Monday, July 29, 2013

Nomic: Interactive Gaming Online and Off

Peter Suber in Golm bei Potsdam
Peter Suber in Golm bei Potsdam
I am looking at games that can be used in online classes that are interactive, engaging and promote collaboration. In online classes, the research says that there is a direct correlation between interactivity in an online class and student success and retention. Games are one way to address the student success and retention issue. Nomic, a game I used in my English classes, is definitely one of those games that are very engaging. The game is very useful at the beginning of the semester because students learn a lot about one another, how to work together in groups, self-organization, and what skills one needs to work effectively in groups. They also learn a little bit about politics and creating decision making processes. There are Nomic games that start out with a lot of rules and there are those that start out with a minimal set.

Peter Suber, the inventor of Nomic, wrote “If law-making is a game, then it is a game in which changing the rules is a move.” (This is from the appendix to his book The Paradox of Self-Amendment: A Study of Law, Logic, Omnipotence, and Change (1990).) A version also appears in Douglas Hofstader's excellent book Metamagical Themas.  Nomic attempts to model the self-amending character of a legal system. Self-amendment is only a small part of any set of laws, but capturing it in a game can create a useful model of a functional legal system.

Rules are made by a rule-governed process that itself is governed by rules. The process of making and changing rules can effect some of the rules that govern the process rule-changing itself. Peter Suber calls this the “paradox of self-amendment.”

In a legislative body, like the U.S. Congress, most of the rules that govern the making of laws are constitutional and beyond the reach of the power they govern. Congress can change its parliamentary rules, committee structure, and irrevocably bind its future action by its past action, but through mere statutes it cannot override a presidential veto, abolish one of its houses, start a tax bill in the Senate, or even delegate too much of its power to experts.

When a conflict exists between different laws, the constitutional rules always prevail. This logical difference is matched by a political difference: the logically prior (constitutional) rules are more difficult to amend than the logically posterior (statutory) rules. That these two differences occur together is not accidental. One purpose of making some rules more difficult to change than others is to prevent a brief wave of fanaticism from undoing decades or centuries of refined structure. It is self-paternalism, our chosen insurance against our anticipated weak moments.

Below is an example of how we played Nomic in class. It was meant to take place in a single class meeting face-to-face (hence the short version of the rules) but it tended to go on longer, especially hybrid courses where students could resume the game online in a discussion forum. You will want to read Peter Suber's appendix to his book (actually the whole book is great) and decide for yourself what should be included in a minimal set of rules. I printed everything below this for the class:

Playing the Game 

You should have three or more players. More players is better. Players may use paper and pencil, note cards, e-mail, or any method of recording and managing information. Players suggest and vote on proposed rule changes. Assigning points can be based on a set amount of points given to participants for each rule passed or any other method voted on (rolling of a die, for instance). Each player should have a copy of the Initial Set of Rules to consult. The set includes Immuntable Rules (unchangeable) and Mutable Rules (changeable). New proposals for rule-changes can be written on index cards or on scratch paper. For a blog, rules can be emailed to the moderator or posted as comments, and then he or she can post updated rules to the blog as they are voted in. The participants can also vote on the proposed rules via comments.


 Play one game. Ironically, you may need to make meta-rules beforehand (choose a scribe and/or a judge, how long should the game be, how shall it be played, etc.). Afterwards, write a short essay describing the experience. What did you learn about the rule-making process? What kinds of rules were useful? How well did your group work together?

Nomic: A Minimal Set of Initial Rules 

 Immutable Rules 

 101. The purpose of the game is to change the rules. A rule-change is any of the following:

  • the enactment, repeal, or amendment of a mutable rule;  
  • the enactment, repeal, or amendment of an amendment of a mutable rule; or 
  • the transmutation of an immutable rule into a mutable rule or vice versa. 

 102. Initially rules in the 100's are immutable and rules in the 200's are mutable. In a conflict between a mutable and an immutable rule, the immutable rule takes precedence and the mutable rule shall be entirely void. For the purposes of this rule a proposal to transmute an immutable rule does not "conflict" with that immutable rule.

103. Each proposed rule-change shall be given a number for reference. The numbers shall begin with 301, and each rule-change proposed in the proper way shall receive the next successive integer, whether or not the proposal is adopted. A note at the end of the rule entry will record the vote for or against adoption

104. Every player is an eligible voter. Every eligible voter must participate in every vote on rule-changes. Each player always has exactly one vote.

105. All proposed rule-changes shall be written down before they are voted on. If they are adopted, they shall guide play in the form in which they were voted on.

106. There must always be at least one mutable rule. The adoption of rule-changes must never become completely impermissible.

107. Whatever is not prohibited or regulated by a rule is permitted and unregulated, with the sole exception of changing the rules, which is permitted only when a rule or set of rules explicitly or implicitly permits it.

108. An adopted rule-change takes full effect at the moment of the completion of the vote that adopted it. No rule-change may take effect earlier than the moment of the completion of the vote that adopted it, even if its wording explicitly states otherwise. No rule-change may have retroactive application.

109. Adding or changing mutable rules requires a simple majority vote. Changing immutable rules to mutable requires a unanimous vote.

110. If a rule-change as proposed is unclear, ambiguous, paradoxical, or destructive of play, or if it arguably consists of two or more rule-changes compounded or is an amendment that makes no difference, or if it is otherwise of questionable value, then the other players may suggest amendments or argue against the proposal before the vote. A reasonable time must be allowed for this debate. The proponent decides the final form in which the proposal is to be voted on and, unless a Judge has been asked to do so, also decides the time to end debate and vote.

Mutable Rules 

 201. Players shall alternate in clockwise order, taking one whole turn apiece. Turns may not be skipped or passed, and parts of turns may not be omitted. All players begin with zero points. In email and computer games, players shall alternate in alphabetical order by surname.

202. Players shall chose a Judge by simple majority vote. The Judge shall also record rules and votes.

203. One turn consists of proposing one rule-change and having it voted on.

204. When a proposed rule-change is adopted, the player who proposed it gains n points.

205. If a rule-change does not pass a vote, the player who proposed it loses n points.

206. The winner is the first player to achieve n (positive) points wins.

207. At no time may there be more than n mutable rules.

208. If the rules are changed so that further play is impossible, or if the legality of a move cannot be determined with finality, or if by a judge's best reasoning, not overruled, a move appears equally legal and illegal, then the player with the most points at that turn wins.

209. If two or more mutable rules conflict with one another, or immutable rules conflict with one another, then the rule with the lowest ordinal number takes precedence.

210. If players disagree about the legality of a move or the interpretation or application of a rule, then players may invoke Judgment. When Judgment has been invoked, the next player may not begin his or her turn without the consent of a majority of the other players.

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Friday, July 26, 2013

OER: Possible Resources for Biology - Human Anatomy & Physiology

human anatomy
human anatomy (Photo credit: Shira Golding)
These are some possible resources for developing our own textbook and course for anatomy and physiology. I will use this wiki this summer to sort through some biology textbooks and OERs for possible use in BIOL 102 Human Biology. Remember that since these are openly licensed we can mix these materials anyway we want to meet your course goals and objectives. I will also be looking at possible lab kits and other solutions.

Open Textbooks
  • OpenStax - OpenStax textbooks are freely available in .pdf and they also have a low-cost, print-on-demand option.
  • WikiBooks
  • Boundless
  • Open Learning Initiative (Carnegie Mellon University) Their textbook is in their class. You can access it as a guest by clicking on the blue "Enter Course" button
Open Education Resources (OER)
Open Courses
  • Saylor Foundation
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Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Four Steps to Getting MOOCs Right

Betonwerksteinskulptur "Lehrer-Student&qu...
"Lehrer-Student" von Reinhard Schmidt
in Rostock (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I love alarming education headlines - five MOOC classes are put on hold and the San Francisco Chronicle says "San Jose suspends online courses." Which it didn't - it suspended five MOOC courses because of a high student failure rate. San Jose's online college is still going forward. And they are right to suspend the classes. I just wish more work went into how those courses were put together (if only for the sake of the students). These classes are not so far out on the cutting edge that one couldn't predict that there would be problems. The MOOCs at San Jose are nothing new - even the failure rate is nothing new. All of the research into how to make online classes successful, including MOOCs is already in place. Educators have been researching successful online programs since the 90s. There are very clear reasons why the best online programs succeed. My own work in community colleges in closing the student success and retention rates between online and face-to-face classes dealt with similar issues. What we learned about online classes, big and small, was that they will not succeed for any population, at-risk or otherwise without these four things in place:

  1. Interactivity and Engagement - There is a direct correlation in the research between online interactivity and student success rates. Interactivity means "meaningful, purposeful, engagement" not just clicking on the play button. Interactivity means teacher-student, student-student, and student-content. And yes, there are ways to do this successfully in a MOOC (step 1, hire an instructional designer!). There needs to be more emphasis in MOOCs on collaborative projects and less"watch a video, take a test." This distinction is easily made when you look at connectivist cMOOCs versus xMOOCs
  2. Student Support - If your face-to-face students can't be successful without tutors, academic advisors, a help desk, and librarians, why would you expect your online students to be successful without them? There are tutoring services on your campus and great peer-to-peer tutoring resources online such as OpenStudy
  3. Student Orientation - Students have spent 12 years learning how to be a face-to-face student and 0 years learning how to be an online student. This is an easy fix. We did it in the community colleges with courses like "DE 101." Things that make students successful in online classes include time management, study skills, motivation, and other metacognitive skills that can be taught. Online learning is not just about technology.
  4. Faculty Training - The same magic that makes someone a teacher instantly when they get their master's degree does not work online. Just as students need to learn the skills to be an online student, teachers need to learn the skills to facilitate online teaching. Recording your lecture and posting it online will not work. There are a lot of resources, classes, and research online on this subject
So interestingly enough, there are no real differences in how classes online or off are successful! I have been in online classes, including MOOCs that had all of this in place: the assignments were designed to be collaborative and engaging, there were links to student support, there was sufficient information to tell students how to take the class, and the instructors were skilled online facilitators, curators, and guides. A college does not have to ignore 20 years of research into online learning to be innovative.
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Friday, July 12, 2013

Mobytes Instructional Design App

English: This is Juniper Hall at Humboldt Stat...
Juniper Hall at Humboldt State University.
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
One of our technologically ever-vigilant instructional designers here at Humboldt State (Kim Vincent-Layton) shared an interesting Android app with us the other day - Mobytes Instructional Design App. The app is a handy collection of articles and templates on instructional design. What is a "mobyte"? A mobyte is a "just-in-time chunk of learning designed for just-enough knowledge to learn or apply while performing a task. It can be used for learning from scratch, refreshing and updating knowledge while on the move." I like this app because it covers, at a basic level, the current understanding and definition of instructional design that any student of education would find in a instructional design class. I would like to share this app with administrators and teachers to help promote a deeper understanding of instructional design and its possibilities. The author, Madhuri Dubey, has distilled five topics into the app:
  • Instructional Design (ID) basics 
  • Evolution and application 
  • Learning theory and styles 
  • Instructional theory 
  • Getting started with ID 
This reference would be useful for instructional design teams to all get on the same page as well as for instructors who would find it useful for a better understanding how teaching and learning work. It covers Gagne, ADDIE, Clark, Merrill, Bloom's and the usual suspects.

If you are not an Android phone person, much of the information here is available on Madhuri Dubey's blog.
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Monday, July 01, 2013

RIP Google Reader; Long Live Feedly!

Today is the last day of Google Reader. Many of you may not know about it which explains some of why it is going away. It is not the flashiest RSS aggregator out there but certainly the most functional and useful: qualities not valued much in our post-iPad world. I explored a lot of options - there are some articles at the bottom of this post that point to some reviews. I found that this reader was the one that best integrated with my Android phone, iPad, and the Chrome browser. I liked that all I had to do was log-in with my old Google Reader credentials to get it to work.

This was my old Google Reader:

This is my new Feedly reader:

I am now an iPad user and I will say that the Feedly interface is superior to most readers on the iPad, but I am still willing to experiment. If you have a tool that you think we absolutely must try, feel free to email me or post a comment here below. I would also recommend checking out Stephen Downes posting on this if you have not checked it out yet - and if you haven't - you should think about getting a feed reader to manage all those blog posts you haven't read!

In the meantime, past Google Reader users, check out Feedly, they will be expecting you.

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Learning Analytics Summer Institute

English: Picture of Marist College Student Center.
Marist College Student Center.
(Photo credit: 
Although this is really short notice on my part, I like to post professional development opportunities on this blog to help support our faculty and instructional designers. I have been interested in learning analytics since I was up in Washington State at Tacoma Community College where we started working with the Angel learning management system. At the time, it seemed to have a lot of analytics capabilities built in. I continued that work at College of the Redwoods where we partnered with Josh Baron at Marist College and participated in a Next Generation Learning Challenges learning analytics grant. Here is the latest from Stanford this summer:

George Siemens posted this to his blog:

"...Next week, we (SoLAR, IEDMS and others) are organizing a Learning Analytics Summer Institute (LASI). A call for attendance was held earlier this year and the event was/is (massively) oversubscribed. We were only able to accept 100 attendees due to space and cost constraints. Since then, we have heard from numerous disappointed individuals. In response, LASI is organizing a series of local events and live-streamed keynotes.

We have an outstanding program:
Monday, July 1, 2013
Tuesday, July 2, 2013
Wednesday, July 3, 2013
Thursday, July 4, 2013
Friday, July 5, 2013
How to join us:
1. Information on joining the live stream:
2. Join the LASI Ning
3. Join any of our local LASI events from around the world
4. Join the distributed conversation on Twitter/your blog/wherever: #LASI13
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