News & Blog

Game, Set…Learn?

By Madhurya Manohar

What do classrooms and workplaces today now have in common?

Gamification.

While the lure of games has been around forever, its use as a tool of engagement only began to gain traction seven years ago. Since then, it has transformed into a buzzword for the classrooms and workplaces of the future. But how much do we really know about gamification and how important is it for educators today?

So keen is the interest in the topic that last month, Cecile-Anne Sison from the Media and Design Studio, Susanna Calkins from the Searle Center, and Kelly Roark of Northwestern IT held a workshop for interested faculty on how to engage students through gamification. Participants were invited to create their own fun avatar and award stars based on different parameters as introducing themselves to others or asking insightful questions. The workshop spoke to the benefits of gamification, design processes and strategies, and examples of successful gamification in education.

Gamification, a term coined by British computer programmer Nick Pelling in 2003, is the process of integrating game-like elements in a non-game setting so as to encourage participation. It can include a variety of elements common to gaming psyche such as:

  • Achievement through points, badges, leveling and leaderboards.
  • Rewards through collectibles, bonuses or power-ups.
  • Time through a countdown to create a sense of urgency.
  • Personalization via avatar selection and customization.
  • Micro-interactions (toggles, special effects and animated rollovers to round out the experience.

Gamification has had some interesting applications in recent times. In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy in 2012, digital agency, Mother, partnered with video game developer, Zynga, to create Repair the Rockaways. Players could purchase virtual bricks and watch how shattered houses in Rockaway, New York were reconstructed through their donations. To encourage active content engagement, digital media website, Mashable, created the gamified platform, Mashable Follow, that allows readers to customize their news consumption and earn badges for sustained participation. In another example, a nonprofit collective, Live58, launched Survive125, a poverty simulation where users virtually experience a day in the life of a 26-year-old bricklayer from India who lives on $1.25 a day.

The versatility and applicability of the technique is perhaps what has drawn educators towards gamification as well. Today, school and university classrooms are filled with students from the so-called Generation Z – or iGeneration – the first generation to be born into the digital world. With their 8-second attention spans, sustained engagement is crucial for a productive learning experience. How can teachers and faculty gamify classrooms in an ever-changing landscape?

Wendy Hsin-Yuan and Dilip Soman, of the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management, outline several considerations in  A Practitioner’s Guide to Gamification of Education.  Educators must establish the context in which students are being taught, whether pertaining to group size, time period or similar factors, in order to diagnose pain points in the learning process. Next, instructors should define objectives and structure the learning experience into stages. This blueprint should help identify what kind of elements will be integrated, such as:

  • A tracking mechanism where a student’s progress can be measured
  • A currency that illustrates what the student achieves by completing a stage.
  • A level which defines each stage and how much currency is needed to get there.
  • A rule set because the games need to be structured.
  • A feedback mechanism.

In approaching the final gamification of the course, educators can focus on self-elements that encourage students to focus on their own learning or social elements where students are engaged with the classroom community. It is important to note that gamification does not only imply teaching through the use of games. Rather, to gamify a class or a course can also include adapting the entire class format to a game, where the elements mentioned above come in.

A graph illustrating online search patterns for the term ‘gamification’ over the years, via Google Trends.

On the Northwestern campus, gamification has had an interesting history. In 2013, Max Dawson, a former professor of the Radio, Television and Film department, designed a gamified class to explore the impact of reality television on the American television industry. Titled The Tribe Has Spoken – Surviving TV’s New Reality, the class included elements such as student ‘tribes’ who could win immunity challenges and scavenger hunts mediated by the class Twitter feed. In fact, Dawson himself went on to be a participant on Survivor in 2015.

Today, gamification has adopted another familiar avatar on campus: YellowDig, the online social learning network Northwestern adopted last year. The platform essentially enables students to engage with course material outside of the classroom, through posting articles, text, photos, videos, etc. CEO and founder Shaunak Roy built the system on the belief that ‘colleges and students would be interested in a platform that combines academically relevant content with features they are familiar with from Facebook and Twitter.’ It uses a points/ vote system as a gamified element to incentivize students to participate. Since the 2015-2016 pilot spearheaded by Medill School of Journalism professor, Dr. Dan Gruber,

More than 100 courses/learning communities comprising of over 2500 professors and students from across the university have used Yellowdig, who collectively have shared more than 8,300 learning stories and 26,000 comments & votes on the platform”

Gamification has certainly cemented itself in mainstream consciousness with its application in fields such as education, health and even community service. With the increased emphasis on hybrid learning penetrating classrooms today—and, not to mention, an urgent push to keep our digital natives involved and interested– it seems like it is here to stay for a while.

 

The International Reel

By Madhurya Manohar

The Oscars are upon us—the culmination of the glitzy awards season that ultimately crowns the best films of the year. Among the various contenders, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences selects one film that is produced abroad to win Best Foreign Language Film. With notable films such as La Strada, 8½, and Life is BeautifulItaly has fared well in this category, with 14 winning films and 31 nominations over the years. This year, films from Iran, Germany, Sweden, Denmark and Australia have received nominations.

Watching these films can not only expose you to the creative cultures of other countries, but they can also be great media for gradually picking up nuances of a language. While we await the grand winner on Sunday, here are some pieces of creative brilliance that you can start with: Full post

Another Resolution? Learning a Language in the New Year!

By Madhurya Manohar

Hello, blog readers! I am an international graduate student at the School of Communication. Through writing for the MMLC, I get to explore the different shades of digital humanities and language learning. Learning something new is always at the top of my list—and if you know me, you know my love for checklists, bucket lists, and resolutions. Learning a language, however, is the one that keeps getting away. So, with a renewed energy for 2017 comes a revamped resolution to get back on the horse.

We are moving swiftly into the New Year and if you continue to cling onto those resolutions, then kudos to you! If you are looking for a change in track, here is one you may have heard before: Learn a new language! Full post

Voice Over Recording Suites for Productivity and Creativity

By Audrey Valbuena

Academia often upholds its roots in paper and pen with more traditional forms of scholarship. Yet, to prepare students for the working world beyond college might mean to further embrace video and media, not only as something to be consumed, but as something to be produced.

In moments of reflection, I find myself pondering the possibility of doing more than writing an essay – maybe creating a video or podcast instead. Perhaps, instead of watching videos, I could be creating them. If other Northwestern students also feel this way, perhaps authoring a video essay or an informational podcast could be enough to end academic nonchalance in students and bring them into the exciting world of digital media. This sort creation through digital learning could have the capabilities to not only deepen understanding of content through creative synthesis, but serve to combine traditional education with technological learning, leaving students with additional skills needed to be successful in the increasingly technological future. Full post

MMLC’s New Student Employees

By Audrey Valbuena

The MMLC’s student employees currently occupy positions from lab aide to developer. Some have a knowledge of the equipment and how it runs, while others use their knowledge of coding to develop projects going on within the MMLC. Cecile-Anne Sison, who hires most of the MMLC student employees, explains how the center integrates this youth in the workplace. Full post

MMLC Welcomes Visitors to Open House

By Audrey Valbuena

With the start of a new year comes the advent of new technology, or in the case of the MMLC, new facilities. The MMLC recently held an open house, debuting its range of technology and new collaborative spaces. With nearly 100 people in attendance, the MMLC staff welcomed faculty from varying departments, some MMLC student alumni and the Dean of Weinberg himself, Adrian Randolph, to explore its new space in Kresge Hall. Full post

Excitement About our Move

By Matthew Taylor

As the Spring 2016 term closes, we celebrate another great year of creative and scholarly pursuits by our team, the faculty who call upon us, and, most of all, the students whose classes and projects often take shape in our labs and studios, including:

  • Developing a virtual walking tour of Ancient Rome in Chicagoincluding in-depth video explorations of various sites
  • Learning how to research and author online maps to chart Shakespeare’s Circuits around the globe
  • Honing skills to ‘write’ audio essays, including one on Tom Dooley which won the History Department’s annual Joseph Barton Essay Award
  • Adding 84 new entries to the WildWords dictionary
  • Taking one of the 1,965 online language placement tests processed this year
  • Being in a group of 597 fellow students who perfected and evaluated their language pronunciation using DiLL in our computer classrooms

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Putting IT To Use: One Button Studio

By Cecile-Anne Sison

Since the MMLC has been in the Library, we’ve really been taking advantage of our proximity to our peers. I thought I would start a blog series called “Putting IT To Use” about how a language professor or other Humanists could incorporate some of the new (or at least new to you!) technology Northwestern has.

IMG_2969First up is the One Button Studio (OBS), which is similar to the Lightboard studio in practice.  A lot of units will most likely talk about these two studios in terms of how you can shoot segments to use in MOOCs or flipping/blending/hybridizing your courses. And they’d be right! It’s easy to use – all you need is a thumbdrive (oh and BTDubs did you know the MMLC has thumbdrives available for check out?) to save your recordings onto.

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Humanities and Computer Science — What?

By Matthew Taylor

It’s holiday time. Time for big dinners, friends, family, and cheer. At the dinner table there might be those half-interested questions of “What do you do?” or “How is your work going?” This month, after attending the 10th annual Chicago Colloquium on Digital Humanities and Computer Science (DHCS), followed by an exciting talk by Mark Guzdial on how to boost society’s computer literacy, my response will be energetic and as clear as Ralph Parker asking Santa for a Red Ryder BB rifle : “Work has never been better! Increased access to tools and digital literacy are critical to scholarship and instruction of the humanities, and I’m happy to be a part of it!”

But it’s never that easy.

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