Category: Classroom (Page 1 of 3)

The Gods of Norman

In my history of science survey, we talk about how ancient cosmologies reflect the geography of the people. Thus the Nile River civilizations believe in mostly benevolent gods that bring annual, predictable, life-giving floods. The Norse have more vengeful and terrifying gods reflecting their harsher geography. Cosmologies are thus often connected to the lived reality and understandings of nature for a group.

Along these lines, I have the students write a cosmology reflecting their own hometown. They describe how the gods must be based on our observations. One of my students this semester, who goes by the handle xmac342, wrote the following entry. I think it should be used in our town’s marketing material.

The Gods of Norman

Norman, Oklahoma is a very lively town in which many people of various backgrounds come together. This must be in part because of the large school that is placed in the middle of it. No doubt this school was a gift from the Gods, as if it weren’t here, this town would not nearly be as advanced.

There are the Gods of education, love, lust, earth, sky, families, Agriculture, Music/fine arts, Roadways/construction, sleep, revenge/conflict, luck, and sport.

The God of education has not been happy with majority of the people, as they tend to evade the gift of schooling, so he punishes the people by giving them public schooling that is subpar, and making upper-division schooling so expensive that not many people can attend even if they wanted to. They also make sure that the people who continue their lives in the education field aren’t paid as well as in other places where people value the God’s gifts.

The God of love of course gives people the ability to love one another, but this is often mistaken for the gift from the God of lust. The God of earth gives us the green grass and trees that are seen throughout Norman, however, she has been at war with the God of roadways/construction, thus explaining why majority of the grass is dead and why the trees are all small. Also, the roadways and construction are a punishment from the Gods because of people’s continuous desire to have something better than they already do. Because of this, the Gods put endless construction, and when it does happen to be finished in one spot, after months or even years, it is just as annoying as before because of the quality, or confusion that it brings with it.

The God of the sky is also in charge of the wind and rain. He has so far protected Norman from major destruction from his Tornados, but also decides to allow a major drought majority of the time to punish us for our wastefulness of water. When he does allow it to rain though, he creates a flood everywhere, not only to rehydrate the earth, but to make the humans suffer as much as possible.

The god of families creates the different families of course, and works with the gods of love and lust to influence people’s lives. The God of Agriculture allows us to continue our farms and ranches and for the most part allow them to evade disasters caused by other Gods.

The God of music/fine arts allows the people of Norman to express themselves and create a culture. This plays into human identity, however the God also works with the God of lust to establish with artists are the most likely to be lusted over (Guitar players are definitely at the top of the list, while oboe players (really all woodwinds) and other unknown artists are very far near the bottom).

The God of sleep despises college students, band members, and all new parents for reasons unknown. The God of revenge and conflict loves to target high-school, and sometimes middle-school girls, as well as drivers. They tend to find the teenage angst and need to be better than everyone, and the need to get places quickly while believing that everyone around you is incredibly stupid very easy to manipulate. The God of luck is completely unpredictable, and greatly impacts the God of Sport, whose main gift was the University of Oklahoma football team. However, sometimes his gift seems like a punishment until the 3rd quarter, in which he decides that the people have been punished enough.

The Gods of Norman are very unforgiving. However, a little bit of each of them lives in every human, as they all came together to create the humans in the image of themselves. No God is more powerful than the others, and they all work with, or conflict with each other, equally.

Team Learning: A Halo 2 Clan Story

This post was written by guest blogger Keegan Long-Wheeler and cross-posted from his blog, Keegan is the educational technologist at the Center for Teaching Excellence at the University of Oklahoma and my collaborator on GOBLIN.

My first experiences of online multiplayer gaming were dominated byHalo 2. This Xbox title was the most popular game of its time in my social circles. In fact, every single one of my friends either owned or played this game at some point during high school. My favorite aspects of Halo 2 were the teams and communities that engaged and encouraged me during my teenage years. In particular, team learning was a significant part of this communal experience.

The first clan I joined, Domini Corona, was the community that engaged me in team learning while playing Halo 2. Coming together as a well-oiled teamwork machine did not spontaneously occur. Instead, all of us invested a lot of time playing against each other and exploring the various maps and weapons in depth to understand the nuances of all of these game pieces. Part of this learning process involved establishing the roles for each team member. For example, there were players who would rush to acquire the sniper rifle while players that excelled at vehicular warfare would seize the tanks and warthogs. Additionally, our clan leader emphasized team communication and continuously evaluated situations and issued orders to each member. (Fun fact! Our clan leader was one of the final OG Halo 2 players before the servers were shutdown.) As for my role, it varied from game to game, but I remember supporting my team by eliminating enemy vehicles and medium range targets with the battle rifle!

Although, we played many game styles, Major Clan matches were the most memorable. This game type was usually a series of 8 vs. 8 player objective games such as capture the flag. These games were the ones that demanded the greatest level of team learning and coordination. At the beginning of our Clan career, I recall trying to figure out how to play Halo 2 with 16 players in a match while also deciphering my role as a member of Domini Corona. Gradually, I learned my peers’ strengths, the layouts of each map, and how to synchronize attacks to efficiently defeat enemies. Eventually, this team learning contributed to us being ranked in the top 100 teams for Major Clan matches in the world for a brief period of time! Without going through rigorous exercises of team learning, we would never have achieved the level of team work we ultimately reached.

I’ll never forget the fun I had with Halo 2 players from all over the world. When I think about how much learning was involved during this time, I am humbled by the energy everyone devoted to come together and be among the best teams in the world.

As I write a portion of our story, I am reminded how powerful games are as agents of team learning. They can facilitate or simulate social interactions and learning to empower individuals to accomplish more in groups than they could alone. Additionally, many games excel at intrinsically motivating players to develop communication, coordination, and strategy skills. And, as with other forms of knowledge, becoming a literate user of a game often requires understanding complex systems and their relations in order to solve problems, overcome obstacles, and succeed. As an educator, comprehending this strength of games is valuable when thinking about course design and ways to engage students.

Goblin as OER

Our Goblin mascot is represented as a hooded figure wearing goggles and carrying a package
While the thought of gamifying an entire class or even elements of a class will be daunting for many, GOBLIN also includes more universal and applicable concepts.  Well designed games introduce game mechanics and then increase the difficulty of tasks to encourage mastery of those mechanics.  They encourage team work, challenging players to combine the strengths and overcome the weaknesses of team members. They allow you to lose and to learn from that failure to improve.  By adapting these lessons for the classroom, we seek to improve student engagement and help students master the skills to succeed in college.

We hope that the design of GOBLIN will be more entertaining and provide better transference of skills than traditional lecture- or seminar-based workshops. The whole point of the project is to think about how we can create more active and engaging environments that motivate students to learn.

Open content was key in building this project.  The most visible example of open content in GOBLIN is the integration of artwork from Glitch the Game. When the game was discontinued in 2012, the programming team at Tiny Speck (many of whom served as the developmental team for the giant communication app Slack) released both the game code and the creative assets as open content in the public domain.  This meant that we could use any assets from Glitch to develop GOBLIN.

The ability to repurpose this artwork from the public domain inspired our storylines and allowed us to focus on developing game mechanics and instructional content.  All of this would not have been possible without the availability of high quality open content. For this we are grateful to Glitch creators.

We also drew on other open content resources including, a repository for open source artwork was phenomenal for acquiring content. Unsplash is another fantastic source for high-resolution, breathtaking photographs that can be freely used.

All of these resources hold a special place in our hearts, because they are aligned with personal philosophies on educational materials: open access content is best.  While, we intend to run this series as often as we can find interested folks to participate, we hope to reach a far larger audience outside the campus of OU by offering the website as an open educational resource.

We encourage anyone visiting the site to run their own versions of Goblin by using the site or by building and improving their own forked version.  To that end, we have used the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International license throughout the site to assure users that they are welcome to use and adapt any material presented as long as they attribute it and don’t charge money for it.  Let us know if you want help in playing the game, using the resources, or adapting the workshops in whatever way suits you best.

We encourage you to consider sharing your next project as an open piece of content. Together, we can build even greater projects with the option to iterate and grow from other pieces of content.

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