Summer classes

I’m often asked if I’m teaching during the summer. As a full-time tenured faculty member, the answer is “no” in the traditional sense, but that’s not entirely true. Every summer, I take on one or two summer research students. Sometimes one of them has already been at work in my research lab, on a part-time basis the summer before. But sometimes it’s a brand new student or students, who take time to learn how to care for all of the organisms involved (just keeping plants and insects alive can be a challenge) and then the experiments… and as our department only teaches undergraduates, we do not have continuity provided by graduate student workers. 

This summer, I have two new-to-the-lab students learning everything anew, which is both fun and exhausting. But, I am also trying something new: I’ve signed up for a mini-MOOC. It only runs for four weeks, and it’s on Game Elements for Learning (on Twitter as #GE4L). 

I have been working to make my classrooms more interactive for as long as I’ve been teaching, and games are one way to do this. I’ve found two board games to use in ecology–both pedagogically sound. And game theory is a gimme (in animal behavior, when I can teach it). The introductory webinar was led by Dr. Gerol Petruzella from the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, who teaches a class called “Dungeons & Discourse” — introductory philosophy as a game, akin to Dungeons and Dragons. This sounds appealing, but it’s not truly possible for me — his class is one section among many, while mine tend to be single and required, leaving no options for a student who would not be comfortable in this scenario. Playing a game here and there to practice content is one thing; embedding the entire course in a game is something else. 

This was “week 0” of the course, so it’s mostly introductory material for the MOOC. I’m curious to see where it goes — my hope is to use this as an impetus to “gamily” another part of one of my courses. But, I’m not sure either that the tools I’ll learn from this will be applicable to the courses I teach or that I’ll have the time to really focus on this, with everything else going on this summer. At any rate, I’ve made an avatar Image (best I could do with the options available — if only my hair laid so neatly…) and will earn a class badge whenever they get to me, so I guess that’s something. 

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One Response to “Summer classes”

  1. MLRussell Says:

    I look forward to sharing this learning adventure with you. I also want to gamify parts of my cultural and biological anthropology courses, and I am likewise concerned about student responses. I’m currently thinking about making the game component one of at least two options. I’ll have a better idea about what I might do as I learn more from participating in our GE4L microMOOC.

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