Thursday, September 21, 2006

Back to School Night

Here I am, wondering if anyone is going to come up to see my amazing computer lab here at Einstein. I figured since it looks like such an occurrance is unlikely, I'd at least try to get something of some value done. But then I just decided to update my blog.

So I started taking students in the lab this week, and for the most part it's been pretty good. I'm still getting adjusted to the little ones (K - 2) but I think I'm doing okay. At the staff retreat a few weeks ago some of the 1st grade teachers were emphasizing to me how specific I'd need to be with the students. "You've got to tell them EVERYTHING," they'd tell me, eyes widening with each syllable. "How to walk, how to talk, where the bathrooms are...." "Oh, YES! The BATHROOMS, make sure you tell them where the BATHROOMS are," they'd say, lighting into stories of students past who were unable to control their bladder, bowels or both at some point of the school day.

These nightmares got me thinking though. How could I teach the students how to walk? Don't they already know how to walk? Eventually I got the idea to have the students walk "like robots" on the way to and from the lab. They would have to walk with stiff arms and legs and look straight ahead. Of course, the first images that popped into my head when I thought of this were the lines of militant North Korean soldiers high-stepping past Kim Jong Il. That would never do. "Besides," I thought, "what kind of school would this look like to some random bystander who just happened to witness me marching little six year olds through the halls?" I'm sure it isn't the kind of impression that the school is interested in projecting in any case.

Of course, all of this doubting was out the window with my first class of the week. A first grade troop of students quickly taught me exactly how crazy it can get on a simple walk back to the classroom. Not to mislead you, nothing extraordinary happened at all, it was just six year olds being six year olds. Walking without paying attention to where they were going, talking to their friends next to them, chasing after a bug or two enroute....

So with the next class I tried the "robot walk" bit. "There are three things you need to know about robots," I began. "The first is that robots don't talk. 'But Mr. Hartman, Mr. Hartman' you'll say. 'I saw a movie with robots in it and they talked!'" I whined using my best five year old voice. "Those aren't robots, those are CYBORGS! Robots don't talk."

"The second thing you need to know about robots is that they always walk in a straight line. Humans? Humans walk all over the place. They walk left, they walk right, they might even walk in a circle. But robots always walk in a straight line."

"The last thing you need to know about robots is... they have NO elbows! If a robot wants to scratch his head, he has to use his shoulder," I said, my ear rubbing against the sleeve of my shirt.

The kids ate it up, and I had no problems for the rest of the week making all of the students walk like robots to and from the lab. Now, I still kind of worry what it might look like to a random bystander, but I decided that most people, for better or worse, have simply forgotten what it is like to not only have a six year old child around, but to be a six year old child. They simply have the attention span of a gnat, and it is quickly the most infuriating thing in your life to try and get 20 of them to walk in a somewhat organized and timely fashion anywhere without screaming like banshees. I don't think there's a mother in the world that would convict me, but part of me still misses the simplicity of simply asking my 6th graders to just go somewhere and having them do it. -joe

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Okay, so I know it's been a while since I posted, but now that I'm trying to keep a running blog for my new job as the technology guy at Albert Einstein Academy, I thought it wouldn't take much for me to blog some on my own neglected site. I guess this new job is the biggest thing I've got going right now. It seems like it's going to be pretty cool. A new middle school is starting up here this year, so that's always an interesting development to undertake. Thankfully I'm only working with the established elementary staff and students (this year). We'll have to see. I think it is all really interesting to witness (by all, I mean the chaos confusion and utter disorganization that accompanies trying to open a new school). Hopefully if I ever end up starting a school in Africa, I'll be able to dodge some of the more devastating bullets by remembering what I've seen both here and at High Tech. Well, I'd better get started on my other blog for now. Hopefully someone around here will find it useful in some way. Cheers -joe

Monday, March 06, 2006

First day as a noobie

I decided to sign up for a MapleStory account several weeks ago and mentioned the idea to my students, becoming instantly inundated with advice and ideas about what world to play in and what job to take (magician, warrior, thief, or bowman). I even took the time to call my cousin and ask for his advice. It wasn't until nine days ago that I actually signed up for the account though, using a couple of e-mail messages my cousin had written me to guide my decisions. I even gave him a call as I got my username and password, just to make sure I was doing everything ok.
My cousin had mentioned that he could "train" me in the game, but as I began playing I realized that I was stuck on a training level, apart from the main game where he was playing and thus, unable to be "trained" by him. The idea of "training" levels in games is relatively new, a product of the digital native generation. As I child I used to pore over manuals to video games I had just bought in attempts to understand exactly how the game worked and how it was played. Such a resource is rarely necessary in modern video games though, as the manual to play is frequently built into the game's first levels and players are either forced or encouraged to go through some sort of initiation stage to learn the basics of game control and operation.
Believing the training ground to be the only barrier between myself and my "training" at the hands of my cousin, I was overly anxious to leave the training ground and join the main island of players. Had I joined the game without prior knowledge and advice from my students and cousin though, I'm sure I would have been more receptive to the lessons being taught on the training island of MapleStory.
I did learn more about the basic operations of the game in the training ground though, mainly how to complete a quest for a non-player character (NPC) and how the map function operates in the game. I also learned how to use the chat feature of the game as my cousin answered various questions I had about the training island and how to advance to the main island in the game.
When I finally did make it to the main island, I immediately contacted my cousin about training me. He informed that there was a good area to train near Hensys, a town I located on the map and headed towards. On my way to Hensys I passed by several NPCs and talked with them, accepting more quests and learning about which animals I could defeat easily and which were too difficult for me to kill. Playing for only a couple of hours, I quickly learned the controls of the game, strategies for moving within the world, and how to communicate with another player with the game's chat program. The second day I would learn more about the most important aspect of the game: levelling.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Maple Story Week 1

Well, I've just got the green light from my professor to use this blog as data (how often do you get to make up your own data to use in a study?) so I guess I better get to work before I forget too much. I won't waste your time by telling you about the game itself, if you're curious you can read all about it on wikipedia here. The first time I heard about the game was from my aunt, who was appalled by two things about it: one that her two sons (ages 7 and 12) were both so engrossed by it, and two that it was free for them to play. I was familiar with MMORPG's, specifically EverQuest, the attributes of which had been explained to me in minutae by a former co-worker at The Olive Garden several years ago during my table waiting days. When I was a young lad though, one of the main draws for new video games was improved (more realistic) graphics. The fact that EverQuest had an immersible, three dimensional, and fully interactive world with which to engage enabled me to at least somewhat understand the appeal. You can imagine my surprise then, to see MapleStory for the first time as a side scrolling two-dimensional game much closer in visual resemblance to Super Mario Bros. then EverQuest.
"What is the point?" I asked my cousin (age 12)
"There is no point," he explained. "It's for little kids, but it's really addictive."
I lost interest pretty quickly at that point, but each week when I returned for dinner with my family, I noted the absurd amount of time my cousins spent in the game. I may have even asked a few more detailed questions of my cousin in attempts to better understand the game, but the truth is that the idea of interacting with dozens ( much less hundreds or thousands) of people at the same time was intimidating to me.
"What will they think of me? Will I be a joke? Will I be ridiculed?" were all thoughts that passed through my head while merely thinking about playing the game. I should explain that I'm not a very competitive person by nature, but I don't like losing either, and the idea of a game where there aren't any losers was still difficult for me to grasp. I suppose the reason I was hesitant to join the game earlier (aside from being very busy) is similar to the reason I don't start surfing: I don't want to go through the "newbie" period that all beginners must suffer through.
What finally grabbed my attention with MapleStory though was when I noticed how many of my 6th grade students were involved in the game. At that point I started asking my cousins more about the game and when the opportunity came up to do a case study for my Ed 690 class, I immediately thought of MMORPG's and MapleStory. I'll post more tomorrow about my first day as a Mapler. -joe

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Maple Story

Well, it seems as though another project for me to blog about has entered my life. This time the culprit is the popular MMORPG (massive multiplayer online role playing game) Maple Story. A couple of days ago I joined the game as part of a Case Study I'll be producing for my Introduction to Evaluative Research class. I meant to start blogging my experiences as soon as I signed up, and now that I think about it I probably should have started blogging about it all as soon as I thought of the idea. Now I've already reached Level 7 and I still haven't said a thing. I'll do my best to remedy that situation as soon as possible. -joe