Saturday, April 23, 2011

My Foolhardy and Fantastic Project Progresses

This is my reason for creating this blog, this project and what it can lead to in the future. A few weeks ago I posted a little about my current project and it's already out of date, because of good news. Unfortunately that same news is why I haven't posted more about my project, which is that I have more self-funding: more hours at work. That's just one part of what's happened recently.

For those wondering:
Here is the general idea for the project, in normal terms. The main goal is to create an interactive advice system that uses personality typing advice and project advice together, and use that advice to help students see the connections between their interests and learning. That learning includes, but is not limited to school, because there are other things that contribute to being successful, responsible, considerate people.

...

It's a game that advises players how to become better at using their skills and abilities to play the game, with real life applications.

...

Ya, that's a good way to describe it.

Now, here's the financial run down: more work means more money and less time, in a good way. I say that because I should be able to afford the MBTI certification training without any help. Why should you care? Well, it's more expensive, has a limited time window and is better suited to my project, especially since I can take the Keirsey Temperament Sorter Certification any time I can afford it. Technically I should be able to afford both this summer, but they are fairly similar and I've got other preparations to buy.

The second order of business today is to clear up a miscommunication that has happened repeatedly.

This is MY project, and I'm the one doing it.


I feel much better now, because I've asked to "talk" to people "about" my project and been told that they aren't interested or able to take on another project. The thing is, ... well I said it just a moment ago. This is my project, and I'm the one doing it. Seriously, if you have some good ideas or concerns, I'm open to them, but don't think this will become your project, at all. I came up with this project, and am doing it myself, because I've seen way too many such projects run into the ground in ways that seem obvious to me to let somebody else take over and do that to yet another. So, I'm willing to listen, but I'm going to make sure that I can make this work. Okay, I'll move on now.

With the good news and mild rant out of the way, here are a few of the cool things that have happened, besides the financial stuff. I've talked with Dr. Michael Bitz from the Center for Educational Pathways, been given a slightly customized version of the Individual Kit from The Comic Book Project to assist my efforts. Another guy I've been talking with about my project is Howard, a former psychiatrist with similar interests. After talking I found out he had a similar idea years ago, but didn't have the background to make it happen. Just talking with him has been very helpful. Through contact with several people I've found more books I want to buy, eventually, as well as building a list of people who would like updates on the project.

Anyways, this project is, honestly, a stepping stone for further projects and systems. While many find my ideas interesting, they don't see the entire picture. Education needs both scalability and individualized "teaching". It used to be that students had mentors, tutors and masters (when they were apprentices). Now, we are mass fed a standardized set of information to be memorized and replicated. The first is individualized, and the second is scalable to an extent. So, like many others I went looking for a good solution and think that computer technologies can help. However, that's not enough, which is why I'm using the personality typing to take the individualization it makes possible and try to create a scalable system with computers. Yes, I know there is a lot more to this than just that, so let's continue.

* Computers give scalability.

* Personality typing gives individualization.

* Media design gives presentation.

* Game design gives interactivity.

* Personal goals gives relevance.

* Together that should give engagement.

With something like twenty new books bought this year, the certification program and my background, I'm putting everything I have into covering all those points, and more. I'm even considering the possibility of creating comics, online video and a community site on top of blog posts to make this work. I do have some posts planned, and many that I've started in the past that I'd like to finish and post related to this project. Hopefully I'll get to them soon. I should have a new computer coming soon so I won't have to keep borrowing one to blog and do research.

If you are still wondering if I can do this, please consider this last point. I'm buying elbow and wrist supports so I can do better, and more, at work while increasing my ability to work on this project. I'm potentially risking tendinitis just to make this happen. I'm that determined to succeed, and now I'm finally starting to seem some return on my invested effort. At the same time, I'm getting the joint supports as a precaution against injuring myself, so I've got the ambition, determination and the foresight needed.

Have fun, spread the word and tell me what you think,
Igen Oukan

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Friday, April 1, 2011

An April Fool's Errand

A fool's errand is an impossible, or useless, task, and people with birthdays in April are sometimes called April Fools. I'm am such a fool and have what might be considered such a task; mixing personality typing, game/interaction design and programming skills to create an advice system. It's designed to help with problems in school, at work and any other time, based on who you are and how you do things. Some might say this is impossible, or that it's useless for me to try, but I have the will and see a way.

I think most people would agree that people problems get in our way more than any other. With that in mind, and as a game designer interested in human behavior and education/personal development, this seems like a good problem for me to tackle. Others have used a wide variety of solutions to help people with these problems, but we still face miscommunication and personality clashes constantly. So, maybe the problem right now isn't providing a single solution, but to provide people with a personally usable solution. That's where the personality typing comes into play, to describe each person in a way that a computer can understand; like a tag or category. The computer then just compares relevant rankings, like suggesting other products you might be interested in while shopping online.

Another possible reason we still have so many people problems is our reactions to the systems. We could blame the presentations or the people, but either way it's not working. Since I'm an INTJ (http://www.mypersonality.info/personality-types/intj/), that's the part I care about; it doesn't work. As a game designer looking into both media design and cognitive science, improving the presentation is part of my plan, but the personality typing also helps here in smoothing out communication problems. Sometimes it's intentional, but sometimes we don't mean to ignore good advice, or don't see how it is good advice. Sometimes, as I have come to understand, it takes indirect methods to achieve lasting results. That's why I want to help individuals and organizations, through the people in positions of power and those within the organizations.

“It is a paradox of our time that those with power are too comfortable to notice the pain of those who suffer, and those who suffer have no power

To break out of this trap requires, as Elie Wiesel has put it, the courage to speak truth to power.”
- Daniel Goleman, “Vital Lies, Simple Truths” page 14


INTJ's, what Keirsey calls Masterminds, are logical, strategic thinkers who care more about truth than what people say and feel. Regardless of who said, suggested or supports an idea, it either works or it doesn't, it's true or it's false. (Think Batman. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bV3kNKWmIbs) It may depend on the circumstances, but that's life. How people feel and believe may be part of the circumstances it depends on, but it doesn't change the facts. I'm not trying to come up with an in-person solution, but rather an automated solution, a system, based on how people behave. This is one reason why an INTJ, like me, is a good fit for creating the system.

However, lately it has been like all my efforts come to naught. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Unl8l8VdONw) I have plenty of contacts, but until I have something to show, there's not much for them to do to help. I've applied for fellowships and internships, but they apparently had other applicants they preferred.. After seeing the success of Gameful through Kickstarter, I really thought I could do a fund raising project through them, but they said this wasn't a good fit. What came to my rescue was getting a job several months back, which has allowed me to buy a bunch of relevant books and to save up for a personality typing certificate. It also helps that I met a guy willing to give me a helping hand in creating my own fund raising project.

My plan now is to get the Keirsey Temperament Sorter certification, combine that knowledge with my other research to create a prototype framework, offer this help to several groups of people, refine the system through iterative development and then to make the system and results available to the public. That's my plan, because that's what I can afford to do on my own. There are more certifications, trainings, books, tools and even starting up a non-profit that I would like to put money into, to help others and myself.

Here's how I decided on that plan. The most well known system in personality typing, so far as I know is the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. More people know of it and respect it than any other system from what I've heard. There seems to be one opportunity that I can find for me to get certified in the MBTI, a local training at the end of July that costs $1,500. I'll have about $1,000 saved up by then, which is enough to cover the online training program for the KTS, which can be taken anytime, but not enough for the MBTI certification. Since the systems are fairly similar, compatible and complementary, I want to get them both when I have the opportunity. Honestly, this summer seems like the best time, for the project and my other education plans. So, I plan on getting the Keirsey system certification unless I can pay for the MBTI training in time, though both would still be better.

Batman is not such an awesome hero because of his training, resources or opportunities. He's a hero because he uses his abilities, stands up for what's right and never gives up. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EeRELF_9TVM) Albert Einstein claimed to not be particularly smart or talented, but instead to be inquisitive, and to stick with a problem longer than others did. He's thought to be an INTJ, like Batman, and myself. Isabel Briggs Myers, co-author of the MBTI, wrote a book titled “Gifts Differing”. In it she says that INTJs, “Are determined to the point of stubbornness.”, “Are stimulated by difficulties, and most ingenious in solving them.”, and “Are willing to concede that the impossible takes a little longer – but not much.”. She also says that INTJs are very innovative and independent people.

Perhaps this project looks like a fool's errand, but it's my kind of project and I'm putting everything I have into it. Almost all my disposable income and free time are going into this project. My interest and research into both logical fields, like computer science and mathematics, and more intuitive fields, like art and human behavior, lets me see many points of view, which I'm using to design this project. My “official” education is aimed at Computer Science, which is directly applicable to building the systems of this project.

Have fun, spread the word and tell me what you think,
Igen Oukan

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Thursday, December 9, 2010

Jim Groom's Edupunk Digital Storytelling Class

It's been a while since I posted; due to projects, school work and other things; but I break my silence to bring this message, there's plenty of posting to come via Jim Groom's Open Online Digital Storytelling Course. I'm going to try to help get it up and running as one of several who have come running at Jim's request for people who want to help run/develop the open online version of the course he's teaching in person.

As a game designer, digital storytelling is a primary part of my career direction. Audio, visual, graphical, textual, contextual and many more forms are all part of games. Games are even listed in the course syllabus and the Wikipedia page for digital storytelling.

Out of the different things that Jim requested help with, I'm planning to focus on assignment ideas. Mini-games, levels and quests are all like assignments, so I'm going to see what kind of cray ideas I can come up with for Jim's course, and I know he's okay with a little cray. He IS the Edupunk after all.

Honestly, it sounds like a fun group to work with. I think it will be interesting working with a bunch of these people Jim knows, and to see how it affects my game design ideas for educational games.

Have fun, spread the word and tell me what you think,
Igen Oukan

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Monday, April 5, 2010

A Method to Innovate Education Systems

It's probably no surprise that I am interested in innovating education systems, with the title of my blog, Learning Science Meets Game Design, but what about having a plan to get it to happen? Some people try to get it to happen inside the systems, some outside the systems and both have met up against a stout resistance to innovation and change. I think we've be going about this the wrong way. Why try to tackle something so massive and with so much momentum? We've been told repeatedly that what is needed is "proof", so why don't we give it to them? The answer, I'm guessing, is that we don't know how to give them what they want, but I think there is a way, and that's what the rest of this post will discuss.

As a game designer looking at education, I'm struck by the similarity of this problem to that of starting up a game company or hit series of games. We have a bunch of great ideas, but in the game industry those "great ideas" are considered worth less than a dime a dozen. We try to use those ideas, and they kinda work here or there with the help of designers and developers. Sometimes there is marketing and management with a lack of market research or follow through. Ya, that's about what there is in the game industry, and in education innovation. Maybe some of the lessons from the game industry innovation efforts will help education.

First is differentiate. Yes, we need some reason that our stuff is better, but we also need to know some people want that difference. This is a basic principle of selling anything. If nobody is interested in your cool variation, there will be serious problems in the future.

Second is to start small. Building up to the big, awesome, stupendous projects means you have a solid core and foundation to support that big, awesome, stupendous project. Do at a level that you can make it shine.

Third is
to build on your successes, and fourth is to learn from your mistakes. If you do a project, learn from it. Analyze what went well, and what didn't go well. Take that info into consideration when designing, and doing, your next project.

Fifth is to always go for quality over quantity. What ever you do, do it well. Doing it well will bring results. Repeatable results are proof of your ability to deliver those results.

Sixth is to aim for your target demographic. If your target is to help students do better in school, target students. If you want to help the ones who don't do well in school, target them, and work with them.

There are more, but let's take a moment to consider how these first six interact. Starting small, targeting your demographic and aiming for quality over quantity means you are focusing on a manageable number of people, responsibilities and variables. Whatever your results, this will be useful to learn from. While the unique selling points of a project may be set at the start, feedback from actually testing the project will help refine, back-up and verify those points as well as possibly hint towards new points to aim for.

Seventh is to prototype early and often. The above set of interactions shows how the prototyping and testing processes can reveal many useful lessons. Some of those can save a lot of time, money and effort is learned early in the project.

Eighth is to support all people involved. This means students, teachers, policy makers and anybody else interested. Transparency and "customer service" is just a part of the mix. If the project lives or dies based on what people think of it, helping them is related to success.

Ninth is to talk about the project. Share what's going on, good and bad, and most importantly how the project reacts to the events. The growth of the project into something amazing is part of the proof that it works.

Tenth is to always consider emergent behavior possibilities. To do this you have to consider the project, the people involved, the situation and plenty more. However, this is key to really making the project shine and getting the proof needed.

Maybe these aren't written as well as they could be, and there are more lessons to be sure, but these are some we need to consider for proving these projects and ideas are worth implementing. Yet, even that isn't all there is to my "method", as all I've really shared is a list of lessons to help you understand.

The method I see as most effective for actually getting schools to implement great ideas is to do some testing without changing there official schooling. If it works well to help students achieve, then you have grounds to motivate going farther with the ideas, even if it is just the students and their parents. Summer programs, after-school programs, clubs and more could be the vehicle of such attempts. Do the studies, improve the ideas and try again.

Now, there is something we need to leave open to the students, joining. Even if it isn't any more effective, if it gets students to want to join, you have something to study. If students like it, they will talk about it. If you're tracking participation and grades, you might prove something.

Grades are not the only things to record. Get some personality, emotional stability and similar data. Maybe they are working through personal issues rather than improving their grades. Get to know the students and teachers involved, and record what you can about them to find patterns. A better way of teaching may lower grades initially as students change and get used to doing things in new ways.

Culture and views of the projects can make a big difference. What does the group of students think about the project? What do their friends think? What do other teachers and family members think? These are things to consider and shape your communications to help shift.

I'd hoped for a better post, but this is what I have for the moment. I'd love to get some feedback on these thoughts and discuss these and other views. For a look at my own project to innovate education, take a journey over to the Legacy Of Lore project blog.

Have fun, spread the word and tell me what you think,
Igen Oukan

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