Games and puzzles are microcosms for explorative learning. In all their wondrous variety, they can address every kind of intelligence and provoke imaginative and emotional engagement with any kind of subject matter. Interactive and emergent, gameplay is the heart beat of the design process, and the learning process, itself. As a result, I seek to guide a design classroom that, at its core, is powered by play. A playful classroom is not a classroom without rules, but rather a classroom where rules arise from interaction and discussion, where parameters are playtest opportunities, where scope and structure emerge from the pursuit of the creative vision itself. Every student enters the classroom with different life experiences, mental maps, and expectations of the course, the teacher, the classroom, and themselves. The teacher, also a student, enters the classroom with a range of life experiences, mental maps, and expectations of the students and themselves. My goal as a teacher, then, is not to design designers, but to stimulate and be stimulated in a self-forming creative environment, so that we, as learning entities, might possess the ultimate truth – we are students and teachers at once – in essence, game players and game designers - and must be, to engage the professional world.
In the classroom, and in assignments, I try to define parameters that will give students a way to surprise themselves. Successful classroom strategies do not plot linear courses, but are iterative and algorithmic – they are open to unplanned possibilities. This way the classroom grows into new dimensions – into virtual space, within the game engine, into cyberspace, through the internet, and into imaginative spaces, through toys, puzzles, thought experiments, and conceptual visualization. The classroom is a puzzle we are constantly trying to figure out together. Essential to effective game design, and class design, is feedback. I provide students with feedback in a variety of ways: through one-on-one conversation, through checklist rubrics, and written comments. But most importantly, I strive to get students engaged in group critique, so they can respond to each other in a meaningful way. The audience is never just me, it is everyone in the classroom. Moreover, my course materials are the result of playtesting and student feedback. I have refined the classroom experience over the years, and each class has evolved into a unique learning experience, with a carefully constructed interest curve. When I “playtest”, I watch how the students interact with each other, how they respond to me, and how they respond to the environment and class materials. I consider factors such as emotional engagement, student freedom, and student focus. Student feedback has helped me to flesh out the knowledge gaps in my own understanding, and has pushed me to explore new skills and areas of interest. Ultimately, I teach because it empowers me to be a more insightful designer.
Teaching Portfolio Blog: The Future Our Playground