14 Great Books on The Importance of Video Games in 21st Century Learning

February 28, 2015
Gaming is a growing trend in the 21st century learning paradigm and you don't need to look hard to see the evidence. Digital and video games  take up a big part of the lives of our digital natives, and of course, as is the case with every 'new technology' doubtful and cynical voices are the first to be heard.  When writing was first invented  some 6 thousands years ago, people were very critical of the new invention. In Phaedrus, for instance,  the popular Greek philosopher, Plato  expresses serious reservations  about writing. He viewed it  "as a mechanical, inhuman way of processing knowledge, unresponsive to questions and destructive of memory."(Orality and Literacy, Kindle location. 891). The same criticism and initial rejection were levelled against other inventions that transformed humanity (e.g invention of telephone, radio, TV, and Internet).

The argument here is that everything has an inherent polarity of negative and positive  aspects and it behoves us to foreground the positive aspects and make the best of them while also devising strategies to deal with the negative sides. The same with digital and video gaming, their advantages greatly outweigh their disadvantages. If you doubt it, here is a set of some really wonderful books that shed more light on the importance of video games and how they help kids in their learning.

1- What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Learning and Literacy, by James Paul Gee
“James Paul Gee begins his classic book with "I want to talk about video games--yes, even violent video games--and say some positive things about them." With this simple but explosive statement, one of America's most well-respected educators looks seriously at the good that can come from playing video games.”

2- Reality Is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World, by Jane McGonigal

“In this groundbreaking book, Jane shows how we can leverage the power of games to fix what is wrong with the real world-from social problems like depression and obesity to global issues like poverty and climate change-and introduces us to cutting-edge games that are already changing the business, education, and nonprofit worlds.”

3- Fun: Inc: Why Gaming Will Dominate the Twenty-First Century, by Tom Chatfield

“Fun Inc. is the most elegant and comprehensive defence of the status of computer games in our culture I have read. The sheer pervasiveness of game experience—99 per cent of teenage boys and 94 per cent of teenage girls having played a video game—means that instant naffness falls upon those who express a musty disdain for the medium. In fact, as Fun Inc. elegantly explains, computer game-playing has a very strong claim to be one of the most vital test-beds for intellectual enquiry.” (Independent [London])

4- Good Video Games and Good Learning: Collected Essays on Video Games, Learning and Literacy, by James Paul Gee
“This book discusses a broad range of topics concerning video games, learning and literacy. These include the ways games can marry pleasure, learning and mastery through the sense of ownership, agency and control players enjoy when gaming, as well as controversial issues surrounding games. The book explores relationships between values, identity, content and learning, and focuses on how to understand and explain many young people’s differential experiences of learning in gaming and schooling respectively.”

5- Don't Bother Me Mom--I'm Learning, by Marc Prensky

“Marc Prensky presents the case—profoundly counter-cultural but true nevertheless—that video and computer game playing, within limits, is actually very beneficial to today's "Digital Native" kids, who are using them to prepare themselves for life in the 21st century. The reason kids are so attracted to these games, Prensky says, is that they are learning about important "future" things, from collaboration, to prudent risk taking, to strategy formulation and execution, to complex moral and ethical decisions.”

6- The Ecology of Games: Connecting Youth, Games, and Learning, by Katie Salen Tekinba

“This volume looks at games as systems in which young users participate, as gamers, producers, and learners. The Ecology of Games (edited by Rules of Play author Katie Salen) aims to expand upon and add nuance to the debate over the value of games--which so far has been vociferous but overly polemical and surprisingly shallow.”

7- Video Games and Learning: Teaching and Participatory Culture in the Digital Age, by Kurt Squire
“ This accessible book describes how educators and curriculum designers can harness the participatory nature of digital media and play. The author presents a comprehensive model of games and learning that integrates analysis of games, games cultures, and educational game design. Building on over 10 years of research, Kurt Squire tells the story of the emerging field of immersive digitally mediated learning environments (or games) and outlines the future of education.”

8- Games, Learning, and Society: Learning and Meaning in the Digital Age, by Constance Steinkuehler (Editor), Kurt Squire Ph.D. (Editor), Sasha Barab Ph.D. (Editor)

“This volume is the first reader on videogames and learning of its kind. Covering game design, game culture, and games as 21st century pedagogy, it demonstrates the depth and breadth of scholarship on games and learning to date. The chapters represent some of the most influential thinkers, designers, and writers in the emerging field of games and learning - including James Paul Gee, Soren Johnson, Eric Klopfer, Colleen Macklin, Thomas Malaby, Bonnie Nardi, David Sirlin, and others”

9- How to Do Things with Videogames, by Ian Bogost

“Bogost, a leading scholar of videogames and an award-winning game designer, explores the many ways computer games are used today: documenting important historical and cultural events; educating both children and adults; promoting commercial products; and serving as platforms for art, pornography, exercise, relaxation, pranks, and politics. Examining these applications in a series of short, inviting, and provocative essays, he argues that together they make the medium broader, richer, and more relevant to a wider audience.”

10- Digital Games and Learning: Research and Theory, by Nicola Whitton

“Digital Games and Learning: Research and Theory provides a clear and concise critical theoretical overview of the field of digital games and learning from a cross-disciplinary perspective. Taking into account research and theory from areas as varied as computer science, psychology, education, neuroscience, and game design, this book aims to synthesise work that is relevant to the study of games and learning. It focuses on four aspects of digital games: games as active learning environments, games as motivational tools, games as playgrounds, and games as learning technologies, and explores each of these areas in detail.”

11- Gaming Lives in the Twenty-First Century: Literate Connections, by Gail E. Hawisher (Editor), Cynthia L. Selfe (Editor)
“Gaming Lives explores the complexly rendered relationship between computer gaming environments and literacy development by focusing on in-depth case studies of computer gamers in the United States at the beginning of the twenty-first century. This volume examines the claim that computer games can provide better literacy and learning environments than U.S. schools. Using the words and observations of individual gamers, this book offers historical and cultural analyses of their literacy development, practices, and values.”

12- Everything Bad is Good for You: How Today's Popular Culture is Actually Making Us Smarter, by Steven Johnson 
“ In this provocative, unfailingly intelligent, thoroughly researched, and surprisingly convincing big idea book, Steven Johnson draws from fields as diverse as neuroscience, economics, and media theory to argue that the pop culture we soak in every day—from Lord of the Rings to Grand Theft Auto to The Simpsons—has been growing more sophisticated with each passing year, and, far from rotting our brains, is actually posing new cognitive challenges that are actually making our minds measurably sharper.”

13- Gamify: How Gamification Motivates People to Do Extraordinary Things, by Brian Burke

“Gamify shows gamification in action: as a powerful approach to engaging and motivating people to achieving their goals, while at the same time achieving organizational objectives. It can be used to motivate people to change behaviors, develop skills, and drive innovation. “

14- The Gamification of Learning and Instruction: Game-based Methods and Strategies for Training and Education. By Karl M. Kapp

“"Kapp argues convincingly that gamification is not just about adding points, levels and badges to an eLearning program, but about fundamentally rethinking learning design. He has put together a brilliant primer for learning professionals on how to gamify learning, packed with useful advice and examples." —Anders Gronstedt, president, Gronstedt Group”.

7 Ways Video Games Enhance Learning

February 28, 2015
If anything, video gaming provides researchers and cognitive scientists with a huge repository of raw data on the dynamics of learning. Watching and analyzing how people play games reveal a great deal on the process of learning. More than that, even the internal mechanisms of games and the way they are designed can also tell a lot about how learning works. In his classic book “What Video Games Have to Teach Us about Learning and Literacy”, James Gee talks about a wide range of learning principles incorporated in video games which make these games  a real hit when they come out to the public. Gee argues that  in order for a game to sell well especially within a  highly competitive gaming market, game designers are forced to conceptualize innovative and creative ways to make their games more engaging and compelling.

Along similar lines , gaming theorist, Tom Hatfield (author of the popular book/; Why Gaming Will Dominate the Twenty-First Century) contends that successful video games include 7 learning principles that we can extract and apply in other sectors such as business and education. These principle are :

1- Experiencing bars measuring progress
2- Multiple long and short term aims
3- Rewards for effort
4- Rapid, frequent and clear feedback
5- An element of uncertainty
6- Windows of enhanced attention
7- Other people ( collective and collaborative work)

Watch the TED talk below to learn more about each of these learning principles. Enjoy

Photo by: Lifehacker

A Comprehensive List of Education-related Twitter Chats for Teachers

February 28, 2015
Since its introduction a few years ago, hashtag has absolutely transformed the micro-blogging sphere allowing users to create communities around content. Twitter now is teeming with all kinds of hashtags and there is almost a hashtag for every event. The huge potential of hashtags is particularly felt in the education sector. Hundreds of education-related hashtags are active in Twitter. These virtual communities or what James Gee called affinity spaces, provide teachers and educators with unprecedented professional development opportunities for free and at the comfort of their couches.

Edchat is one of the early education related hashtags used by teachers from all around the world. There are , however, a multitude of other educational hashtags that span almost every content area. We have already featured some examples in the past but today we are sharing with you this wonderful chat calendar that aggregates all education-related chats together with their dates. This work is realized by a bunch of educators that  include:
@cybraryman1@conniehamilton@thomascmurray, @cevans5095@jrochelle.

Learn more about education chats calendar here.

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New- You Can Now Trim YouTube Videos on Android

February 27, 2015
Google released today a new interesting feature for its YouTube app on Android. When you upload a video on Android YouTube app, you will be able to trim your videos and select the exact portion you want to upload instead of uploading it all which was the case before this update. This new feature gives users precise control of their trims in a simple and intuitive way.

Android YouTube App Updates

Android YouTube users can also preview their videos using the new inline preview feature. This allows users to work on their trims and preview them before they publish their videos. to access these new features make sure you update your Android YouTube app.

Courtesy of TNW

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Excellent Tool for Accessing Multiple Search Engines with One Click

February 27, 2015
Search All is a cool web app that allows you to conduct a quick search on different search engines. With one click you can search for the same topic on a wide variety of search platforms that include : Google, Bing, Yahoo, Wikipedia, Amazon, WolframeAlha and eBay. You can also use social networking websites such as Twitter and YouTube to run your searches. The app works perfectly on Chrome and can really speed up your search process.

Search All is also great for online shoppers. It lets you search similar products and add a price comparison feature in some e-commerce sites such as Amazon and eBay. Here is a list of all the features Search All provides :

1) Fast switch between different search engines.
2) Support search engine customization. Add your favourite search engine now!
3) Add bookmark search. Now when you do a google search, the extension will also search your bookmarks and display the search results on the google search result page.
4) Multiple search in the right click menu.
5) Record search keyword history, so you can use it in different search engines.

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Get 500 Free Books on Coding

February 27, 2015
Coding is one of the most demanded skills in the 21st century learning. There is a growing need for teaching students the fundamentals of coding and computer programming not only because these are the skills needed for the future job market but also because coding allows learners to better understand their digitally focused life and therefore enhance their interaction with digital media.

We have already featured a plethora of interesting resources, apps, and tools  that teachers and parents can draw on to introduce coding to their kids  and today we are sharing with you another important resource we learned from Life Hacker. The popular GitHub has compiled this excellent list comprising more than 500 free books on programming and coding. The books cover different  topics from programming languages to software architecture.

We thought you might want to have a browse through this list and see if anything grabs your eye. Enjoy

Photo by Johan Sonin

7 of The Best Chrome Apps for EFL and ESL Students

February 27, 2015
Today we are sharing with you some useful Chrome apps to help your students with their language learning. These apps are particularly helpful for  EFL and ESL learners. They (the apps) provide a wide variety of activities, games, flashcards and exercises on language practice. Almost all of them are geared towards solidifying students' vocabulary learning and empowering learners with a rich and diversified lexicon to assist them in their writing and reading comprehension.

1- Duolingo

Google chose Duolingo as the best language app for 2014. Duolingo offers free courses for learning different languages including French, English, German, Italian, and Spanish. Duelling is also available for Android and on the web.

2- Flashcard Stash

Flashcard Stash enables students to learn through the use of interactive flashcards. It also offers several games, quizzes, word lists and phrases, and a learning mode that calculates the optimal time to study. Teachers have the option to create classes where they can share flashcards with students and many more.

3- iVocab

iVocab is an ideal app for those preparing for GRE,TOEFL and SAT quizzes. It provides a variety of quizzes so  students can test their language competencies and also track their scores on each of the quizzes they take.

4- Vocabla

Vocabla is another popular language learning app in the Chrome store. It helps students with their vocabulary learning by empowering them with tools to translate, collect and memorize words, phrases, idioms and other chunks of language.

5- Flashcards

Flashcards is a good app for language practice. It has a huge gallery of ready-made flashcards where you can download and access all kinds of flashcards to use in your class. You can even record audio for your flashcards.

6- Lingua.ly

Collect new words from across the web with Lingua.ly's smart dictionary. Use your new vocab to surf foreign websites, social media or your own Gmail, Twitter and Facebook feeds while you learn new language.
7- Google Dictionary

Google Dictionary is a must have app for all language learners. This app makes it super easy to view word definitions as you browse the web. Simply highlight or double click the word you want to define, and a pop-up bubble will be displayed with the complete definition of that term. I also allows you to store the history of words you have looked up so you can practice them later.

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