What We Can Learn From Games

11 10 2009

by Ben Bishop

I came across an interesting article in the Idaho Statesman two days ago. It was a great article on teaching math to students and one of the final points was to play games that emphasized math like Monopoly or Risk. I am glad that any game can be used to teach concepts; however that seems to be an oversimplification of the potential of a game. If that is all a game is (a conceptual teaching tool) then the higher levels of Bloom’s famous taxonomy are not being reached at all. I can see games like Snakes and Ladders being used for this purpose (after all that is basically a counting game) but doing this is a higher grade class like 6th grade would turn me off of math and games in general.Games are expressions of the struggles we face, a miniature version of reality without the painful loss. If they are used like a set of flash cards then the purpose is lost. Yes, I’ll learn about probability when I roll the dice, I’ll learn about trivia when I play a question game, etc… It’s the participation of play that teaches me not just the memorization of facts and figures.Here’s a link to an article that says about the same thing but in a more logical manner:
http://www.thegamesjournal.com/articles/Ethics5.shtml

Till next time,
Ben Bishop

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Life Lessons from Chess

4 10 2009
 The following is an essay by Benjamin Franklin on chess. 

THE GAME OF CHESS is not merely an idle amusement; several very valuable qualities of the mind, useful in the course of human life, are to be acquired and strengthened by it, so as to become habits ready on all occasions; for life is a kind of Chess, in which we have often points to gain, and competitors or adversaries to contend with, and in which there is a vast variety of good and ill events, that are, in some degree, the effect of prudence, or the want of it. By playing at Chess then, we may learn:

 

1st, Foresight, which looks a little into futurity, and considers the consequences that may attend an action; for it is continually occurring to the player, “If I move this Piece, what will be the advantage or disadvantage of my new situation? What use can my adversary make of it to annoy me? What other moves can I make to support it, and to defend myself from his attacks?”

 

2d, Circumspection, which surveys the whole Chess-board, or scene of action: – the relation of the several Pieces, and their situations; the dangers they are repeatedly exposed to; the several possibilities of their aiding each other; the probabilities that the adversary may make this or that move, and attack this or that Piece; and what different means can be used to avoid his stroke, or turn its consequences against him.

 

 

3d, Caution, not to make our moves too hastily. This habit is best acquired by observing strictly the laws of the game; such as, if you touch a Piece, you must move it somewhere; if you set it down, you must let it stand.

 

 

Therefore, it would be the better way to observe these rules, as the game becomes thereby more the image of human life, and particularly of war; in which if you have incautiously put yourself into a bad and dangerous position, you cannot obtain your enemy’s leave to withdraw your troops, and place them more securely, but you must abide by all the consequences of your rashness.

 

 

And lastly, we learn by Chess the habit of not being discouraged by present bad appearances in the state of our affairs; the habit of hoping for a favorable chance, and that of persevering in the search of resources. The game is so full of events, there is such a variety of turns in it, the fortune of it is so subject to vicissitudes, and one so frequently, after contemplation, discovers the means of extricating one’s self from a supposed insurmountable difficulty, that one is encouraged to continue the contest to the last, in hopes of victory from our skill; or, at least, from the negligence of our adversary: and whoever considers, what in Chess he often sees instances of, that success is apt to produce presumption and its consequent inattention, by which more is afterwards lost than was gained by the preceding advantage, while misfortunes produce more care and attention, by which the loss may be recovered, will learn not to be too much discouraged by any present successes of his adversary, nor to despair of final good fortune upon every little check he receives in the pursuit of it.

That we may therefore, be induced more frequently to choose this beneficial amusement in preference to others, which are not attended with the same advantages, every circumstance that may increase the pleasure of it should be regarded; and every action or word that is unfair, disrespectful, or that in any way may give uneasiness, should be avoided, as contrary to the immediate intention of both the parties, which is, to pass the time agreeable.

1st, Therefore, if it is agreed to play according to the strict rules, then those rules are to be strictly observed by both parties; and should not be insisted upon for one side, while deviated from by the other: for this is not equitable.

2d, If it is agreed not to observe the rules exactly, but one party demands indulgences, he should then be as willing to allow them to the other.

3d, No false move should ever be made to extricate yourself out of a difficulty, or to gain an advantage; for there can be no pleasure in playing with a man once detected in such unfair practice.

4th, If your adversary is long in playing, you ought not to hurry him, or express any uneasiness at his delay; not even by looking at your watch, or taking up a book to read: you should not sing, nor whistle, nor make a tapping with your feet on the floor, or with your fingers on the table, nor do anything that may distract his attention: for all these displease, and they do not prove your skill in playing, but your craftiness and your rudeness.

5th, You ought not to endeavor to amuse and deceive your adversary by pretending to have made bad moves; and saying you have now lost the game, in order to make him secure and careless, and inattentive to your schemes; for this is fraud and deceit, not skill in the game of Chess.

6th, You must not, when you have gained a victory, use any triumphing or insulting expressions, nor show too much of the pleasure you feel; but endeavor to console your adversary, and make him less dissatisfied with himself by every kind and civil expression that may be used with truth; such as, you understand the game better than I, but you are a little inattentive, or, you play too fast; or, you had the best of the game, but something happened to divert your thoughts, and that turned it in my favor.

7th, If you are a spectator, while others play, observe the most perfect silence: for if you give advice, you offend both the parties: him against whom you give it, because it may cause him to lose the game: him in whose favor you give it, because, though it be good, and he follow it, he loses the pleasure he might have had, if you had permitted him to think till it occurred to himself. Even after a move or moves, you must not, by replacing the Pieces, show how they might have been placed better; for that displeases, and might occasion disputes or doubts about their true situation.

 

All talking to the players lessens or diverts their attention; and is, therefore, unpleasing; nor should you give the least hint to either party, by any kind of noise or motion; if you do, you are unworthy to be a spectator.

If you desire to exercise or show your judgment, do it in playing your own game, when you have an opportunity, not in criticizing or meddling with, or counseling the play of others.

 

Lastly, If the game is not to be played rigorously, according to the rules before mentioned, then moderate your desire of victory over your adversary, and be pleased with one over yourself.

 

 

Snatch not eagerly at every advantage offered by his unskilfulness or inattention; but point out to him kindly, that by such a move he places or leaves a Piece en prise unsupported; that by another, he will put his King into a dangerous situation, &c.

 

By this general civility (so opposite to the unfairness before forbidden) you may happen indeed to lose the game; but you will win what is better, his esteem, his respect, and his affection; together with the silent approbation and the good will of the spectators.

When a vanquished player is guilty of an untruth to cover his disgrace, as “I have not played so long, – his method of opening the game confused me, – the men were of an unusual size,” &c all such apologies, (to call them no worse) must lower him in a wise person’s eyes, both as a man and a Chess-player; and who will not suspect that he who shelters himself under such untruths in trifling matters, is no very sturdy moralist in things of greater consequence, where his fame and honor are at stake? A man of proper pride would scorn to account for his being beaten by one of these excuses, even were it true; because they have all so much the appearance, at the moment, of being untrue.

 

 Author: Benjamin Franklin




Quotations About Humor

25 09 2009

Almost all new ideas have a certain aspect of foolishness when they are first produced

           -Alfred North Whitehead

 

People do not quit playing because they grow old.  They grow old because they quit playing

    -Oliver Wendell Holmes

 

You don’t stop laughing because you grow old, you grow old because you stop laughing.

  -Michael Pritchard

 

You cannot deal with the most serious things in the world unless you understand  the amusing

  -Winston Churchill

 

Sometimes you’re the bug, sometimes you’re the windshield.

     -Unknown

 

Comedy is for those who think and a tragedy is for those who feel.

-Horace Walpole

 

Wrinkles merely indicate where smiles have been.

-Mark Twain

 

Laughter is the shortest distance between two people.

-Victor Borge

 

When humor goes, there goes civilization.

-Erma  Bombeck

 

Mirth is God’s medicine

-Henry Beecher

 

Among those whom I like, I can find no common denominator: but among those I love, I can: all of them make me laugh.

-W. H. Auden

  

Laughter is, after speech, the chief thing that holds society together.

 

-Max Eastman

 

 He who laughs, lasts.

-Norwegian Proverb

 

The jester is brother to the sage.

     -Arthur  Koestler

 

Humor is a means of obtaining pleasure in spite of the distressing affects that interfere with it.

-Freud

 

Humor at its best is a kind of heightened truth- a super-truth.

-E. B. White

 

Dictators fear laughter more than bombs

-Arthur Koestler

 

The most wasted day of all is that on which we have not laughed.

-Sebastian Chamfort

 

When I’m happy I fell like crying, but when I’m sad don’t feel like laughing.  I think it’s better to be happy.  Then you get two feelings for the price of one.

-Lily Tomlin

 

Against the assault of laughter, nothing can stand.

-Mark Twain

 

 

A cheerful heart is good medicine

 -Proverbs 17: 22

 

 Half this game is 90% mental.

Danny Ozark





Motivation Quotes from Leonardo Da Vinci

19 09 2009

As a well-spent day brings happy sleep, so life well used brings happy death.

Iron rusts from disuse; water loses its purity from stagnation and in cold weather becomes frozen; even so does inaction sap the vigor of the mind.

Patience serves as a protection against wrongs as clothes do against cold. For if you put on more clothes as the cold increases, it will have no power to hurt you. So in like manner you must grow in patience when you meet with great wrongs, and they will then be powerless to vex your mind.

You do ill if you praise, but worse if you criticize, what you do not understand.

Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.

Obstacles cannot crush me. Every obstacle yields to stern resolve. He who is fixed to a star does not change his mind.

Every now and then go away, have a little relaxation, for when you come back to your work your judgment will be surer since to remain constantly at work will cause you to lose power of judgment. Go some distance away because then the work appears smaller, and more of it can be taken in at a glance, and a lack of harmony or portion is more readily seen.

For once you have tasted flight you will walk the earth with your eyes turned skywards, for there you have been and there you will long to return.

He who loves practice without theory is like the sailor who boards ship without a rudder and compass and never knows where he may cast.

I have been impressed with the urgency of doing. Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Being willing is not enough; we must do.

I have offended God and mankind because my work didn’t reach the quality it should have.

I love those who can smile in trouble, who can gather strength from distress, and grow brave by reflection. ‘Tis the business of little minds to shrink, but they whose heart is firm, and whose conscience approves their conduct, will pursue their principles unto death.

It had long since come to my attention that people of accomplishment rarely sat back and let things happen to them. They went out and happened to things.

Life is pretty simple: You do some stuff. Most fails. Some works. You do more of what works. If it works big, others quickly copy it. Then you do something else. The trick is the doing something else.

The noblest pleasure is the joy of understanding.

Where the spirit does not work with the hand, there is no art.

Who sows virtue reaps honor.

Anyone who conducts an argument by appealing to authority is not using his intelligence; he is just using his memory.   

Study the science of art and the art of science.

Learn how to see and remember that everything is connected to everything else.

Good students naturally thirst after knowledge.

There are three classes of people.  Those who see: those who see when they are shown: those who do not see.

Poor is the pupil who does not surpass his teacher.





Bob Bishop in the News

17 09 2009

Bob, the Mad Scientist Magician!!!!!

Bob Bishop has been busy teaching and performing.  He has created a large stage magic program seen on his website.  This program was performed at many YMCA and Boys and Girls clubs in Idaho.

Most recently he performed a motivational presentation with JohnTyler

Here is a a short video of John and Bob  at the Curb Cup Street Performer celebration in Boise Idaho.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xkGto4rgKIA

Here is a further description

http://www.gr8magic.com/robot_magician_17.html





Strategy Games and Teaching Metacognition

15 09 2009

The issue of the definition of what a game is has open up many opinions. It has been said that the simplest questions are the most difficult. I would like to apply the lessons of strategy games to teaching.

Is there enough agreement of the definition of the word ‘game’ so it can be used as an adequate metaphor for life or at least some aspects of life? I believe every game has some sort of strategy.  Given that every player suspends disbelief and enters the spirit of the game, every player has a method in which they use to seek to win the game.  Can we assume that this is true with life?  Would it be too much to say that every person has a strategy for life whether they have articulated or not?  Perhaps it is easier to confine this idea to a particular task or assignment.  What is the method or strategy that a person uses to accomplish a puzzle?

I do this often with my students.  As I give them an assignment or a problem I walk around the room and ask them, “What is your method? What is your strategy?”

What I mean to do is for the student to be aware of his thinking method.  I am asking the student to practice metacognition which for many is very difficult.  When asked, “How did you arrive at that conclusion many students would say, ‘I don’t know I just did’”.

Arthur L. Costa says, “We can determine if students are becoming more aware of their own thinking if they are able to describe what goes on in their head when they think. When asked, they can describe what they know and what they need to know. They can describe their plan of action before they begin to solve a problem; they can list the steps and tell where they are in the sequence of a problem solving strategy; they can trace the pathways and blind alleys they took on the road to a problem solution.

They can apply cognitive vocabulary correctly as they describe their thinking skills and strategies. We will hear students using such terms and phrases as: “I have an hypothesis…,” “My theory is…,” “When I compare these points of view…,” “By way of summary…,” “What I need to know is…,” or “The assumptions on which I am working are…”

As an experiment start asking students what their strategy is for simple tasks and ask them the same question for more difficult tasks.  Hopefully as they become used to this and learn to articulate their mental process they can begin to see similar strategies with more complex tasks.

I started today by teaching my students some basic “row” games based on Tic Tac Toe.  We talked about how well known Tic Tac Toe was and transferred this knowledge to more complex games. We discussed how intuitive the rules of these other games were because they had a connection to this simple game.  This laid the groundwork for the principles of learning by drawing on past knowledge and applying it to new situations

Some of those games were:

Abstract Strategy Game Checklist

Nim

Dots and Boxes

Dodgum

L Game

3 Spot Game

Hex

Cathedral

Tetra Trax

Isolation

Goblet

Quivive

Lotus

Quixo

Othello

Abalone

Pylos

Quoridor

Quarto

Quits

Mancala

Penta

Input

Score Four

Twixt

Qubic

Stadium Checkers

Stay Alive

Connect Four

Rubiks Magic Strategy Game

Slide Five

Bolix

Zertz

Paradux

Shift Tac Toe


Today’s goal was to learn how to play three games and to sense the learning process from learning the rules, playing a practice game where they learn to observe, and then to some basic strategy.  When I played one boy a game of Bolix I lead him to a double two way win to demonstrate the depth of a simple (elegant) game.  His response was, “My head hurts”.  In my chess club a similar occurrence happened when the younger students murmured, “This is too hard”. Perhaps Samuel Goldwyn said it well, “If I look confused it’s because I’m thinking.”
Knowing that my pedagogy may be some of the issue, I do recognize that many students do not understand how to learn. This brings me to the quote…..

Thinking is what you do when you do not know the answer”

Intelligent behavior is performed in response to questions and problems in which the answers are NOT immediately known.

This is one reason I teach strategy.  How a person plays a game reflects how they think in other areas.     Plato once said, “You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.





Terribly Terrific Tongue Twisters

14 09 2009

Each must be said three quickly times!

 

 

Trumpeter Tom was terribly tickled to take time today to trumpet tidy tunes.

 

A nosey boy annoys a nosey oyster.

 

Ruth’s washed roof’s wet.

 

We won by one run.

 

The spunky punk thunk the skunk stunk.

 

A manager of an imaginary menagerie.

 

Pick up a teacup and hiccup.

 

Cooked cupcakes

 

Walt wrote what Wendy read.

 

Luminous linoleum and voluminous aluminum.

 

Mrs. Muster mixed a mess of mushy mustard.  A mess of mushy mustard did Mrs, Muster mixed.  If Mrs. Muster mixed a mess of mushy mustard, where’s the mess of mushy mustard Mrs. Muster mixed?

 

Rooty toot two to you too.

 

Dust buster must bust dust.

 

Which witch watched which witch?

 

Thad thanked Theo for thwarting the worst theft.