Jordan Shapiro, “Here’s Why We Need Video Games In Every Classroom”

I found Shapiro’s argument in this talk extremely compelling, and not just because he seems a good–dynamic, effective–lecturer. The notion of “scaffolding for emptiness” also strikes me as something much more than just a catchy phrase. This notion calls to mind, as well, one of the central arguments of the Narrative Game Studio course I’m taking this semester: that good narrative game design, design that is both efficiently produced and engaging to the player, contains “gaps”–in the main story, in the world the game has built around it–for the player to fill in for himself/herself. This is also, I think, one of the principle ways that science fiction can be so compelling.

I’m also glad I watched this video because it provided a much smarter formulation of my own skepticism about digital badges and the like in Shaprio’s assertion that gamification (as he defines it in his argument) is “built on the assumption that what we need is a better competitive, commodified motivation system.”

I do disagree with part of Shapiro’s argument (which he does qualify a bit in the Q&A), though, wherein he claims that players don’t really care about levelling-up (and points, achievements, etc.). I’m thinking here of RPGs, where much of the appeal of the game is in determining a path for development of your character, which I think can feel very empowering, part of that empowerment being the exploration of different kinds of self.

 

 

“Digital Badges” by John K. Waters

I think the main thrust of this article is the following:

People are very excited about the possibility of opening up new pathways for learning, of making it possible for students coming out of high schools—but not necessarily going to college—to show competence,” says Alexander Halavais, associate professor in Arizona State University’s School of Social and Behavioral Sciences. “The college career path is a very narrow one, and it’s expensive. Everyone shouldn’t have to go down the same road, and digital badges have the potential to provide a system for giving credit for doing valuable, marketable things outside of school.” (p. 15)

It is an interesting idea and argument, but Halavais’s comment about (and conflation of) “valuable, marketable things” concerns me. I’m no pie-in-the-sky liberal arts militant, who thinks that learning should only ever be for learning’s sake, and any considerations of marketability or jobs in an educational track can only be profane. However, Halavais does seem to go—or land, or exist—too far in the other direction, I think. I’m sure there are plenty of folks out there thinking about the difference between, the issues surrounding, education and/vs. credentialing.

Ultimately (as it’s presented in this article, at least), I’m not entirely sure what the difference is between the OBI and “[some] third-party issuer who says you have a diploma or a degree” (p. 17). And, while I definitely think higher ed (and contemporary society, in general) needs to find ways to think more about decentralization, wouldn’t such a credentialing system (as framed by the OBI) potentially be even more centralized and authoritarian than the current system of transcripts and resumes?