I've been quite busy trying to juggle all of the various responsibilities over the past two months and I hate that fact that I haven't posted anything to techna virmumque cano. I hope to make up for it this week with five straight nights of "quick-ish hits"-- a few things that I've wanted to post about and just having found the time. Starting tonight, I'll make the time.
One thing I do want to mention is a project that I've been collaborating on with a host of very intelligent humanities people (who, by the way, love to talk about games as well.) That is, of course, Play the Past, spearheaded by Ethan Watrall of Michigan State University. If you are at all interested in intelligent conversations about games, keep PTP on your radar. We publish new articles Tuesday through Thursday and we'll be coming back from holiday hiatus starting next week.
So what's new with Operation LAPIS? Well, we're about to let the Recentiī (the student-controlled characters) perish in the eruption of Vesuvius. Of course we'll bring them back albeit a couple of years ahead in the timeline, and in Roman Britain, but who's counting? However, that's just the start of things. Since around Thanksgiving I've endeavored to create as close to as 1:1 laptop environment as I can during the actual class time portion of the class. This is not without extreme challenges; we have no wireless network readily available for anyone, students are not allowed to use their own devices while on campus, and we have a single mobile laptop cart for an entire building. No problem, the system allowed for me to book the cart every day for the rest of the year during my scheduled period. (You can insert a devilish grin here.)
I can't stress enough how foreign this setup is to the students. Having access to their team discussion forums, Google Docs, and a plethora of other resources on a daily is something that just doesn't happen in any other class in which they are enrolled. As a result we've had to do a lot of scaffolding on how to use a device like a laptop to your advantage while in the classroom. For me, it's painful to see how lost they are with something that I see vital to my daily life. It doesn't take much searching to find the mounds of anecdotal evidence that disproves any thought that this is a "technologically-savvy" generation. They aren't. At all. With the only exception being chat and social media-- which they discovered how to take advantage of with great facility inside of Google Docs.
They (wrongfully) assumed that once I discovered what they were doing that it was going to be shut down. But then again, given the climate and the culture, I'm not surprised. However, we had a little discussion about just the nature of a back-channel chat, how it could be useful and why I was so happy to see that they had created one. Surprised that I wasn't going take away that outlet from them, they willingly added me to their chat document (in case any issues arise), which was complete with a set of rules that they created and a couple of self-promoted moderators to keep people on task and focused on class material.
A lot of the comments that they post in their back-channel chat is drivel about when lunch starts or any number of other senseless things that are of the utmost importance to freshman. Since it's creation, though, it's been perfectly clean and occasionally provides an opportunity for students to ask each other to explain something in greater detail. An opportunity that many are eager to respond to and, as a result, strengthen the community of learners inside of the classroom.
Tomorrow I'm going to talk briefly about how the make-shift 1:1 laptop setting has sparked an even greater degree of collaboration and community in the classroom.