Tag Archives: games

Rules, Games and Rhetorical Theory

Douglas Eyman Digital Rhetoric: Theory, Method, Practice

In Chapter 2 of his book, Eyman reviews the applications of rhetorical theory to digital contexts as scholars work through the difficult question: ‘what is digital rhetoric?’. Eyman spends time discussing the way theorists have reimagined the rhetorical canon – notably Brooke’s Lingua Fracta: Toward a rhetoric of new media. While Eyman’s discussion is lengthy and detailed I want to focus on just one tiny detail here.

Eyman sites Porter and Sullivan (1994) saying “[b]ecause rhetoric is a situated and applied art, it generates principles, not rules. The difference is significant: principles are always interpreted and adjusted for situations (and rarely survive in pure form); rules circumscribe absolute boundaries (115)” (64 in Eyman’s text). Stated another way, context matters to rhetoric, and rhetoric must be understood in context. This is an important distinction for me, and seems to be my breaking point with Eyman – the digital in digital rhetoric cannot be the only context considered!

As a side note, I forgot my computer charger this morning, not noticing until I arrived at work. I began asking around to borrow a power cord – the IT department, Library, and Instructional Design team don’t lend chargers. While waiting for my cord to be delivered (thank you to my wonderful husband), I needed to find ways of completing digital work from my phone (an Android) – a much smaller screen, very different interface from my MacBook. I produced tweets – similar tweets to what I would’ve produced had I used my computer, but how I interfaced to create the tweets, my thought process for approaching my digital work was completely different. While this happened today as I was considering the content of this post was both frustrating and fortuitous, I am really noticing the lack of humans in digital rhetorical theory today.

As someone who studies new media, rhetoric and games, this play on principles and rules is really meaningful to me. In this chapter, Eyman’s goal is to work through existing discussions of digital rhetoric, the glows and the grows (a Lesson Study approach to showcasing praxis recently adopted by the Center for Academic Excellence at my institution – I love the terminology), specifically the ways the canon has been adapted to study production of digital texts more frequently than analysis.

This emphasis on how – production – makes sense. Interacting with interfaces is new, as interfaces continue to change, as new tools are developed, as new ways of communicating becomes possible through these interfaces and tools, users must determine how to deploy, users make choices in how they construct their digital communication acts. What is seen, what is viewable by the rhetorician, are the ‘final’ product choices (‘final’ because interfaces can and do and should change!). As Brooke points out, reimagining the canons can add to the fields understanding of rhetoric. But, the canons were designed by Aristotle in a time when oral rhetoric had a time and place for delivery. With digital tools, no digital communication is ever complete/done/delivered. Stale content on a website is an evil in the digital age – updating information to entice users to continue to visit the site is the expectation.

This is where I think a return to principles and rules – especially influenced by games and play – can add a lot to discussions of digital rhetoric. Eyman points out that Aristotle’s canon of rhetorical practice is heavy handed in rules. For example, Aristotle offers a discrete list of fallacies – of all possible arguments to be adapted to all situations. While useful during Aristotle’s time for the fixed audience and purpose of rhetorical education (democracy and public forum government), this approach is heavily rules based so constantly adapted to meet contemporary needs and contemporary understanding of the situatedness of rhetoric. For this reason, Eyman, very wisely, frames his approach in practices.

However, because I’ve played games (and become a competitive nightmare) like Fluxx where the rules and goals change with every turn, I think Eyman’s framing on principles needs to also account for the human element behind the decisions. In Fluxx games, the strategy is often to hold on to new goal cards until you can play the rule, action and keeper cards to win. This requires a combination of cards in your hand/deck, and a lack of cards in another players. Often this also requires in-play rules allowing/requiring players to play 3 or more cards per hand (long set-ups to playing new goals can be easily overridden by other players). The cards are shuffled, they will appear in the deck in any random order – it is up to the players (and their understanding of the game) to play the cards (to run the code in computer terms).

When discussing rules and principles of digital rhetorical theory, the principles and canonical adaptations need to account for human choice. While this leads to super messy theory – because we really can’t guess what a human will do – this accounting goes beyond invention (overall aligning my discussion with Eyman who similarly finds the canons binding).

This is where game theory, play theory, can offer a lot to discussions of ‘what is digital rhetoric?’. In games, rules are meant to be played with, often players determine which rules to enact, which rules to enforce, which rules even become active in a given game. I played Life with my husband and son and they bought stock. I can’t remember ever buying stock in the game previously. In my family growing up, those rules never became active and we chose to ignore the game pieces provided. In Fluxx games the players actively choose to make rules and goals. In both situations, play depends more on principles than rules. Play theories account for and recognize the situatedness of rule enacting.

As I work through theories of play for a November presentation I’ll continue to refine this idea. Initially I see the moment in Eyman’s digital rhetorical theory discussion where play theory would further complicate the ideas, and also bring the users back into the discussion in important ways. What is digital rhetoric without the users? How can we reimagine the question ‘what is digital rhetoric?’ to also account for and acknowledge the users?

The consideration of what play theory can offer is still just a kernel of an idea……

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Play and Design

A few things influencing this post:

  1. I’m reading Yancey’s Reflection in the Writing Classroom for a grad class next week, and as I prepare a new FYC curriculum for Fall 2017. YAY to trying out new things and new ways to increase writing transfer. Obviously, this is influence my thinking about curriculum design (of next week’s grad class and Fall’s courses)
  2. I was accepted to present at MAPACA on play (gamified learning curriculum) – so i’m playing with the idea of play, especially how to influence playing with writing in a composition course, playing reflectively to increase learning. Play in support of learning is a really interesting, complex topic.
  3. I’m in a one-room apartment with my 5yo while it’s raining – shocking almost no one – he’s bored. YAY to in-between moving 🙂
  4. My former colleague asked me to review a piece she’s working on about visual rhetoric. As I was reviewing the introduction, my son was showing me his drawings. So much visual rhetoric.

My 5 year old has started playing Pokemon. My freshmen roommate watched Pokemon, but I missed the card playing game by a few years. Later when I taught at IQ Abacus my kids all played on the Nintendo DS, so I caught bits and pieces of the game as they explained to me. So now we are learning to play with my 5 year old.

My observations so far, Pokemon requires a lot of math, a lot of reading, and some strategy. Great skills to develop in young kids. My son is certainly more interested in early phonics because it will help him read a Pokemon card.

How all this comes together:

Pokemon requires a player to add energy to a Pokemon in play, then if they can, they attack the in-play Pokemon of their fellow player (yes there is a Peta game critiquing this, you’ve all read my thoughts on that game). For all this to come together, the name of the Pokemon, the type of energy required to attack (and the amount), the name of their attack move, their hit points (how much damage they can take), their attack points (the damage they inflict) are the ‘key’ elements of the card. So my bored, stuck-inside-because-it’s-raining 5 year old decided to draw new Pokemon cards. He drew exactly these elements – a name (random combination of letters – he’s barely 5!), a Pokemon creature (some similar to his favorite cards some random monsters), energy symbols (mostly leaf energy for some reason), hit points and damage points. While his card was lacking much of the design elements common in the original cards, he included the major elements in his pretend deck.

As I’m thinking through ways of designing my gamified curriculum game to support freshmen composition, across multiple weeks (versus an intense week) I’m considering how to design quests that allow students to discover the meaningful elements of composition theory. What I noticed about my son’s cards is how he emphasized the most important aspects of the game – the Pokemon name, look, energy type, hit points, and damage points. While much of the remainder of the design requires elaborate boxes, color, and text – his drawing focused on the vital elements of the game. His drawing represented play through design.

It was lucky (for me) that I was reading on reflection as he showed me this, and that I had just taken a break from editing my colleagues paper as I really saw his design as playful content. He designed the Pokemon in a way that was pleasing to himself (agency) while representing the major components of the game (play). After talking to him about his cards I started a brainstorm list of the elements associated with play, here is what I have so far:

agency

freedom

choice

rules

The element that comes less naturally, reflection, comes less naturally in most situations. The tie between these ideas comes back to design – designing quests to allow students to experience these various elements of play while reflecting on their learning in ways meaningful to writing practices reflection supported in the core curriculum. What will supporting game design look like?

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Motivation and Mindset

I participated in a Faculty Learning Community read of The Spark of Learning: Energizing the College Classroom with the Science of Emotion. While it’s looking like I’ll miss the last faculty meet discussion of the book, I want to engage with the final chapter of the book, so I’m writing instead.

Additionally, I’m working on a conference proposal for CCCC 2018. Our panel will focus on the idea of transfer. While Writing across Contexts is the focus, I started reading the edited collection Understanding Writing Transfer and want to consider how the discussion of emotions in a curriculum mix well with curriculum design focused on transfer.

One theory discussed by Cavanagh in chapter 5 is control-value (there is tons of research on this – read Cavanagh for the overview I’m not providing here). Essentially educators want students to have a lot of control so they see high value in the assignment to inspire “self-directed learning that results in a shift in how they [students] see the world, and something that lasts for their lifetimes” (Cavanagh 145). While Cavanagh isn’t using the term transfer – what I’m taking away from this discussion is the goal of transfer (i’m also applying this to composition courses).

If I look at just control-value – I do this (as do most composition courses). I encourage students to select a topic that is meaningful to them, and to draw from a discipline that interests them (students also create a project adding a secondary layer of control-value). But, by itself, this assignment isn’t necessarily motivating. Nor, and most importantly, does it inspire good writing, good understanding of writing, reflecting writing, understanding of one’s own writing process, and all the other necessary steps for humans to develop strong writing skills. Cavanagh provides great ideas on scaffolding learning, providing long-term assignments that inspire high control and high value in students – but I struggled with finding the application in [my?] composition course.

Typically, students don’t see the benefit of a composition course. Freshmen often enter college with experiences writing literary analysis in high school English classes. The goal of Freshman Composition is not literary analysis, but a more general ‘academic writing’ that prepares students for disciplinary writing (in all disciplines since their major may change AND they will probably [hopefully] write for gen eds). The goal is to teach students who don’t think they need writing, students who don’t want writing, students who don’t think they’ll ever write in their profession, and students genuinely interested in learning to write. Motivating students to see the control-value situation of a writing assignment so they embrace the learning of writing is difficult (note: i’m not assuming this is easy in ANY class – i’m simply applying to my discipline).

As I read Moore’s “Five Essential Principles About Writing Transfer” I began to see connections back to the control-value theory through principle 3 – the need to develop students habits of mind and identities to help students see their high control and the high value in transferring writing. For so many of the mini assignments I have students engage with this is the underlying theory (I didn’t know I was using) – helping students recognize their previous habits and assemble and remix new knowledge in to transform their prior knowledge of writing. Which helps motivate students to see the purpose in their own learning (developing their own theory of writing – Teaching for Transfer goals) – which helps high control and high value assignments work.

As I move forward with my CCCC 2018 panel discussion I’m working in ways gameplay can help students develop mindset necessary to transform their prior knowledge (principle 1 and principle 3). As I continue to work through new curriculum i’m constantly considering – what does this look like in the curriculum? What flexibility can I design to modify these approaches based on the students IN THAT SECTION?

I also need to read more on mindset – Dweck’s book is in my TBR pile!

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games in the classroom: article discussion

a discussion of Echeverria, A., Garcia-Campo, C., Nussbaum, M., Gil, F., Villalta, M., Amestica, M., and Echeverria, S. (2011). “A framework for the design and integration of collaborative classroom games.” Computers & Education, 57, 1127-1136.

Echeverria, et. al. (p. 1127) break the use of games in the classroom into three categories:

1. using variations of MMOs to have class virtually – peer-to-peer interaction and instructor-to-student interaction occurs virtually

2. using variations of MMOs to create virtual collaboration – ARG style mix of virtual and real-life to encourage group participation

3. using educational games for subject-based learning

Their article then focuses on alternative ways of engaging with games in the classroom, specifically how the integration of games needs to begin with strong pedagogy. They provide a framework to help with this implementation. While I absolutely agree games should be in the classroom, and games should be used *thoughtfully* I wonder how immediately prepared students are for that inclusion. Echeverria, et. al. offer a revised reading of Bloom’s taxonomy, mapping areas of the game (mechanics, story, technology, aesthetics) to discuss onto the revised taxonomy to demonstrate not just learning but higher order thinking (p. 1128). This mapping emphasizes the pedagogical integration of games, and does so successfully in their sample classrooms. But, when moving beyond educational games, to less serious, even flash-based games, what do students needs to know and consider to hold discussion about those games?

I integrate games into my classrooms, emphasizing games as cultural artifacts similar to television shows, movies, celebrities, politicians. For a rhetoric class this approach makes perfect sense. The approaches, the ways of thinking and discussion have been the focus of the class for at least one class period. As I work on an article about the integration of games into the classroom in just this way I’m still grappling with the way this idea can be universal across disciplines, how do all instructors/teachers/professors introduce games as artifacts to encourage the discussion desired?

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Gamification and Using Games

I’m currently working on a paper about the use of videogames in class to support good learning. In this case, I use videogames as examples of both designed good and bad learning – then ask students to lead discussion by finding a game to similarly exemplify the theories we’ve discussed in class.

At it’s heart, gamification is the inclusion of game-like principles into class. So what I’m working through today – how is the use of videogames as discussion leader examples a form of gamification? What learning is reinforced? How is learning assessed in this assignment since it’s a presentation? What learning is created by the discussion leaders for the game-player, and how am I asking them to assess learning during their presentations?

These are tough questions, but good. What they demonstrate to me is that gamification (and this has been said before) is not a new concept to revolutionize education, but simply a new way of looking at what education has been trying to accomplish for centuries. It’s refocusing education and teaching on learning, learning outcomes, and creative assessment of learning (ie. NOT tests) to create a more engaged, involved student (see Jane McGonigal for even more discussion on this topic).

So, as I write through my assignment, I’m also forwarding an example of gamification in action. How can this one example help others understand gamification theory so they can design similar assignments that best fit their course content, their student population, their classroom set-up?

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technology choices to discuss the ARGs

So this week, after preparing for a talk on mommy bloggers… more on that anther day…….I spoke to some people about the ARG Chris and I designed to accompany our symposium. I really want to publish and discuss this game in a multimodal arena, so the paper representation can show-off the digital aspects of the game. The problem is, both games result in creative making….. so I also need to incorporate images of the makes (can I call them makes because I really like it). Plus we documented development meetings in Tumblr as a space to show our creative making process. This means a whole different version of inclusion f technology to show the breadth of this project and the various integrations with technology as we learned to design learning. Finally the @symposium game will us a printed game quest *brochure*. So I’m currently struggling with the most effective way to showcase all these technology choices in line with our vision for student learning and engagement. To help this struggle, I wanted to list everything out so I’d know what needs to be incorporated. Now I have a starting point and I can brainstorm ways to write this paper and make…..

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videogames and lesson plans

I recently re-read “Reviewing the Content of Videogame Lesson Plans Available to Teachers” as part of reading I assigned to my 313W students. I’ve always been of the opinion that there’s no perfect game to hand to teachers to use in the classroom, but ways of adapting free games to fit your needs, and ways of using even poorly designed games in unexpected ways to engage students in lessons. My problem has always been I don’t know how you work as a teacher in your classroom, so you need to pick a game you can play, get along with, teach, and use, so I’m the worst resource to tell  you that game. However, what Rice made me reconsider in her article is the lack of support in technology and pedagogy for integrating games in meaningful ways to support learning. In the courses I completed in grad work, we never discussed possible ways of using games in the classroom. When I designed my discussion leader assignment, requiring students to select a game to lead discussion related to the game AND the course material, I made it up, and modified it as the semester progressed, altering the assignment in subsequent semesters based on some of the presentations. For an article I have pending with publishers about this assignment, I suggest modifications of it for implementation in various types of classrooms with some ideas for goals. So what i’m wondering is if Rice’s approach is the right way to go, create and provide full lesson plans as ideas work, or overview your lesson plan and learning outcomes with more focus on the suggestions for modification and uses to start conversation about the use of games in classrooms. I’m leaning toward the latter as it allows individual instructors to make the assignment most meaningful to their classroom, their goals, and provides suggestions for their own interpretation. But is this the best way to support newcomers, or does this still require more time than educators have available to them…..

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ARGs

as we begin the early planning for our Undergraduate Videogame Symposium 2015 I’ve been asked to prepare materials to help faculty understand why videogames, and what discussions from videogames add to the conversation. the nice thing is they’re all on board, they don’t need to be convinced, they simply need language – and need to understand game-like learning principle application outside of videogames, and research surrounding the actual videogame. I could write a paper, heck I could write a book to explain. But no one has time, so I need to consider short, to the point, and informational enough that faculty will understand. Then I decided including this information and resources with the CFP would help students use better language as well (yay for creating more work for myself). So, to prepare I was re-reading McGonigal’s Reality is Broken: Why games make us better and how they can change the world. First I decided everyone needs to read this book (while I’m at it everyone needs to read Gee’s What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Learning and Literacy – I might as well suggest a perfect world, right). Second, I was rereading the portion where she designs an ARG to help her overcome the symptoms of a concussion. I particularly love this section for the Buffy references (a crafty friend of mine knit a coaster with the B portion of the Buffy logo for me, it’s amazing – so you can see why I love this section).

ultimately, this section reminded me of the power of ARGs not just in classes, not just at conferences, not just at specific learning events (at my panel at comicon I had a significant number of D&D leaders attend for ideas) – ARGs help us enjoy learning. I know this, but now I’m considering how to approach the dissemination of information for  #UVSNAU15 completely differently. How do I make it into a game, that faculty, deans and staff will play, so they experience game-like learning principles while learning to discuss videogame learning and it’s importance across disciplines in academia? initially the quests will be simple, engage in conversation using “game-like learning principles” for 1 point. +1 if the conversation includes multiple majors, etc. my struggle this morning is where to hide puzzles and how to engage players in collaborative learning through those hidden puzzles so they learn and practice even more.

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