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.
One of the big, though not new, ideas in Edmund J. Hansen’s Idea-Based Learning: A Course Design Process to Promote Conceptual Understanding (Sterling, VA: Stylus, 2011) concerns “‘authentic performance tasks,’ which confront students with the types of problems and issues that an academic discipline addresses and require the application of its theoretical knowledge to realistic scenarios” (p. 171). Using “authentic performance tasks” is similar to “problem-based learning” or teaching with case studies. For the field of education, Hansen provides this example: “students prepare a grant proposal to obtain trade books for elementary science curricula that will support girls’ science learning.” For environmental studies: “teams are asked to assume the role of experts in energy policy and make a recommendation for the new U.S. president’s administration to take action in its first 100 days.” (Both examples are on p. 172.)
For the last few days I’ve been reading Edmund J. Hansen’s Idea-Based Learning: A Course Design Process to Promote Conceptual Understanding (Sterling, VA: Stylus, 2011). I learned about Hansen’s book from Forrest Clingerman’s review in the July 2013 supplement to Teaching Theology and Religion.
I find many of Hansen’s claims and suggestions inspiring, but I’d like to apply them to my courses in ways that are not completely idiosyncratic. To that end, I thought I’d try to start a conversation here around a few of Hansen’s key points, relating them to a stereotypical introductory Old Testament course for undergraduates in a predominantly Christian environment (not necessarily bound to a “survey” model). I hope that plenty of Higgaion readers will weigh in, and will invite your compatriots who don’t read this blog regularly to pay a visit and join the discussion. I’m asking myself the following three questions, and I would like to hear how others would answer them.
This is what I found in my
office study when I returned from the Biblical Language Center’s Hebrew workshop in Fresno:
Most of these packages are props and such for my upcoming Hebrew class: toy people, foam swords, blocks, and even some Hebrew Scrabble games. I’ve already appropriated some toy food and animals that my children have outgrown, and some costume props from after-Halloween sales.