Whenever I find myself bleary-eyed after hours of clubbing virtual bunnies in order to level my bunny clubbing skill, I can’t help but think how industrious I would be if there were meaningless virtual rewards attached to my actual real-world activities. That may sound like sarcasm, but sadly, it’s true.
Game Elements for Learning is an upcoming “mini-MOOC” running for four weeks starting on July 1st. It’s aimed at educators, primarily those teaching online, who want to integrate game elements in their courses. And if I can actually pull myself away from building my virtual library in Skyrim for a few hours a week this summer, I might drop in and check it out myself…
The Where, The Why and the How: 75 Artists Illustrate Wondrous Mysteries of Science
If you liked Fantagraphics ornate-yet-hip bestiary Beasts! and you find yourself pondering such unknowables as “why do we have an appendix?” or “what existed before the Big Bang?” then hie thee to the library—pronto—to check out The Where, the Why, and the How: 75 Artists Illustrate Wondrous Mysteries of Science.
Although the foreword by David “The Way Things Work” Macaulay might seem to imply the sort of exploded diagrams and exhaustively detailed explanations that made his books so popular in the 90s, the execution of The Where, the Why, and the How is much more Beasts-like. That is to say, you won’t walk away with any clearer sense of what’s behind some of science’s greatest mysteries (for instance how stars are born, or why do whales beach themselves) but you will be introduced to each concept by a specialist in that field and a graphic artist’s exquisite interpretation of said mystery.
Some illustrations are charmingly direct—for instance “Do Squirrels Remember Where They Bury Their Nuts” is accompanied by a picture of a squirrel studying a road map—and others are as evocative as they are clever—an elephant using a feather to fly in “Why Do Placebos Work?”. In the end, despite the cross section on the cover, The Where, the Why, and the How is no good at dissecting anything with great certainty, but it excels in showing that there is great beauty and possibility in all the things we do not yet know.
The day when cheap nerds everywhere get showered with the gift of free comics. There’s a preview on the official Free Comic Book Day website of this years offerings. I definitely hope this weekend to fetch me some Mouse Guard, maybe some Judge Dredd (and try to expunge from my memory the horror of last year’s attempt at cinematic adaptation).
ETA: NPR has a “Free Comic Book Day Cheat Sheet” with recommendations of what to pick up this weekend. But, for the record, I liked comics before they were cool.
I figure at least some of you young’uns play Zork ironically these days, so I may not need to explain what the hell interactive fiction games are. But back in the day, a lot of our computer games were little more than digital Choose-Your-Own-Adventure novels. Yes, days ago in yesteryear, we had to read our games.
Well, one enterprising high-school English teacher is sowing a whole new crop of old-school nerdery, teaching creative writing by having his students create text-based, interactive games. You can see (and play) the students’ games on this thread. Sadly, I tried a few and found no grues, but I appreciate the effort.
School Library Journal has an interesting article on school libraries running Minecraft servers for student clubs. And given the number of people I’ve seen playing Minecraft at the public library with their meager one hour allotment of computer time, I imagine this could easily be ported to public libraries as well.
I’ll fully admit that I’ve been skeptical of the educational merit of computer games on the whole, but Minecraft actually has some neat things going for it, in case you need to persuade a recalcitrant administrator. Just getting one’s head around Redstone Circuits alone provides a basic foundation for logic, electronics, computer programming, and, OMG, Boolean operators.
C’mon, librarians, if you can’t sell the higher ups on Boolean operators, hang up your MLIS, dust off your resumé, and find a new career. Besides, you know, you can make the kids check out some books and shit when they come to use your computers.