Now that students have played video games as an exercise in metacognition, critical reflection and transfer of insights, what do we do next?
I’m going to try to do two things in this post. First, I want to highlight what we (students and instructor) are going to do to further the gaming exercise in our class Inquiry and the Craft of Argument. Second, I want to attempt to express the first by capturing the voices of those in the VCU ALT Lab who have thoughts to share on the topic. I’d like to include student voices, but I hesitate in overloading them. I’ll throw out the invitation anyway.
In two earlier posts, I have attempted to explain how students in my sophomore level Inquiry & the Craft of Argument class here at VCU are using video games to make their thinking visible for the purposes of metacognition, critical reflection, transfer of insights and community building. Specifically, they were challenged with the task to narrate their thinking as they played video games and explain how their play parallels the types of thinking moves in the course. They were faced with making explicit what is implicit, communicating their thinking moves clearly so that other students could see the thinking, generalize and draw connections to the types of thinking embedded in the discipline (course), and explain how these moves can help them think with greater sophistication in other parts of their personal and academic lives. It was a tough challenge, but my last post reported what I saw as encouraging and inspiring results. Tom Woodward took a photo of the class in action. What next?
I originally waited for students to bring ideas for next steps to the class, to me, to Tom who is helping with the course, but little happened. I immediately inferred (maybe erroneously) that the exercise, although very valuable for some, might have fallen victim to the curse of compartmentalization (silos).
Oh the efficiency of human thinking! It’s the same type of thinking that prevents one from seeing that Thursday’s class actually follows from Tuesday’s work (for a Tuesday/Thursday class schedule) or that week one is actually connected and necessary for meaningful work in week eleven. That is where my thinking jumped, but I don’t want to sucumb to the same fallacious ways of thinking that I’m critiquing, so I suspended judgment.
The deeper inference is that it is just as much an issue of understanding and practice. Scaffold dummy, scaffold.
So, I organized a class session to revisit the big picture of the class: the fundamental structures that are necessary conditions for deep understanding, meaningful engagement, and insight development.
I put a list of the key / core dimensions of the course on a google doc and had students individually identify the areas they believed they understood and commanded the most. They then got into like groups. For example, those who understand the logic and uses of The Backpack got into one group. Those who get the Grade Profiles in another, and so on. They then had to collectively figure out how to teach it to others. The idea is: If you can’t teach it, then you don’t own it. (You don’t know it deeply enough). Using the resources in the class, they had to figure out how to help others develop deep understanding of their content. Mere presentation was not sufficient. They had to help others figure it out for themselves, which involved engaging them emotionally and helping them make important connections. After a certain amount of time, I arranged them into mixed groups and the teaching began. It was a good exercise because it was intellectually and inter-personally engaging.
But what about the gaming project? I’m curious how my colleagues viewed what was going on based on what they observed and what I informally explained during our ALT Lab Agora’s or in passing. I am curious how others deal with the challenge of transfer. One of my colleagues, David Croteau, developed a class blog space for his class that had students apply theories and concepts in the field of Sociology with concrete issues and examples. Check out the sociological autobiographies and the imagination gallery. Awesome! It is along the lines of what Robert Frank does with his economics class at Cornell University. The fundamental goals: to ground abstractions in concrete experiences and examples characterized by curiosity and driven toward transferring insights into other related contexts so that deep insights, meaningful skills and valuable attitudes emerge and are practiced. These, I see, are major goals and challenges of education; particularly general education.
Observations / Thoughts / Comments / Connections / Oppositions – VCU Colleagues
Here is the link to the google doc where I asked a select group to comment. For some, I asked for specific analytic and evaluative thoughts, and for others open.
Here is brief email conversation where a colleague, David Croteau, asked: “What do you mean by contextualization?” (sorry it’s so blurry)
Another comment from Joyce Kincannon pointing the discussion to some resources – see sidebar: http://elliebrewster.com/2013/10/14/a-feminist-game/
Here’s an email comment from one of my colleagues, Joe Cates, in the Focus Inquiry department here at VCU.
Gaming: Next Steps, New Horizons
I approached two of my self-identified “gamers” last week. I challenged them to develop the project. A few questions always help: What are we going to do next? How can the work you started be used to develop or augment your final project? If you could do anything with what we have done, what would it be? I threw out a few ideas, but I want them to do the mental work. I want to encourage their imaginations. I want them to take ownership of the project. I just want to help guide and facilitate
Nonetheless, what would it look like if these students created a game that attempted to make the implicit explicit? James Paul Gee outlines five “learning principles” that are embedded within video game play and, he argues, can be generalized across domains. I wonder what my students could do with these principles? What could they do for others?
I’d love to teach a class where these questions were explored and actual games were created. Move beyond badges and tokens toward deep critical reflection and transfer. Hmmm??? I’d teach that class for free if students could get academic credit!
Implications for Faculty Development?
Teaching is at my core, and teaching faculty is a passion of mine. I am presenting this week at the 39th Annual POD Conference (Professional Organizational Development). The title of my presentation reflects by my general perspective of faculty development and my frustrations: “Practicing What We Preach: Leveraging Workshops to Foster Faculty Innovation.” My general perspective is that what we learn to do well, we learn by doing it. I design all my faculty development interactions around this idea. They do what we want to see in our classrooms. My frustration is in how so many faculty encounters actually function: didactic lecture telling people that they need to engage students. So odd, but understandable.
What we are trying to do with the video games is based on the idea that students take ownership of content and their thinking when they (1) directly translate, contextualize and practice the work of the discipline in real, meaningful problems, and (2) critically reflect on the intellectual work with a mind to transfer insights to other domains and contexts. This is what I want faculty development to be.
As I reflect on this class and my work, I still cannot escape what has become a mantra of mine: “There is an extent to which thought not applied is useless.” — for better or worse. If we can’t see it, we can’t evaluate it, and we can’t avoid, correct or use it deeply. I started blogging by challenging myself to a 30 Question Challenge. My organizing idea and goal was to pose 30 totally out of the box questions that I would blog about. It was a game that had meaning for me.
- It was relevant to my context as a teacher and a faculty development coach.
- It was challenging, but I could figure out how to have emerging success.
- It forced me to identify and question my assumptions.
- It forced me to examine things from different lenses and perspectives.
- I called upon background knowledge and schemas to make connections.
- I had to reframe my misunderstandings, knowledge inaccuracies and expectations.
- I had to take action and produce something.
- I had to check my thinking; assess it for quality.
- I had to reach out to others (resource identification and use).
- I wanted to contribute to others involved.
- I had broader goals beyond myself.
- I failed, regrouped and tried again writing multiple drafts at times.
- I made a commitment to learn, explore, fail, succeed, and share.
These are just a few of the ideas embedded in deep learning whether it be gaming, writing, researching, or coaching. This blog post represents another attempt to practice what I believe in: learning with and from others to collectively address the many challenges we have in our teaching and in our lives.
Thanks for all those who contributed. Not bad for three days 31 discussions.
Below are twp screenshots of the google doc to show how much dialogue was going on.