Gaming Writing: Teaching (with) Video Games

I have been invited to give two workshops this month both on teaching with video games in the writing classroom.  Both workshops will be built around the work and practices that grew out of the incorporation of video game texts into my classes (see my ENGL 207: Virtual Worlds and Video Games) and my co-teaching over the years with wonderful folks like Timothy Welsh (see CHID 496: Close Playing, or, Bioshock as Practicum) and Sarah Kremen-Hicks (see CHID 496: Video+Games+Other+Media).  I still intend to formalize all of this thinking and teaching into an article, maybe even a book project on video games and pedagogy (Tim, another colleague Theresa Horstman, and I have this on our dockets).  The workshops this month–one today at the TYCA-PNW Conference and one at the end of the month at THATCamp Boise State–refreshes what I have presented in the past, particularly the notion of close playing, and connects it to my article “Gaming as Writing, or, World of Warcraft as World of Wordcraft.”

Teaching with technology, new or not, invites all sorts of affordances and potential pitfalls.  Too often, in my own experiments, the technology becomes a distraction or ornamentation, which requires either much needed pruning and editing or at the very least better integration.  Of course, this all takes time and energy added to the umpteen duties and preparations required for the day-to-day of teaching.  Therefore, my teaching with technology philosophy (nowadays, I think every teacher needs to develop one alongside their overall teaching statement) tends toward simplicity and transparency.  I cannot help but use a Top Chef metaphor here: all of the components of a dish must be mutually enhancing and balanced.  So, too, is teaching with technology–particularly with video games.

When teaching video games and teaching with video games (there is a distinction that probably needs further thought someday), when students are learning with and from video games, when they are using video games as the occasion for inquiry, writing, and a kind of reading, I think the first step is always about framing: Why are we doing this?  What are we doing?  Why is this similar and different than other practices?  How are we going to get there?  This is obvious, I know.  But dropping a game into a literature class or a writing course (or any class for that matter) is not as easy as plug and play.  That’s why, I think, these workshops are really about developing a medium-specific pedagogy.

Here are my thoughts and talking points for the workshops:

  • How to develop a philosophy of teaching (with) technology and video games
  • Challenging and dispelling the mythology of the “digital natives” — the use of and facility with technology is like any other learned skill — teachers cannot hide behind the troublesome idea of being a “digital immigrant” and the excuse that “I’m not a gamer,” and students must develop a critical distance from games as only fun, entertainment, hobby
  • Strategies for incorporating video games in the classroom, strategies for developing a video game “literacy” (and why that term is problematic for games)
  • Similarities to other media (writing, visual art, film)
  • Dissimilarities to other media and the trap of relying on teaching by analogy
  • What is close playing?
  • Brainstorming activities, assignments, and workshops
  • Finally, dos and dont’s of teaching (with) video games

Here is the Prezi presentation for today’s workshop (as well as the handout for the day):

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