Teaching classics through digital media

A friend of mine (Hi, Mike) showed me the blog of a prof at U-Conn today. I’ve been somewhat familiar with his work (his name is Roger Travis) for some time but hadn’t visited his blog yet this term.

Basically, he is teaching Greek history through the format of an RPG. No costumes, just mechanics. It’s beyond fascinating. I really want to try this out here at U-Mich. Imagine teaching the Medea this way – such complexities of character could really be explored through individual experience. Someday when there’s an engine for it, I’d like to do this with interactive fiction, but instead of having the reader and the constructs of the narrative, having the reader, the interactor, and the author. The reader would be one student or team, the interacter another student or team, and the author likely the teacher who would construct the bounds of narrative. Inside this fictive universe (wouldnt’ it be great if CTools or Blackboard had an option to design this?), there could be mechanics for gaining points in class, whether through gear (as could be done with Homer), with charisma, sanity, currency, humor, an endless number of concepts that could be quantified and used as incentive and narrative drive in a pedagogical adventure. (Note how Travis’ students have a weapon, a mask, etc.) Both the reader and the interactor would have their own objectives for the narrative (think Jason and Medea again) but the author (the teacher) would be in charge of guiding it into an experience of how Euripides has created these characters. I get chills thinking about this, I really do.

Well, so there’s this grant program here that asks for student teams to design projects that combine academics and digital media in a way that creates new avenues of teaching and learning. Proposals are due tomorrow but teams don’t have to be finalized for another few weeks. If you are at U-Mich and would like to contribute to a project that involves concepts similar to those above and those outlined on Travis’ blog, get in touch with me!

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