This week Dave Cormier asks us to reflect on “content is people” and to consider the myth of content. Uhh this doesn’t challenge me very much, to be honest, because I have a long thread of discussing the politics of content choices in my thesis (particularly thinking of curriculum theory and how liberal arts education tends to be content-focused), and when I started reading about these criticisms of content-centered curricula theoretically, I started implementing it in my classes and it’s been liberating. Liberating to think of how I can help students learn ideas rather than learn to read complex academic articles (especially that I don’t teach senior or graduate students – I teach freshmen and diploma in-service teachers – they are more likely to benefit from just reading and finding material themselves than from making the effort of reading an academic article).
So just the past few days I wrote two posts: one about not assigning readings but letting students find their own readings; and the second about culturally relevant pedagogy (though this one is republished from something I wrote a few months ago paywalled on EML)
So I’m just going to report some of the practice.
For culturally relevant pedagogy, I felt it was really important for students designing educational games to know that there are people right here in Egypt who design educational games. That if, some day, they want to design an educational game for real, there is a place for them. So today I’m having a guest speaker who designs educational games in Egypt coming in. She also came last semester and she was a hit with the students. The company her game makes is itself cultural – it’s about helping kids know more about Egypt, and going all around the map in Egypt not just focusing on Cairo, incorporating knowledge about areas kids would never visit.
Next semester we’re also hoping to have students go out into a community and test their games on people outside campus, to develop games for them, and to have the possibility that their prototype might be massively produced later. For charity. Isn’t that cool? just need to think about their intellectual property rights and whether we should give them an option to have their idea sold for money rather than charity, etc.
For the non-content base in my course. I only have 4 weeks with these freshman students. There isn’t that much time to read more than one or two academic articles, and we want to also “get things done” as in learn by constructionism, where students learn as they build their own games. Given the number of weeks, it’s really limiting in terms of the breadth and depth of ideas they can get by reading but it’s enough time for them to learn experientially. So instead I asked them to each find their own references on educational game design (knowing full well they’d not be scholarly articles), and that they would get bonus points for finding unique references that no one else found (this was important so they don’t take the first google result AND so they don’t copy from each other and possibly that they’d read each other’s to avoid using the same reference – a 3-in-1) and they’d get bonus points for including more than one reference (again important so they’d dig deeper in the search results). I’ve only received about 6 blogposts from students, but so far, each one of them took an entirely different angle and this is GREAT so that when they start working on their group projects, each of them will have something different to bring to the table!!! They’ve already brought up the issues of games helping those with attention problems, about the relationship between children’s and adult’s learning, and about how to measure the effectiveness/success of educational games.
And now for the two-in-one – for my Twitter Scavenger Hunt, one of the things I’ll ask them to try to find are articles by Egyptian (or Arab) authors about educational games (there are two that I know of, other than myself, who have done this, but they may find more). This is both a way for them to find their own material, connect with educators who do educational game design, and also to again recognize that educational game design is not some Western concept we imported and don’t have anything to contribute to.
That doesn’t really answer Dave’s question. I don’t think Dave’s actually asking a question. He’s making a statement (that is almost a tautology to me) and asking us to challenge it or build upon it, I think? So, yes, content is people simply because content is produced by people. As such, content is political. Which content we choose, how we choose it, which people produced it in the first place, all has political connotations. And letting students choose their own content, bring their own context, is also a political choice. For me, it’s letting them know they can, letting them know they should, take control of their own learning. That they should be able to judge if an article Google brings up is useful and credible and worthy. I’m not going to make that judgement for them, nor am I going to guide them on how to do it in advance, but rather in hindsight, only if needed.
But definitely no preference for academic articles by white men. Not that I have anything against white men. I love Dave Cormier and he’s a white man 🙂 I am just against privileging the voices of the already-dominant.