Magic Shop Musings – Pedagogical Power

Magic Shop Musings – Pedagogical Power

All the snow and cold weather has really hampered business but yesterday Saptiva’s Magic Shop was bustling with activity. Saptiva (gaming name/avatar) met with various wizards, rogues, warriors, and clerics (students/players from a computer science class at UMW). Various ‘parties’  (teams) arrived in force to trade their gold and gems for potions (invisibility, cure light wounds, haste),  wands (magic missile, cure light wounds), and +1 powers! All who visited received the next homework clue and continued on with their quest. It was a bonus  +1 experience to my day!

Dave WizardDr. David Toth is doing some innovative curriculum work at UMW related to gaming.  He was a participant in UMW’s first Faculty Game Camp last summer and he credits that experience in helping him think about and design a quest-based game layer for his course. One of the things I admire about Dave is his willingness to take risks with his pedagogy. Dave (avid Dungeons and Dragons player) was  inspired to add ‘gaming’ to his pedagogical powers!

Last fall he infused a ‘quest game layer’ into one of his classes as a pilot study. Dave dressed up as a wizard on the first day of class and wrote intricate story lines for his students as they searched for hidden treasures on various quests.  He was curious to know the ways in which adding a game layer supported or hindered student learning. I wholeheartedly supported his desire to solicit student feedback and we learned quite a bit from students’ Fall survey data.  Dave has ‘upped’ his game for his current Spring class with three key modifications.

first day groupOne key change was to more closely link the quest based aspects of the course to course content, a tighter alignment. A second change was the use of an organized party. Students/players are organized into several smaller parties and now need to collaborate in order to complete quests. A third change was the creation of a Magic Shop. Dave wanted students to come to a ‘Magic Shop’ to buy various potions, rings, wands, and powers as they leveled up over the course of the semester. I jumped at the chance to run the Magic Shop – a great opportunity for me to talk with students and join in the fun of quest based learning! Dave and his students headed over to the Magic Shop on the first day of a class to receive their first homework clue, get familiar with the Magic Shop, and make any purchases from their initial bag of gold and gems.

Magic Shop BuyersAt the Magic Shop rogues, wizards, warriors, and clerics (students) traded in their gold pieces and gems for various powers and spells. Part of trading entailed figuring out what each of their various gems were worth and selecting their desired items.  What immediately struck me was how serious students were about selecting the ‘right’ items for their character class. A sense of competition and cooperation was clearly evident.  One party wanted to arrive first so they would be sure they could buy what they wanted for fear items would sell out!  And each ‘party’ spent some serious time discussing, planning, and thinking through how individual player’s class could support and balance out the overall party powers.  One rogue wanted to steal his items but I was able to catch him before he left the Magic Shop! It’s not everyday I get to barter and trade with rogues, wizards, warriors and clerics.  I look forward to their return visits!

Dave is currently engaged in a Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) project on his quest-based pedagogy.  We will be presenting our SoTL research findings at the upcoming 2014 Lilly Conference in Bethesda Maryland.  Updates will continue as the Magic Shop is now open for business.   

Collective and the Individual

Collective and the Individual

As the Spring 2014 Faculty Domain of One’s Own (DoOO) Initiative begins its second cycle I can’t help but think about individual faculty who have joined for various reasons (create Domain, integrate Domain of One’s Own project into courses, enhance technological literacy skills, money, etc.). Regardless of the reason each will seek support to venture into or enhance their digital journey. While a focus on individual faculty is central to the work of this initiative I also like to think more holistically in terms of the collective experience.  As I believe the collective experience (face-to-face and on the Web) can be a powerful experience and is really at the heart of this work.

19 faculty (12 tenure track, 7 tenured) are participating and represent Sociology, Art and Art History, Mathematics, History and American Studies, Classics, Philosophy, and Religion, Political Science and International Affairs, Computer Science, Business, Marketing, Curriculum and Instruction, Foundations, Leadership, and Special Populations, and Historic Preservation. The faculty model design is to ‘mix-it-up’ by placing faculty in one of four small groups (4-6). Each group is comprised of faculty from different disciplines, various career stages, and self-reported comfort level with technology.  Faculty come together six times (once a week for an hour); face-to-face time is roughly divided between discussion (assigned reading(s) and open topics) and technology. What is a particularly interesting characteristic about this cohort is that the majority of faculty are on the tenure track.  I can’t help but wonder how and in what ways participation in this faculty digital initiative supports or hinders their tenure journey. Something I would like to follow-up on.

I am planning and hoping to attend all four faculty groups and listen in – jotting down anecdotal notes to capture conversations, ideas, and sharing that occurs within each group and then ‘look at the collective’ for common themes/topics that emerged during our faculty face-to-face time.

Week 1: Understanding the Web.  Faculty began the work of setting up their Domain and our readings helped to inform our understanding of the Web.

  • Tensions between personal and professional

Many shared their varying degrees of comfort related to how much to share and what to share. The idea of being able ‘to control’ your online identity was something that resonated with faculty as many are taking the first steps in that ownership.

  • Developing/refining  ‘voice’ and ‘identity’

I find this theme to be at the heart of the Faculty DoOO initiative. Getting faculty blogging about the initiative (and what ever else they want) was met with various levels of concern. For many faculty the whole ‘idea of blogging’ was seen as a risk; never done before, daunting. Questions emerged, lots of questions. What do I blog about? How formal do I need to be? How informal?  What will others think about my thinking related to the initiative? It is my hope that faculty will ‘stick their toes in’ and find like minded faculty to share their experiences with and perhaps this work can help support  and enhance their digital voice.

  • Conceptualizing

This is hard work for many of us when we first begin to think about how we want to represent ourselves on the Web.  While there are so many tools to ‘build’ what we envision it is often overwhelming to ‘envision’ something new in a context that one is unfamiliar with.  Who is my audience? How do I want my work to be represented? What matters? This work is the building blocks of our identity.  I think one of the strengths of the Faculty DoOO facilitators is the sense of community they create within a particular group and also the sharing of their own digital journeys. Hearing stories of others journeys helps us to envision and shape our own digital journey.

One group talked about the tension between ‘publishing’ a finished piece of work and how different that would be in terms of ‘publishing’ a work in process (for anyone to see). Faculty question how and in what ways publishing their work in process connects to the online identity they are working towards creating.  And also how finding a ‘online community’ could also support scholarly work as others critique and contribute to ones understandings.  In some ways ‘publishing’ a work in process is very similar to taking a formative stance to the work.  As opposed to ‘summative’ the final polished piece that is judged by our peers.  I would imagine that this ‘summative’ aspect of our scholarly work matters particularly for our tenure-track faculty who are working towards establishing themselves within the discipline. And I can sense and appreciate their struggles.

While everyone is at a different place and have joined for different/similar reasons I am taken by how willing they are to experiment and try out new tools as they craft their own digital identities.  More next week.

Digital Scholars Institute (DSI) Development Begins

Digital Scholars Institute (DSI) Development Begins

Lately I have been thinking about the creation of a Digital Scholars Institute (DSI) at University of Mary Washington. I along with Jim Groom find ourselves energized about the possibilities!   Last year I joined up with the Division of Teaching and Learning Technologies to create an opportunity for 30 faculty to explore digital scholarship and to develop their own online identity through  the Domain of One’s Own Faculty unversity-wide Initiative.

One of my take aways from the DoOO faculty initiative was, ‘what’s next?’  How could faculty be provided support to engage in a more ‘scholarly’ focus on the role of digital scholarship within their particular context? What would that support look like?  How does the role of digital pedagogy inform teaching and learning? In what ways does engagement with digital scholarship support or hinder ones professional journey? Faculty data from the DoOO captured the powerful role faculty discussions played within cohorts.  I am curious to explore how and in what ways do faculty engaged in digital scholarship inform the work.  The creation of the DSI is an opportunity for UMW faculty to come together and engage in digital scholarship and create a model for the DSI to support and respond to their self-identified professional needs and digital scholarship.

Currently, Drs. Betsy  Lewis and Sue Fernsebner (both Innovative Digital Pedagogy Fellowship Award winners – Spring 2013) are serving as key members of the DSI planning team along with Jim Groom and myself. We have meet twice and have tentatively fleshed out a ‘creation’ process and plan to bring together 4-5 faculty and engage in the pilot study of the DSI.  More details to follow.