Games as a Tool for Teaching Scientific Habits of Mind

This podcast is complimented by the following content, however, is it not necessary to follow along with links if you choose not to.

AN INTRODUCTION TO THE SUBJECT

Read the original article here.

The post I analysed.

Somehow not sure what Skyrim is? Check it out.

Want to know more about Social Knowledge Construction? Click here!

Want to take a closer look at any of the mentioned frameworks?

‘‘Science is built up of facts, as a house is built of stones; but an accumulation of facts is no more science than a heap of stones is a house’’ 

-Henri Poincare

Want to learn more about scientific habits of mind?

Don’t know what The Elder Scrolls online is? Check this out.

Criteria for scientific habits of mind, as defined by John Dewey in “Logic: The Theory of Inquiry:

  1. Logical thinking
  2. Quantitative analysis
  3. Deductive reasoning
  4. Proper questioning
  5. Reliance on sound evidence

Results (via post number):

The thread for reference

Evidence of Scientific Habits of Mind No Evidence of Scientific Habits of Mind Undefinable
1 8 9- Reference to outsider information
2 29 11- Formatting information but no

 

3 37 17
4 42 20
5 43 28
6 44
7
10
12
13
14
15
16
18
19
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
30
31
32
33
34
35
36
38
39
40
41

Post #1- The thread starts off using proper questioning of observed phenomena in game.

Post #3 shows clear signs of deductive reasoning via observation, and logical thinking to build on those observations.

Post #4- An example of scientific habits of mind, which draws on a quantitative analysis and external sources to back up their points.

Post #15- Refers back to the previous discussion in the thread to develop the conversation, and builds on it using their own in-game observations and prior knowledge

 

Advertisements

Bullshit or Nah: The Complete Edition

The game has finally reached completion! After weeks of gruelling development, I have a finished product. The game consists of 60 cards, with two ‘facts’ each. That’s 120 questions, half of which are true, and half of which are false. It was a mission. This game has taught me some things. Finding facts that sound false but aren’t is easy. Thinking of facts that sound real but aren’t is even harder.

The completed prototype.

The idea of the game is very simple. There are two facts on every card, one person reads one card at a time, and chooses to read either the real fact or the false fact. The rest of the group then has to decide together whether the person was telling the truth or a lie. If they group guesses wrong, the reading player gets to keep the card, and first to 3 cards wins.

At first, I playtested the first 60 questions I had in class with two lovely volunteers. The consensus was that whilst the game made sense and was easy to pick up, it was really hard. There was less of an academic debate than I’d hoped, with the participants usually restored to taking a wild stab in the dark. It was obvious that the player not knowing each other very well was also an issue, with both players seeming too shy to argue out different points even when they had different answers. 

The second lot of play-testing yielded much more promising results. By this stage, I had the cards printed out, meaning I could run the game for real. I had five volunteers playing the game, all of which adopted the spirit of argument in the game very quickly. I ran into a problem though. When you have an uneven number of players, it means that there is an even number of players deciding whether you’re lying or telling the truth, which can occasionally lead to a hung vote. To fix this, and to aid the group in general when the questions were too hard, I introduced the chance coin. On one side it says “true” and on the other side “false”. The players can use this coin to decide on the verdict of a hung vote or decide for players when they get stuck.

The third round of play-testing was with this same group, and the coin as an element worked well. I was lucky in the fact that this group of people were determined to win on their own merit, so didn’t rely on the use of the coin too much. I have realised that there is the potential for players to give up straight away and rely on the coin to make all their decisions which would destroy the dynamics of the game. To fix this problem, I’ve introduced the rule that players can’t use the coin voluntarily more than two times in a row (coin use in the case of hung votes doesn’t count towards this).

The playtesting resulted in a healthy amount of friendly banter as I had hoped, however, I think that was also due to the fact that people playtesting were already good friends. In a situation where the game is played with strangers that are shy or uncomfortable, the game might not be run so smoothly, but I’m not sure if there’s a solution for this (atleast not a game mechanic based solution).

I also changed the game back from predominately black to white, in order to make the game more printer ink friendly. This was both for my own purposes when printing the game, and for it’s future potential distribution as a print and play.

The evolution of the card back new (top) vs. old (bottom)

 

Originally I wanted to make this game a tool to teach people to think critically. After the feedback from playtesting, I decided to shift my focus. I’ve designed the game in a way that it’s basically impossible to be confident in your answers. This was done for two reasons. Firstly, to generate a more light-hearted conversation and pointless argument seen in one of my favourite games, Superfight! Secondly, I wanted to highlight just how hard it is to tell fact from bullshit, in the hope that next time a player sees a fun ‘fact’ on the internet, they’ll at least have the frame of mind to do a quick google before believing, and god-forbid, spreading it.

I’m very pleased with how my game has turned out, and I’m excited to continue building on it in the future.

 

Power to Poverty

 Poverty porn, also known as development porn or famine porn, has been defined as “any type of media, be it written, photographed or filmed, which exploits the poor’s condition in order to generate the necessary sympathy for selling newspapers or increasing charitable donations or support for a given cause”.
It is a term also used to explain when media is created not in order to generate sympathy, but to cause anger or outrage.
Origins  
The concept of poverty porn was first introduced in the 1980s, a golden age for charity campaigns. Charity campaigns during this period made use of hard-hitting images such as pictures of malnourished children with flies in their eyes. This quickly became a trend and there were several notable campaigns such as Live Aid. Though some of these campaigns were successful in raising money for charity, some observers criticised the approach, claiming it oversimplified chronic poverty, this apparent sensationalism was dubbed by critics as “poverty porn”.
In the 1980s the media used what some believed to be inappropriate use of children in poverty. However, towards the end of this era more positive images emerged to tell their stories, although, in recent years it has been noticed that the disturbing images are being highlighted once more.
In charity  
The practice is controversial, as some believe it to be exploitative, whilst others praise the way it can allow organisations to reach their objectives. It has been common for charity organisations such as UNICEF and Oxfam to portray famine, poverty, and children in order to attract sympathy and increase donations.
Although poverty porn can be seen as a tool to generate further donations, many believe it deforms reality as it portrays the image of an impotent society, entirely dependent on other western societies to survive, as well as being overly voyeuristic.
Throughout fundraising campaigns, charities attempt to interview those who they are trying to help, in order to get the word across to the general public. However, it is common for them to encounter ongoing refusal from those in desolated situations to take pictures or to publicly share their traumatic story. This further emphasises the concept that being in an uneasy, not to say miserable, situation is a shameful one, and poverty porn in media exposes those who do not necessarily have the desire to be exposed.
In media  
Poverty porn is used in media through visually miserable images, in order to trigger some sort of emotion amongst its audience. It is commonly thought however, that to expose one’s misery publicly through images, interviews and other means, is an impermissible invasion of privacy.
Alli Heller, a Nigerian writer and anthropologist says: “Imagine for a minute that you were chronically incontinent. Now imagine that you didn’t have access to adult diapers or sanitary napkins … Imagine how the acidity of the unremitting flow of urine burned away at your thighs, cracking your skin and leaving you vulnerable to painful infections. Imagine the shame you’d feel – a grown adult incapable of avoiding the small pool of urine you’d leave behind on a friend’s chair after a visit … Why must we highlight the extreme cases when the norm is bad enough?”
Reality TV   
The British television programme The Hardest Grafter illustrates this as it portrays 25 of Britain’s “poorest workers”, all having the shared ultimate objective of winning £15,000 through the completion of various tasks. In this case, the contestants’ poverty attracts a television audience, which was, before the show even started, contested as various petitions were made in order to stop what was believed to be a “perverted audience and profit making operation”. It is considered to not only be perverted, but also discriminatory as the contestants can only be poor.
Broome, a reality TV show creator, states that it exposes the hardship of some families and their ability to keep on going through values, love and communication. He assures that he would much prefer create these shows rather than those like Jersey Shore which depicts “a group of strangers from New Jersey as they party throughout six seasons”.
Associated works  
The Scheme
Benefits Street
Slumdog Millionaire It has been claimed that depiction of violence against poor people is sensationalized as to likely arouse the vile response of enjoying the depicted miseries rather than invoking a sense of empathy from the audience.
Famous, Rich and Hungry

The Human’s Within Them

I knew of the environmental issues effecting the Antarctic long before the release of Happy Feet. However it wasn’t until I watched the film that I actually started feeling bad about it. Why is it that we’re only made aware of animal issues by giving them human characteristics? Humans marvel in their capacity for understanding and thought, yet we treat animals and our environment with a thoughtlessness that is almost outstanding.

Penguins are a star example of humanity’s need to anthropomorphise animals. They are an ideal candidate as they live in remote, inaccessible areas, making it easier to idealise them as a symbol of nature. The Antarctic area they usually live in is also free from cultural ties, making them accessible by people from all areas of the world. Then there’s the fact that they stand upright, much like a human does, but with an exciting strangeness in their movements that makes them fascinating.

penguins

Penguins are one of the most well-recognized animals.

In film form, penguins are subjected to human standards and compared to- as well as given- human characteristics, to make the wild more accessible. In doing so the viewer is shown a distorted reality of what penguins are actually like. Whilst they may have built an emotional connection to the character shown in the film, that character is no more than a construct, devoid of actuality.

In the film it shows mother penguins stricken by grief at the loss of their chicks, trying to steal other chicks to ease the pain. In this process orphan chicks can be crushed to death by the struggle of desperate mothers. By is this really a sign of mourning, or is it just us imposing our own belief system on how we think the penguins should react? It’s a hard question to answer, even for researchers. There has been no substantial evidence to suggest that penguins are in fact capable of feeling grief, and yet in the film it is posed this way anyway. This brings us to the question, if the penguins don’t feeling grief, rather are just acting off their instinct to produce and care for young would they still be so relatable? Would the cause to save them seem just as legitimate?

 

If it really doesn’t matter if they were actually in an emotional state of distress, then why did the producers feel the need to exaggerate the penguins melancholy? And if it does matter, is that a failing of the penguins themselves, or society at large? Let’s assume for the sake of the argument that the producers added this human emotion because without it, the perception of the penguins would change.

Can we hold penguins to a moral standing that they don’t even have the mental capacity to understand? Of course not, and yet we persist on doing exactly that. Humans constantly over-state or over-emphasis the emotional capacity of animals (however underestimation is just as large of an issue, as seen in the captive Orcas of SeaWorld). By assuming that the penguins endure great distances of travel and cold in the sake of love would be grossly inaccurate on a scientific level. Whilst it is hard to determine the emotional capacity of any animal, penguins show no demonstrable or measurable emotional awareness.

So is it rather out of pity for the unknowing? When we see a penguin cooing over a dead chick- which is standard behaviour for a penguin with a chick that is unresponsive- do we actually feel pity in the fact that the penguin can’t understand that their child is gone, rather than assuming the penguin is acutely aware of the situation? Nature documentaries are more likely to take this perspective, as they aren’t trying to build a narrative in which the characters must have an angle or motivation for acting the way they do.

cute-penguin-wallpaper

Penguins are portrayed different in nature documentaries compared to narrative films. Source: http://funpeep.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/Cute-Penguin-Wallpaper.jpg

Animals seem unpredictable until you realize that their main goal in life is survive long enough to have successful offspring. It is through our privileged lifestyle and mental capacity that we have the time to ponder the emotional state of these animals. It seems unlikely that the possum you see scourging up the tree looking for food even has time to worry about the nature of it’s existence, or the welfare of the bug it is so relentlessly chewing into. It’s hard for humans to see from other people’s perspectives, little alone other species perspectives. The humanization of animals in the media is just a physical manifestation of society’s need to find a purpose if the ways of the world, to seek a meaning higher than the base instincts in which animals live on.

Humans are only given one outlook on life, which is to be human. Therefore in order to understand matters that are anything other than human we desperately search for characteristics we recognise. This leads to a distorted view of the animal world, however if it aids in the motivation of people to save the environment and the animals that live within it, maybe, just maybe, the means justifies the ends.

The Trap of Self-Quantification

We live in an age that demands access to fast, easy information. This extends not only to the world around us, but also to our internal workings. As first-world society develops, an ever greater emphasis is put on tracking your behaviours, from sleep habits and what we buy to heart rate. This raises the question, what are we getting out of this detailed data collection, and is it possible it’s doing more harm than good?

image

There is a greater push to quantify everything we experience.

Just like almost everything is life, making a decisive call on the effect of self-quantifying will only be made clear in hindsight. The movement has sprung from rapidly developing tracking hardware and software, which has made the collection of personal data almost automatic. We can say with a large degree of certainty that self-quantification has helped those such as Dana Lewis, who was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age of 14. Constant vigilance and awareness of her internal state has allowed her to live a full and happy life, free from most of the serious health implications usually associated with the disease.

What about us that have the choice to self-quantify?

The movements followers adamantly insist that such tracking allows the individual to both learn about themselves, and helps them take the right actions to improve their lives. This suggests that there is a set way, or formula, for each individual to live, but from where do we draw these standards? Humans are a diabolically unpredictable lot, and in this unpredictability comes the spice of life.

By placing the success and well-being of our lives down to statistical data, are we not ignoring what it is to be human? Many of the world’s most recognizable figures are frightened of the possibility of artificial intelligence becoming too human-like. In the face of self-quantification, my fear is instead that humans are becoming too like computers. Self-quantification fails to consider the natural variation of life, rather choosing to seek consistency in humans that are so often inconsistent.

image

The collection and comparison of data places the expectation on the user that everyday has to be equal or better than the day before.

Whilst this can be a good thing, leading to healthier life choices, it ignores the fact that life is messy. By expecting a certain consistency we are trying to deny the existence of bad days, of life’s little surprises. By setting ourselves constant goals we’ve shut ourselves off to spontaneous moments. In collecting data about our day are we taking the importance of the experiencing life and replacing it with the importance of how the numbers stack up? What chances are we robbing ourselves of in the aim of getting a nice looking pie-chart on our phone screen?

Many have made the change to stop tracking. Alexandra Carmichael is just one example of a person that realized that self-worth comes from more than the numbers on a screen. In fact, these numbers can sometimes actually decrease a subjects sense of self worth as they don’t “measure up” to the desired numbers.

alexandracarmichael

Alexandra Carmichael, director of The Quantified Self, chose to stop tracking. Source: http://curetogether.com/images/alexandracarmichael.jpg

The main problem with self-quantification is, and probably always will be that data presently- however nicely in a spreadsheet- doesn’t automatically insight change in it’s subject. Only through real-life hard work and a large dose of motivation does the participant actually gain anything from the information they’ve gathered, other than the disappointment or reassurance of the original data.

This is not to say that self-quantification is inherently bad. Ignoring the fact that “good” and “bad” are societal constructs in the first place, all technology is of a neutral standing until the user or their environment decides otherwise. As seen in the case of Dana Lewis, and many others- most without a serious illness- that have undergone serious positive changes with the aid of self-quantification, it can help some.

 

The trap of self-quantification is that it can’t help everybody.

The way tracking devices are often marketed is that simply by owning the device your health will improve. Research suggests that one such tracking technology- fit bits- are only effective when the user already has motivation to exercise, and does little to encourage those with low levels of inspiration. So what happens to those people that track their activity without making any serious changes?

image

Many trackers use 10, 000 steps as a bench mark for success. This creates a mold in which a variety of humans will all try to adhere to. For already very active people, walking 10, 000 steps will do nothing to improve their fitness. For inactive people, anywhere between 8, 000-10, 000 steps will have a positive effect. Yet fit bits, for all their acclaimed power, do nothing to automatically adjust these numbers. Rather the perceived failure of users to conform to these expectations may be doing more harm them good to their overall well being.

Even those with motivation are often confused as to what to do with the information they’ve generated. Tracking heart rates seems important, however the knowledge of what your heart rate should be and how it should respond to different activities is not widely known. This means that for all their good intentions, most of the data collected by trackers often falls into a void of misunderstanding.

The most important thing to remember when considering self-quantification is that all humans are unique.

To say that self-quantification is harmful to everyone would be just as false as saying the inverse. Rather individuals must find their own way. There is no one solution-or product- that will offer the secret to a happier and healthier life, rather a combination of personal and environmental factors.