The following is a quick-fired dispatch from the outer bank regions of the zombie horde (i.e. from Pete (@allistelling) and Anna (@anna_phd)) to the #TvsZ community. #TvsZ is a massive zombie lore-based contemporary composition learning game. (That’s what we said: a massive zombie lore-based contemporary composition learning game.) Others are welcome to read it as it has equal amounts of connected learning and contemporary composition talk!
In the spirit of gameplay (…and let’s admit it, it is a much harder game to play from the human side), we hope to hack last night’s rule release:
The #antidote rule states that: “A zombie player may return to human form by writing a substantive blog post about the game and tweeting a link to it with #antidote. This antidote can only be used once, and the opportunity to use the antidote expires at 8 am EST, Sunday, June 22.”
We have collaboratively written the following and are intentionally back-posting it before 8AM EST on both of our individual blogs in hopes that the community will accept our antidotes and reestablish us as humans…for the time being. We understand that this is merely a loophole, but we’re hoping that the collaborative nature of the composition, cross-posting, and strategizing helps sway you to our side. (This would also provide the zombie horde with more delicious human parts upon which to later chomp.) As we have found in the past, sharing our work with each other, and composing together–even in this quick, short fashion–has enriched the ways we see the work we engage in individually. We’re throwing ourselves at the mercy of the #TvsZ community and invite constructive feedback, debate, and outright denial of this hack on this #TvsZ Google+ post.
Watching the artifacts from #TvsZ pour in during the game has become a joy that I relish during each game. The game is a lot of work — and several of us can attest to the fact that family and friends get a little frustrated with us for being computer “zombies” — but the learning and engagement that happens here is pretty exhilarating. As I reviewed the #antidote posts this morning, I was excited to see players shifting their attitudes and reflecting on the benefits of playing. This morning, for the first time in these games, I realized that I wanted to return as a human and help move the narrative forward that way.
In my work on Project One with Nirmal Trivedi (an exciting re-design of Georgia Tech’s first-year program which invited students to play this round of #TvsZ), I’ve been reflecting constantly on how to build a digital space where a nontraditional organic learning community can thrive. Thomas and Brown in A New Culture of Learning address this in an interesting way; instead of thinking about “culture” as our patterns of behavior, they talk about cultivating new learning “cultures” like biologists in petri dishes. Thus, the culture is not the conversations or points of engagements themselves, it is the substrate from which the unpredictable and organic engagement arises. Granted, this can be quite a challenge: putting the right amount of ingredients (text, image, and other media; activities; motivations; support frameworks) together to catalyze growth, but a successful result can rise from it that reflects authentic connectivist learning principles — community connection, and experiential learning, and the development of digital literacies and ethics.
It’s not an accident that I’m using these organic metaphors here. The zombie narrative has certainly animated, in recent years, my already existing interest in the practice of organic writing — writing from the guts of a text outward, from the seeds (ideas) to the skin (technical aspects). I see something similar happening in the #TvsZ games. Relationships, plot lines, orientations, and media emerge as tiny seeds, unconcerned with how they will “impact” the game but trusting their value to the emergent narrative. We see student writers often struggle with the frustration of “how this sentence will impact the essay,” but #TvsZ players compose tiny pieces of text and media and embrace rhizomatic networks and the learning that will emerge from them.
We have also gained new #TvsZ fans this weekend. The National Writing Project’s #clmooc (Making Learning Connected MOOC) went live this week. Like #TvsZ, this MOOC is designed as a collaborative to embrace the “emergent possible” that organically grow from a community coming together to learn (an alternative to the typical overly structured video lecture series course). Enticed by the collaborative gameplay and narrative writing involved in #TvsZ, several participants have zombie-shuffled their way into #TvsZ. They’re now working on a remixing #TvsZ for their community. We’re not surprised they’re interested. In June and July the community is studying what some call Connected Learning Principles. These principles are the heart, soul, and braiiiiiiins of #TvsZ, and emphasize that learning is production-centered, interest-empowered, openly networked, peer-supported, academically-oriented…all around a shared purpose.
In connected learning environments like #clmooc and #TvsZ, it is easier to see that learning is not bounded by lessons and classroom walls. Rather, even within lessons and classroom walls, the learners are the ones forging learning pathways. These pathways emerge in response to cultural and situational demands of the multiple contexts we engage in daily. The #clmooc has only been active for a week, and already several members are realizing the joy in learning that is (re)discovered when we let ourselves break free from staid notions of what learning looks like–where, when and how it can (and does) occur. Each tweet and post I see from #TvsZ shares this same gleeful tone. It is my hope that by learning for ourselves in such environments, we can begin to envision connected learning futures for others–ones designed to be responsive to the pathways that are being both forged and emerge.
Image courtesy of Educator Innovator via Creative Commons