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Gaming and Education

October 14, 2008 at 12:00 pm PST

As anyone who has read more than one of my blog posts knows, I am an avid gamer…not very good mind you but I love it. At Cisco we have an internal email alias that folks can subscribe to if they are interested in virtual worlds, 3D environments and of course games. The other day an interesting article was sent along regarding World of Warcraft (WoW) being used to get children engaged with education. The forwarder, Steve Hall a Network Consulting Engineer with Cisco Advanced Services DCN practice, was kind enough to write-up a blog post on the article and its findings.


I ran across an article the other day and found it very intriguing. It’s titled “‘World of Warcraft’ Gets Kids Interested in School“. Huh? It was something I just had to check out. How can a game do such a thing? Shouldn’t a game distract kids from school work? Doesn’t school get in the way of playing computer games?I have to say upfront that I do play World of Warcraft (often referred to as WoW) to some degree, but not nearly as often as most do. However, I am very familiar with the game and the mechanics of its various components.The article mentions an after school program that has under-achieving students sitting around playing WoW. These students go on to do better in school. The contention is the game teaches the kids many skills that are valuable to excel in today’s school system.Math: There is a lot of math “under the hood” of Wow in just about every aspect from Character progression to combat. It is not necessary to know this math but the students in this program seemed to want to know what is making everything work. Knowing the formula for weapon damage, which takes in a WoW character’s physical attributes (strength, agility), items being used (which may contain damage modifiers as “enchantments”) and the opponent’s defense skills and armor. Keeping those factors in mind when making character progression decisions can only help a player. The right decision will result in a more powerful character in the game. Social Skills: Wow is a social game and as a result players must interact with each other to progress. This interaction is often typed in the keyboard as chats. Players who are rude or insulting in the chat are quickly “flamed” or simply ignored by the other players. Being polite and social is rewarded with help when needed. The students also formed a group in the game called a guild. This involves a guild structure with leadership and guild officers to administer it. Also, the teens are interacting with many players in the game who are just playing and not there as a learning exercise. I would think the social aspect would not be nearly as beneficial in a virtual world designed specifically for learning. There is something to interaction with others who are there for a wide variety of reasons.Scientific Process: WoW is more than merely game played in the virtual world created for it. Players often start entire web sites dedicated to providing information and discussing the finer points of gameplay. According to the article,”Players used reasoned arguments, backed up hypotheses and even brought statistics to bear on issues that they faced near the higher levels of the game”. This introduction to thinking scientifically is often not noticed and it was refreshing to see it acknowledged for what it was. As a WoW gamer myself I can attest to all these points. All the skills mentioned are definitely aspects of the gameplay of Wow. In the past I never realized that they can actually be teaching tools. I will, of course, continue to play WoW and will now try to forget all this “learning” that can take place-. I don’t want to take all the fun out of it! Steve Hall,Network Consulting Engineer, Cisco Advanced Services DCN Practice


Here, here to another WoW fan at Cisco and thanks for sharing Steve! The referenced article details an interesting use of gaming to engage students and hook them into the idea that learning can be cool. There are so many examples of virtual environments being used to educate and interconnect people of all ages. For example, my nephew is really into WolfQuest which a previous science teacher introduced him to when he was working on a school project on wolves. My nephew has always been into wolves as they are one of our family totem animals, we are all of Muscogee decent, and has lots of books and reference on wolves. He said what hooked him on WolfQuest though was being able to join with friends and/or make new friends to form a pack. To quote the web site, “The WolfQuest experience goes beyond the game with an active online community where you can discuss the game with other players, chat with wolf biologists, and share artwork and stories about wolves.” I guess there is something to this notion that interactions are a primary driver for exploration and discovery, and therefore learning. I knew being a gamer was a good thing and now I appreciate my hobby even more than before.

Hello Avatars “It’s October” And Other Sleep Disturbance Facts

It’s October already. Thursday evening around 7:00 PM I find myself recovering from a pulled muscle in my neck after nodding off while sitting at my desk watching a video of a Second Life tutorial. Apparently the extra weight from my headphones was just enough to make my head fall forward more violently than usual. As I glance up at my screen I’m not surprised to see my own Avatar assuming the same position leaning forward in a rag doll posture arms out floating and head pointing downward. I have to admit my Avatar and many others are officially afflicted with a serious case of Sleep Apnea.Sleep Apnea: A disorder of breathing during sleep. Typically it’s accompanied by loud snoring. I have personally witnessed many Avatars sleeping in public during meetings or events; however, I have yet to hear any snoring. I wouldn’t be surprised to search and discover an A/O Avatar over rider that exist somewhere in Second Life that makes your Avatar snore when it falls asleep.Insomnia: Difficulty falling asleep. Typically I find this accompanied by fellow Avatars who are multitasking during virtual meetings or classes. They may be busy looking at other documents or on their cell phone. They find it difficult to keep their fingers off a keyboard or mouse wheel. Hence the constant Avatar up and down arm flapping. Not to mention those afflicted will find you every time you log on and are ready to engage in some chat. Bordering on the temptation to make an abuse report its better to block those who just can’t seem to leave you alone or refer them to a RSS.Narcolepsy: Some Avatars, no matter how much they sleep, continue to experience an irresistible need to sleep or yawn. Avatars with narcolepsy can fall asleep even with friends in clubs or while building something in a guest sandbox. When you see a fellow Avatar standing near a dance floor in a ‘Rag Doll’ position just type BRB or politely excuse yourself. The Avatar is most likely showing the first signs of having trouble finding a dance ball or cannot pick a texture from their overwhelming inventory. Teleport Lag: Sleep disturbance induced by a major rapid shift in environmental space-time continuum during travel to a new Landmark. Typically involves popular places in Second Life and often accompanied by several other Avatars Teleporting into the same Landmark at once. Avatars found sporting extra prims, such as flexi hair or glow balls are easily susceptible. The first three signs of this is either gray skin tone, the inability to rez beyond a ghostly cloud or unexplained loss or slowing of motor skills. If you have a business computer this may be the norm until you invest in an upgrade or downgrade your viewing preference settings. Restless Legs: (RLS) Restless Leg Syndrome is a discomfort in the leg’s, which is relieved by flying or simply floating. This feeling is difficult to describe and commonly referred to a as a crawling, tingling or prickling sensation. Typically involves Avatars who have fallen off a skybox platform or simply tripped over a step. During incidents such as this an Avatar will find their lower limbs moving in random directions uncontrollably until they reach a solid surface or have been safely removed from a restricted area.Bruxism: Grinding or clenching of the teeth during sleep. Other sleep disorders may be present at the time, e.g. Apnea, RLS. This can be treated with a slight mouse movement or keystroke. Stronger relief can be found by accepting a Note card to Teleport by a friend.It’s October!

Fashionable Footers

October 7, 2008 at 12:00 pm PST

There once was nothing lowlier than a footer of a web page. It used to be — and still is — where sites put all of their necessary-but-ancillary links that needed to be on every page: Copyrights, Privacy links, Feedback, Company overviews, etc Recently, there has begun to be a trend of sprucing up footers. Here are some pictures we took recently: IBM has a pretty standard footer, but the visual treatment of the bar allows for extra goodies like the “sandbox” polling: image ZDNet has a “mega-footer” that’s almost bigger than some of these pages. I bet this keeps a lot of people on their sites whom otherwise would wander away, since it’s full of interesting things. image CNET also has a rich footer similar to the above.Facebook not too long ago added a static “utility” bar to the footer that’s always visible. This is a nifty way to show persistent functionality that feels “built into” the browser as long as you are on the site. image And, LiveWorld has just introduced a tool called “LiveBar” that companies can, for a fee, drop on their web pages to provide an outlet for commentary and other social participation on the page. Like the Facebook bar, this toolbar is fixed to the bottom but when you interact with it, it overlays itself on top of the page in a translucent layer so that you get a lot of functionality but don’t lose context of the page you are on. image Footwear is becoming fashionable!

My Top Five Virtual News Posts

October 6, 2008 at 12:00 pm PST

I had planned to cover the Virtual Worlds Forum event this week but it was cancelled because of an incident in the parking lot at the venue which forced the venue to close. So instead I thought a round-up of some of the recent virtual world news might be a good alternative, see below for my top five virtual posts from the last couple of weeks.1) A new study by Penn State University found that groups worked together better in online world Second Life than in face-to-face meetings and teleconferences.2) My mother is a drug abuse social worker so I got very excited when I read about real world addiction getting virtual treament.3) Reuters write-up on Coca-Cola reigniting their virtual world presence in Second Life with the Nestea sponsored “Junkyard Blues” venue.4) The University of Texas will hold the first Carter Academic Service Entrepreneur (CASE) grant program for virtual worlds. Students will have to use Second Life to serve real-world communities to be eligible for the grant. 5) Some might argue this as not being virtual but I for one think it applies…Hexolab announced the first interactive YouTube clip with “A Car’s Life”, view it below.Of course, I was looking to cover a wide range of topics with my top 5 but don’t expect that everyone agrees with my line up… ;-)So, what virtual news do you think should have made the list? I encourage you to submit a comment with your contribution!

BtoB Magazine: Cisco.com is One of 10 Greats

September 30, 2008 at 12:00 pm PST

We’re blushing a bit from the nice review of Cisco.com in BtoB Magazine.BtoB, the magazine for marketing strategists, polled five industry experts about the best sites in online business-to-business marketing, culminating in a list of 10 Great Web Sites for 2008. In particular, Cisco.com’s Small Business area got kudos for:

  • SMB-centric web content that’s more business-oriented than technical
  • “High-tech elements to give site visitors personalized content”
  • Collaboration including click-to-chat and WebEx Connect for sharing spaces
  • The MyCisco feature for bookmarking
Other sites making the top 10 list include Adobe, InFocus Corp., and the US Postal Service. Enjoy the full article on the BtoB Magazine site.