Mob Solves AIDS Puzzle

AIDS researchers have spent ten years trying to map a protein enzyme of the AIDS virus. A complete view of the protein will give researchers a window into how the virus works and thus enable them to create better, more effective drugs. A group from the University of Washington turned the problem into a competitive game and handed it over to gamers.

The gamers solved the puzzle and mapped the protein in three short weeks. (link is a pdf of the article) A program called Foldit was used to turn the problem into a game. Seth Cooper, co-creator of Foldit, was quoted saying:

People have spatial reasoning skills, something computers are not yet good at. Games provide a framework for bringing together the strengths of computers and humans. The results in this week’s paper show that gaming, science and computation can be combined to make advances that were not possible before.

There are two things that I find interesting about this discovery. One, that humans brains succeeded where computer modeling failed. Two, that a group of gamers spent three weeks solving something ten years of toil by traditional methods could not untangle. Computer modeling is very useful and important, but sometimes we forget that humans are very smart and capable of more than we know. We also forget that sometimes a different approach and a different viewpoint are all we need to find our way out of the woods. That and a mob of dedicated people working to solve the problem with us.

–Jane, prefers first person RPGs

GLaDOS Bakes a Cake

Being the person in the family that bakes is fun, except on my birthday. Then I have to decide if I am going to bake my own cake or if I am going to save the time and mess and buy one. I have until Wednesday to decide. Perhaps, I will just listen to GLaDOS sing me a song about a cake.

Best end to a game ever.

–Jane, to the people who are still alive

DASH Puzzle Hunt

Some of my good friends are helping to organize the DASH Puzzle Hunt in Houston, TX on September 13th. If you have always wanted to do a puzzle hunt, there is no time like the present.

DASH will be simultaneously occurring in Boston, MA; Washington, DC; Houston, TX; Los Angeles, CA; Palo Alto, CA; San Francisco, CA; Portland, OR; and Seattle, WA.

I am not great with puzzle games. I am a better cheerleader and support person.

–Jane, requires patience, the puzzles

James Paul Gee and the New Equity Crisis

James Paul Gee
Libraries, Gaming, and the New Equity Crisis

[This guy really blew me away. He really makes me want to change the way we are teaching our kids and made me think about things I want to do with my own kids. I felt like he was really calling us to rethink the way we do learning in libraries. I want to try to find ways to use gaming strategies in my Information Literacy sessions. You can find a list of his books on Amazon.]

The Gaps
Literacy gap – no longer a sufficient condition, it is a must.
Applications gap – kids being unable to apply the knowledge they have
Knowledge gap
Tech savvy gap – you are not afraid of technical stuff, including equations, and you can use technology productively to solve stuff. If you are not tech savvy on any level you will be unable to be successful in a developed country
Innovation gap – every job that is beyond the basic is outsourced so only innovative people will survive in our society

What predicts success for 1st grade?
Early literacy at home

What about 4th grade?
Kindergarten Vocabulary
The language of schooling is not the same as regular English.
[that is interesting]

Kids still learn complicated languages in games. The examples are Yu Gi-O cards, but these kids still struggle with academic language in school. Capitalist learned that complicated language is hard only in school. Companies have been forced to discover learning principles and then applying them to games. We have, in our games, better learning principles then we have in schools.

Learning Principles from Games:

Ask yourself these questions while I tell you the principles:
a) do you think it is good?
b) should we put it in school?

1 – Lower the consequences of failure
The cost is not so large that you fail right away. You can always start over and learn something new by doing it a different way.
IDEO – Fail early, Fail often.

2 – Performance before competence
You have to play a game [and be bad at it] to learn how to be competent at the game. In school, you would get a textbook to read. You learn by performance. Most things in life are this way.

3- Players high on the agency tree.
Your choices and decisions in a game really matter. Choices can make the game play different from everyone around you. When your choices matter, your commitment to the game is higher.

4 – Problems are well ordered.
Immerse people in rich environments, but they have to be given directions. Order the problems so that the problems they solve at the beginning will teach them things they will need to solve more complex problems later.

5 – Cycles of challenge, consolidations, and new challenge. (expertise)
This cycle has to be present for people to be experts in anything. They have to be given a problem that they can master and eventually have automatic mastery. Then, you give them a problem where that knowledge no longer works and they have to solve a new problem. In a game, this is called the Boss.

6- Stay within, but at the outer edge, of the player’s “regime of competence.”
Pleasantly frustrating. Games keep cycling you into the circle of flow where you are always challenged, but that you can still achieve success.

7 – Encourage players to think about systems and relationships, not just isolated facts.
Games force you to keep in mind a huge set of variables, like Civ, where everything you do affects everyone else in the world. We can not make decisions in isolation. We do not teach our leaders to do this well.

8 – Empathy for a complex system.
A game is a simulation where you are in it. This gives you empathy for the system.

9 – Give verbal information “just in time”- when players need and can use it – or “demand” when the players ask for it.
[You never read the manual unless you need something right then.]

10 – Situate (“show”) the meanings of words and symbols and show how they carry across different actions, images, and dialogues.
Don’t just offer words for words. Education does not do this, it is just words in a textbook. A good theory of literacy – you shouldn’t read manuals. The only thing hard about academic language is that there are no pictures, motions, and actions to which kids can relate the information being thrown at them.

11- Modding attitude
Games come with the software that allows kids to modify and change their games to create something new.

12- Assessment
We have to change the way we do assessment. Games give assessment all the time. Charts in Civ that track your progress against your opponents. It makes McGraw Hill look sick. The graphs in Civ are clearly for them.

Chicago, Milwaukee, and some Librarians Playing Games

I am messing around with the Twitter plugin for WP, so those of you that got a slew of twits via RSS, pardons! I will have my twits coming here in some fashion, digest or individually for the conference.

Tomorrow morning, I leave for the Gaming, Learning, and Libraries Symposium in Chicago. I am making a detour to Milwaukee to visit family. It should be fun. Do not worry; there will be pictures.

I am taking along three books (The Brazen Careerist, Fool Moon, and Datacloud), a computer full of downloaded feeds (thanks to Google Gears), a couple writing assignments, and a desire for Guitar Hero. If you are going to the Symposium, come say howdy. I may be entrusted with a voice recorder for official purposes, so you can hear your voice online if you let me interview you.

-Jane, ready to go

Video Games @ Your Library

Mr. Rochester sent me an article from Gamespot while I was gone about Campbell County Public Library (last time I tried their website was down) in Kentucky that has started adding family friendly video games to their collection. He was surprised that this is a new concept. It does seem like the logical step, but that does not mean libraries are quick to make it.

What a great way to preview a game before buying it. I check out hardbacks from the library to see if I like it before purchasing my own copy, especially if it is an author that is new to me or that I am not head over heels for.

I know that the public library a worked for a few years ago did not have video games. Does anyone know of any systems that have a robust collection of games?

–Jane, maybe she could move there