Playful Beginnings – Scouting thru Texting

A few years back I had the unique opportunity to meet Lee Sheldon at Game Education Summit where he shared his multi-player classroom design. As an avid gamer his worked captured my imagination. In 2012, he released The Multi-player Classroom: Designing Coursework as a Game – a great resource to think about game elements, game theory and curriculum design.

This year at University of Mary Washington I began working as the Director, Center for Teaching Excellence and Innovation. What I love about this work is the opportunity to innovate, create and explore pedagogy. I decided to ‘live game theory’ in my new course, Participatory Play: Games Without Walls, an honors seminar for freshmen undergraduates. The course is designed to immerse players/students in game theory as they ‘quest’ for knowledge related to gaming and gamification. My challenge, as the Game Master became – how do I set the stage for a unique and different learning experience? Certainly not by talking about it!

First Day of Class: Players/students faced their first PVP challenge right off! The Game Master (me) wanted my players to engage in social networking to explore the question: What does play mean to you? Players were challenged to text as many people as they could to glean people’s perceptions and definitions of play. What we found out that many social network friends were still sleeping (9:30am).  I was grateful to the moms, coaches, and early risers that responded.  There was laughter and discussion about the wide range of responses that were coming in. PVP groups then shared all of their individual responses and began to look for patterns. Once the players identified common key patterns they collectively created a poster. We held a whole class ‘debrief’ to talk about what they found, what does play mean, and how we wanted to ‘play’ our class campaign.

Players reported that they were “most engaged” during the PVP challenge and discussion that day and I decided to create a word cloud from the two team posters.

Play 4MP

I think I was most surprised that a few players (3 out of 9) felt ‘most distanced’ watching a short video of World of Warcraft.  Brian Franco (long-time virtual gaming friend in 21CW) created a short video to help my players catch a glimpse of the virtual world they would be entering for the virtual realm portion of our campaign.

It is my hope is that this course immerses students in a new learning paradigm that challenges their assumptions of what learning is and means within a multi-player classroom; shifting from teacher-centered to student-centered. I anticipate that my players will be challenged and have purposely built-in classroom processes and structures to help support their learning quests as they try to figure out how to ‘play the game of school’ within this new learning paradigm. Scott McLeod’s blog ‘dangerously! irrelevent provides a great overview of Robert Fried’s, The Game of School and offers some food for thought using some of Fried’s quotes.images

The players are a great and seem open and ready to step into the pool or at least stick their toes in the water. I am hoping they will become Buccaneer Scholars as they navigate ze campaign and take charge of their own learning. Yarrrr!