Despite the ubiquity of Unicode and the support for right-to-left processing built into Mac OS X, previous versions of Apple’s iWork suite supported Hebrew rather poorly. The cursor remained “stuck” on the right-hand side of the text, selecting individual letters ranged from difficult to impossible, and animating Hebrew text in Keynote resulted in large blank spaces on the screen. Moreover, the iWork suite couldn’t handle the complex font information embedded in the SBL Hebrew font, so you’d get misplaced vowels, accents, and so forth if you were using them.
Those days are over.
Here’s the elevator pitch: My Religion 101 course, also known as “World of Biblecraft,” functions like a cross between Farmville, Minecraft, and the World of Warcraft, where students earn XP and level up by exploring the Bible.
In the introduction to my blog series on gamification, I mentioned the New Media Consortium’s Horizon Report: 2013 Education Edition, which identifies “Games and Gamification” as a growing trend with a time-to-adoption horizon of two to three years. The term “Games and Gamification” updates the NMC’s older terminology, “Game-Based Learning.” By combining the use of educational games with gamification under a single reference, however, NMC potentially confuses two distinct phenomena.
Jennifer Zaino’s August 5 post for the EdTech Magazine blog, “Why Gamification Is Winning Points on Campus,” takes the confusion a step further by including the academic study of games under the heading of “gamification.” Continue reading
Like many biblical scholars, I earn my living by teaching at a university. In the rank, tenure, and promotion process at Pepperdine, teaching officially weighs twice as much as scholarship. Teaching, therefore, forms a big part of my public-facing identity. However, I don’t just see teaching as a professional requirement or a hat I wear at work. When I introduce myself to new acquaintances and they ask me what I “do,” I am more likely to reply “I teach Bible at Pepperdine University” than “I study the Bible for a living.” “Teacher,” therefore, forms a big part of my self-concept as well.
Gaming also defines a good bit of both my self-understanding and my public-facing identity. A friend introduced me to Avalon Hill bookshelf games (Panzer Blitz), Steve Jackson microgames (Ogre and Chitin), and Dungeons & Dragons (including Judges Guild’s City-State of the Invincible Overlord) in fifth grade (1977–78). I even have some consulting, writing, and editing credits in the game industry, and I have a whole other blog dedicated to gaming. Sometimes, I’ve even had the chance to bring my biblical scholarship to bear on game design, as when I consulted with TriKing Games on introducing the Israelite culture into their Anachronism card game and when I published a couple of articles related to Testament, a biblical-era fantasy role-playing setting (d20 system) by Green Ronin Games.
For the last few weeks, I’ve been using some of my time to develop a card game designed to help players of any age practice any language they wish to learn. Tentatively named “Wazzit,” The game does not try to teach any particular language’s vocabulary. Rather, it gives players a chance to use vocabulary they’ve learned through comprehensible input received elsewhere. My own interest lies in using this game with my college-aged (and up) Biblical Hebrew students. However, the game’s design allows it to be played by grade school kids and it adapts to any language (and can be played monolingually in the language of your choice).
Obviously, I could simply print up a few copies for my own students to use, and call it a win. However, I think that many language teachers, from grade school through college, would find the game appealing. I have already started laying the groundwork for distributing the game beyond myself. That’s where you can help me out a bit. This is not a solicitation to buy the game (yet); rather, it’s market research. If you’re willing to give me your opinion, please fill in the Wazzit interest survey. Also, please share the survey link far and wide, with anyone you know who might be remotely interested. I need as much data as possible to make good decisions.
Update: I have closed comments on this post in order to encourage interested parties to take the discussion over to the shiny new Novetus Games website. Please join me over there for further conversation about Wazzit.