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Perforate Your Classroom: Collaboratively Hack the Open Online Game #TvsZ 6.0

Pete Rorabaugh (Southern Polytechnic State University, USA)
Andrea Rehn (Whittier College, USA)
Christina Hendricks (University of British Columbia - Vancouver, Canada)
JR Dingwall (University of Alberta, Canada)
Maha Bali (American University in Cairo, Egypt)
Additional Authors
Janine DeBaise (SUNY-College of Environmental Science and Forestry, USA)
Lizzie Finnegan (D'Youville College, USA)
Session Information
April 22, 2015 - 8:30am
Open and Collaborative Education
Major Emphasis of Presentation: 
Applied Use (technology or pedagogy)
Major Emphasis of Presentation: 
Emerging Technology (tools or processes)
Institutional Level: 
Audience Level: 
Session Type: 
Interactive Workshop
Lone Star A3
Session Duration: 
210 Minutes
Workshop Session 1 & 2 (combined)

Participants will learn about and play the open online Twitter game #TvsZ, go through the process of hacking it, and discuss pedagogical benefits and challenges.

Extended Abstract

This workshop will invite participants to explore the pedagogical value of perforating oneÍs classroom: opening it up for students to learn with others online in loosely facilitated social media experiences. The seven international collaborating facilitators will share their experience of co-facilitating an open online game. The facilitators, who teach in Egypt, Canada, New York, Georgia, and California, will share their cross-institutional, cross-border experience of hacking #TvsZ and playing it with their students.

#TvsZ is an open online Twitter game played across an increasing variety of online sites and apps. The game, created originally in 2012 by Pete Rorabaugh and Jesse Stommel, is usually played over 3-4 days by anyone who chooses to follow the Twitter hashtag #TvsZ, as well as students in participating classes. Players, who are often meeting virtually for the first time, interact with each other on Twitter via a basic game dynamic which encourages informal, spontaneous tweets relating to the game premise. As players develop increasing familiarity with other players and with the basic syntax of game tweets, additional game dynamics are introduced, often in response to player suggestions and initiatives. These additional dynamics encourage players to create a wide variety of media objects, to experiment with new modes of networked collaboration, and to refashion their roles in the game itself.

This game builds digital literacy through creating avenues for participants to engage in international collaboration, to compose for a visible and active audience, and to craft personal learning networks. It is a dynamic experience for engaging students in transmedia storytelling and narrative collaboration, and it can democratize the classroom by blurring the line between teacher and student. The game design itself is democratized through emergent rules: players re-shape the rules and revise the narrative as the game unfolds. Although #TvsZ had been played multiple times before, the diverse interests and backgrounds of the co-facilitators as well as the international flavor, led to an interest in hacking the game in order to meet the different needs of their students and their own diverse teaching agendas.

The basic structure of the game can be revised in numerous ways, however, and participants in the workshop will brainstorm how they might do so for their own teaching and learning contexts. For example, while most versions of #TvsZ started with a Zombie narrative of biting and converting human players, the 6.0 version was intentionally kept zombie-free and non-violent.

Our workshop will be experiential: one must play the game to get a good sense of how and why one might want to hack it. Workshop participants will play a short version of one of the #TvsZ games and brainstorm their own forks of the game, and discuss possible repercussions of various modifications to such a game. They will also discuss possible pedagogical benefits to including a game like #TvsZ in their curricula, as well as potential problems one might encounter when doing so (and how such problems might be addressed).

Workshop Interaction/Takeaways:
Participants will play a version of #TvsZ, go through the process of hacking it, and (time-permitting) try out aspects of their hacked version during the workshop. Participants will discuss pedagogical benefits of using such a game in their classes, possible challenges and approaches to assessing learning.

[Note to organizers: If we have a 3-hour workshop slot, we can actually give space for participants to try out some of their "hacks", and discuss how they might assess learning in a game like this; if not, we can use a 90-minute workshop and allow these "hacks" to spill over onto the rest of the day at the conference.]

[Note for conference organizers. #TvsZ is a game that must be played to fully experience its dynamics and excitement. We are proposing two ways of making this game more clear to conference attendees, to supplement this workshop:
We are offering both a presentation (separately submitted) and this experiential workshop during which participants will play a 45 minute version of the game to experience it, and have the opportunity to brainstorm ways of "hacking" it.
We are suggesting the possibility of playing a version of the Twitter game starting 1-2 days immediately prior to the conference, and continuing during the conference itself, where participants in the workshop and players online can contribute to the emergent rules of the game that can build a dynamic social media and virtual participant "buzz" during the conference.The workshop session would provide a time for participants to engage in a more focused playing of the game, as well as discussion of how they might hack it based on their experiences in the game during the conference up to that point. "Missions" in the game would then become things like writing blogposts about the conference, "recruiting" people to become virtual attendees or collaboration between on-site and virtual participants to present things at the unconference; there could also be missions where the "reward" is a discounted "virtual attendance" or some such thing; or a mission where participants "recruit" others into #et4online itself and receive some reward like free virtual participation for each 2 people they recruit]

Lead Presenter

Pete Rorabaugh (Southern Polytechnic State University, USA)


Andrea Rehn

Andrea Rehn (Whittier College, USA)

Andrea Rehn, @profrehn on Twitter, is Associate Professor of English and Director of Whittier College's Digital Liberal Arts Center. Her recent work focuses on modes of engaged scholarship in the humanities. Recent publications include articles on Jane Austen, Joseph Conrad, and Critical Pedagogy.

Christina Hendricks

Christina Hendricks (University of British Columbia - Vancouver, Canada)

Christina Hendricks is a Sr. Instructor in Philosophy at the University of British Columbia. She is an open educator who has participated in numerous open online courses and communities and facilitated some herself. She blogs at http://blogs.ubc.ca/chendricks and Tweets at @clhendricksbc

JR Dingwall

JR Dingwall (University of Alberta, Canada)

JR is an Instructional Designer at the Faculty of Extension at the University of Alberta. He holds an M.Ed in Educational Technology and Design, and a B.Ed with a major in industrial arts. He seeks out new learning opportunities wherever he can including online communities, MOOCs, community based workshops, and travel. You can find out more about JR at http://about.me/jr_dingwall and connect with him via Twitter (@jrdingwall).

Maha Bali

Maha Bali (American University in Cairo, Egypt)

Maha Bali is Associate Professor of Practice at the Center for Learning and Teaching at the American University in Cairo. She is co-founder and co-facilitator of edcontexts.org and columnist at Hybrid Pedagogy. She’s a MOOCaholic, Writeaholic and passionate open and connected educator. Tweets at @bali_maha.