Thursday, February 25, 2010

"experimental" English 150 course?

Among the many exciting things in my life right now, I am excited about my experimental section of English 150. If they let me, I'll teach a class centered around pop culture - its rhetoric, and by extension, our view of it. Instead of doing a weird op-ed on something annoying on campus, students will get to reflect on their experience with a piece of art in their lives (including a Disney movie, if they so wish). Basically I just changed the course content to be stuff in popular culture, but I think this will encourage students to write (or make them hate their favorite TV show, either one). I only wish I had found a textbook of some sort that would guide us... but I know what we want to do, and the current text isn't bad. I'm still hoping to write a text-based adventure game to use in ANY English 150 course, and we'll see if I can get any outside funding for it (even though I know it's a long shot). By a great stroke of luck, Acius seems to have a lot of experience programming text adventures...

Oh, and if you haven't already, check out Braid. My sister bought me a copy and it is awesome.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Making computer games an educative subject

Please nominate for me browser-based games which would be educational to do a rhetorical analysis on in a classroom/computer setting (and/or ideas on how to teach freshman composition in an awesome way). I'm thinking of proposing an experimental section which would use computer games, and while I guess I could require students to buy a game, I'd rather use free ones if I can.

Current candidates:
Level Up!: The "story," characters and game rules mess with traditional game conventions. It "says" things about time and learning. It aims to please multiple audiences.
The Company of Myself: This puzzler gets kind of hard (I'm stuck on the one where they're like "timing is important"), so I'd be reluctant to expect students to get very far, but I like how it also messes with time and repetition. I wonder how similar it is to "Braid" (another game I want to play, which costs actual dollars). I like that it doesn't shy away from being hard; it's not meant to be a mindless game.
Flash Portal: The first few levels introduce the paradigm-shifting portal system. Later on you just have to be fast at making portals, which I find less cool. Their audience is probably, I don't know, fans of Portal or people who wanted to play Portal.
Radical Play: A somewhat annoying racing game. The cool part is you can win by crashing into the other cars or by winning the race. They don't even pretend to use real physics, which is funny, and doing flips to get points or energy (I don't recall) is kind of fun.
Super Energy Apocalypse: Gameplay isn't terribly original, but it has a complex message - we need to defend ourselves but we also need to take care of our waste to prevent zombies from taking over.

Okay, so what would we do with these games in the classroom? It's possible to do a classic rhetorical analysis (RA) - who is the target audience, why are the elements of the game fun (instead of persuasive?) for that particular audience. Are computer games persuasive, and of what? Could writing about computer games prepare students to write in other contexts? Currently we write on a bunch of op-eds for the RA, which seem to me just as irrelevant to most majors as computer games.

Also, I was thinking of just single-player browser based games that a student could beat in one or two sittings, but could a MMORPG be helpful in a classroom context? We could be part of the same guild in KoL, and it would be fairly easy to track student progress... okay this is getting weird, I'm not sure how/if that would work. Have you played Crimson Room? That might be too hard or too easy to get a walkthrough for. Well, now you know what I've been fantasizing about: playing computer games in my classroom.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

"It may be cheaper by the dozen but it's potentially wasteful."

I cleaned the kitchen, mostly, and I feel so accomplished.

Acius took me out to Five Guys last night and it was quite delicious. Maybe mushrooms do belong on a hamburger. But it was even funnier to listen to Acius grumpy: "How long do you think it will take before there's a law about food portions?" "It is impossible to eat this much." "In Japan, you can buy a single egg in a box." Haha. ^_^ He's so cute!

This mushy post justified by an upcoming romantic holiday!

Also: I love this photo I took over Christmas vacation. It reminds me of Alice in Wonderland.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Road trip insight

I just got back from a road trip to Arizona where I presented a paper. I learned some things about myself:

-I can drive 80+ mph and not freak out. I can drive 4 hours straight, and probably more. I can successfullly navigate freeway junctions. I can be a polite driver and let faster drivers pass me on the left. I don't feel pressured to go faster by fast drivers behind me - if they want to break the law that is their problem, and they can pass me!
-After the guilty pleasure of snack food, I find that it's not as appealing as I thought it would be. The exception to this is any type of cracker and cheese (but it has to be the right combination: Ritz and Cheddar or Gouda and wheat thins. Actually I think any kind of white cheese goes well with wheat thins).
-My education in the American graphic novel is somewhat lacking.
-I don't really see what the big deal about conferences is. Tally another mark on the "don't want to do this the rest of my life" list.
-I still bring up my boyfriend in conversations all the time, apologize for it, and then everyone teases me about it later (when it happens again). At least if they can tease me about it, it's less annoying, right?