Tag Archives: teaching

Gamifying Intro to Hispanic Lit and Culture

Biblioteca Nacional, Buenos Aires. Uploaded by Sking. [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC BY-SA 2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5-2.0-1.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

It’s the last week of GOBLIN, and it has been one of the most enriching experiences of my professional life. I’ve learned so much, gotten so many great ideas for improving my teaching, and had a blast doing it.

My main goal in participating was to learn more about how to implement gamification and game-based learning in the classroom, and also to help students overcome failure. GOBLIN has delivered and then some. I have lots of ideas, and hope you’ll chime in with more in the comments.

The first step will be to gamify SPAN 3853: Introduction to Hispanic Literature and Culture class. I would like to take elements from team-based learning and ARGs to increase student engagement, collaboration, and autonomy.

The idea would be to have permanent teams for the semester, assigned using a CATME survey. The course will be a semester-long quest. Since it’s a lit course, I am thinking of framing it as a literary treasure hunt. So maybe students would get a secret message from Jorge Luis Borges, the world’s most famous librarian, asking for their help. (Reading his short story, “The Library of Babel” might be a first step.)

Clues might be hidden in books in the library or in the course readings online. I’m hoping to get the librarians on board, and I imagine that won’t be hard. They’ve already developed an awesome location-based app for the Galileo’s World exhibit here at OU.

I am also thinking of borrowing the idea of “deals” from Reality Ends Here. Each student would get a deck of cards with different elements (a task like a video adaptation of a text, a Twine game based on a reading, or a radio drama adaptation of a reading; and different elements like the readings themselves or characters, authors and props) that are worth different numbers of points.

The groups would have to decide which elements to combine and how many projects to complete to maximize their points. At USC weekly winners get prizes like lunch with a famous movie maker. I’m not sure I can offer anything like that, but maybe I can come up with other fun rewards, or link the points to the final grade.

Any ideas for improving this initial framework?

Game-Based Learning in the Literature Classroom

Apache playing cards (either Chiricahua or Western), ca. 1875-1885, rawhide, Arizona, collection of the National Museum of the American Indian

For the past few years I’ve been reading here and there about games in the classroom. The most provocative example I’ve found is Reacting to the Past, a role-playing game designed at Barnard College that has students inhabit historical events. The idea is that the game inspires students to prepare much more thoroughly than they would for a lecture or exam.

I’ve been puzzling over how to implement a similar structure in a literature classroom, but have been so busy keeping afloat with new class preps and writing my book that it’s been a back-burner project. The idea is creeping to a simmer, though, as I’ve been involved in GOBLIN at OU and found a critical mass of gaming enthusiast friends who’ve helped me to think it through.

I came across an especially exciting model today: the USC School of Cinematic Arts’ “Reality Ends Here” game. The way it gives students autonomy to decide what deals they’ll do, encourages collaboration, and also avoids imposing the game but rather lets students play of their own volition are really exciting elements.

Maybe an Introduction to Hispanic Literature and Culture course could give mega points to a group of students that produces a radio drama version of a short story, or a few points for updating a Wikipedia article on a literary movement.

Any ideas you might have are very welcome in the comments.

Overcoming Failure

Soil failure north of Campbell River on Kelsey Bay Highway.

I’ve been thinking a lot about failure lately. I’ve implemented Specifications Grading in Intro to Hispanic Literary Texts, Spanish Conversation, and Composition in Spanish courses over the past two semesters, with mostly positive results.

The basic idea is that assignments have very clear requirements, are graded pass/fail, and that failure is mitigated through tokens students can trade in to excuse or make up a failed assignment. Students seem to either love it or hate it with no middle ground, but either way I have seen much higher quality of work and engagement.

My own failure in implementing this system has been in addressing student failure in a positive way. Even though students have the chance to make up work, and I encourage them by reminding them that failure is a part of learning, they still show signs of deep frustration at the word “failure.”

Next semester I’ll take Eric Burger’s advice and teach failure by building failure assessment into the class. An assignment like Burger’s terrible first draft or this one–a required reflection on a particular failure, how it was mitigated–might normalize the idea of failure and empower students to see the learning value in failing.


Watch and learn about how the OU Writing Center supports faculty writers. (Yeah, that’s me bragging about my book proposal and teaching Spanish composition.)