This winter break was supposed to be about learning R, a little programming, and developing my own web site. Then I got my Ingress invite, Google’s new somewhat AR (augmented reality) game. Which is why this website is going to be initially developed on WordPress.com rather than .org. Yes, I became addicted and spent most of my spare time driving and walking around town looking for portals to capture.
The game is currently in closed beta although Google recently sent out a lot of invites. It is basically a “king of the hill” kind of game in which two factions vie for control of “portals”. The portals appear on your phone as you get near certain pieces of public art, post office boxes, some fire stations, and historical markers in your town. You can then complete a few maneuvers in order to gain control of these portals. Game specifics can be found on the Ingress Field Guide website.
So what does this have to do with online learning? There is a comm chat feature on the website that is divided into two sections, “All” which shows all agent activity and where you can chat to anyone logged on at the time, and a “Faction” section where you can secretly communicate with your own faction. Learning to play ingress is fairly easy as there are many tutorials and player experience blogs available. All one need do is Google “Ingress tutorial”.
Interestingly enough this simple search procedure appears to elude some new players. While I have not conducted a survey, I feel it is safe to say the typical Ingress player is comfortable using technology, at least comfortable enough to download an app to their phone and communicate on the comm. Yet based on the questions I’ve seen asked there, not capable of conducting a basic Google search. This seems to defy Marc Prensky’s “Digital Native” theory, in that those who have grown up with technology can use it like second nature to help learn about their world. Rather, they seem more comfortable asking those currently playing the game for information about basic game mechanics, even though they could get the information in more detail and much more quickly by conducting a search.
The question this prompts from me, then, is why? Is there a social component to asking questions of a person rather than going the easier route and conducting a search? Does it help them feel part of the group, provide that connection? If so, how might this inform online learning design?