A humanistic approach to video games and technical education | MIT J-WEL

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A humanistic approach to video games and technical education

Mark Vrablic mentors student

Learners who register for the MIT course, RES.3-003, “Learn to Build Your Own Videogame with Unity Game Engine and Microsoft Kinect,” might expect to complete the course having gained skills in software development, 3-D digital object creation, and videogame design -- and they will. However, as reported by MIT News, they may be surprised to discover that they likely gained numerous soft skills, as well. These include feeling comfortable asking questions of other learners, collaborating with openness and kindness, and the ability to embrace mistakes, even as part of a team. Soft skills, including interpersonal skills and emotional intelligence, are critical in the modern workforce and are less susceptible to automation. 

MIT News describes the course: 

In this nine-day hands-on workshop about scientific communication and public engagement, students learn to design, build, and publish video games using the Unity game engine. Students also gain experience in collaborative software development with GitHub, gesture-based human-computer interactions using Microsoft Kinect, automation and robotics using Arduino, as well as 3-D digital object creation, video game design, and small-team management. What makes this workshop special is the care with which each technical activity has been paired with fundamental soft skills to help students thrive as they enter the workforce of the modern network economy.

MIT Lecturer Kyle Keane and his colleague Andrew Ringler incorporate humanistic methods and concepts into the curriculum, including behavioral modeling, emotional intelligence, positive psychology, and even improvisational comedy. Ringler describes some of their approaches: 

To create a safe environment and encourage vulnerability, we use training techniques adapted from Improv comedy theater training, especially group warmup games. Often the comedic moment in Improv happens when a performer fails to meet an expectation, thus creating surprise and laughter. In Improv, the vulnerable moment of publicly making a mistake is reframed as a positive comedic moment. Improv games are designed to be easy to learn and to foster rapid mistake-making. We use these games to prime collaboration, nurture mistake-making, and encourage students to positively support each other in recovering from their mistakes.

Read more about the course in MIT News, or watch the MITx Talk, “Interactivity & Connectedness in the Classroom: Digital Tools for Collaborative Learning,” by Keane and his team.

Photo credit: MIT News