Tag Archives: game

Rhetorical Peaks: The potential and the problems of teaching the humanities through games

I learned about Rhetorical Peaks at the Humanities Gaming Institute I attended last year. To my mind, it’s the most realized game so far made when it comes to trying to duplicate the kind of critical thinking instructors try to teach their students. Thing is, it can’t be played independently; it needs to be played in the context of a classroom, and under the guidance of a professor. It’s a game, still–can you solve the mystery?–but it’s not a game that uses a set of self-governing game mechanics to convey humanities knowledge, or ways of knowing.

Rhetorical Peaks is a study in making games for the humanities, both in terms of lessons to learn and pitfalls to avoid. My reading of it is that it trades immersion and autonomy for classroom-specific goals. My dream is that we learn to make games that don’t have those trade-offs: that they be immersive, autonomous games that teach the humanities’ ways of understanding the world.

NUI-Torcs for Numerical Methods

NIU-Torcs is a rare example of a college-level mathematics game that allows for deeper learning within the game. Brianno Coller and colleagues developed the game through an NSF grant to help their mechanical engineering students learn numerical methods (Coller & Scott 2009). Students begin the game by learning how to code acceleration and steering using the programming language C++.  They then move to making the car move fast without skidding off the road, by calculating numerical roots, solving systems of linear equations, and doing curve fitting and simple optimization. The authors report that students are motivated to keep trying far more than when given these types of problems as meaningless homework exercises. Concept maps produced by the students in both the game-based and traditional classes showed that although measures of low-level knowledge were statistically identical, students in the game-based class had much greater levels of deep thinking, which included being able to compare and contrast methods and link concepts together.  In addition, student attitudes about the class had changed – they were more engaged, and more able to recognize the value of the mathematics they were doing. http://www.ceet.niu.edu/faculty/coller/more_information.htm


Test Review Jeopardy

One of the easiest ways to incorporate games into teaching is to use Jeopardy. I have used it to liven up test reviews in courses as disparate as calculus and remedial arithmetic. Free templates for the game can be gotten by searching “PowerPoint Jeopardy Template.” You can then enter questions and answers into the template. There are also versions available that teachers have posted for various classes, with the questions and answers already written in.

To make game play more collaborative, and to ensure that everyone is working, the whole class can participate in finding the answer to each question, rather than just one student at a time, or the class can be split into teams. Student appreciate being able to go back over the game at home as further review, which can be facilitated by posting the game online, for example, in a course management system such as Blackboard.