Mischief on the Moral High Ground

Thoroughly enjoying Jonathan Smith’s “The Learning Game“. This anecdote is from his childhood. His Uncle Bert, a haemophiliac, always stayed with them.

“Every Christmas Day for many years we all gathered in his room for our dinner. After dinner, in my early childhood, we always played cards. I looked forward to this as much as to the turkey because I concentrated so fiercely and I wanted to win. The grown-ups gradually lost interest in the game and drank cider, with only half a mind on the cards. Taking full advantage of that, I usually ended up with the biggest pile of coins, and as the pile grew I pictured the fountain pen I was going to buy. A Platignum pen, or at least I think that’s what it was called. Anyway, I had seen them in the shops.
Uncle Bert, impressed by my judgement and my memory for the cards, egged me on. Continue reading Mischief on the Moral High Ground

Gamification is Bullshit #gbl

Some interesting points made by Ian Bogost: [thanks Tom Armitage]

In his short treatise On Bullshit, the moral philosopher Harry Frankfurt gives us a useful theory of bullshit. We normally think of bullshit as a synonym—albeit a somewhat vulgar one—for lies or deceit. But Frankfurt argues that bullshit has nothing to do with truth. Rather, bullshit is used to conceal, to impress or to coerce. Unlike liars, bullshitters have no use for the truth.

All that matters to them is hiding their ignorance or bringing about their own benefit.

Gamification is bullshit.

I’m not being flip or glib or provocative. I’m speaking philosophically. More specifically, gamification is marketing bullshit, invented by consultants as a means to capture the wild, coveted beast that is videogames and to domesticate it for use in the grey, hopeless wasteland of big business, where bullshit already reigns anyway.

Students making games to help them learn

This, from link: EdTech Toolbox, is really exciting.

I had a student approach me today with a game that he has based around the unit of work that we are studying. Each of the students negotiate their own research based on their understanding of the concepts covered by the unit.

He has used Game Salad as a way of building a game where the player must safely transport a 19th poster to the print factory. The concept of the game is that the player must learn about the effect of technology on late 19th century art movements and how it changed artistic practice.

Greg also links to Adrian Camm’s fantastic resource:


Using gaming as a vehicle for learning is a very powerful idea and one that is under-utilized.

This wiki is an attempt to create a comprehensive resource about gaming that we can all learn from – all contributions welcome!

And it’s certainly comprehensive.

But it’s that idea of children creating their own games – online or not – that I find most exciting. I have tried simple versions in class – Greek Myth Top Trumps etc – and these always go down a storm. In the same vein, I had one student, Jake, who developed his own board game from scratch, coming in with a large piece of cardboard, some special dice and a list of rules. I wanted to see how much of the “content matter” had sunk in – i.e. the facts that he might be tested on in a normal summative assessment – and asked him a few questions. He knew them all and looked at me as though I was missing the point. (He is a boy who will go far!)

How, though, does one channel the enthusiasm into a viable school setting? The idealist will change the school setting, but given that some of us might have to do that through erosion rather than earthquake, I’m curious to know various things. First, is there a methodology or rubric for helping children learn through designing their own games? That’s definitely something that I need to research and think about more. Equally, it’d be great if the games could encourage different types of learning: so not just playing to the strengths of Trivial Pursuit memory champs but fostering spatial, manual, Gardner-esque intelligences too.

Still, lots for me to think about.

Bet you don’t know how to play Monopoly

This, via Marco and Waxy, is a little depressing. The proper rules are very different from the way I played.

1. If a player decides not to buy a property, it immediately goes up for auction by the bank and is sold to the highest bidder. This blew my mind.

2. Houses must be built, and sold, evenly across a color-group. For example, you can’t build three houses on Park Place without having two houses on Boardwalk first.

3. It’s the property owner’s responsibility to ask for rent. If you forget to ask for rent before the end of the next player’s turn, you’re out of luck.

4. Rent is doubled on properties without houses in a monopoly.

5. Income tax is calculated from your total net worth, including all properties and buildings, not just your cash. And you have to decide whether to pay 10% or $200 before you add it up.


Clockwords is a hectic word game set in Victorian London. You are a genius inventor who discovers plans for a mysterious machine that runs on the power of language. Then your lab is infiltrated by mechanical insects that have come to steal your secrets!

Clockwords is a word game like no other. Mix of a word game with speed, strategy, and steam-powered bugs! Use your vocabulary to defend your laboratory.

via Mr Byrne

Looks fun. Not totally convinced of the English value in it, but should get the typing speed up.

Text based adventures in the classroom

There’s a wonderful idea over at Ed Stuck in the Cloud: why not use the Inform platform to create text based adventures a la Zork to enthuse students?

“While the idea of asking students to create video games could be daunting to a teacher with core curriculum concerns, it becomes quickly evident with use that Inform is crazy easy to use.

By the end of the one hour workshop at GLS7, I had built a text-based framework of an Elizabethan theatre, replete with a mysterious Bard, a stage to explore, and several theatrical props. The potential for using Inform in a classroom is endless, whether you approach it as a vehicle to create games, simulations, or narratives. The nature of the programming language is such that it reinforces for students the importance of grammar, spelling and punctuation (for example, the system will tell you if you’re missing an action verb while giving examples of how to fix it). Just look at a line of my “code.”

The Bard is a man in the Globe stage. The description of the Bard is “A pale balding man dressed in black with a modest ruff. A pained expression plays across his visage as he angrily aims his rolled quarto stage left.”

The Inform Engine Josh is talking about looks pretty straightforward. This screencast, by Aaron Reed takes you through how to get up and running.

Inform 7 Introductory Screencast from Aaron Reed on Vimeo.

It’ll take some thought how best to use it, but I feel pretty confident it would get the children hooked. One idea off the bat would be to do something cross-curricular. So if they are studying the Tudors in History perhaps we could have project where each child has to write a short piece of code on one of several randomly generated Tudor characters and places. So one child gets Henry VIII and The Tower of London, one child gets Anne Boleyn and Hampton Court, one gets Francis Drake and Plymouth Hoe. If they emailed them to me I could put them in, the software has the ability to publish online, and then we could spend a lesson exploring what they had come up with.

Still, it’s got me all enthused. Thanks Josh!

The Boardgame Remix Kit – new ways to play your favourite board games

The Boardgame Remix Kit works with all the great family favourites. It's got twenty five games that you can play using the boards and pieces you've already got.<br />
As well as smoothing out or speeding up a standard game, the kit can turn Monopoly* into a family poker tournament, Trivial Pursuit* into a surrealist parlour game; Scrabble* into fight between a wasp and a robot, and Cluedo* into a zombie invasion.

Source: here