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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

CEP 818: How do I love Thee: Play

In performing all of the previous activities in this class, as well as the modeling chapter being the "freshest" on my mind, I came across an older publication that I really feel is a culmination of all of the prior activities. I read "Simple Games for Teaching Sociological Perspectives: Four Examples of the Do-It-Yourself Approach" by Roger Straus and was very impressed with the design of these role playing games to illustrate sociological perspectives. Although the interactive games I previously posted are very well designed and teach similar ideals, the way these role playing games are designed allow for much more creative freedoms for the players.

The first game he discusses is a "Gender Reversal Game".  Here are the guidelines:

The Gender Reversal Game
1. On cue, all males in the class become
females, all females become males.
(The Gender Reversal Game has, since original
submission of this paper, been selected for publication in
the A.S.A.'s syllabi and teaching materials set for sex
and gender--Thorne, et al. 1985).
2. You are expected to act, talk, interact like a
person of the gender you have assumed. This
is to include body language, speech mannerisms,
interaction patterns, walk-EVERYTHING.

3. For about five minutes there will be a trial
period during which you are to practice
acting like the opposite sex. For these five
minutes you are to help one another get into
your new gender roles by coaching, modeling,

4. Everybody is expected to participate. Wallflowers
will be harassed by the instructor.

5. When the five minutes is over, you are to act
like a typical member of the opposite sex at a
Friday night party. This includes flirting,
dancing, doing all the things men and women
do at parties around here the way they
actually do them.

6. The primary goal of this exercise is to try
behaving like a member of the opposite sex
as realistically and as completely as possible,
to not only act but think and feel like one.

7. Therefore you are to monitor one another's
performance. If you spot any student who is
not doing a realistic job of acting your own
"natural" gender, you are to confront
him/her with what is being done incorrectly
(e.g., stance, talk, interaction) and she/he
gives you 10 credits.

8. A secondary goal of this exercise is to amass
credits, so try to catch people blowing their
role (or even see if you can trip them up)
Assignment: You are to turn in at our next
meeting a write-up including a) what it was
like for you, b) how you played your role, c)
how it felt, how you found yourself reacting,
d) any problems you had in taking the
opposite gender role, e) what you learned
from the experience, and f) anything else
worth mentioning.

I found this game very interesting for a few reasons.  First, the "gender roles" we have defined by society are changing-and in fact have changed drastically since this publication in 1986.  My thoughts on using such a game in the classroom would be to add a decade and give specific scenarios to re-enact.  In other words, behave like a member of the opposite sex in the 1950's in the scenario of "dinner table" or "date night" (men would be acting like women from the 1950s and women acting like men from the 1950s in those situations).  Of course the game could still be used as intended and ask them to take on modern day gender roles-but have the lines between men and women been blurred to the point of not knowing where that line is? For example, working moms weren't as common 20 to 60 years ago as they are today-so if you are acting like a modern day female at dinner time would you take on a different role than acting like a 1950s female? A 1950s female reenactment of dinner time may including the female putting the dinner she prepared on the table and asking how her husbands day was.  A modern day female reenactment of dinner time may include asking her stay at home husband what restaurant they are eating at. Although these two examples could occur in any decade-which decade is each scenario more prevalent in and would that effect the roles the game players choose. Will the students construct their roles differently if they are given a scenario and a decade?

I am a firm believer in the theory that if really want to learn about a person-their world view, character, values and so on-play a game with them for one hour. Although I don't have a classroom to really test out this particular variation of the game I believe that it would be a very valuable introductory activity for the class. Putting people outside of their comfort zones by asking them to pretend to be something they are not can really open up their eyes to their own stereotypes and labels of others. It can teach them a lot about their own world view as well as allow them to explore other views.

This activity could also be done in an online environment. A virtual room could be used where students create an avatar that fits the character they are supposed to play. Design elements on how they create their avatar can be considered the same way the "body language" element of the in person activity was to be considered. They could talk in a forum setting after being given a prompt about the activity and their interactions would follow the same guidelines as the in person activity but take longer to complete (a week as opposed to an hour).

I think this activity would be very beneficial to introducing the students to social injustice as well as inequality. It would also be beneficial to the instructor as it would provide a creative way to do a per-assessment on the students.

Give the article a read, it lists 3 other games that could be modified as well and provides the "goals" of each game/exercise.

Simple Games for Teaching Sociological Perspectives: Four Examples of the Do-It-Yourself Approach
Roger A. Straus
Teaching Sociology , Vol. 14, No. 2 (Apr., 1986), pp. 119-128
Article Stable URL:

CEP 818: How Do I Love Thee:Modeling

When I think of social injustice and modeling, I thought of some games I recently found out about at the Meaningful Play conference I attended at MSU recently. I began looking at various websites (Games for Change) and found a few very powerful games that I decided best represent the idea of Modeling (combining abstract thinking with analogy and embodiment). If I were a game designer, I would create one to share with you!  Although I do feel I am a creative person, I believe that creating a true model of a game to illustrate social injustice topics would take me years!  So I have picked a few games to share that I believe would really reinforce my topic well.

!) A Closed World

Play game online here

This information was shared on Games for Change Website about this game:

"Like most game prototypes created by the students at the GAMBIT Game Lab, A Closed World was designed to explore and research different aspects of games, in this case, the lack of compelling video game content for LGBTQ youth (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer).
A Closed World takes the gameplay aesthetics and mechanics of “JRPGs” (Japanese role playing games) and puts you in control of a character of ambiguous gender that begins exploring a forest on the edge of town. Disregarding rumors of “demons” that exist in the forest who have the ability to “destroy” your village, your character must overcome the hardships of a forbidden relationship by exploring what lies inside the forest. Through this journey, players battle the forest’s “demons” and the ideals they are trying to force upon them. The players’ only defense is their logic, passion, ethics, and the ability to remain calm during conflict. As “demons” attack with their beliefs, they must fight back and defy their ideas of what’s “normal” and what love is supposed to look like."

Here is a trailer to the game if you don't want to play it right now. 

While playing this game (self-disclosure I do not identify as being an LGTB person but I did feel a small amount of the pain and suffering one would feel confronting issues of discrimination, stereotyping, etc. presenting in the game).  The emotional responses I had confronting the demons in the game actually surprised me. Having the demons degrade me, put me down and experiencing them as being 5 times larger than my character really put things into perspective for me on the topic of social inequalities. I felt as though this is an excellent game to use in the classroom or as homework even to generate discussion on the societal views of LGTB people and perhaps even evoke discussion regarding the local communities treatment of, policies that support or discriminate against LGTB people.

2) The Curfew

Play the game online here

This information is shared on the Games for Change website:

"The Curfew is an online interactive drama created by Littleloud, published by Channel 4 and written by comic book author, Kieron Gillen. The Curfew addresses a range of political themes targeted at young people, challenging them to examine the freedoms they currently enjoy and the potential consequences if they do not protect them.
The story starts as the player receives important data from a mysterious contact. The contact persuades the player to pass on the data to somebody who will use it to bring down the out of control government. The player proceeds to a safe house where they meet 4 Sub-citizens who are avoiding curfew. Each Citizen has a different story and reason for being in the house that night.
Over four Episodes, the player will play through the flashbacks of the four characters: Lucas the boy, Aisha the immigrant, Leah the dissident and Saul the ex cop. By exploring the interactive 3D environments, conversing with characters, playing mini games and solving puzzles the player will progress through the game. There are 3 scenes in each episode and each scene is followed by an interactive questioning round back at the safe house. The player can question the character on the action they have just experienced and will either receive or lose the character’s trust depending on the questioning tactics they employ. These sequences will decide which character ending they will receive. The Curfew includes a range of digital techniques including 3D sets, dynamic composition and seamlessly integrated live action footage"

 Here is the trailer to the game if you don't want to play it right now: 

With all the current events about the United States becoming more of a police state (drones, the Patriot Act, recent legislation allowing the government to read your emails, etc.) I believe this game illustrates many sociological topics-freedom, social injustice, etc.  Again, playing this game in class or as homework can really allow a discussion about this topic to be facilitated through experiences. When I played this game, I could see how my choices really effected the outcome of the story. However, since this game used videos of "real people" instead of just computer animated characters it humanized the experience a little more for me.

I think that both of these games allow the student to have an emotional experience with these topics and model the situations others face daily when they deal with them. Since my topic is not math, science or subject matter that is always "definitive" it is a different process for me to model the material. When a student simply reads a chapter about discrimination or authoritarian control and is able to recite the theories involved, he or she has learned information. However, when a student plays a game they are able to put those theories into practice and see the results of their choices immediately. While both of them games have scripts and don't allow for complete free thinking, they do model typical responses that the average person would most likely take. Enabling the student to still have choices over how they play the game is an example of our everyday real world experiences that shape sociological theories and norms.

These two games are just an example of the games on Games for Change's website. They have dozens of other choices that teach important lessons (hence the web site's name) and I encourage you to visit their site. 

Monday, November 5, 2012

CEP 818: How Do I Love Thee: Embodied Thinking

Since my topic of social injustice or inequality involves emotion-and embodied thinking incorporates our emotional impulses as much as body movement itself- I became fixated on the emotional side of embodied thinking. I thought about my past educational experiences (most of my undergraduate studies were in psychology and sociology) and came upon one particular experiment that I felt illustrated the embodied thinking of social inequality the best: Jane Elliot's Blue-Eyed/Brown-Eyed experiment.

While an Institutional Review Board (IRB) may not be very fond of one conducting this experiment the way Dr. Elliot did, I think it is possible to incorporate this experiment (briefly) into a lesson plan even by just showing the PBS special created about it rather than conduct the actual experiment itself. PBS's website even has a Teacher's Guide which states: "A Class Divided is an encore presentation of the classic documentary on third-grade teacher Jane Elliott's "blue eyes/brown eyes" exercise, originally conducted in the days following the assassination of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968. This guide is designed to help you use the film to engage students in reflection and dialogue about the historical role of racism in the United States, as well as the role of prejudice and stereotyping in students' lives today. Because the film deals with racism and prejudice, it may raise deep emotions for both you and your students. Some students may be confronted with privilege for the first time while others may see an affirmation of a lifetime of discrimination. As you see in the film, frustration, anger, and pain are not uncommon responses to being confronted with bias and inequity. To prepare yourself, plan to spend some time viewing and reflecting on the film by yourself or with trusted colleagues, family, or friends before bringing it in the classroom. That way you won't be processing your own raw emotions while also trying to help students deal with their own potentially intense reactions."

John Stossel even discussed this experiment along with other stereotypes at one time here:

The most interesting part of John Stossels coverage (to me) is when Dr. Elliot reenacts this experiment years later with students who KNOW its an experiment and yet it still invokes strong emotions in them-tears, anger, frustration, etc. This is something these students will never forget as an experience-and their entire bodies reacted to it. The research subjects empathized with the subject matter and felt the emotions for themselves. It was a compelling experience and it taught them very valuable lessons about stereotyping, social inequality and social injustice in an atypical format.

Another example of embodied thinking as it relates to social justice would be protesting. "Standing together" to protest something you feel is an injustice is allowing your body to speak for your mind on a topic. History has shown us time after time instances where people physically protest (picket lines, chaining themselves to trees, forming human chains, etc.) to send their message to others (government, unions, societies, corporations, etc.).  "Standing up" for something you believe in is a physical expression of belief as much as it is a figurative explanation of actions.  I teach my own children that if you see people bullying others or if they are bullying you, that you should stand up to them and calmly express to them that what they are doing is wrong. "Standing up" against social injustices or social inequalities is a large part of social activism. 

Sunday, November 4, 2012

littleBits Lesson Plan

littleBits Can Give Us Big Ideas


This lesson is being designed for elementary age students (K-6).

What’s the big idea?

Teaching circuitry to any age is simplified by using the littleBits technology. The color coding, magnets and instructional videos provide the basic components of this lesson.

It can be difficult to teach the correct pattern necessary to complete electrical circuits without hands on lessons. By providing color coded pieces it helps the students to identify the components: power, input, output and wires. The magnets help the students learn the correct ends to snap together because you cannot connect them incorrectly. This is an assistive technology because it guides the learner to the correct circuit path.

For kindergarteners, the GLCEs state:

Kindergarten students will be guided in the process of scientific inquiry through purposeful observations, raising questions, as well as making sense of their observations, investigations, meaning-making practices, and demonstrating their understanding through various activities.

For elementary grades the GLCEs state:

K-7 Standard P.EN: Develop an understanding that there are many forms of energy (such as heat, light, sound, and electrical) and that energy is transferable by convection, conduction, or radiation. Understand energy can be in motion, called kinetic; or it can be stored, called potential. Develop an understanding that as temperature increases, more energy is added to a system. Understand nuclear reactions in the sun produce light and heat for the Earth. P.EN.E.1 Forms of Energy- Heat, electricity, light, and sound are forms of energy. P.EN.03.11 Identify light and sound as forms of energy. P.EN.E.3 Sound- Vibrating objects produce sound. The pitch of sound varies by changing the rate of vibration. P.EN.03.31 Relate sounds to their sources of vibrations.

Many of the above standards are met through this lesson plan.

Essential Questions
  •  How do you create a basic electrical circuit?
  •  What can you create using a complete circuit and everyday household objects?
  •  What happens when you try to put the wrong circuitry together?
  •  Examine the various bits: button, vibrating motor, RGB light, LED light, etc. 
  • What are your observations about what functions they perform? 
  • If you connect a dimmer bit to the light bit, what does it do? 
  • If you connect the dimmer bit to the vibrating motor bit, what does it do?

This lesson is done as a project based constructivist activity. The learners will be allowed some flexibility in what they choose to create and will be constructing their own “problems” to solve during the process (i.e. if the bits don’t fit together, if the bits don’t function the way they thought they would, etc). The group of learners will conduct hands on experiments to create their final project(s). The activity is learner directed but will involve the learners having access to instructional videos regarding possible projects and troubleshooting. Additionally, this lesson is “programmed instruction” (behaviorist theory) providing immediate results to the trial and error of sequencing the littleBits into circuits.

Content & Pedagogy:

Since much of the content is based on trial and error as well as observation, hands on approaches are necessary to adequately convey the material. Allowing the students the hands on experimentation provides the student with scaffolding necessary to fully convey the scientific process and trial and error results. Allowing the learners to get a basic understanding of the circuitry and creative ideas others have come up with assists the learner in getting started in the process. Showing the students just the videos or even diagrams illustrating the circuits does not allow them to attempt various configurations based on their own observations. A student may ask “what if” and attempt the scenario on their own if the bits are in front of them, but that level of inquiry may not occur based on viewing the material alone.


It would be impossible to teach this lesson on the same level without the littleBits. While this lesson could be taught using other electronic circuit boards, it would require more instructor guidance without the color coding and magnets. While students could still create projects using other circuit boards, having the guidance provided with the features of this technology allows the student to focus on the concepts of completing a circuit and then creating something functional with the completed circuit. This is a content specific technology that exists in other forms or brands but does not function exactly the same as the others and is more assistive.

Technology & Pedagogy:

This technology is designed to assist the learner with color coding and magnets which allows the user to focus more on the path of the circuits and the creativity of their end product. The programmed instruction strategy provides the learner with immediate results when assembling the correct or incorrect circuits. Then the learner creates the project that will incorporate the circuit (using household objects like paper, scissors, glue, etc.) The final end product provides the learner with the immediate positive reinforcement of having an understanding of circuitry, group collaboration and creative development. Constructing a “problem and solution” using hands on experimentation allows the learners to explore various scenarios regarding the subject matter in a collaboration.

Technology & Content:

How does your choice of technology help you teach the "big ideas" and address the essential questions underlying the concept your lesson addresses? The technology chosen allows the learner to perform a hands on experiment on their own terms with basic guidance necessary to formulate the hypothesis and tests. This technology also affords learners the opportunity to develop their conceptual understanding of circuitry and making on a deeper level than observation alone.


Assessment will be performed with the following guidelines:

  • Did the students complete a circuit?
  • Did the students use the completed circuit to create another object with functioning components?
  • Can the students explain how their project functions? 
  • Does the project display creative elements of design?
Students will observe 1-3 videos on the littleBits website showing projects that have been created by other users. Students will then be given 14 littleBits with explanations on the color coding and magnets. Students will then be given household and craft items (paper, glue, scissors, markers, paints, etc.). Students will be instructed to create a circuit (or two, or three) and use their creations to make something (piggy bank, confetti shooter, etc.) functional with the circuits. Students will have 2 hours to complete this task but it is estimated that depending on the level of the project this lesson could be completed in as little as 30 minutes or as long as several days.