Keramidas (2010): Immersive Learning in Game Design

Kimon Keramidas argues that Gee’s classic text on the lessons that video games have to bare on teaching and learning is incomplete. While we learn about the cognitive experience of gamers, the book does not prescribe methods for educators to design curricula based on gaming principles. As his thesis for “What Games Have to Teach Us About Teaching and Learning: Game Design as a Model for Course and Curricular Development,” he states, “This paper will argue that the schema and elements that game designers use in creating games can analogously be used as frameworks for reconsidering the structures of classroom experiences, syllabi, and even program development” (Keramidas 2010).

I found his discussion of teachers as designers from Salen and Zimmerman’s Rules of Play most interesting. “Just as the best games are only effective in attracting and maintaining the attention of players if they are well-designed, the best learning environments will be created by designers who take seriously the task of creating a context for students to decipher meaning through participation and immersion” (Keramidas 2010). Teachers are responsible for creating a learning environment in which all signs, feedback, and experiences reinforce a learning objective or culture. Whether teachers are intentional or not, everything that occurs in their classes sends a message. While educators have written much on participation and its various forms–individual, partner, small group, whole class–I have not encountered much discourse on immersion. What does immersion look like in the classroom? How do the physical environment, learning activities, and assessments contribute to an immersive learning experience?

My thoughts are that immersion parallels with discussions of authentic learning in education. Here, authenticity refers to the learning activities and writing that mimics the work of professionals in the discipline, ie. thinking and writing like a historian, or reading scientific articles in a biology classroom and writing lab reports. Yet, immersion also makes think of something else. An immersive learning experience indicates coordinated, sustained focus on a topic. When do we create the time and place for sustained focus in schools? When do students have the opportunity to experience “flow” in their thinking, reading, writing, or other problem-solving?

In my Composition classroom, I lament that I do not schedule enough time for individual application of a learning objective. I recognize the need for sustained practice of discrete skills. The famed charter school administrator Doug Lemov describes strategies for skill-building in his book Practice Perfect. I disagree with several features of no-excuses charter schools, but their systems for data management and designing specific learning activities to focus on narrow learning targets is notable. In the era of project-based learning, skill-building activities are often derided as put-dated “drill and kill.” Yet, what do we make of the simplistic, repetitive maneuvers of Tetris-type and Bejeweled matching games? We practice an isolated set of skills until we master them and move up in difficulty. Isolating skills is a strategy that special education teachers learn in order to modify lessons for students with a range of learning needs. It seems to me that this is an additional feature of game design that leads to its popularity.

Reflections on Blade Runner

  • Greetings everyone,

    My name is Kahdeidra, and I was unable to attend this week’s class session; however, I have listened to the audio recording of the discussion and have attempted two provocations based on what I heard and my own analysis of the reading and film. I’d love to read your thoughts!

    Provocation #1.
    In this Monday’s class, Professor Mandiberg posed the following question: How did the text and the film represent race or not? The class discussed how the Androids are enslaved labor and that indigenous and African-descended people are entirely excluded from the narrative. For me, the idea of colonizing another place immediately foregrounded racialized colonialism and chattel slavery. However, there also appears to be a metanarrative on Orientalism in the film. In the film’s setting, Japanese female sexuality is idealized and is the dominant representation. This contrasts with the U.S. tradition of White female sexuality and beauty being idealized. One recalls the advertisement in the opening scenes. The advertisements feature an Asian woman dressed as a Geisha. As a viewer, how did you “see” this woman? Did she seem out of place, or did you accept it as a logical aspect of setting? What was Deckerd’s relationship to his surroundings?

    My experience was that we seem to participate in the orientalizing of Asian cultures because our gaze is aligned with Deckerd, a White male authority figure who does not speak either Japanese or the dominant street language, that evolves from several different languages. It was a powerful commentary on linguistic ideology when the Asian American cook is forced to translate for him, and we learn that he is in fact multilingual, despite pretending that he did not understand Deckert’s use of English. Even still, Deckerd does not seem embarrassed, only annoyed by the languaging practices around him. He retains his White male, monolingual privilege in a clearly Asian-dominated, multilingual context.

    Later in the film, I recognized what appeared to be another example of idealizing Japanese female sexuality. The make-up design of the female android with white powder and black eyes was reminiscent of Geisha make-up and Japanese Kabuki theater. Did anyone else have these thoughts? Or, is my analysis overreaching?

    Provocation #2. 
    What do we make of the death of Tyrell, the founder of the Tyrell corporation? It was glossed over in the class discussion, but I think that it is worth revisiting. Consider the manner in which the android killed him. He firmly kissed him on the lips and then gouged his eyes out. How did you read the kiss? Was it homoerotic? Was it a commentary on androgyny and sexual fluidity? Finally, was it significant that his eyes are gouged out? If so, what could his eyes and immediate death symbolize? (I was surprised that he died immediately after this injury. I expected that he would be forced to live with blindness.) What themes could be at play in regards to the role of corporations in our lives?