Mod Me Baby, One More Time

One of the great things about many popular video games (especially games in a series) is that modification of the game itself is possible, either through cracking or through in-game allowances for modification. For instance, the violent video game GTA IV has a modding community that has grown up around it, and mods include playing as SpongeBob, R2D2, and driving a birthday cake (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WoBH_HgHsKg). These games have their own worlds, their own characters, and their own plots, but players have reenvisioned the world, characters and plots to fit their pleasure. If games are learning environments (which I think they are), one of the things players are learning is how to change their learning environments. Here we see new media skills in action. Hacking and cracking these games requires skills and know-how, and often results in communities of practice (not just around the game itself, but in modification of the game). New vocabularies spring up, new popular twists arise, and users become creators. Now as game makers, players are embodying their skills and knowledge in their modifications. Playing through a game often leaves very few digital artifacts. Creating a game is all about the artifacts. Mastery is visible. Game modding often gets a person to the highest level of thinking in Bloom’s taxonomy. Pulling off a good mod is personally satisfying and publicly rewarding.

Distilled from games, what can we say about modding? Successful modification of our environment, identity, and motivations/directions are a part of growing up. What affordances are there for modification in learning? When we are able to have control over where we learn and in what manner, when we become the teacher or identify with what is being taught, and when we change our mind or surge toward something from inner compulsion, that is a successful learning mod. But learning modification requires free will. And not all who are allowed to mod end up modding. A person must choose to be a modifier. They must step into modification. They must choose to move from situated learning (as in video games) to resituated learning (as in video game mods). As the learner resituates the learning, they may fail miserably at the tasks before them. But given support, encouragement, and teaching regarding how to succeed (just in time and as needed), they will mod their learning, and hopefully mod their lives. Beyond gamification of learning we might think about focusing on the modification of learning. And modification of modification of learning…

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