Games in the Classroom
Lauren Cruikshank of UNB’s Media Arts and Cultures Program is taking what she describes as “the best from games” and implementing them into the classroom. Cruikshank teaches an advanced Digital Game Studies class where students learn about a variety of concepts ranging from play theory to the influence of gamer culture on society.
Cruikshank says a challenge she faces is to get students who often enjoy games as entertainment to instead think about them as an academic subject; “My job isn’t to tell students what they don’t know, it’s to let them see it with new eyes.” One assignment for the Digital Game Studies course involves giving students a video game and assigning them required ‘play sessions’ as research for a final group presentation. This exercise is intended to make her students consider games as an academic source material like film or literature.
Cruikshank has also structured some of her lessons around video game design ‘elements’ in order to give them a ‘Gamified’ structure. For example, when students in the same advanced class complained that an article they had read about game history was too narrow in scope, she challenged them to write their own versions in ‘multiplayer’ like teams. She also asks students at the beginning of the year if they have a certain topic they would like to cover. If they want to learn about something that isn’t on the syllabus, Cruikshank will allow students to ‘mod’ course curriculum and add it into the course.
As games continue to grow in cultural and economic importance, Cruikshank believes that they can also bring powerful experiences for learning to the university classroom if incorporated in a thoughtful way. "As a media professor, I'm always a bit skeptical of including shiny new technologies in the classroom without careful consideration. With some pedagogical thought and planning, games have the potential to powerfully support learning objectives and to invite students to experience and express course concepts in rich, interactive ways.”