Information Flux in the 21st Century

Fantastic Voyage

The stunning image caught my eye, as did the title. It was something about cinema and science. The web page with the article sat on my desktop for days, maybe even weeks, waiting to be read. Why was I surprised when it was gone? After all, this is a computer that I share with my husband and two daughters. Oh, why didn’t I bookmark it? Same reason that I do other neglectful things.

Lucky for me, a colleague sent along the link to the article just as I was scratching my head trying to place where I saw it. Where Cinema and Biology Meet. That was it, in the Science section of The New York Times, of course! Because it was the visual that caught my eye in the first place, I went straight to the video before reading the article. Being able to wander through molecules! Fantastic! In fact, it reminded me of the movie from the ’60s, Fantastic Voyage, amplified by the monumental advances in technology that occurred in the last 20 of the 45 years since the movie was made.

So, there I was earlier tonight, viewing a webcast of a joint meetup event between the Science Writers in New York and the NYC G4C meetup group. I did intend to go in person, after all it was a meetup, but was thrilled when I  found out the event would be Livestreamed. Bonus! I could stay home and oversee homework (sort of) and watch the event live! The theme was The Future of Play and the panel of speakers included Asi Burak, the co president of Games for Change and also one of the co-founders of Impact Games, the creators of the game platforms “PeaceMaker” and “Play the News“, Colleen Macklin, Associate Professor at Parsons and Director of PETLab who I had the privilege of seeing before at a Games for Change conference in 2009, Chris Burke creator of the game within a game, This Spartan Life, that uses Halo as its backdrop, and Dr. Melanie Stegman, program director of Educational Technologies at the Federation of American Scientists and project director of the game Immune Attack. Josephine Dorado, the moderator, teaches at the New School and is the live events producer for This Spartan Life.

Worried that the sound quality would be poor, I was reassured when I could hear just fine, through headphones, when necessary, and through the computer’s speaker. There were a few technical difficulties during Asi Burak’s presentation, limiting what he was able to present. But, that didn’t matter much to me because we, the five to six Livestream viewers, rarely got to see what was on the screen anyway. Colleen Macklin went through the history of games during which time I watched her turn her head to see the screen but couldn’t see it myself. I was glad that the question about slide availability came up; I look forward to seeing those. Melanie Stegman was the highlight for me. She talked about how players navigate through parts of the body in the educational game, Immune Attack, and are thus immersed in the experience. There was that Fantastic Voyage image going through my head again. That was better than having to watch yet another milk ad and missing about 15 seconds of a talk (every 15 minutes). Though, I am not complaining. It’s a small cost for free cloud based services.

At eight thirty when the moderator ended the presentations, the panelists could be overheard talking about… what else? Fantastic Voyage.

December 8, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | Leave a comment

Ourcourts.org launched!

ourcourtsOurcourts.org is an online initiative conceived of by Sandra Day O’Conner. The goal is to teach civics to children in an easy to understand way that engages and fosters interest. The website offers straightforward information, a couple of games (at least for now?), resources for teachers that include games, links to other sites, and links to news stories.

I first heard about ourcourts.org at the Games for Change conference last June. This is one of the game ideas that got me thinking about how games in new media can inform our education system.

I went to ourcourts.org to find a resource when I was helping my daughter with her social studies homework. Her homework was to put in her own words descriptions about the three branches of government. She had a handout for this assignment that distinctly illustrated the responsibilities of each branch. However, she struggled with the meanings. Legislative and Executive made some kind of sense to her, but the Judicial branch was more difficult for her to understand. “What does interpret laws mean,” she asked. If only I could come up with a good example, and break it down for her.

One of the games on ourcourts.org is The Supreme Decision. This game enlists the player in a case about a student’s rights to wear a band t-shirt after his school banned band t-shirts because arguments broke out over them and disrupted learning. The attorneys for each side state their case and then the player listens to four pairs of judges interpreting the case. The player answers questions about the arguments presented by each pair of judges. There’s even an earlier case mentioned that shows how precedence can be used to defend an argument. My daughter played the game, and continues to play it over and over, interpreting the judges arguments differently to see how the case plays out. She now understands the concept of interpreting laws.

Last night my daughter came home with some more civics related social studies homework which she had no problem with at all. Is this due to the immersive experience she had while playing the game? I’d like to think so.

October 7, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | Leave a comment