Starting on Monday I’ll teach a one-week intense Media Literacy Institute. Our focus this year – especially relevant to the contemporary political climate – is Digital Citizenship.
This year’s focus was inspired by my freshmen composition students. Several times, in several different semesters, in several different sections, students mentioned not feeling like adults, not feeling like contributing members of society, not feeling like citizens. While they take full advantage of the rights of 18yos (and older) with tattoos, piercings, and cigarettes – the lack of connection to their power as citizens bothers me. So I decided to begin investigating the connection to digital life, and extend that to the media literacy institute.
Most importantly, students need to feel connected to their devices and have that connection validated long before they can access voting booths. Off handed comments like “social media is ruining everything” does far more damage than most people think. Instead, mentioning the benefits of social media use, the power of social media use when deployed in meaningful, thoughtful ways should be discussed with teenagers, daily.
So, I’ve done this rant before right – what’s different in this post.
Well, games. My focus, my specialty at the institute is videogames, games, and play. Similar to the digital citizenship call for regular (daily!!!) positive reinforcement, I’ve spent this past week developing the ‘game’ we play through Twitter to support learning, reflection, self-assessment, mindfulness, and playfulness so student-educators develop an awareness of gameful mindset.
Today I’m struggling with why I even call this a game. Technically……it’s a worksheet.
I attended a digital workshop on learning assessment techniques and ways of supporting active engagement in the classroom recently. This was the first time I’d seem worksheets used for active learning, in meaningful ways. So while i’m saying worksheet – I really mean this active learning approach to worksheets where students take notes – and the worksheet is structured around the events of the days – and students post comments and reply to peers through Twitter. The active engagement with course content through twitter posts is designed to support a positive experience with social media, to build a learning community in Twitter (it’s an amazing place for educators).
So I took a break from designing this game and graded my other summer classes Tweet of the Week assignment where they similarly play a Twitter based game. For the first time in my #drpgame history, half the class is playing the game. Most students cite ‘extra credit’ as the reason for playing. But honestly, and sorry to students in that class reading this – is 3 points really going to make a big difference? Maybe, but most likely not. BUT, I really do think the anticipation of the reward, the gameful understanding of rewards for play are making the minimal 3 points worth it. This tells me a lot about what my junior level students bring to the game i’ve designed.
As I returned to my grad class game design I began wondering how I could guess what these students would bring with gameful understanding to games – in a course that is a part of a series of Institutes designed for educator PD credits. In other words, in what ways will the Institute design for educator PD credits influence how student-educators approach the course – which will influence how they approach the idea of game. What version of gameful mindset will they bring?
Are games extra credit – or rewards for student behavior? In which case – the game is supposed to serve as the reward. How does this influence ‘game’?
Are games horrible things that students play on their own time? This will really influence what student-educators understand ‘game’ to be. If they default to games = Grand Theft Auto and all the violence/misogyny/etc. ‘game’ will be understood negatively, as having no place in the classroom (random side note: I have played GTA for a class demo before, I’ve also played FarmVille)
Are games spaces of learning? At the end of the day I want students to say yes to this – but I want them to also recognize they need to support learners with recognizing their own learning in these spaces.
This is what brings me full circle to my freshmen again. My freshmen composition students don’t see their own power, they don’t recognize their own adulthood and the ‘rights and responsibilities’ awarded with their 18th birthday. Contemporary society regularly critiques social media an videogames as the root cause of all evil. If we (educators – yes i’m calling on all educators) to approach these ideas in a positive light – including games in the curriculum, as the curriculum, in support of learning will only support a student so far. Students need the awareness of learning supported and reinforced, they need help recognizing their own learning and awareness or the empowerment, the responsible use, will never happen. They won’t recognize their position as civic participants in those spaces because they’ve associated the contemporary negativity with social media/videogames outside Professor P’s class [insert teacher name here].
My exploration of what is a game reminded me of how much I need to reinforce for educators, the need to positively approach the media, and help the student be aware of when they positively approach and when they negatively approach so they understand their own position – so they begin to develop as a digital citizen.
So thank you Media Literacy Institute – whose was influenced by students – for reminding me of what I need to help teach students, every day.