Weekly journal—Module 3

I love that simulation game! Simulation is especially beneficial to people like me who don’t have much work experience or opportunities to practice in what has been taught in class. I played it three times. Pim and I got 7 adopters in first round, and the number increased to 13 for the second time. Finally, 22 adopters! A screen capture of the congratulation screen:


Human learn from mistakes. The key to win a game is to understand the mechanism of it. The more you know about roles and controls, you are more likely to win the game. I admit that we were a sort of gambling at first. Relationship is an important (and complex, time-consuming if you check that three diagrams before “submit” each decision) aspect in this game. However, merely considering interpersonal ties is not adequate. Culture and structure of the school also plays a vital role. Since we are unfamiliar with K12 education, we didn’t focus on the secretary and janitor in first round. The result is obvious—when we tried to talk to the principal, the secretary just said “ no”… He is like the gatekeeper. Without his permission, you have no access to the principal! It impossible to “go straight to higher-ups”. Other issues like scheduling also need to be taken into account.

We tried workshop twice in class and both failed. And after some classmates said none of them worked, I decided not to use them while playing at home. I create a table to list some activities and its corresponding effects in terms of innovation diffusion:



Module 2 Need Assessment

Front-end analysis (FED), or need assessment, is not new to me since I have learnt it in IDE 631, which was discussed at a micro-level. In this course, it is supposed to be conducted at a macro level that requires holistic and systematic approach. You must know what a “need” exactly is in a particular context first before moving to any steps. Basically, it is process of defining the discrepancy between what you are and what you want, thus you are able to figure out possible reasons and generate solutions to close the gap. Here are some points I found interesting in learning Module 2.

1. FED is an ongoing process rather than one-time activity

You should always look back and check out the current situation to make sure that you know right answers to questions such as “if there is a need”, “what the need is” and “ who are the stakeholders” in case of any changes inside or outside the whole system. It is an iterative process.

2. External & Internal needs; close discrepancy between needs of different stakeholders

 Subsystems are interdependent with each other. Therefore the outputs of one subsystem might be partial inputs of another subsystem. Say that graduate students are “products” of the school system and also serve as the one source of inputs of local job markets. If we regard the school as the system to study, external needs are related to systems outside the school such as a local company. Then let’s zoom out and look at a big picture. If your goal is to solve relatively low unemployment rates of graduates in this city, that local company will turn to a subsystem this time. In this situation, different stakeholders are highly likely to hold distinct views towards a problem happening within the big system. It is not uncommon to see that companies complain about incapable interns’ poor performance and believe that they are not qualified to get a degree while staffs in schools insist that companies be responsible for pre-job trainings, and preparing graduates for a particular job or career. As an instructional designer, you should mitigate conflicts in need assessment and items you finally focus on should be based on an overall investigation of the whole system. It is often hard to achieve, especially when cultural, social or political issues are involved in the problem. The case told by Dr. Pusch is an example. Stockholders from different social levels had opposite needs! A win-win was almost impossible.

3. Differentiate a “need” from a “solution”

I think I should always keep it in mind. “Confusion of means and ends”, a common mistake that could be easily found everywhere and are probably the reason why interventions doesn’t work. Be cautious you might fail to identify the root of the problem and work on superficial things.

4. Romi’s FEA model

Romi’s model are generally suitable for business settings. Unlike Harless’s model, Romi didn’t talk much about motivation issues (I think only “job enlargement” and “job enrichment” as possible solutions are related to motivation). And I don’t think it is a good option for problems in educational field even with modifications.

Module 1- Journal

1. Input-process-output system model

It provides a new perspective on instructional system. Before this class, I have only learnt words “input” and “output” in programming. Instead of identifying components such as learner, instructor and materials, which are commonly found in other models, it regards the system as a dynamic process. Thereby it avoids confusions caused by complex interrelationships between individual components. You are always wondering whether you have missed something when using that sort of model in analysis. From the textbook and exercise, I tried to connect this input-process-output model in the context of Instructional System design to my previous knowledge:



All resources you put within the system; it can be human being, and any format of materials or contents available.


The implementation of activities and other techniques with input resources; transforming input into output.


Product you get at last; it either can be a desirable behavior or the work created by the learner.


I know input-process-output model are widely used in other fields. You can adapt the initial model to fit your needs. And I feel it might be a little bit too general and possibly misses some details or factors that may have an impact on the system. But I cannot come up with a good example.

Another interesting things is three approaches discussed in the textbook. A brand-new view for me. I used to believe that output oriented approach is the only correct way to start instructional system design. I like what Romi said in the book; he claims that whether you start by learning objectives, contents to be delivered or activities to be held is not important. It is the alignment that matters. “You need to define all three in relation to each other”. I still question the process oriented approach however. I think by and large they are utilized to revise previous techniques.

2. Romi’s interview

One things that left me deep impression is that when talking about possible reasons for a dysfunctional system, Romi mentioned that, in most cases, it is the implementation and management problems that account for the failure of a project. It does not surprise me at all. You know I have been told at least a hundred times that training could only solve less than 10% performance discrepancies. Sometimes people need to check out the very basic level of a project to make sure it is still sustainable. 

IDE 632, New Start

Though I did planned to maintain my blog even after IDE 611 was over, nothing has been updated so far. Sloth, sloth, sloth.Thanks to weekly journal assignment of IDE 632, which pushes me to record what I have learnt, my thoughts and reflections. I love the diverse backgrounds of my classmates. I have been in school as a student for the past 18 years. While I enjoy a stress-free life at campus, one thing I must confess is the lack of experience both at work and in social activities. From talks and discussions in the first class, I know this course will provide me with an excellent opportunity to hear opinions from people of totally different backgrounds, which I always appreciate.



Assessment in Learning through Games

This week I will move my topic to a larger category. It will not be limited to online games, and any formats of games will be included.

Assessment issue in game-based learning is always counted as one concern that requires further study. The purpose of assessment involves not only testing students’ performance to see whether they achieve learning goals, but provision of suggestions for instructional design revision. Even today educators still can’t get a conclusion to claim that there is direct cause-and-effect relationship between improvement in academic performance and learning through games. We can only say that according to results of research conducted, with other variables identical, students who use video games in learning outperformed than those who do not. This conclusion, definitely, is far from enough.

A large amount of questions remains unknown, for instance, whether different curricula will produce differences in performance in game-based learning. Also, the result we drew from that research does not necessarily mean that students who use video games in learning can achieve a certain level in standardized test. Another big problem in this field is that the mechanism of game-based learning is still a “black box” for us, which means we have no idea of what components in a game that really contribute to performance improvement, although we know the game as a whole could bring benefit to learners. For educational games that are carefully designed, it won’t be problem because everything in the game are aligned with educational purpose. For games that are initially for entertainment only, it becomes complex to figure out what factors will impact on getting an expected outcome such as acquisition of some 21st century skills. Since we don’t known them and their influences, consequences of adding or removing a special factor are unknown.

Apart from using standardized test as method to assess students, some instructors use peer evaluation or self-assessment. Other ways like blogging are also encouraged. They regard it a good way for to construct one’s own knowledge from games. I think these non-standardized methods can be utilized for formative evaluations as well. Teachers can revise their instructional design plan based on feedback from students’ blogs. 


World of Warcraft, what you could learn from it

As I said in the first blog post, I have never experienced any online games before. Actually, I used to hold a critical attitude towards online games. I believed people are more easily caught and addicted to online games than console games, and thus they may lead to falling below average performance in study. Examples like high school boy who are absorbed in MMOG ending up with dropping out of school are repeated again and again. These kind of stories reinforce my negative impression on online game. Things didn’t change until the time when I was preparing master degree program application. A video about using World of Warcraft in training greatly captured my attention. The professor in the video stated that massively multiplayer games could be a powerful tool in improving leadership and decision-making skills as well as how to communicate effectively to accomplish a task. That was a brand-new idea for me.

Honestly, I half believed that. After I watched some WOW (World of Warcraft) gameplay video, I turned to a proponent. You can always find something related to learning that deserves a further research both from players’ behavior in game and the virtual environment. Let’s say that a team of four are battling a boss monster to get experience points; you have two damage dealers, one healer and one tank, which is a typical kind of arrangement or configuration. The ultimate goal is to conquer the boss monster.  You need to ask yourself a branch of questions to achieve the final goal: how to act as a good tank? How to be a good dealers? What strategies to use to win the battle? Any supporting materials to prepare? How to kill the monster fast?…The whole task turns to a problem solving process. It becomes an ill-defined problem, which means there is no single right answer. So, solving the boss monster is collaborative work that requires many skills and abilities if we look at it from a different perspective. And these skills and abilities, communication skills and decision-making ability for instance, are highly valued in and out of school.

Apart from knowledge that doesn’t fall into any specific domain, some other educators acclaimed that MMORPG like WoW showed promise in helping children who are struggling with reading in school. They did a research to study game-based reading versus school related reading, and whether that differences would lead to struggling readers performing differently in test. They picked 25 boys who are WOW gamers, and about half of them were struggling readers and half are not. Here is the conclusion of the study:

“In Steinkuehler (2012), texts regularly involved in videogame play were found to be primarily expository in nature, with an 11.8-grade reading level and 4% academic vocabulary. When reading performance on game-related versus school-related texts was compared using level-appropriate texts on assigned topics, no performance differences were found. However, when participants were allowed to choose topics, so-called struggling readers performed 6.2 grade levels above their diagnosed competency due to doubled self-correction rates (the number of times the reader corrects his or her own error while reading). Thus, game-related reading may be particularly helpful for readers who are struggling in school—not because such reading is game related, but because it is interest driven: fostering persistence in the face of textual challenges among students who might otherwise disengage.”

I am not surprise to it because when I was working with GRE test, I found that someone listed essential GRE words that occur in World of Warcraft on forums to help memorizing them. They called it “learning from WoW”. For WoW gamers, definitely it is a good way because you create connection between the game context and the word. 



Minecraft, An abundance of possibilities

I didn’t become a Minecraft player until last week because usually a 16 bit world is beyond tolerance for me who have got accustomed to high quality images in games. After 3 hours, I came to understand why people found it hard to get rid of this game. How could you easily give up a chance that you are able to act almost as the god in a virtual world! You are free to create, construct or destroy anything with tools and materials you get (of course you have to craft tools with raw materials!) You can either build your own singer player world or invite your friends to join in a multiplayer service to enjoy the adventure together.


An introduction video of Minecraft:

  fan-made trailer for the game

An idea suddenly hit me when I was trying to create glass by smelting sand in a furnace to get windows. Why not ask students to build a house with raw materials provided in Minecraft thereby they get the opportunity to practice perspective and improve spatial reasoning skills as well through hand-on activity? Then I did some research, and surprisingly found out that there has been actually a program called MinecraftEdu, which aims that “bringing Minecraft to the Classroom” to let people realize the educational potential of this world-building game.

I like the comment from a professor of MIT about it, “Minecraft extends kids’ spatial reasoning skills, construction skills and understanding of planning…In many ways, it’s like a digital version of Lego.”

Click to see more

Some excellent examples of using Minecraft in classroom teaching are available on the website Minecraft in Schools wiki. Some teachers use it to teach the periodic table since mining in the game gives you chances to learn it. A history teacher in Australia set up “quest missions” where students can wander through and explore ancient worlds. This is a video of teaching “how neurotransmitters cross a synapse, connect to receptors and continue to propagate the signal” through simulations in Minecraft.  The video link

In my view, Minecraft can offer amazing environment and resources for at least three different types of learning:

1. Providing a virtual trip to some distant places, even the building or palace in it is not so “fancy” and vivid as in a photo or movie. It is 3D and avatars created by students can explore the Parthenon Temple as if students were on a field trip.

2. A great place to demonstrate models that may hard to illustrate in real world, just like what “neurotransmitters” video shows.

3. A place allows collaborative learning to occur. Students can interact with others in the “world” by instant message that would presents on the screen. They can also talk to each other through microphone. The instructor could assign a task such as creating a hotel which includes certain items and students are expected to work in groups to accomplish it within given time. 

Apprenticeship in MMORPG

Apprenticeship is very common to see in MMO. In games like WOW, a newcomer with no guidance will find it is hard to survive because you don’t the basic roles and principles of the game. And the process of exploring and learning the new world all by oneself takes time, often lots of time, as well as your “life” in the game because those who have already got familiar with the game are likely to form a team to wipe off any other obstacles for resources (usually from the beaten monster) in game to get a level-up or better equipment. And obstacles include monsters and other competitors like you.

Definitely it is essential for a novice to find a master of this game and learn from him. The process that a newcomer followed guidance of a master who usually enjoys a high reputation within the game community (or you can call him a model) and eventually got acquainted with this game is a good example of apprenticeship in digital age. The master typically sequences the instruction so that simpler problems (e.g. using W-S-D-A on keyboard to move around) at the beginning and problems get more and more complex over time. And oftentimes the master will focus the learner’s attention on key aspects of the context that matter for success through a combination of demonstration and explanation. Another interesting thing is about activities here. There is no specifically designed assessment or test in the game. Nor any formal instruction. Everything happens in the form of activity in a particular context (the mission, the environment..) The information is provided just in time and in context of use. I think it is kind of learning by doing.

The novice imitate the model’ behavior after observing the consequence. What rewards or punishments the model received for his behavior? If the learner finds that a rare ore mining mission can be completed at this area on map from by observing what the master do, he can go there to get some by himself next time for forging a sword. The apprentice not only learn skills and strategies from the master, but also some basic but important values such as being efficient of your time and equal accessibility to resources in game are taught too. Knowledge, skills and attitudes are transmitted to him through apprenticeship.

I was thinking of using online games which do need to be a MMORPG, and can be created and run on local area networking for new employment training through this form of apprenticeship. Any good ideas?

“Endogenous Games” & “Exogenous Games”

Two videos for you to check at first. They provide some background information about an  Online Educational game Math Blaster:



Then a brief introduction of another online game called Virtual Peace; it is a simulation.


Also screen shots of the game:





Though both Math Blaster and Virtual Peace are labelled as “online game for educational purpose”, I am pretty sure that you have the feeling that they are so different from each other. For me, Math Blaster is designed in a way of creating an intriguing context to “put in” knowledge while Virtual Peace is sort of collaborative problem solving, which means the context is the scenario where students have different identities and knowledge is applied and can be recreated during the problem solving process through simulation.  

I like Kurt Squire’s differentiation between “endogenous games” and “exogenous games”. Although Kurt talked about videogames not online games in the paper, it still throw light on us.

A screen shot of a table of telling apart “endogenous games” and “exogenous games”



I think exogenous games like Math Blaster have been used to facilitate teaching because it is easy to be integrated into class (some serious board games). Knowledge, roles, skills expected to be acquired from an exogenous game are separated from game context in its essence. The context of the game is external to the knowledge. In an endogenous game however, context is just like what Kurt said “‘the content’ of experience”. It provides opportunities for situated learning through game experience. Knowledge serves as tools to assist players to solve a problem. Therefore you need to understand and master the knowledge to accomplish certain tasks in game.

You know you are playing for learning something in exogenous games (even though the process the enjoyable) while in endogenous games, you might be even unaware of acquisition of particular knowledge or skill unless you are tested.


Squire, K. (2006). From content to context: Videogames as designed experience. Educational Researcher