I really like the potential which Google Earth has as a gaming platform. When we started discussing options as to how we might use it to build a game, I used some of the tutorials here to design a mini Google Earth interactive story/treasure hunt and shared the idea and some initial stages of the game with the group.
I also suggested some other possibilities: Google Earth offers rich potential for roaming and I thought that we could exploit it to capitalise on Gee’s ‘multiple routes principle”: we could allow players to ‘make choices, rely on their own strengths and styles of learning and problem solving…’ (Gee, 2007, p.223). Additionally, it is the perfect arena in which to allow learners to make discoveries, to keep ‘overt telling’ to a ‘well-thought-out minimum’ (ibid, 226).
Our group decided to go with a different tack: a refugee’s journey; given the current political context, this ‘serious’ game was deemed to be timely. It was decided that Google Earth would only be used to provide video illustrations for a game which would be built in Twine. I had real reservations about this as I felt that it was going ‘off brief’ and I really felt that we could capitalise on the wealth of tools and features offered by Google Earth.
This collaborative process was, for me, really frustrating as, particularly working remotely, I found it hard to get my voice heard. It provided me with some insights into and a sense of empathy for how our students must sometimes (often?!) feel when we require them to engage in group work. I wanted to be an active, contributing member of the group but, because I didn’t feel a sense of ‘ownership’ of the game and the concept, I was a little adrift throughout the design and build process.
In her paper on groupwork, Burke references a term I’ve hadn’t heard before, ‘grouphate’:
‘Grouphate has been referred to as the dread and repulsion that many people feel about working in groups or teams’ (Sorenson, 1981).
She also outlines some of the key disadvantages of working in groups, which she takes from Beebe and and Masterson (2003).
- ‘There may be pressure from the group to conform to the majority opinion. Most people do not like conflict and attempt to avoid it when possible. By readily acquiescing to the majority opinion, the individual may agree to a bad solution just to avoid conflict.
- An individual may dominate the discussion. This leads to members not gaining satisfaction from the group because they feel too alienated in the decision making process.
- Some members may rely too heavily on others to do the work. This is one of the most salient problems that face groups. Some members do not pitch in and help and do not adequately contribute to the group (Freeman & Greenacre, 2011). One solution to this problem is to make every group member aware of the goals and objectives of the group and assign specific tasks or responsibilities to each member.
- It takes more time to work in a group than to work alone. It takes longer to accomplish tasks when working with others. However, the time spent taking and analyzing problems usually results in better solutions.’
She goes on to explore how this negativity about groupwork can be overcome: ‘these feelings diminish among group members who have received proper instruction about working in groups. One way to overcome grouphate is to form realistic expectations of group work.’ There are, as she notes, many advantages to working in groups:
- ‘Groups have more information than a single individual. Groups have a greater well of resources to tap and more information available because of the variety of backgrounds and experiences.
- Groups stimulate creativity. In regard to problem solving, the old adage can be applied that “two heads are better than one.”
- People remember group discussions better. Group learning fosters learning and comprehension. Students working in small groups have a tendency to learn more of what is taught and retain it longer than when the same material is presented in other instructional formats (Barkley, Cross & Major, 2005; Davis, 1993).
- Decisions that students help make yield greater satisfaction. Research suggests that students who are engaged in group problem solving are more committed to the solution and are better satisfied with their participation in the group than those who were not involved.
- Students gain a better understanding of themselves. Group work allows people to gain a more accurate picture of how others see them. The feedback that they receive may help them better evaluate their interpersonal behaviour.
- Team work is highly valued by employers. Well developed interpersonal skills were listed by employers among the top 10 skills sought after in university graduates (Graduate Outlook Survey, 2010)’.
The outcome of the group activity, despite my own sense of discomfort and detachment from much of the process was, ultimately, very well-received by our peers.
As well as gaining ‘a better understanding’ of myself and learning about my own weaknesses when it comes to groupwork, I also used the time we had to test some concepts with Graeme (another member of Group 2): I recorded some Google Earth fly-throughs, created .KML files and shared them with; he was, via the link, able to open and view them directly in Google Earth. We’re also planning on working together to build something within GE, to allow us to test more principles and options for game-play.
This process also encouraged me to think about the fact that gamers opt to work in teams, to play together (nicely); gaming is a tool which facilitates the development of team-working skills. Maybe we needed to play together before working together?
Beebe, S. A., & Masterson, J. T. (2003). Communicating in small groups. Pearson Education Inc. Boston: Massachusetts.
Burke, Alison. (2011). Group Work: How to Use Groups Effectively. Journal of Effective Teaching, 11(2), 87-95.