robin_anne_reid: (Treehouse)
robin_anne_reid ([personal profile] robin_anne_reid) wrote2013-01-05 12:34 pm

MLA 2013 Session 486: Games for Teaching Language, Literature, and Writing

Saturday, 5 January, 10:15–11:30 a.m., Commonwealth, Sheraton
Presiding: Brian Croxall, Emory Univ.
Speakers: Evelyn Baldwin, Univ. of Arkansas, Fayetteville; Mikhail Gershovich, Baruch Coll., City Univ. of New York; Janice McCoy, Univ. of Virginia; Ilknur Oded, Defense Lang. Inst.; Amanda Phillips, Univ. of California, Santa Barbara; Anastasia Salter, Univ. of Baltimore; Elizabeth Swanstrom, Florida Atlantic Univ.
This electronic roundtable presents games not only as objects of study but also as methods for innovative pedagogy. Scholars will present on their use of board games, video games, authoring tools, and more for language acquisition, peer-to-peer relationship building, and exploring social justice. This hands-on, show-and-tell session highlights assignments attendees can implement.

* * * *

My notes before the session started:

This looks like a nifty electronic roundtable: computers are set up around the room, with people setting up their projects--it is billed as hands on!

I'm not so much interested in using games in the classroom (NOT a gamer myself), but one of my doctoral advises is doing her dissertation on this topic. I'm chairing, with my two composition colleagues as committees--because even though I'm not a gamer, I know more about gaming from my immersion in fandom, I guess. Or, it's an ongoing example of how I am in charge of directing all the weird stuff nobody else in the department feels capable of tackling--which comes down to creative writing and all the stuff in the broad penumbra of sf/f universe no matter what the media/focus.

I see a composition title over to my left--and I am interested in hearing about the social justice components (I was teaching readings associated with social justice in my comp classes back in the day, before I even knew that term).

Introduction: Bryan Croxall. MLA Committee on Information Technology. As we last year were talking about some of the things we wanted to see happen at the MLA, the committee felt that we wanted to continue pushing the MLA into exciting different forms of presentations, and that's why we're doing an electronic roundtable format here today. We wanted to recognize the importance pedagogy plays in all of our careers, a subject that it increasingly presents at the MLA. Teaching plays into research and research into teaching, but teaching is something that we want to be sure that we talk about. Games represent new sometimes way of teaching language and literature and writing in the classroom. We have a group of people talking about all these subjects. One presenter (Oded) could not come because of illness (language learning).

Format: I am about to stop speaking. And then we'll crowd around the different monitors Presenters will each will speak for five minutes, dinging bell going off if they go over, and we will sort of move counterclockwise around the room. Each person has a chance to talk about the assignment, and then open format where you go to each of the participants at their stations about the work they've been doing. Links from them
about assignments.

My notes: I sort of carried my netbook and tried to take notes during each presentation, then went back and talked to three. Now I'm typing up additional material based on memory (my next session isn't until 1:45).

Janice McCoy, Univ. of Virginia

She is using the Taboo board game (adapted) to teach students how to write description. The game involves students getting a card with a taboo word (which they cannot use in their writing), and associated taboo words (ditto) (the example was umbrella, with five or six words that would commonly be used with it, like rain).

They have to write a paragraph of description without using any of the words.

Then they get together in groups to read aloud paragraphs with others trying to guess the taboo word

(She said it might be useful in foreign language, and a language teacher taking notes chimed in enthusiastically that yes, he was taking notes!)

Then the groups evaluate the paragraph not on which was easiest to guess but which are best according to class criteria (use of sensory details, etc.).

They are writing and evaluating without even knowing it.

Mikhail Gershovich, Baruch Coll., City Univ. of New York

(I was in the back of the group--this was heavily attended session, and could not hear or see that well).

2 big ideas
Gaming communities sites of communication
Creativity and invention

Makey makey You can put this produce on anything that's conductive and it will be usable -- so he was forwarding his slides with a makey make (spelling?) on a banana. He has students make game controllers for their favorite games using a variety of objects.

Students design controller in groups talk and write and present it

Anastasia Salter, Univ. of Baltimore.

This presentation was incredibly exciting--and Anastasia is the first person I went back to talk to.

It's about using Inform 7 (open source, text based, easily bundled, easily used, natural language on top of programming code) to create interactive narratives. She uses it in program for creative writing--then moving into game writing (and coding) in the interdisciplinary program she teaches in.

I asked her afterwards about using it in an online creative writing class in an area where many students don't have a lot of technical knowledge, or even computers/internet access at home--and everything she said (note above) convinced me that it was very usable.

There is an interactive fiction community online

My next Forms and Genre course is so going to be interactive narrative, using Inform 7.

Resources I looked up:

Evelyn Baldwin, Univ. of Arkansas, Fayetteville

This presentation covered about how to use MMOORG games in a collaborative pedagogy course -- she used World of Warcraft as a place for students to game in and to study sociolinguistics and culture of the world.

The game was designed to make places to collaborate.

This is a new kind of gameplay pedagogy.

Results in class: immediate community/communication as the less knowledgeable students went to the knowledgeable students.

The students familiar with the game created a guild for the class and invited everybody in class to join.

The confidence and community in the gaming world carried over to presentations and work in the class (writing and presenting about the world, cultures, and sociolinguistics). The writing was collaborative as well.

Gee Book on literacy and games.

Group participation soared to all time high: everybody involved in the game, and in the study, and in the writing. High grades as a result.

Elizabeth Swanstrom, Florida Atlantic Univ

Science fiction, eco-criticism, games, in classes.
Games defined broadly: including games but also sites with game like elements.
Also study of larger systems behind it, and taking what they learn outside the game.

Eco quest
Greenpatch FB (not around any longer)
Ecosia game like features

Agency of non human
Slipping glimpse
Ocean currents into writing system

Complicate collapse boundaries
Intimate transactions art installations

Greening the Game blog archive

Amanda Phillips, Univ. of California, Santa Barbara

Teaching variety of social justice courses with video games.

Difference in video games can be analyzed with social justice theories

Mainstream games have lot of problems w/representation

Can look at rules and analyze as well as representation

There is harassment and exclusion but also pushback in the gaming community, more and more groups becoming visible.

Perceived demographics vs. actual demographics.


Look at unfairness of rules--possibility of gaming the system

Modding games to bring queerness in.

Gamified issues (from earlier presentation)

Digital identity Lisa Nakamura
High tech blackface

My notes: After talking to Anastasia, I dashed over to talk to Amanda.

I teach an online graduate course on gender, and I am consciously trying to make it more intersectional--and it struck me that some games would be an incredible way to go. But what I have learned over the years (*shudders at Second life memory*) is that many of my students are non-traditional age, don't have computers at home, or only limited internet access, not technologically savvy, etc. Plus, count me as someone who hasn't done games at all/much (I sucked at pacman), but who wanted to integrate them to class (and I'm not afraid to tell students when I'm still learning something and am bad at it! In fact I think that's a useful pedagogical tool.)

She suggested flash games--and directed me to the following resources.

Auntie pixelante
We must make the games we want to play

going through transition

simple, a bit glitch, but about trying to pass

Radial game designers
Some problematic stuff but they have some very politically conscious games
Do deal with race, global politics, deal with religion, sexuality

My note: deal with later in the class, with analysis of the games using the social justice theories!

Mattie Brice
Social justice blogging

Also: Borderhouse (which I follow and love and have recc'ed)

Introduction to gaming
Small Worlds
Really great way to get students to think about how gaming is largely about moving through space, moving through virtual spaces. Armor games

(think this is right one--I asked Amanda for her presentation and will doublecheck). It's a game (2D) about moving through space in gaming.

Lev Manovitch write abou navigable space.

This game is literally just about moving through space and uncovering puzzle world.

TWINE making games

Auntie Pixelante


I left this session incredibly bouncy and happy about integrating games into my gender theory course, and my pop culture course (zombies and werewolves)--in different ways and for different purposes.

And I am NOW seeing that MLA has a lot to offer me (they didn't back in the 1990s when SF was omg so weird and not allowed)--and maybe not at the highest level, but in the graduate students and the junior faculty I see presenting here, I am incredibly thrilled and happy with these spaces in the conference.

Now have to see about joining MLA Commons….

And oh is my sf group going to snicker about me and gaming since I've always been resolutely no way dudes!