Presentation: London Knowledge Lab, 24/11/05
Russell James Francis: Oxford University
• Revolution is a multi-player 'situated' role-playing game to support teaching and learning in social history. It has been developed from a ‘mod’ (modification) of the commercial game Neverwinter Nights
• Russell stressed that this leanring resource should be seen as complimentary … performing within function in a wider set of educational activities.
• Each character has a set of personal goals. Back story positions students within a role and creates empathy for these personal characters.
• Interactional possibilities are increased by the use of NPCs.
• This a simulation aimed at modelling a complex social world - political allegiance, social class, inequality, gender roles. Revolution is focussed at the personal and local level and tires to show how decisions here can have effects/shape the larger historical event i.e. history is 'produced' as a bottom up process. Learning outcome: history is made through the collective decisions of individuals.
What does a games based pedagogy look like?
• Situated learning in a virtual environment: the experience is akin to an improvisational drama where students draw on their prior experiences.
• Overt instruction and reflection discussion: pull tacit knowledge up to the conscious level.
• Practical media framing: reproduce or re-apply scenarios(?) through activities
• Critical framing: interpreting the social and cultural context of the particular meanings. Question the settings of the game. Lead students into a discussion of historiography and how history is formed. Meta-analysis?
Conceptual tools to understand these complex experiences:
Three pillars of literacy (material, psychological, socio-cultural) [diSessa, A. (2001). Changing minds: computer, learning, and literacy. Cambridge (Mass.): The MIT Press]
• The other theories seem to fit with the above: Bordieu (habitus: a class disposition, a structuring structure, a structure of structuring, a life-style, a practice-unifying and practice-generating principle), Lave (situated learning), 3’rd space (Moll) and so on.
Data analysis: conversational analysis: for example situated interaction e.g. revision of a hypothesis. Russell concentrates on 1 or 2 lines and really tries to understand what the student is thinking. He also used diary entries as data for analysis.
*How did the impact of playing a character within the revolution impact on the student’s ability to participate in a discussion about aspects of social history?
A rich experience helped in the production of creative work after the games had been played i.e. in the slide shows they [students] created at the end.
Who did this not work with?: interestingly it did not work well with the ‘gamers’ … they were too ‘knowing’ of the genre [games] e.g. they got the characters to remove items of clothing – subversion. Expectations of gamers who are experienced in commercial game play is completely different to other students.
Challenges - teacher knowledge of multiple interweaving narratives … Russell described a feeling of being out of control within the classroom … not knowing what was going on.
Creativity, agency and subversion – does genuine creativity always invoke a disregard for convention and a healthy degree of subversion. Sub-cultural bricolage in youth culture.
But of course this also means subverting the role of the teacher.
Participatory media involves a transfer of control from the teacher to the student and students may follow their agenda. This agenda may depend on their own identity, values, goals and priorities.
Or do we get them to reflect independently?
Challenges: digital media in the classroom do mean that we have to readdress the way that view educational outcomes and educational aims.
Is subversion an example of critical framing (of the experience)?
How much risk in the division of real vs. virtual?
What kind of development is there in personal goals within the games?
Situated language and learning. Embodied empathy. Is the notion of identity stressed? What makes games attractive is the possibility of playing out fantasy roles (Turkle) i.e. play out fantasy roles.
Rigid stereotyping – in this game there are only black slaves when historically there were also ‘white slaves’ and so on? A problem with naturalising history. Empathy problems i.e. carrying ones own motivations back into history is problematic and assumes one can know what was going on on the mind of say a slave.
Important – to see it as a representational system and remember that ones experience within the simulation is situated as being within a game designers simulation of history and obviously we were not actually in that moment of history.
Machinima: used to create digital diary entries … retelling stories from particular character viewpoints using video stills and voiceovers.
Agency – assumptions that are being built into the model i.e. anticipating how characters might react and working within a set of rules.