Sunday, December 11, 2011

Is the novel dead?

Now that I have your attention via my post title, I'm asking this question more with a view on what is taught in English classrooms in high schools. Is there anyone here who believes that schools should only teach novels and plays? I'm going to assume that as many of you reading this may be book bloggers, that I'm talking to the converted. That is, you may have had great enjoyment in your English classes and this is good, because I want to ask what did you study in school? Was it only print text novels? Did you study plays - I have a feeling the majority of people would say yes with a particular emphasis on Shakespeare. How about movies? Television? Did anyone study computer games, or websites?

This post is about the idea of playing games in an English classroom and using it as a tool for teaching. Or viewing it as another text. My preference of game would be something that is in the Adventure genre. So this doesn't mean shoot em up games or role playing games, but rather interactive fiction. The idea is that you have a protagonist in the game and the user navigates the interface and propels the character through the game by means of dialogue with other characters and this then makes the narrative of the game move along. Sometimes these games are described as point-and-click. There are many examples of this genre that can be found at, if anyone is interested in checking out some titles.

In a post I did a few months ago I talked about a teacher, Tim Rylands who has done just this, using games in a primary school setting. The game he chose was Myst. There's a link to his website and also some footage of his classes in action. What I love best about Tim Rylands teaching is how engaged his students are and the work they are producing.

The above site Adventure gamers has a forum and I proposed this question of what fellow gamers thought of playing them in classrooms. I was surprised at some of the negativity that some of these gamers showed. They didn't think that it was 'serious' enough to be studied and what exactly would students learn from them. What do you think? Of course there were many replies from gamers who had had the privilege of studying a game in class and said it had been a good experience. One comment said that sometimes teachers bring their own agenda into classrooms and force students to learn what the teacher is into. He cited rock music as an example of what he had to learn. I think that's a fair comment, and perhaps that is what I'm doing?

Anyway, this post is getting far too long and I've got heaps more I want to say on the subject. However, for now, if you have an opinion I would love to hear about it.


Katriina said...

You pose a tough question. My gut reaction was "Nooooo!" I am a bit of a purist at heart. At high school we studied novels, poetry, plays, and the occasional non-fiction work or movie, but I finished high school before the dawn of the internet (feeling very old right now!) and therefore our English class forays into the world of computers were limited to word-processing in years 11 and 12, i.e. actually being able to type our work rather than hand-write it (remember those days when every assignment was drafted by hand, then a neat final copy written out?!)
I guess it makes sense to update English classes to bring them into the 21st century. I don't see any real problem with using games that are language-dependent, if those games get kids writing eagerly and creatively (and hopefully also accurately). However, I firmly believe that a lot of the old stuff deserves to stay alongside the new. Primary school kids should still at least learn to write with a pencil, and not be denied the pleasure of hand-writing and illustrating their own story. And it would be such a shame to see kids finishing high school without being given a proper insight into the genius of Shakespeare, Jane Austen, or Byron.

scribeswindow said...

Katriina I think you and I are on the same wavelength. I too finished high school before the dawn of the internet (and also feel old!) but I do firmly believe that we need to bring education in to the 21st century and the use of technology is the way to do it.

I also completely agree with having ICT juxtaposed with writing workshops and what's called reading circles. Anyway, I plan to blog about this topic a little bit more.

Thanks so much for taking the time to comment and answer the question. :)

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