Wednesday, 4 April 2007

Bonus level - Welcome to Digitalia

I have had an idea brewing over the past month or so, which I had intended to submit as my game design assignment - but with the Digital Earth competition taking this over, have just decided to note down the bones of it here.

*Welcome to Digitalia*

The main aim of this website-based game is to teach teachers about digital functions that young people use all the time, giving them direct practice and ideas for educational use.

Digitalia is a fictitious country in which children are the main inhabitants (or 'natives'). The home page contains links to information about some of the customs (social networking, blogging, Web 2.0 functions, games, etc), artefacts (internet, iPod, computer, etc) and some of the learning preferences (teamwork, parallel processing, hypertext thinking, etc) of the Digitalia Natives (DNs).
It also has a Visa application process for Digitalia Immigrants (DIs) who want to access the country. As part of the application process, teachers (or whoever) mustcomplete a series of tasks/games/challenges, each relating to technology and Web 2.0 functions such as blogging, making podcasts, using, Wikis, and Google Earth, etc., which relate to how they might be integrated into teaching practice.

The game is also designed to encourage some of the skills needed to flourish in the information age, such as:

Play — the capacity to experiment with one’s surroundings as a form of problem-solving

Performance — the ability to adopt alternative identities for the purpose of improvisation and discovery

Simulation — the ability to interpret and construct dynamic models of real-world processes

Appropriation — the ability to meaningfully sample and remix media content

Multitasking — the ability to scan one’s environment and shift focus as needed to salient details

Distributed Cognition — the ability to interact meaningfully with tools that expand mental capacities

Collective Intelligence — the ability to pool knowledge and compare notes with others toward a common goal

Judgment — the ability to evaluate the reliability and credibility of different information sources

Transmedia Navigation — the ability to follow the flow of stories and information across multiple modalities

Networking — the ability to search for,synthesize,and disseminate information

Negotiation — the ability to travel across diverse communities,discerning and respecting multiple perspectives and grasping and following alternative norms.

(taken from NML white paper - see below)

There is also scope for automated character interaction via email, video, audio, etc. However, unlike most popular ARGs which unfold in real-time (Perplex City for example), this is designed for individual players to go through at their own pace (like BBC's Jamie Kane), though some team-working with other applicants will be required.

Once the visa application process is complete, the older generation can become Digitalia Natives themselves!

[This game links in with some of the work carried out by the New Media Literacies project, which seeks to identify and inform teachers about the various skills required for the information age, as well as helping 'children to learn what they need to know to become fuller participants in the new media landscape. NML combines an interesting group of researchers and educators, including Henry Jenkins (Convergence Culture, 2006) and Ravi Purushotma, who have done much research into the educational potential of digital games, and ARGs especially.

They have recently produced the NML White Paper (2007), which goes into great detail about children's media use and the related skills they are developing in using internet-linked technologies - skills that are well-suited to a forthcoming knowledge economy, but which currently schools are failing to address. The paper coins the phrase *Participatory Culture* to describe the younger generation's practice of creating and sharing media content. The paper explains that 'a participatory culture is a culture with relatively low barriers to artistic expression and civic engagement, strong support for creating and sharing one’s creations, and some type of informal mentorship whereby what is known by the most experienced is passed along to novices. A participatory culture is also one in which members believe their contributions matter, and feel some degree of social connection with one another'. The point about informal mentorship is particularly interesting from an educational perspective, as this describes a peer-to-peer learning process that many teachers (the good ones at least) would love to see from their students. Other potential benefits of a participatory culture include 'the diversification of cultural expression, the development of skills valued in the modern workplace [see Gee, Hull and Lankshear 1996, 'The New Work Order'], and a more empowered conception of citizenship'. These are all benefits that teachers really ought to be capitalising on, and a game like Welcome to Digitalia might be a useful tool for helping them do this.]

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