Beginning in 2013-14 The Baker-Nord Center has significantly revised and expanded its grant offerings in the digital humanities. We hope that the offerings will continue to inspire new and creative exploration of humanistic endeavors. Further, we would like to congratulate the recipients of our 2013-14 DH Grants.
Matthew and Ellen Feldman Technology Grant
Harsh Mathur is an Associate Professor of Physics at Case Western Reserve University. His research is in the areas of theoretical condensed matter physics and cosmology. Currently he is interested in the application of statistical physics to the study of language.
Amanda Lund is a graduate student in Computer Science at the University of Chicago. She has a background in experimental astroparticle physics and earned her BS at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. She has previously been involved in research at Gran Sasso National Laboratory in Italy where she worked on a solar neutrino experiment and collaborated in the DarkSide program of direct dark matter searches.
Ashley Dainas is a first year graduate student in Case Western Reserve University's M.A. Degree Program in Cognitive Linguistics. She is interested in corpus linguistics, computational linguistics, diachronic linguistics, pragmatics and verbal hedges.
In this project we wish to explore the application of concepts of statistical physics and dynamical systems theory to the study of language and its evolution. One concrete example is provided by the evolution of verbs. A trove of data has recently become available on the regularization of verbs from 1800 to the present via Google's N-gram viewer. We propose to analyze and classify these data and to interpret them using models from mathematical biology that describe the competition between two species for the same ecological niche.
Enriching Curricula Grant
Spies Like Us: Gaming the Composition Classroom
Kristin E. Kondrlik is a Ph.D. candidate in English participating in the Writing History and Theory (WHiT program). Her dissertation addresses the intersections of literature, medicine, and professional discourse at the turn of the twentieth century, focusing on questions of how the authority of the medical community was challenged and affirmed by literary and public figures in novels and periodicals. She received her BA in English and Political Science from Canisius College (2008) and her MA in English from Case Western Reserve University (2011).
Michelle Lyons-McFarland is a 2nd-year PhD student in the Department of English at Case Western Reserve University. Her primary area of focus is 18th-century British Literature, with additional studies in material culture, game-based pedagogy, and composition. She received her BA in English and Humanities from the University of Washington (2010) and her MA in English from Case Western Reserve University (2012).
Jessica Slentz is a 2nd-year Ph.D. student interested in rhetoric and digital literacies, new media, multimodal composition and visual rhetoric. Her primary area of focus is locative/mobile media and the rhetoric of display, with additional studies in composition pedagogy, digital writing and rhetoric and internet research ethics. She holds a B.A. in Professional Communication and Information Design from Nazareth College of Rochester, an M.A. in Creative Writing from Kingston University, London, UK, and an M.A. in English Literature from the University of Rochester.
English 150: Expository Writing is an introductory course in expository writing offered to CWRU and Cleveland Institute of Music students that aims to provide beginning writers, many of whom are second language learners, with experience in the kinds of writing they will need for their university career. Taught in a workshop model, our collaborative approach to this course — while drawing on traditional composition pedagogy practices as reading, thinking, writing, and discussion — also uses a game-based course curriculum, small group work and individualized instruction to approach academic writing in a unique way.
The role of games in primary and early childhood education as a valuable tool of education is undisputed; a rich body of research and practical application has backed up this assertion for decades. At the same time, the stigma of games as a form of "child's play" has caused secondary and post-secondary education to move away from games as a means of transmitting information. However, with the rise of game theory as a science and the work of digital humanities and new media scholars, games as means of creating interactive, immersive educational experiences, particularly in writing instruction, are finally receiving much deserved attention at the level of post-secondary education.
At its heart, a game is a set of rules designed to govern a set of interactions and support a potential desired outcome. Whether pieces or pixels or pencils are involved is largely a matter of the desired goal and the methods used to support players in achieving that result. In any game, the rules shape the outcome, while the process of achieving that outcome is the lesson we learn. This is true whether the win is to "defeat a dragon" or "get an A." As educators, our goals using games in the classroom, then, must be to design curricula that foreground the pedagogical goals of a given class by placing those goals within the rule set of the game/class, while eliminating distractions or holdovers from conflicting models. We designed this course to teach the fundamentals of academic writing - critical reading, organization, process, audience, finding and using sources, and developing and making arguments - in a way that allows for entertaining content but is heavily focused on skill acquisition and retention by using those skills to manipulate and present that content. Our game-based curriculum approaches writing as a complex practice and process rather than working backwards from the "perfect" text. Our game and point system gives instructors of research writing courses a method of transforming grading into a system of positive reinforcement. By breaking the writing process down into transparent skills, students are able to evaluate and articulate the strengths and weaknesses in their own writing processes and track how their writing practices grow and evolve over the semester.
For this next iteration of this course, we will be documenting our revised curriculum including all game materials, exercises, and assignments along with student progress and responses. Following the course, we will seek publication for our course design as an example of an effective and engaging way games can successfully be brought into the writing classroom. As game-based curricula gain more critical attention, we hope that others can appropriate our model for use in their own classrooms.