Frames within frames: An eternal meta-metagame

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Chapter the fourth, wherein Donald goes outside the classroom, finds a frame around the classroom, then posits the existence of another frame around the frame.

The vast majority of educational games are meant to be played in the classroom. This might seem obvious but it isn't the only way to do it. As I mentioned in my last post, it is possible and sometimes optimal to wrap the game around the classroom.

One such example is the Reality game that is being played right now at the School of Cinematic Arts in the University of Southern Caifornia. The game is the creation of recent doctoral graduate Jeff Watson, for whom Reality is the basis of his thesis; his advisor, Tracy Fullerton, who is a legendary game designer (and terrific human being); and Simon Wiscombe, another USC graduate student who played a big role in designing and running the game.

Reality is a game designed to encourage college freshman to form cultural and social bonds while exploring innovative approaches to creating media. I won't dive into great details about the game -- you can read all about it on the about page at the link above and also view student productions made during the first year. The aspects that are important for this post are that the game uses physical playing cards as a basis for player-to-player interaction and that these interactions result in the creation of media and contextual conversations on a website that forms the digital aspect of the game.

I was recently chatting with my colleague Jim Ptaszynski, who runs the Microsoft Teacher Education Initiative, an effort to bring influential education schools into one conversation to help them introduce new teachers to technologies that can help them in the classroom. I told Jim about REH and he shared this picture with me. These are cards that Jim uses in his workshops to facilitate discussions of Technology, Pedagogy, and Content Knowledge (T-PACK) principles. The green cards are Technologies, the yellow are pedagogies and the white are content. Participants fit together one card of each color (for example, Yammer, Creative Presentation and Civil War) and discuss how a teaching approach might be crafted from the intersection of these three elements. Jim was playing Reality (well, a very simplified and compulsory in-classroom version of Reality) with his teachers!

This got me thinking that perhaps there can exist a frame game outside of Reality and all other frame games. It is a sort of meta-metagame that is targetted at teachers and helps them to identify and create curriculum appropriate to their needs.

Imagine a world where teachers-in-training (or in professional development) can play a game that encourages them to network with other teachers and develop innovative and unexpected kinds of curriculum that leverage a wide variety of technologies, pedagogies and content types. There are several advantages to such an approach. 1) Teachers only receive a few cards and must trade and work with other teachers to form a ‘deal’ from which a curriculum can be built. 2) Point values on cards can be adjusted to emphasize or deemphasize certain types of technology, pedagogy, and content (for example if all the teachers are using PowerPoint and none are using Yammer, the points for Yammer can be increased). 3) When teachers submit a deal they are recording some metadata about the types of technology, pedagogy, and content being used as well as information about the structure and evolution of their social network. This information can be leveraged to make it easier for subsequent users to search and filter based on these values. It can also be used to learn about the styles and interests of educators. Some strange results are bound to occur. For example, what does a Skype simulation of World War II look like?

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