Multi-media, multi-technology, radically distributed. The community has a presence in youtube videos and live streaming, on reddit and on wikis and several different message boards and fan pages devoted to discussing both the game and the community around it. There’s also ingame team chat channels, messaging services, and so on. No central authority or necessary package of tools, but a few major hubs of activity across a variety of media and contexts.
Learning is situated within this social context among recognizable personalities (if not genuine ‘celebrities’), which provides standards for excellence, personality, authority and social organization, interpersonal and team drama, art and music, and all the other markings of culture. Within this context, players discuss the “metagame”, which refers to the changing style of gameplay over time as new tricks and techniques are discovered and become widely adopted, and engage in “theorycrafting”, whereby they reason about strategies and tactics, comment on tournament results and rankings and game balance, and so on. In the process, the gamers not only disseminate existing knowledge, but generate new knowledge in the process. The results of this self-motivated, situated learning are very promising. If these gamers were teaching themselves to play chess or any athletic sport, we’d all be very impressed. In fact, these kids have learned to play games that are just as strategically difficult and impressive
Learning in this context takes both public and private forms. According to Kow (2013), novices tend to learn best from public media and coaching, while more experienced players tend to form private (or professional) clubs with peer groups in which information is exchanges and practiced at higher levels.
Beyond static resources like wikis and youtube videos, players are actively streaming their games at all hours, with international success, at all levels of play including streaming paid novice coaching sessions. Top players are accessible and practice openly in public to very high viewership ratings (sometimes breaking tens of thousands of simultaneous viewers) and lots of community interaction. Lower ranked pros and semi pros have greater or lesser viewership depending not only on the quality of their play, but also on their personality and social notoriety within the community, reinforcing the situatedness of the learning environment. But a number of public streamers are novices, training to get better and potentially break into the community spotlight. In addition, a few “educational streams” have started with explicitly educational functions. For instance, Day has a regular daily stream where he teaches the audience to “be a better gamer”, with tips and analysis to help audiences of all skill levels. It turns the context into an explicitly educational, but the usefulness of the stream has also made it extremely popular, and has turned Day into a community celebrity and respected authority.
Learning as a community: Scarlett, a transgendered gamer, has received huge community success despite the traditionally hostile attitude among gamers. This has been the result of both financial pressure from sponsors, visible instances of punishment of community members for hostile or offensive language, and self-policing from more visible members of the community. It demonstrates “unintentional learning” as a byproduct of community organization only indirectly related to the the self-motivated rewards of gaming
Contrast these features with MOOCs as currently implements:
- Relies on traditional educational contexts and styles to situate the learning. This context may be more or less familiar to students, with little social resources to acclimate students to the educational environment who aren’t familiar with traditional educational contexts.
- Relies on centralized technological platforms, often through one-way channels of discussion within narrow social context.
- Depends on self-motivated learners with nothing to reinforce that motivation
- No continuous, live support. No personalities except academics. No examples of expert performance to emulate or active peers to learn from. No opportunities for occupying the spotlight or potential for making a career from the effort.
Google HelpOuts may provide a platform that can assist the existing MOOC structure. HelpOuts are hangouts with educational focus, learning guitar or a language or math tutoring for a small fee
- While not everyone is a recognized expert able to give a world-class lecture, we have lots of people able to assist in the educational process in these streaming, coaching, and support roles
- Helpouts needs a community context and self-motivated culture to reinforce the learning that this technology allows.