Cary Staples, University of Tennessee


As opposed to creating a product that teaches; the focus of the “APP Farm” is to create a workshop that allows students to seek and acquire information by solving the problems inherent in creating a product. “On the surface, the union of the humanities and video games might seem odd, the former focused on thoughtful reflection, context and contingencies, and the latter on reflex, immediacy and instantaneous feedback. In practice, however, this union is increasingly proving to be an enormously profound one, with games providing a platform for more experiential ways of engaging history, literature, philosophy, and even religion.” (Humanities Arcade, 2016) Based on the critically acclaimed analog game series by Brenda Romero, “The Mechanic is the Message“, “[Romero] suggests that games are capable of a higher form of communication, one which actively engages the participant and makes them a part of the experience rather than a passive observer.” Games are particularly powerful teaching and learning tools. Instead of giving information to students, games pose questions that James Paul Gee (2007) would call “pleasantly frustrating” so that the player is invested in finding the answer. Games also have the ability to provide the player with information “just in time” to allow the player to accomplish the quest.

Deborah Smith-Shank (2014) suggests that the current teaching dynamic “…assumes that there is a correct body of knowledge for a teacher to communicate to students. These models assume a hierarchical architecture of facts and ideas with higher forms of knowing built through some concatenation of simpler forms. In order to move away from the dominant hierarchical model, it is necessary to develop an entirely different framework.” The notion of “student as receiver of information” needs to evolve to “student as author of understanding.” To empower such learning, we have developed a working design studio. Using French culture + language acquisition as the subject matter and employing cross-functional teams including Graphic Design, French, Computer Science, Music and Education, students and faculty collaborate to facilitate the design and development of an app. Students were challenged to design materials to help peers understand course content in a meaningful way. The goal of the studio is to allow students to experience STEM learning and humanities learning through the lens of design.

 

Cary Staples is a designer. period.
She is also an educator, a creative problem solver, a math geek, an origami explorer and a game developer. With 25 years of professional design experience, her newest project is The App Farm. The App Farm endeavors to frame problems so that cross-functional teams can come together, each from a specific area of strength, to collaborate and create innovative learning landscapes and experiences.