A panel of three papers:
Building Better Courses: Inventing a Gaming Pedagogy
A recent trend in writing instruction, particularly in the U.S., has been a turn to exploring games, game theory, and gaming practices as pedagogical models or venues. From Rebekah Shultz-Colby and Richard Colby’s students engaging with gaming communities to inform their writing practices (from exigence to audience) to Janna Jackson’s bringing “game-based teaching” principles to bear on daily course activities, we have seen any number of game-orientations emerge in the composition classroom (for a more extensive look, see Wendi Sierra’s dissertation, Gamification as Twenty-first Century Education). These composition courses are more than just a microcosm; they serve, in many respects, as a metonym for the conversations and practices developing in the larger digital humanities framework, particularly when we consider how digital technologies (from production media to course management systems) and blended learning practices are coming to impact the ways in which we bring gaming principles and practices to bear on our classrooms. The problem, and it is a fairly large one at that, is that despite the rich potential of games on instructional design and implementation of a wide range of humanities courses, writing included, the primary mode of embrace has often been the borrowing of decontextualized gaming practices and placing them into limited course constructions. This kind of gamification—from merely adding assignment “choices” (rather than meaningful choices) to implementing reward systems to facilitating completion-release assignments and content—works in piecemeal fashion, commonly without attention to the larger potentials residing in and contexts necessary for a game-oriented approach. As such, this presentation will attempt to move us away from the “grab bag” approaches to games, classrooms, and technology by offering a fuller conceptualization of gaming pedagogy, an approach for instruction (and instructional design) that views classrooms as arenas of play (Alberti) and as offering play experiences (Robinson) rather than simply as spaces in which game practices can be applied. Building from the gaming learning principles identified by James Paul Gee and Jane McGonigal, this talk will outline the basic tenets of a gaming pedagogy, situate those practices in specific examples (i.e., upper division rhetoric/writing courses), and indicate how emerging technologies and blended learning environments fit comfortably within these design approaches. The intent is not only to offer gaming pedagogy as a rich site for instructional design, but to consider the ways in which video games specifically can open different pedagogical practices for knowledge production and development. Meaning, while this talk is generally concerned with the ways in which games can be brought to bear on humanities-based pedagogical practices, it is particularly concerned with using specific games as models for pedagogical design. A process that asks instructors to choose a game, extrapolate its procedural mechanics, and re-engineer those practices (and their metaphors) to course construction. To demonstrate this practice, the presenter will examine two implemented course designs, one based on the widely popular and widely successful MMORPG World of Warcraft by Blizzard Entertainment and one based on the casual game (or browser-based clicker game) Forge of Empires by Innogames.
Digital Pedagogy and the Community College Student: Digital Native, Digital Immigrant, Born Digital?
Danah Boyd, in her nuanced discussion of teenagers and their use of digital technology, argues that there are far-reaching consequences for assuming that young students are naturally digitally savvy and older adults are digitally hampered; we assume younger students are digital natives adept at using and understanding technology, while adults are digital immigrants, still learning the language and culture of the digital world (It’s Complicated, New Haven, 2014, pp. 176-193). In fact, “Familiarity with the latest gadgets or services is often less important than possessing the critical knowledge to engage productively with networked situations, including the ability to control how personal information flows and how to look for and interpret accessible information” (Boyd, p. 180), and she further cautions that “access to technology should not be conflated with use” (Boyd, p. 192).
But access is not universal. Even among teenagers, there are different levels of participation because of the access to the technology, the quality of the access related to the socioeconomic status of the teenager and the consequent different levels of digital skills (See Hargittai, “The Digital Reproduction of Inequality,” Boulder, CO, 2008). While young, wealthier students may have access without sufficient knowledge about the limitations and challenges of their digital access, students from lower socioeconomic groups may not even have access except through the technology provided by their schools, libraries and other local institutions. The economic divide contributes to the digital divide.
But how does this digital inequality affect our pedagogy? For instructors at traditional four-year institutions, this divide is a challenge. For instructors at the community colleges, which typically enrolls a variety of students, including older, nontraditional students, who may be returning students apprehensive about their abilities, who may be limited in time and financial resources, who are less likely to have access or to use digital technology, and who may have limited institutional support for technology, the digital divide is further complicated by access, under-preparedness, and issues of persistence.
This presentation directly addresses issues of the use of technology in education and access and equity among community college students. In particular, I examine the pedagogical implications of the digital divide among the community college population: the problems of access and use among nontraditional students, the different levels of digital preparedness, and the creation of assignments that address some of these issues. I discuss in detail the technology assignments for an interdisciplinary humanities-social science course that enrolled both nontraditional university and community college students and the challenges of multiple levels of access, use and familiarity with technology.
Collaborative Digital Pedagogy for Digital Literacies in Humanities Classrooms
Anita Chan and Harriett Green
• New digital tools and platforms create opportunities in pedagogy, but they also result in deployment of under-tested digital tools in classroom instruction, which raises questions and challenges for educators.
• A collaborative project between a media studies professor and a digital humanities librarian at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign sought to address these challenges by developing digital pedagogy practices.
• As the two case studies described here show, these practices can foster an environment of interdisciplinary, collaborative student engagement with new tools; openly acknowledge the digital tools’ experimental states; and encourage playful student tinkering with the tools, even when they appear simple or familiar.
Innovative advances in educational technology have made a wealth of new tools and platforms available to college students and instructors alike. A vast number of commercially developed solutions and tools can help users organize, process, visualize, and digitally communicate information. Moreover, academic and research institutions increasingly develop new tools and platforms specifically for instructional use.1 Although new digital tools and platforms produce new opportunities in pedagogy, they also present an emerging challenge: the increasing normalization of deploying new and under-tested digital tools in classroom instruction. Many of these tools have new technological features that hold clear promise for educational application, but only a few will prove to be “disruptive” game changers in instruction or eventually stabilize as instructional staples.2
This situation presents challenges for campuses and educators alike. What are the benefits and complications of using under-tested tools for pedagogical ends? How should faculty design students’ course work when tool performance might be uncertain and intended learning outcomes contingent on tool use? And what degree of student engagement with tools should educators reasonably expect when there’s no guarantee that students are learning skills for the next major disruptive technology — that is, the “next BIG hit”?
Here, we explore a strategy for addressing these questions in humanities instruction by developing digital pedagogy practices that
• foster an environment of interdisciplinary, collaborative student engagement with new tools;
• openly acknowledge the digital tools’ experimental states; and
• encourage playful student tinkering with the tools, even when they appear simple or familiar.
We see this as particula…