In #112CWR this week, we saw the first two class sessions devoted to students' pecha kucha presentations, all of which addressed Part 1 of the Major Media Representations assignment. This is the earliest in the semester such presentations have ever happened in any of the courses I have designed. As I'm still learning students' names as well as their speaking and writing styles, I find these presentations to be functioning as further introductions to me and the rest of the class.
There's a certain bravery to students' presentations, too. For some, it's just a matter of going first, of "getting it over with," but this also means providing an example for the rest of the class to either avoid or follow to the letter. For others, it was an opportunity to get personal, to give the origin story behind their choice of major and/or intended profession.
That students took cues from the model pecha kucha presentation I gave in Week 2 was no surprise. This was also a bit of a disappointment. For as important as I think it often is to provide students with examples and models of successful projects, I worry that doing so stifles their creativity. The model provided can be an easy way for students to think less about what they want to communicate and how they want to communicate it. I suppose, though, that I'm only giving them a possible approach and template. All students produced their own memory cues, note cards, and scripts to accompany the 20 images on their 20 slides.
And for as involved as we allegedly are now when it comes to new media, I remain somewhat surprised at the clear dominance and influence of movie and television references in students' work in the MMR assignment. There are countless Vimeo, Xtranormal, and YouTube videos portraying various and sundry professions in positive and negative ways. These remain as much untapped sources for this particular assignment as videogames. Perhaps the presentations next week will have greater variation.
If interested in the next two class sessions devoted to students' pecha kucha presentations, all our related tweets can be found here.
Due to illness and/or weather, overall presence in #342VS was uneven this week. I still talked too much on Tuesday and discussion often felt forced, even unfocused at times. This may have been due to the topic (which is somewhat difficult to understand we're talking about videogames) or a lack of preparation (which is more understandable).
So, with in-class discussion already growing too stagnant for my tastes, I pitched a different approach for Thursday's class. Having assigned the introductory chapters to Half-Real and The Meaning of Video Games for that day, I asked students to identify and summarize Steven E. Jones's and Jesper Juul's approaches to and arguments for studying games. I then asked students to use their laptops and smartphones to find and play games with Jones and Juul in mind. In other words, students read/reread and discussed Jones and Juul in small groups before playing videogames for about an hour.
When later sharing summaries of Jones and Juul as well as what videogames they played, a few students admitted to experiencing some difficulty in playing Amnesia and Angry Birds while keeping Juul's "real rules/fictional world" idea in mind. One student even went so far as to express worry that #342VS would be ruining videogames for him.
This is an interesting point of reservation and resistance that I've noticed in prior sessions, the idea that we play videogames for pleasure and that critical thinking and deeper learning about videogames lessen that pleasure. My first response is to go on and on about how we can gain a deeper appreciation for what videogames are and do through that critical thinking and deeper learning about them, just as my appreciation for and understanding of Citizen Kane broadened by way of an undergrad film studies class, just as my learning how to play the guitar provided me with greater awareness of song structure and the tenets of punk rock music. However, based on the abridged version I gave in class, such an explanation rings hollow for some reason.
A second explanation could incorporate arguments and ideas from the likes of Tom Bissell, Ian Bogost, Heather Chaplin, and Jane McGonigal about what videogames can do, but I don't know how well this would work either. At least for some, playing videogames are all the justification they need. It's enough to play, their attitudes seem to say.
My lone #513DR session this week was mostly show-and-tell based on the Approaches to Digital Rhetoric assignment. Students' own Pen.io pages are more revealing than anything I could provide here, so I'm happy to just provide links.
However, I don't know if we're any at all closer to defining digital rhetoric for ourselves. As better definitions might be better enacted than found, perhaps this is okay as student-led facilitations begin in two weeks. I'm quite interested in the deliberations scheduled as I know some students have very clear pedagogical interests they want to explore. I also know that other students are much more geared toward ideas of videogames as digital, rhetorical forms. In all, it will be interesting to see what comes out of the deliberations, who takes responsibility for what while maintaining little overlap with the facilitations of others in the class.
With a mere eight students enrolled, #513DR is the smallest class I've ever had. This size is almost comical in comparison to our assigned classroom which has a capacity of 48. The last two weeks have seen us push four tables together so we can all face each other. We've been making a discussion-oriented space out of a larger, lecture-oriented space. I hope we continue to do that.