Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Professional Development

I have tried to get a wide range of professional development in my first year of education studies. There was one session of particular note to this blog was during the Manitoba Association of Teachers of English SAGE ConferenceVideogames and Literacy in the Post CoD World: How We Can Use Video Games in the Classroom, Change the World, and Avert the Apocalypse by Devin King.
There were a few sections in his presentation. First, he went through the popular depiction of video games as violent and brain-melting. He mentioned that adults are now the largest population of gamers and that it should be no surprise that video games have become more adult. The industry is targeting their largest market.
Second, he stated the positives of this story-telling form. He focused on how gamers embody characters while playing the game, that video games are open-ended, with gamers co-creating the stories by playing through them. He shared a personal example in which he chose the "Hard" gameplay option for the newly released Batman: Arkham City, because he would be playing as Batman, and Batman, as a normal human, is not able to take any short-cuts. He advocated making informed decisions as there are some great games, with great themes, gameplay and story that are not inappropriate. Similarly to how an English teacher needs to make informed decisions as to which novels to include in class. There are good and bad examples of both.
Box art courtesy izelda.net
Third, he went through how he has implemented The Legend of Zelda: the Windwaker as a text in his English classroom. His students would play with a partner to discuss and insight as they played.Students would cycle through a 15 minute playing period once a week, or until they reached a teacher-set check point. At the end of the week the class would discuss themes and challenges found in that game session.
Windwaker deals with heroism and exploration and discussions focused on how these themes played out in the game, how the players incorporated the themes into their gameplay and decisions as they had control of Link, and extending the themes from the video game into their own lives with questions like, "How can we, ourselves, be heroic in our daily lives?"
I was fascinated with the topic, especially since I LOVED this game! I hope to be able to do this in a future classroom of mine. I think many people see the new adult nature of gaming and write it off, but I think approaching emerging literary forms as we approach established ones enables us to extract great content from a medium that our students are already immersed in.
Image courtesy of IGN.com
Link, whom I embody while playing the game, sailing off towards discovery, adventure, heroism and EDUCATION!

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