June 10, 2011

On Gaming & Teaching

I was a GM before I landed my current day job as a teacher of photography, and reflecting on the past several terms and my students’ comments in their post-class evaluations, I’ve come to realize something; a great part of my effectiveness at teaching comes from my experience in GM’ing. This is only part of the debt I owe to the influence of RPGs in my life.

Among the GM’ing techniques and tenets I’ve found useful:

Engage and Entertain:
Make `em laugh.  Give everyone something interesting to do. Idle moments are dead moments. Keep it light and lively.

Encourage Expression:
Students are encouraged not only to take photographs, but to tell stories.  To think in terms of story. 

Make it a Game:
Free exploration is encouraged.  Competitiveness is encouraged.  Posing learning problems for the students to solve is very much like GM’ing a dungeon crawl.

Be Approachable:
Encourage a casual atmosphere where everyone’s comments and questions are welcome.  Nobody asks a question when they believe there are negative consequences for doing so. 

But like players in an RPG, students need to ask questions, and the GM/teacher needs to hear those questions.  Questions mean engagement.  Questions mean interest. Questions are springboards for going forward.

With my busy sked nowadays, I miss GM’ing games.  But here’s a compensation: I get much the same kind of fun I had running games from teaching my classes.  It’s not work, it’s play.  Much better than the Gandalf Method*!

*The Gandalf Method of teaching is summed up by these four words: YOU SHALL NOT PASS!

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