Reflecting Allowed

Maha Bali’s blog about education

#TvsZ 6.0 Egyptian style

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I’m going to start writing this post but not publish it until after I meet my students today. They might say something that deserves to be in this post (but also i might not have a full reflection with them since some of them did not participate fully and i want to allow them some kind of “make up”).

I feel very very privileged to have had the opportunity to not only co-facilitate but more importantly, to HACK #TvsZ 6.0 – and I wanted to make some specific notes about how my being from and in Egypt made this an extraspecial experience in many ways. It both made some things more difficult, but also richer. Diversity is like that, I think. Complicated and complex to work with, but ultimately enriching and better for everyone. Usually 😉

First, in terms of hacking and designing the game:
The rest of the team members had to tolerate my timezone issues and to work hangouts around my schedule. I am sure it would have been much simpler all around if they did not have to worry about that. I’ve made compromises of my own, too, like 1am hangouts and long-distance phone calls but it was all worth it. Every minute.

Another aspect of timezones related to game start and end times, as well as rule release times. Instead of having rule releases every 12 hours, we let them develop organically depending on times players were on the game and we sensed a “lull” – this actually worked out amazingly well!!!

The big other inclusivity issue related to picking themes as opposed to zombies. Well, a couple of us (Andrea and I) were wary of the zombie theme from the beginning for different reasons. I asked Pete in a DM if he’d be willing to hack the game and play without Zombies. His reaction was stellar – he got really excited about that. Someone else might have felt less comfortable. Not Pete!

Moving on, though, and trying to find alternative themes that made sense to pop culture was difficult. There were lots of “what are you talking about?” And “have you seen that movie?” And stuff like that where I had to shoot down some ideas that made no sense to my culture or that I thought my students might not know of. Finding a theme we could all work with was not easy. We thought of many different things more closely related to the human/zombine binary but i am so glad we moved away from it because it made the experience much richer and opened up even more possibilities.

Second, in terms of evolution of rules
The multilingual #folklore idea arose out of discussion on the gdoc where I felt I wanted my students to collaborate with others rather than just amongst themselves. Even though a mutlilingual artifact could easily be done by my students alone since they were all at least bilingual, the whole concept of having a multilingual artifact and showing Arabic script (as well as many others!) was incredible, and I thought respectful and self-affirming to non-Anglo cultures in ways not too gimmicky but actually fun and meaningful

The suggestion by one of my students to extend the game “clock” to 10 mins instead of 5 mins (finally settling on 7 mins) to take account for slower and choppier internet connections in Egypt (and as Janine pointed out, internet connection quality varies in the West as well)

Third, in terms of views of authority in a hacking game
I already talked about this and probably blogged about it too (can’t remember?) – my students from the beginning were interested in creating new teams, but I held them off on it until the next day . It did not occur to me, or them, to create a “rogue” team as Janine’s students did (and then the Dragon Bovine alliance was genius). Originally, I did not want to invite my students to create n teams right away because I was afraid they would form a local Egyptian clique and defeat the purpose of the whole game. I think for some of them, that still happened. Like even though most were in team nature, they formed small groups of 5 (whoever was online at the same time, probably) to do missions together. There were still a few who managed to interact a lot with others.

This is partly my bad. Partly my own newness to the game and a desire for some control amidst a lot of uncertainty (strange but my comfort with uncertainty decreases a little when it’s in a committed contractual relationship with paying students – i feel i owe them some certainty); i should have predicted that because of culture and grading, they wouldn’t have thought of questioning my authority or the authority of the game admins beyond the almost “formal” opportunity to suggest new rules, they didn’t start thinking of a new team until i said, “well look, there are rogue teams, you could form one, too… ” But there wasn’t enough time to create missions, etc. for the new team they had in mind (a moderate nature team that uses some tech).

I’ll post this now anyway, and post again after discussion with my students.

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