DigiBahn Comes to the Intermediate German Conversation Course

Over the last few days I have been attempting to create a fusion of my research and teaching agendas by getting students in my intermediate German conversation class involved in the DigiBahn Project. In class we have discussed – auf Deutsch, sogar! – language as a sociocultural tool that we use to structure reality and, in turn, which ultimately shapes and informs our identities. We also broached the topic of language as a sign system that can be manipulated and experienced in a playful manner in order to construct meaning. In a way, approaching class in this manner is a huge gamble for me as it represents a dramatic break from the way I have taught similar courses in the past and I am not exactly sure how the students will react to the project. I am excited, however, to see where this fusion of new technology and classroom instruction will finally take me (and the class) and what type of 21st-century pedagogies will ultimately be developed. Initial feedback from the students seems positive and we spent the end of last class beginning to flesh ideas out on the whiteboard:

Students (left to right): Alexander Howard, Christine Mader, Elizabeth Leman, Melanie Reyer, Alexander Hudson, Christian Monson, Matthew Trucksess, and John Lesko.

John Lesko (l.) and Alexander Hudson (r.) wonder how (and if) it will all fit together.

Arndt has a problem with the bottle, Jana is a widow living in Stuttgart, and Florian grew up in the former East Germany. What will they have to say to each other and how will their respective backgrounds influence this interaction?

Unfortunately, we spent too long in class discussing other things, so I will have to revisit the design phase in the next course. The primary ideas, that I hope to visualize on the whiteboard, are that language can be seen as a sociocultural space of playful possibility and conversational opportunity, which unfolds based on a person’s interaction with this space and the people who occupy its communities of practice. Over the course of the week we will also be playing an earlier text-based version of the game, Ausflug am Wochenende nach München, to get ideas on how to develop the NPC dialog for the 3D version.

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