Tag Archives: #TvsZ

Upcoming #TvsZ game and presentations at #et4online

#TvsZ is back! Running April 22-24, 2015. See the main website, here.

Plus, next week I and several other people are presenting on #TvsZ at the OLC “Emerging Technologies for Online Learning” 2015 conference.

What is #TvsZ?

That’s surprisingly difficult to answer. Here’s how I tried to describe it recently in an application for a teaching award, in which I discussed my work in open education.


 

Originally designed as a zombie game played on Twitter (and thus called “Twitter vs. Zombies”), we have also created a new version called “Technology vs. Zen.” Both games are played through Twitter, and are meant to bring people together in order to create collaborative stories. The other part of the purpose of the game is to help people learn how to use Twitter, and to give them motivation to create and share digital artifacts such as blog posts, images, videos, and more. The game usually happens over the course of a weekend, often lasting about three days.

Apocalypse, Flickr photo shared by Charles Hutchins, licensed  CC BY 2.0

Apocalypse, Flickr photo shared by Charles Hutchins, licensed CC BY 2.0

In “Twitter vs. Zombies” the overall setting of the game is a zombie apocalypse, where there are zombies who have started to infect humans. You can see the website for the third iteration of the zombie version, here: https://twittervszombies3.wordpress.com/basics/. On Twitter, one can be bitten by a zombie through the use of a hashtag, and then has a certain number of minutes to dodge or be rescued by someone else before they turn into a zombie themselves. But the game goes beyond this; the most interesting parts of the game are when people take on missions where they have to add to the ongoing story in the game through a blog post, a picture, a video, a drawing they take a picture of, a song, or many other things. These aspects of the game happen through new rule releases that occur about every 12 hours: https://twittervszombies3.wordpress.com/rules/

In “Technology vs. Zen” the setting is an apocalyptic scene of unknown origin; participants are to imagine that they have woken up to find a wasteland around them, dead and dying plants, deserted city streets. The game site for this version is here: http://tvsz.us. The point of the game is to figure out what has happened and to determine how to approach solving the problem. Players begin on one of two teams: “technology” or “nature,” each team devoted to either a technological solution or one that has to do with working more in tune with nature. Participants start out recruiting others for their teams, but then are asked to engage in missions such as finding food, building a shelter, describing what they think has happened, and determining an approach to solving the problem (examples of such missions can be found here: http://tvsz.us/story-2/).

A number of people have used #TvsZ in their courses, asking students to play in order to experience collaborative storytelling and connecting with people around the globe in a team that has to work together in order to accomplish their missions. They have also used it to show an example of open and emergent pedagogy, though outside of a specific course context. Finally, it serves as an engaging way to encourage students to learn how to create and post digital objects—though the game sites don’t have information on how to do so, participants learn this from each other (or from their instructor, if they are playing the game as part of a course). As the current TvsZ planning team wrote in an abstract for an upcoming conference presentation:

 This game builds digital literacy through creating avenues for participants to engage in international collaboration, to compose for a visible and active audience, and to craft personal learning networks. It is a dynamic experience for engaging students in transmedia storytelling and narrative collaboration, and it can democratize the classroom by blurring the line between teacher and student. The game design itself is democratized through emergent rules: players re-shape the rules and revise the narrative as the game unfolds. (This quote comes from the abstract reprinted below)


 

But even since writing that, the game has changed again. This time we’re thinking of not having any teams to start with and asking people to create their own teams. Thus, there might not be a “technology” team or a “nature” team, but entirely different ones.

That’s one of the wonderful things about this game: it is continually evolving. And not only between games, but within the game itself: rules change over time, new missions are created for teams to complete, and participants are asked to suggest changes during the game as well. And actually, participants sometimes just change the game themselves by choosing to do something quite different than what we designed; in a recent version, which had a divide between humans and zombies, a group of people decided they didn’t want to be either humans or zombies and participate in biting or escaping bites, but to rather be neutral commentators who created poetry about the game.

What does one get out of playing the game? Here are a couple of blog posts I found with reflections on experiences in various versions: one by Karen Young, and one by Kevin Hodgson.

And here’s a fabulous artifact created out of what the teams did in #TvsZ 6.0, thanks to @nanalou022, which gives a good sense of what that version of the game was like.

 

So what are we doing at the conference?

I think I’ll just let our abstracts, which are pretty detailed, speak for themselves. We have two presentations, a longer one and a shorter one.

Here’s the abstract for the long, 2.5 hour workshop. This one is called Perforate Your Classroom: Collaboratively Hack the Open Online Game #TvsZ 6.0.” During this workshop, people will learn about the game, start playing it, learn how it has been used in courses, and work together on how they might change it for their own educational purposes.

All of the following is from this #et4online webpage.

Abstract

Participants will learn about and play the open online Twitter game #TvsZ, go through the process of hacking it, and discuss pedagogical benefits and challenges.

Extended Abstract

This workshop will invite participants to explore the pedagogical value of perforating oneÍs classroom: opening it up for students to learn with others online in loosely facilitated social media experiences. The seven international collaborating facilitators will share their experience of co-facilitating an open online game. The facilitators, who teach in Egypt, Canada, New York, Georgia, and California, will share their cross-institutional, cross-border experience of hacking #TvsZ and playing it with their students.

#TvsZ is an open online Twitter game played across an increasing variety of online sites and apps. The game, created originally in 2012 by Pete Rorabaugh and Jesse Stommel, is usually played over 3-4 days by anyone who chooses to follow the Twitter hashtag #TvsZ, as well as students in participating classes. Players, who are often meeting virtually for the first time, interact with each other on Twitter via a basic game dynamic which encourages informal, spontaneous tweets relating to the game premise. As players develop increasing familiarity with other players and with the basic syntax of game tweets, additional game dynamics are introduced, often in response to player suggestions and initiatives. These additional dynamics encourage players to create a wide variety of media objects, to experiment with new modes of networked collaboration, and to refashion their roles in the game itself.

This game builds digital literacy through creating avenues for participants to engage in international collaboration, to compose for a visible and active audience, and to craft personal learning networks. It is a dynamic experience for engaging students in transmedia storytelling and narrative collaboration, and it can democratize the classroom by blurring the line between teacher and student. The game design itself is democratized through emergent rules: players re-shape the rules and revise the narrative as the game unfolds. Although #TvsZ had been played multiple times before, the diverse interests and backgrounds of the co-facilitators as well as the international flavor, led to an interest in hacking the game in order to meet the different needs of their students and their own diverse teaching agendas.

The basic structure of the game can be revised in numerous ways, however, and participants in the workshop will brainstorm how they might do so for their own teaching and learning contexts. For example, while most versions of #TvsZ started with a Zombie narrative of biting and converting human players, the 6.0 version was intentionally kept zombie-free and non-violent.

Our workshop will be experiential: one must play the game to get a good sense of how and why one might want to hack it. Workshop participants will play a short version of one of the #TvsZ games and brainstorm their own forks of the game, and discuss possible repercussions of various modifications to such a game. They will also discuss possible pedagogical benefits to including a game like #TvsZ in their curricula, as well as potential problems one might encounter when doing so (and how such problems might be addressed).

Workshop Interaction/Takeaways:
Participants will play a version of #TvsZ, go through the process of hacking it, and (time-permitting) try out aspects of their hacked version during the workshop. Participants will discuss pedagogical benefits of using such a game in their classes, possible challenges and approaches to assessing learning.

Presenter(s)
Pete Rorabaugh (Southern Polytechnic State University, USA)
Andrea Rehn (Whittier College, USA)
Christina Hendricks (University of British Columbia – Vancouver, Canada)
JR Dingwall (University of Alberta, Canada)
Maha Bali (American University in Cairo, Egypt)
Additional Authors
Janine DeBaise (SUNY-College of Environmental Science and Forestry, USA)
Lizzie Finnegan (D’Youville College, USA)

 

 

Here’s our abstract for the shorter session. This one is called “Perforating the Classroom: How Hacking the Online Game #TvsZ 6.0 Brings Together Faculty, Students and Community Members.” It is just for talking about how we changed the original #TvsZ from a zombie narrative to a more generic apocalypse narrative, and why, and how we engaged in cross-world collaboration to do so.

The following is from this webpage for #et4online.

Abstract

Learn about the collaborative hacking and hosting of #TvsZ, an open online Twitter game which fosters digital literacies/network fluencies

Extended Abstract

#TvsZ is an open online Twitter game played across an increasing variety of online sites and apps. The game, created originally in 2012 by Pete Rorabaugh and Jesse Stommel, is usually played over 3-4 days by anyone who chooses to follow the Twitter hashtag #TvsZ, as well as students in participating classes. Players, who are often meeting virtually for the first time, interact with each other on Twitter via a basic game dynamic which encourages spontaneous tweets relating to the game premise. As players develop increasing familiarity with other players and with the basic syntax of game tweets, additional game dynamics are introduced, often in response to player suggestions and initiatives. These additional dynamics encourage players to create a wide variety of media objects, to experiment with new modes of networked collaboration, and to refashion their roles in the game itself.

The rationale for #TvsZ is simple; we call it the “perforated classroom” mode of teaching and learning. In this era of information abundance and fast-changing socio-economic paradigms, both students and teachers require new and different skills. Students need to learn to contextualize ideas through efficient web-enabled research practices, to share their results through effective multi-modal communication, to discover new resources and connect to emerging networks of experts as they prepare for lives which may require many transitions among fields. Teachers need to learn to model these these skills by interacting with students as curators of information and connected, public co-learners. The perforated classroom thus embodies these various methods of connection, while also enriching the possibilities of teacher-student, student-student, student-community, and student-teacher-community-global rapport beyond the classroom itself.

#TvsZ 6.0, played November 14-16, 2014, refashioned the premise and dynamics of play to respond to contemporary events, and to better adapt to the cultural and temporal distances among players and game facilitators. The global nature of the #TvsZ 6.0 facilitation team and their students resulted in some unique emergent dynamics during the game, which this presentation will highlight. While previous versions began with a Zombie infection narrative, the 6.0 version was intentionally kept zombie-free and non-violent.

#TvsZ 6.0 was hosted by a group of seven international collaborating scholars with varying types of expertise (and familiarity with the game itself) and with different institutional roles and teaching goals. We, and our students, live in three countries (Canada, Egypt and the US) and four widely separated time zones. While our students all speak English, many also use at least one other language as a primary mode of communication. Our students ranged from freshmen to seniors in college, and the participating classes focused on disciplines and topics. Two of the game hosts did not directly involve their own students, but facilitated the game out of a commitment to open learning itself. More than 150 players participated in the online game: some as students completing assigned work, some participating in extra credit activities, some who were invited to play to help them learn twitter literacy, some to learn about creative game design. In addition, many players from the Twitterverse (including veteran #TvsZ players from previous iterations) participated for the sheer fun of it.

This presentation will focus on #TvsZ 6.0’s cycle of collaborative development, focusing on the value of social networks for instructor collaboration, and sharing our experience of a cross-border, cross-institutional, and cross-cultural collaboration between teachers and students, from game host & student perspectives. By exploring a few of the media objects created by game participants, we will also discuss various methods for evaluating the outcomes of student, teacher, and community peer-learner collaborations. Each step of development and implementation exemplifies a stage in the digital fluency that the game promotes by involving people in the fun and frenzied creativity of participation, by inviting participants to collaborate and co-learn techniques of multimodal media creation, by tempting collaborators to become partners in the management of the game during gameplay, and by player-partners becoming hosts and hackers of future iterations of the game itself.

Open online games extend learning opportunities beyond the classroom, augmenting studentsÍ understanding of knowledge networks. The reflexive nature of #TvsZ and the other games it may spawn creates space to enjoy the game experience while critiquing its shortcomings (e.g., in terms of how language, pop culture, and even time zones affect players in different parts of the world). Students engage in collaborative, experiential, and self-directed learning, developing Twitter literacy about the values, as well as the potential risks, of using social media to network. They learn by doing; rather than following linear modules, they learn from how others are playing the game and they ask the community for help. They also learn about power dynamics in gaming and social media. Hacking the game into a more collaborative narrative, and playing it with students from different countries and cultures provided insights not previously visible in #TvsZ iterations, such as how game rules (in terms of time limits and timezones) could affect equity in the game, how cultural attitudes could affect students’ gameplay, and how to develop game dynamics that would encourage students to venture outside the safety of their classmates and play with strangers online.

Presenter(s)
Andrea Rehn (Whittier College, USA)
Maha Bali (American University in Cairo, Egypt)
Pete Rorabaugh (Southern Polytechnic State University, USA)
JR Dingwall (University of Alberta, Canada)
Christina Hendricks (University of British Columbia – Vancouver, Canada)
Additional Authors
Lizzie Finnegan (D’Youville College, USA)
Janine DeBaise (SUNY-College of Environmental Science; Forestry, USA)
Sherif Osman (American University in Cairo, Egypt)

Forest sanctuary, safe from zombies

(I’m playing #tvsz this weekend — http://tvsz.us. In short, it’s a game on Twitter with zombies and an emergent storyline and ever-changing rules. A great way to do digital storytelling and learn the power of Twitter at the same time. Plus, you can make new connections to people with similar interests (at least, people who also think playing zombie games on Twitter is a good use of weekend time!) I had to write this post on my phone because I am camping, and writing a post on the phone  is quite challenging, actually. This post is part of the game, so it will likely only make sense if you’ve played or check out the website above.)

 

After finding safe haven in Rhonda Jessen’s (@rljessen) safezone for awhile this evening, I had to run when the zombies found us, and I lost track of my companions: Rhonda, Nana Lou (@NanaLou022), Brendan Murphy (@dendari), and Robin Bartoletti (@robinwb).

Fortunately, Nana Lou had found her way back to her place, and Janine DeBaise (@writingasjoe), Rhonda Jessen and I ran as fast As we could to join her. Nana Lou had fresh baked bread and backwoods brew, and we hoped the cows might roll over onto any zombies that came by. We also had brew bombs on fire ready to throw if needed. But the zombies found us and there were too many; the cows and we gave a valiant effort, but in the end we had to flee again.

I then found myself back in the forest, in a place very similar to where I spent last night. During today I managed to break into an abandoned home and found a tent and some water. Out back I found a few pieces of dry firewood.

Found tent!

Found tent!

IMG_0627

Found firewood!

It’s so peaceful here, I almost think the zombies are gone and life can return to normal. But I know better. And the tent is big enough for quite a few of us! Now, I know what you’re thinking. A tent as a safezone? Really? We can’t keep the zombies out of it, but we can fight them off before they get near it. There are plenty of big sticks and we can set those on fire. Plus, there are no signs of them here. We can keep the fire low to keep them from seeing us. It’s still light here so the light won’t attract them. We do risk the smoke being seen, but this is such a vast forest it’ll be hard for them to find us. I brought some homemade bread from Nana’s place, so there’s food here too!

It should keep us safe for long enough for some to rest and get warm, at least. Welcome to the #forestcamp #safezone!