• Games, Research, and The OU. Notes on a Meeting

    These are some notes I made while at a meeting of Open University people interested in gaming, research, and learning on October 21, 2010.  It was organized by Jo Iacovides (The Institute for Educational Technology) and Marian Petre (Computing).  I received an invitation to attend early last month.

    Jo Iacovides  distributed an e-mail containing a list of contact details and descriptions from all of the people who expressed an interest.  I didn’t see it before I arrived in Milton Keynes, but I’m surprised at some of the people on it.  Ian Martin, from the T320 course team and the TT380 chair, is here across from me.  Several people from my Twitter stream, like Doug Clow, are here.  Some people I see on the PlanetOU blogs, like Ray Corrigan and Colin Chambers, are also here.  Not all of the 36 people who expressed an interest are here.  There are 24 people here.  There’s a disparate number of women present.  The two organizers are female and then there are three other women physically present, plus Rita Tingle via Elluminate.  That’s not very many!

    Quite a number of people are interested in motivation and engagement.  Some people, like Jo and the guy next me (who is it again?), are interested in methodology.  The guy next me is particularly interested in assessing learning in games and the methodology for that.

    There will be a wiki for the people in this group.  One of the first things they want to create a page for is an inventory of where and what games are used at The Open University.  One of the problems at the OU is that it’s so compartmentalized.  There are all kinds of neat people and projects, but it’s so difficult to find out about them, so one of the goals is to introduce us all and harvest our shared knowledge, whether that’s for “blue skies” research or applied use.

    What do I want?  I’m very firmly embedded in an the OU’s distance education context.  My love of teaching is one of the three pillars in my life, along with building communities, and playing games.  It’s not just about World of Warcraft, but about the game theory and metaphorical aspects that both motivate and encourage people to persist.  As Tony Nixon mentioned, there’s a lot of boring stuff in games, but players still persist.  Some people have called World of Warcraft “World of Workcraft”.  I think one of the reasons they persist is because of community and peer pressure.  So I’m also interested in the mechanisms in games that encourage and support them in forming their own communities of practice for learning and inquiry.  My end goal is to trans to transfer these successful (in gaming) methodologies into online pedagogies.  I want to encourage students to become more “Susans” than being satisfied with being “Roberts”, particularly in online courses, where it’s difficult to maintain motivation and persist when you, as a student, are basically alone.

    This involves both qualitative and quantitative research.  I know my contexts, but some of the methodological bits—connective ethnography and analysis—I’d love to discuss.  Plus I just love hearing ideas and thinking about things.  And, if it involves playing and doing things along the way with real students, all the better!   I’m therefore keen to make connections and find like-minded people with whom to collaborate on those topics within the community in which I, however, tenuously, belong.



    2 comments on “Games, Research, and The OU. Notes on a Meeting”

    • Michelle (Eingang) says:

      Hmmm… That's an interesting comment. I don't have any universal gaming demographics to hand, but traditionally the number of female gamers has been very low. Also, coincidentally (or not), the number of female researchers in computing and engineering-related sciences is not too dissimilar. If I wasn't supposed to be marking, I might distract myself a bit and see if I could locate some hard numbers to go with those two areas. I understand that you're not currently writing a TMA, though, so perhaps you can find something? (-:

    • Kate says:

      Interesting female presence – 5 women in 24 delegates, about 21%… Isn't that reflective of the number of women involved in gaming universally?