The textbook problem

If you're a reader of my blog, there's a good chance that you're already familiar with the textbook problem. While there are a wide variety of factors that make this problem intractable, I was thinking that it would be incredibly helpful to have a really high quality free alternative set of textbooks for all standard K-12 courses. I'm not talking about a standardized curriculum here. In fact, a well structured series of core textbooks would be built as flexible tools that would allow teachers to customize instruction and support it with their own additional content.

In addition I'm not talking about policy here. School districts could choose to use whatever books they wanted to. The point would simply be to create a high quality free and open (print on demand) textbook series that would at least give those districts looking for great textbooks an affordable option. At that point, if it actually starts to give the publishing giants a run for their money, they'll have to adapt to the real market rather than suffering under the onerous weight of Texas (and to a lesser degree California) politics.

There are obviously vested interests that would never want to see something like this happen. On the other hand, the publishing giants have started to adapt. As they pivot towards a data centric service model, free textbooks become less of a threat. Regardless of the stance of the textbook industry, the question remains, what's the best source to fund a project like this? A federal agency? A philanthropic organization? A kickstarter? Hmmm.


Mass Effect 3, the bad and the ugly (spoiler heavy)

There's a lot of good in Mass Effect 3. In fact, as others have argued I'd say the game is really roughly 98% good. In addition, unlike some folks out there I don't think that the ending of ME3 ruined the whole Mass Effect series. I do believe that it casts an indellible shadow across it that slightly diminishes it as a whole, but there's a big difference between that and saying that it's ruined as I honestly I don't think it even ruined the rest of the game. I mean heck, I'm still playing the multiplayer and plan on replaying the rest when I have the time so that surely counts for something. That said, I'm not going to write much about the good in Mass Effect 3 in this post, because honestly I don't have too much to say about it that hasn't been covered in the more glowing reviews. Instead I'm going to focus primarily on the parts of Mass Effect 3 that I consider to be badly designed or badly written, as well as those elements that I consider to be ugly game design in that they may be effectively designed but they still do a disservice to Mass Effect players.

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R&D projects on the back burner

So I have a couple of research projects that I've had on the back burner for a while now. Both are essentially design based research work, and arguably are better thought of as R&D projects since they're really both more concerned with technical outcomes and technology development than theory (although both are valuable theory building tools as well).

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Games and narrative: The ludologist's lament

Some of you may have read Ted Castranova's post a few months ago over on Terra Nova titled Movies Stink. As I tried to convey in my comment there, I'm sympathetic to Ted's plight. Having novel and film shaped artifacts foisted upon you at the expense of game shaped ones really sounds like it sucks. Of course, I'm also more or less unable to have much empathy with him in this matter.

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Reflections of raid leadership

I had the opportunity the other day to give a talk in game in World of Warcraft for the r u game series by the Games and public libraries group which was a real blast. Although the attendance was light, my friend and colleague Mark Chen did jump on, and along with the series host Ellen Forsyth we had a rather excellent conversation about everything from my work on guild leadership, to games as texts, and more. One thing that came up, as it invariably does, was the question of leadership skill transfer between WoW and other settings.

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