Gaming and Virtual Worlds

This Thursday we will have the opportunity to talk with Professor Roger Travis, a member of our Department of Modern & Classical Languages on the subject of gaming, culture and education. Roger Travis’ video interview above as well as the assigned materials for this week focus on exploring how gaming and virtual worlds might offer informed, scaffolded and engaging learning environments for our students. How do these readings align with the concepts, perspectives and examples espoused in Seely Brown and Adler’sMinds on Fire: Open Education, the Long Tail and Learning 2.0 that we read at the beginning of the semester? Chris Dede suggests, at the end of Planning for Neomillennial Learning Styles: Implications for Investments in Technology and Faculty, that “a substantial number of faculty and administrators will likely dismiss and resist some of the ideas and recommendations presented here.” Why might that be?

As we discussed in class this past Friday, I would like you to post a minimum of two questions on our Google Moderator site to ask Professor Travis during our session with him. We will then share our posted questions with Professor Travis prior to our LearnCentral session. This Friday we will devote our class time to exploring in depth an online tool of  your choice. From November 15-19 we will attend the free, online Global Education Conference.

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8 Responses to “Gaming and Virtual Worlds”

  1. Karen Zook Says:

    I just want to suggest that everyone check out this post, if you have a chance:

    Pedagogical Practomime

    It gives some background on the word “practomime,” which is a term coined by Prof. Travis to describe the type of game-learning he will be discussing on Thursday. Reading this might help you make some sense of just where he’s coming from on this topic.

  2. Barbara Says:

    Thanks very much for sharing this additional resource with us, Karen!

  3. claudiopi Says:

    Following Karen’s link I found this comment by Professor Travis: “In fact, if you think about it, every course you’ve ever taken [with the exception, to be sure, of my previous courses] is a boring practomime in which you pretend to be a student who’s getting to know the stuff he or she needs to know to pass the course.”
    This is a strong comment that I don’t agree with. Stating this is like blaming it all on traditional didactics. I think you can say it referring to certain disciplines, where it could happen that students study only for the sake of taking a good grade at the end of the course. And this could apply to Classics, so Travis’ idea of developing such a platform for students is striking and interesting to hear talk about, indeed; but I wouldn’t expand the concept to everything else. In the end, isn’t everything relative?

    • melinaanne Says:

      I see what you’re saying, Claudio, but maybe it is the word “boring” that you find most offensive. I don’t think it was Professor Travis’s intention to belittle “traditional courses”, but rather point out that, in a way, we are always role-playing to a certain extent in our roles as students and instructors. Whether the course involves gaming or “old-fashioned” face to face instruction, it is undeniably a performance for both sides. The gaming aspect takes this performance to a whole new (virtual) level. I am personally not a gamer, and I find the whole idea fascinating but logistically daunting. What I did glean from yesterday’s session was the need to make the on-stage aspect of teaching and learning as hands-on, all-inclusive, and “real life” as possible, something that technology makes possible (even if it’s not part of a video game).

      • claudiopi Says:

        It is not offensive to me and yes, I can understand he didn’t want to belittle the traditional ways of teaching, but it seems weird to me putting the learning experience in those terms.
        Sociologically speaking, we can say we are role-playing every single minute of our life. There are roles in all kinds of situation, but it doesn’t mean that they bound me or that I have to stay within pre-defined limits. I took traditional classes in the past where my objective was anything but the grade. I can still see great learning experiences with the use of traditional means, but of course the concept of traditional is always open to a change.
        I just want to underline this because I think it is important, but in no ways I am offended by or I underestimate Professor Travis’ work. I am totally amazed and I just hope to know more about it.

  4. Eleonora Boscolo Camiletto Says:

    Like Melina, I am not a gamer and I’m not even familiar with video games in general so it is very hard for me to understand the practical use of video games in a teaching environment. I do grasp the importance of ‘living’ epic and the major implement of ‘bringing classics back to life’ in the student’s motivation to learn.
    I thought Nico’s question(“Using games in the classroom seems to attract the students attention and motivates.. but to the students really learn more of the content – in comparison to a regular class?”) was very interesting, and that even more interesting was Professor Travis’ answer. We don’t know if students learn more through gaming but we certainly know that it does attract more students and that’s never a bad thing.

    • beatebirkefeld Says:

      @Eleonora and more or less Niko. I find it interesting that you say “We don’t know if students learn more through gaming but we certainly know that it does attract more students and that’s never a bad thing.” Outside of the educational world we know that children’s lives circle around games and role-playing. It must be part of the human nature to go out and explore. This reminds me of a TED’s conference presenter from India (I wish I could find the link now) who said to the kids “You won’t be able to figure this out.” Those children felt challenged to prove him wrong. People learn more when the affective filter is lower and I think that is exactly one of the things Prof. Travis is aiming for. Giving students a quest/story to solve through a computer game starts the learning process without forcing the brain. I have tried role-playing in class and found out that while the affective filter is higher in the beginning, students are making an experience in class that gives them the memory: “one time in class we did that..” The amount of vocabulary they retained through a 5 minute role-playing game was unbelievable.

    • jarcastillo Says:

      I join the ranks of those of us that might wonder if we are not gamers (or familiar with gaming) would we be able to implement or understand its practical uses in the classroom. Yet one of the things that struck me (and I believe both Professor Travis and Karen mentioned it) is that the goal of their course is not to learn Latin per se, but to accomplish a particular and very specific goal such as saving civilization. When I think of gaming in these terms and not perhaps in those of my brother playing video games and going on these “quests” finding something or other for gold or points, then I am more convinced that to a certain extend (perhaps not as digitally-creative) as foreign language instructors we are engaging in these types of games. Some students have asked me at the beginning of each semester (usually in the elementary levels) if I’m going to assign them a “Spanish” name, which used to seem like such a strange request. I thought that keeping their own name would make their conversations much more personal or that they should not “let go of their own identity” to explore “living” in Spanish. If as Professor Travis argues regarding practomimetic education, individuals probably learn more from “playing a role-playing game” than from “traditional formats” (which I understand to mean teacher-centered classes) then assigning students a name from the target-language/culture is not such a foreign idea. This also reminds me of one element of Beate’s class project where students were assigned German names with a specific story and were asked to develop those characters. Students seemed to still (inevitably) insert their own lives into the lives of their characters. What would be some of the challenges of creating this “virtual” world (in the classroom or on an online platform like the LAPIS project) where students feel comfortable expressing themselves in the target-language? Would they be as comfortable to express themselves using their own names or would this “virtual character persona” always be present?


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