook, was an aid discussed by the more tech savvy member in attendance. This feature is likely to become more popular at future meetings as designers might expect participant use of mobile apps to increase. Suggestion: Add the food menu to the app to encourage broad participation from individuals with wide ranging interests.
Down to Business - Presentation Reactions & Comments
McGonigal - Keynote Address
Discussion of lifestyle benefits indicated some unanticipated ideas involving health in addition to engagement and online collaboration.
Learning through play - As a side note, this reminded me of conversations surrounding learning through play that tend to emerge in early childhood education. To what extent is gaming opening conversations about learning through play for learners in older age groups?
One blogger, Roi, questioned the relationship between increased activity and increased learning. I share this question - 'activity' in Roi's post seems consistent with the use of 'engagement' in Phil's and to an extent in MJ's - Perhaps the speaker enters dangerous territory if assumptions are made about causal relationships for learners. Certainly, not all learners engage with game play or with the same types of game play.
Community & Identity - MJ discusses these aspects in relationship to the keynote address. I offer the questions: To what extent did McGonigal address the gamers critical engagement? Did she explore the extent to which gamers demonstrate a meta-awareness of the contexts surrounding, supporting, or providing access to gaming experiences? To what extent did she discuss gamers awareness or evaluation of social, cultural, or political values and beliefs of creators or distributors of specific games? Were the relationships among gamers and larger media forces in their lives explored?
Games & Gamification
This session was discussed in multiple posts. Interested readers should scroll down and read those posts for themselves. However, I am struck by the 'voting' activity explored by one of the presenters. I interpreted this as a negative experience for Dan, and I agree. Based on the brief summaries here and my own tendency to favor collaborative learning environments, it seems that this practice reinforces competition among individuals in the class rather than the cohesion achieved through collaborative practices. In my view, the goal must be kept in mind: How do our enacted practices model particular habits of mind and particular pathways to learning? Do students collaborate to vote? Perhaps, but that collaboration is not intended to mutually benefit the group as a community of practice. Voting in a classroom with external prizes as the benefit for the 'victor' reinforces hierarchal social practices and erodes opportunities for peripheral participation and differentiated learning.
General Observations Related to Technology Use & Decision Making
As a reader, several interesting points emerged.
First, participants form expectations regarding the context when they engage in activities (see Laura's exploration of TLT as an occupied space and expectations related to ease of wifi access, electrical outlets, and presenter use of technology at a technology symposium).
Second, technology for technology sake is not always the answer. See Dan's post regarding Animated Flying Electrons - Did the use of technology really provide a new way of seeing or knowing? Or was it simply a thing to do or use? If technology does not provide new ways of knowing or learning, then questions must be asked about expending additional time and resources.
Third, sometimes in-person, 'old-school' ways of knowing surface as effective tools (see Phil's response to the massive thumb war during the keynote address).
Finally, fourth, might successes in online spaces help us to reconsider or reframe innovation related to in-person, classroom learning (see Dan's comments related to the panel discussion, Roi's comments related to cross-cultural experiences).
A disclaimer... as noted in the title, I was not able to attend the symposium. I apologize if I misrepresented the intents of the presenters or the event organizers. This is a mere commentary and extended conversation related to the class blog posts. I am inspired to eat if nothing else...