Estimated reading time: 4 minutes, 31 seconds

Big games, small games?

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes, 31 seconds

So I’ve been thinking a lot about the “educational game design” module I’ll be teaching this fall inshallah, and looking at this workshop by Ana Salter made me realize how many games she’s playing with the participants, and how often she has them constructing games themselves in a 4-day workshop. Granted, she has them for long days.

I’m also working with a group of really inspiring educators to create our own MOOG (massive open online game; not to be confused with MMORPG – ours is a light one tech-wise, but heavy one on teaching digital literacy and other subtle social messages – nothing confirmed/solidified yet! just beginnings) to try with our students. For some reason, I’m not ready to blog about that now, but anyway 🙂

Last semester, by a trick of schedule and unexpected vacations, I only had two weeks to work with my students, and so I met them really intensively over those two weeks, during which we play 3 games, then they worked on the design of one big game in small groups, and they blogged about their own favorite games, then a reflection on their process of creating their games, after we played them last day of classes. My reflection on the beauty of all that is here

This semester, I hopefully have a full 4 weeks to work with my students and I know 4 weeks is not a long time, but I am seeing possibilities for extending the class beyond the focus on just the ONE big game the groups are creating, and to help students think beyond board games that test recall (I only had one game that was really creative in the sense that it taught something a bit subtle). Basically, I want to try more games with the students. And I want them to try creating their own games as well.

Here is the current line-up, and I’d love feedback. I’ll only be meeting them twice a week for 1:15


1. Twitter treasure scavenger hunt (I’ve been lucky to get loads of feedback on this one by generous colleagues) to introduce twitter

2. Twitter game (MOOG) with folks in the US playing it with their students simultaneously. It may include elements of this environmental/sustainability game I hacked from #clmooc

Now even though my students will be playing a game designed by others, the rules of this game are emergent and I am thinking of requiring them to be involved in the emergent rule-making, to the extent of getting bonus points or something if their suggestions get accepted into the emergent rules.

Note: I am concerned about whether students new to twitter will be able to sustain a 2-3 day engagement with the twitter game, but I’ll be thinking between now and then how to motivate them. It’s addictive once you’re in it and you get it. Giving grades for doing it is not the way to go, even though I probably WILL give them a grade on at least blogging their reflections on the game? But I might also be able to use Known to track their progress in the game. I normally wouldn’t do this, but I also want to be fair: I should be able to see which students are participating more fully; then again, people already on twitter may find it easier to participate, so… and people who are taking a lighter load that semester or don’t have mid-terms that weekend, etc….that’s not fair either.

3. I’d like to try some sort of story/verbal game, as inspired by #clmooc. Here is one idea I had, which I called “hack the nursery rhyme/folk tale”

4. Here are also three other game ideas I had that won’t take up too much time and can be done during class or online: liquefy my syllabus; alliteration poem; and song-story

5. I’d like to have my students brainstorm during class time, alone, in pairs or in small groups, their own game ideas. Not just for one big game at the end of the semester, but maybe also smaller ones. Not sure whether to keep them simple-ish and low-tech as I am most inclined to do, or to open up ideas for using tech as Ana Salter does. My view is that using tech privileges some ppl over others, and “looks” more impressive. One low-tech game idea is to ask students to bring in photos (or any other loved object, really) with them to class, and then design a game around using the photos in a creative way. This could turn out really interesting 🙂

In the midst of all that, I’d like to factor in a lot of reflection time and discussions. So for example for game #2, I want them to reflect alone and then to have a group discussion on the game. I’d like them to read a little about what makes a good educational game, and to think of ways of making games that teach something deep, while also being fun and that target intrinsic not extrinsic motivation. I’d also love to have discussions with them about what game-playing says about us, changes in us, etc., like what I have written about here.

I never actually follow my plans 100% but I like having a lot of ideas planned to choose from, and then I’ll probably get new ones while I’m teaching the class (and particularly if students “liquefy” my syllabus.

Any feedback on the above ideas welcome 🙂

4 thoughts on “Big games, small games?

  1. Hi Maha, just getting back into emails & blogs after a few completely tech-less weeks (bar one day last week when I tackled over 600 emails). I’m also thinking about refinements to our Becoming module – and hopefully building in some more Games-production.
    A question: do you seed your game-thinking with some visual work? We tend to seed our students’ visual thinking by starting off with an Image Mediated Dialogue (IMD) session (choose one picture that answers the question [insert your question]; describe it; explain how it answers the question for you). We follow that with some collage work… last year we found that the collage production really engaged our students – and they embraced them in their own presentations and in their research projects…
    Good luck! Sandra

    1. Hey Sandra, i love those ideas! I am not a particularly visual person, but i learned via clmooc some really cool ways of using visuals for the classroom or for gaming. You’ve reminded me to think about that more, because it is likely to better engage students! Thanks

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