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Education, Technology, and Society 2013

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Welcome to the online community space of Education, Technology, and Society, a course offered by the Education Program of Bryn Mawr and Haverford Colleges, Pennsylvania, USA.  

Course Description

This course investigates online networked experiences as among the technologies and environments environments (small and broad scale) in which people now grow (often via struggle and conflict).  As occasions in which people use the Internet to act and interact, online networked experiences are increasingly normal though not consistent or evenly accessible across.  They are also changing the ways people live and work in non-networked environments.  

We will explore networked experiences as those we share with other people (intimates and not) in real time and asynchronously, and those we have on account of people’s having constructed interactive experiences that we share with machines (such as with “smart” tutors). Such experiences seem likely to open up new forms of being. What consequences might these have? Do these new forms have special promise or carry particular threats for people?  all people? certain people? If so, what about the fact that many lack/are denied necessary resources to access them?  

Of course, these interactions are increasing, though quite unevenly part of the process, and product of teaching, learning, and schooling.  How shall we think about and make decisions with respect to this increase, and this unevenness?  Inequalities and inequities will also be our business in this course as we seek to better understand whether and how online, networked experience can enhance education.

We will create this course together.  I will work to catalyze a community of learners able to support, encourage, and inspire each other.  In order to achieve this, we all have the responsibility to keep communication channels open and respectful, to engage and listen, to question, and to be honest.

The course asks you to think expansively about teaching and learning -- about education in and outside of schools. In this way, you will become skilled at joining and shaping public discourse and your own choices around these issues when in a range of roles. I want to work with you to develop ways of imagining and judging that are informed by a sense both of possibility and of suspicion.  Skepticism here will mean a capacity to question everything, even the stance of doubt.


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"How Do I Learn from You All?" Students Negotiating the Risk to Learn via an In-Class Gaming Community

"How do I learn from you all?"

Students Negotiating the Risk to Learn Via an In-Class Gaming Community

Alice Lesnick, Wendy Chen, Thomas Lord, and Alexandra Wolkoff

Blended Learning Conference, Bryn Mawr College, May, 2014


"The possibilities that exist between two people, or among a group of people, are a kind of alchemy. They are the most interesting thing in life."  Adrienne Rich, Arts of the Possible

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Beside the Looking For / The Finding’s Always Tame: * Mining, Crafting, Writing, Thinking

Beside the Looking For / The Finding’s Always Tame: * Mining, Crafting, Writing, Thinking

*  (The Loving of the Game, Pat Garvey, covered by Judy Collins)

Alice Lesnick, Bryn Mawr College

4C's March 2014, Indianapolis, Indiana


Starting again with the essay, essayer, French for "to attempt" – TS Eliot still over there:

". . . perhaps neither gain nor loss.

For us, there is only the trying. The rest is not our business. " (East Coker, Four Quartets)

While Judy gives the soundtrack: "nothing drives a gambler, like the loving of the game."

Blah Blah Blah     Risk      Blah Blah Blah

Let’s go!  But here --

“Chapter 1 

There was a wall.  It did not look important. “ (Ursula K. LeGuin, The Dispossessed)

Let the wall be the binary [here we go again]:

Structure – freedom

Engrossment – distance

Debate – difference

Play – work 

Win – lose

Porous - sealed

Abstract - goncrete

Ideal - real

Specific - general

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When Marina Abramovic got a surprise visit from her ex-lover during her performance art at the MOMA

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Thorne Kindergarten Teaching Project Blog! 

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Thorne Kindergarten Teaching Project Blog!

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making progress!

accomplishment - i built another house, this one even more legit than the first one (which i lost ..). this one has three windows (which i made from glass that i made by smelting wood in my furnace .. i know, duh, of course that's how you make glass, but it still feels really cool to me!) .. and it has a door, and my bed, furnace, and crafting table, and chest. it's not very aesthetically pleasing and its super boxy and dark with a low ceiling, but hey it's mine! i feel strangely attached to this, like concerned with making it look nice .. and picking a 'nice' plot of land and clearing it, etc, as if this is really 'my' land and it all reflections back on me. but in a way, it is totally my creation , and it does reflect on me - so strange, i never thought i would experience this through a game! it really is an eerily good 'simulation' of how we interact with objects in the analog world. 

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Day 5

A Struggle:

Last Tuesday when Thomas came to talk to us, he mentioned how minecraft isn’t the funnest game he has ever played, but is one of the most influential ones. He also mentioned how sometimes he would love to read a book, but once it is assigned to him as homework, he might just be demotivated to read it because he then sees it as work. Honestly speaking, as a semi-gamer, minecraft isn’t a game I would normally play on my own. I do enjoy playing it, but I also see it as part of my work, something I am supposed to do and not something I would do on my own free time. I think some part of me is just not used to this type of gaming, minecraft is really open-ended. But maybe a bit too open-ended for me? That’s why I always look at what other people are doing and try to build it myself, and when I accomplish it I feel great. Yet I still don’t find myself that engaged in it like some other people in class. I just envy how they have so much patience and creativity, and I feel like I get impatient sometimes with the game. After playing for a while it gets a bit boring and flat for me, and I just don’t enjoy the process of always collecting materials first, even as Thomas said it later becomes more like a habit. I think I’m struggling to be motivated in this game, more than other problems.

An Accomplishment:

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minecraft 10/28 - 11/3

Day 1 (10/28/13): 

A Struggle: I am still unable to access the game because I did not use paypal when purchasing the game -- I used skrillz (the equivalent of paypal, but british one) because I used the visa card option, and was asked to provide the last 4 digits of SSS and birthday. It said "verified by visa" so I did not think much of it, but then my bank called my mom of suspicious activity and locked my mom's bank account. After a lot of phone calls and misunderstanding of minecraft being labeled as fraud, I was finally able to clear things up and buy it and download it, but the initial struggle was just obtaining the game. 

An Accomplishment:

I was finally able to buy the game via paypal (after many tries and phone calls!)

An observation:

This isn't so much related to minecraft the game itself, but it made me think of the legitimacy of games and the real possibility of fraud- since I purchased the game ONLINE, not a CD disk from Best Buy or anything. It was only because minecraft is a renowned game was the bank finally able to realize that the purchase wasn't fraud. I question if the decision would have been the same if the game hadn't been popular... Made me think of how much technology has evolved, because I know that when I was growing up, I bought the physical copy of the game from a store, not off the internet.

Day 2: 

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A Struggle:

Feeling like I am playing catch up to others in the class skill level wise.

An Accomplishment:

I finally figured out how to make a roof!

An observation:

I find that I am much more ambitious in single player mode than in our multiplayer mode. In single player mode I don't feel like I will be judged for my slow skill level whereas in multiplayer I have to constantly play catch-up. I find this interesting in relation to the conversations we have had in class about audience and how we adapt ourselves to those audiences. In the online context we see and percieve only a fraction of what is going on. Someone's success may seem like inherent skill in the game when it could have taken hours and hours of trial and error.

It would be interesting if we all kept in mind the portrayals we give someone when we see their house or farm and compare it to facebook when looking at someones picture or status.

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Minecraft 10/31-10/01

A Struggle:

Finding cows to turn my humble garden into a farm.

An Accomplishment:

I have been building up my home and creating my own space in the Minecraft world. I know have a small sustainable garden in which I grow wheat to make bread to feed myself so I don't starve to death.

An Observation:

I noticed that another student in the class built her entire empire using glass and other tools I was not familiar with. It seemed like she had done an amazing job laying out her space in the game world and it looked something next to amazing. I was a bit envious coming from a home with a 2 layered stone wall and no roof but when I asked her in class how she was able to do it, she told me to check the wiki and she gave me other tips. When I tried that and it didn't work, I asked her if I could trade her some wheat for a cow because I couldn't find any in the world that weren't hers and she said yes. Something I mentioned in an earlier post was how lonely the game world felt. There isn't a real efficient way to communicate with someone in the game but when I saw the students' home and talked to her about it in person, she said it was totally okay to make that trade for wheat. This made me feel somehow less alone in the game world because although that vital communication factor was missing from the game, I could still interact with those personas in real life and maintain that sociality. Hopefully that makes more sense than I think it does.

A Question:

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NPR story about addiction to games as cultivated by gaming companies

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This shocked me: Youtube trend among teenage girls,"Am I pretty or ugly?"

a friend shared with me

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Another educational gaming program like Minecraft being introduced to schools: Kerbal Space

My brother reads IGN avidly and he shared this with me today. 

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      This is my fourth attempt to at least master some basic skills in the game. I did drown a few times and fell in the cliff several times. I am not giving up. I have learned to be more observant of my surroundings, to stop and look around, and to plan my movements. Anyone knows how to get out from falling into a huge hall? I tried unsuccessfully to use the space bar but the hole is too deep.

    I really liked the interview with Thomas on Tuesday. He assigned the minecraft game such a high level of sophistication.

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minecraft day 4

Struggle: I got stuck in a cave for a little while because I went too far into it and then I couldn't see anything at all and couldn't figure out how to get out because there was no light. Eventually I got out by just randomly moving my cursor, and pressing w and the space bar.

Accomplishment: I accidentally jumped off of a pretty high cliff which placed me at the bottom of the mountain. This was a problem becasue my crafting table and chest were at the top of the mountain. I explored around a little bit but I couldn't see an easy way to get back up to the top because it was more of a cliff than a hill with different levels to jump up onto. So, I realized that I could break the blocks to form a stair type of thing on the side of the mountain so I could reach the top. And I did! And I found my supplies again!

Observation: It started raining while I was playing today! I am not exactly sure what happens when you get wet, but I am assuming that it is probably better to be dry than to be wet so I went into a cave that I knew was nearby for shelter and waited there until the rain passed.

Question: My next step is to figure out how to build a house. So, my question is... how do you build a house?

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minecraft day 3

Today I was able to access the multiplayer game and finally interact in that world. I began the game with a few resources in my inventory and started to collect a few other things, but it was a little hard to find any worthwhile resources since we spawn in a place where there is just a lot of desert and there are not really any trees left. So, I went on a search for trees! It took a while to find some and I have to travel across lakes and up and down mountains until I finally found them. (Luckily I also found some pigs and cows along the way so I didn't starve.) I had been making pretty good progress and collecting more resources when I sadly fell straight off a cliff and to my death! :-( I was obviously really upset! I didn't even know that was possible! And of course, I lost all of the things that I had just been collecting and had to start all over again from the spawning point. But, I knew I couldn't give up, so I started out into the "world" again. I traveled for what seemed like a while, including swimming through rivers and climbing up mountains again, but I found an area with tons of animals and lots of trees, so I began collecting both items. I was able to finally make a table and a chest. I was a little bit concerned about just putting these down where I was because I knew that if I was killed again there would be absolutely NO way I would find them. However, I figured that if I die I will lose all of my supplies anyways, so I just did it anyways.

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Mine Craft - day 1

Struggle: I was unable to connect to the multiplayer network because, as a Haverford student, I can only connect to the Bryn Mawr guest network and that does not connect with the Minecraft network, apparently. This was a prime example of how issues with wireless or insufficient connections can REALLY affect the access that people can have to various online tools or systems.

Accomplishment: Luckily one of my classmates was kind enough to let me work with her in exploring Minecraft because she was able to get into the class's network. It was really helpful to go through it with someone else because we were able to share ideas and figure things out together. It was also fun to get to know one of my classmates that I haven't really interacted with very much before that! :-)

Observation: It was pretty clear that some people were "naturals" at Minecraft and were learning how to do various things very quickly, while others were struggling pretty badly. Especially in the beginning of the period, before I had joined with my classmate, I found myself to be in the second group. As it seemed like my classmates were getting farther and farther ahead, I began to feel worse and worse about my Minecraft abilities. I can definitely understand how people who do not have access to technology or do not use technology feel as though they are outsiders to the exclusive club of the tech-saavy.

Question: I still have so many questions, I don't even know where to begin!

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Minecraft blogging/documentation

Please use this space to do your daily blog reflecting on your Minecraft experience, per the syllabus:

1) Dedicate 1 hour for 5 days out of the following 7 days to playing Minecraft

2) Dedicate an additional second 20-30 minutes at another time of each day to complete a brief blog post on Serendip Studio about your experience.  Write about:

a struggle

an accomplishment

an observation

a question

You may also choose to respond to someone else's post as a way to complete your blog post on a given day.