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Title: Gaming enters English class plan

Source: The (Oklahoma) News Examiner Enterprise

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Gaming enters English class plan

EDMOND, Okla. (AP) - Ten years ago, Wayne Stein remembers spending lunches playing Dungeons and Dragons with Mary Spelman and other faculty members at the University of Central Oklahoma and talking about how fun an English class based on gaming would be.

Now, Stein is the freshman director for the English Department at UCO, Spelman is department chairwoman and the class, "Gaming as Composition: Language Force X," will be taught for the first time at UCO this spring.

The class, set up as a role-playing game, uses a fictional setting based on a political campaign set in the near-future.

Students will be divided into factions and the professors will introduce various events the characters will have to cope with. Stein said the game has heavy elements of conspiracy theory as well. The class was designed by Stein, James Dolph and Shiloh Force.

"It looks at the issues that are involved in the world right now," Stein said.

Stein, Dolph and Force spent the past year creating the class and the game, drawing not only from their own ideas but also the ideas of students.

"It was basically from students who were interested that we started to develop it," Stein said. "We had a lot of sessions where we invited students and gamers to come in."

Although the class may be more fun than a traditional one, Stein said the class emphasizes the standard ingredients of a composition class: critical thinking, logical reasoning and communication through both writing and speech.

Dolph, who did much of the writing and developed the online portions of the class, said it might appeal to students in ways more traditional classes do not.

"That's something that's constantly been on my mind, that we wanted to take a different approach," he said. "No matter how exciting a professor is, many students come in thinking English class will be boring and irrelevant. We're always looking for new ways to make it exciting and relevant to what they may be doing."

Dolph said the idea also ties into the amount and type of writing people do currently.

"Since the Internet, people write probably more than they ever have," he said. "People rely more than ever on communication through writing. So much in popular culture really is coming up with ideas and stories and being able to communicate."

Although a class based on a game may be new for the department, innovation is not.

"I try to always encourage my faculty to find ways to engage their students on a level the students understand and care about," said Pam Washington, dean of the English Department. "I think this new class is a wonderful pilot."

Washington said other ideas for composition classes include a service-learning class taught by Holly Murphy, where students do volunteer work in the community and write about their experience, and courses that emphasize films.

"We're always looking for ways to engage students in activities they're interested in," she said.

Because of the nature of the class, Stein predicts it will be interesting not only for the students, but also for those teaching it.

"Really, we just create the setting and come up with the adventures, but the players create the game," he said. "It was fun creating this game. It's going to be even more fun when we get to play it and see how it works."

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