I have been thinking a lot about implementing a team element to the third unit of my Comp I classes this semester, and I am feeling excited about it, but I am also feeling a little uncomfortable and hesitant. As a student, I never enjoyed doing group work or projects. It wasn’t so much the “no one does their work” bit (although that can be unpleasant if it happens) as it was the “I’m horribly shy and feel nervous about interacting with everyone and functioning in the role I need to function in the group” bit. While as a student I could recognize that there was value in doing a project collaboratively, I still felt an urgency to get it over with.
As an instructor, I assign group activities all of the time—probably almost every class period. It’s the type of class that would have really exhausted me as an introverted undergrad, and I can’t help but think about this as I move my students into groups or as I contemplate having them work together over an extended period of time. I, of course, reason with myself and justify all the ways having them work collaboratively can benefit them, but it still makes me feel awkward, almost hypocritical about asking them to do it.
This morning though, I was thinking about how much I love collaborative games. They are by far my favorite type of game. Although some of my favorite board games very vastly in plot, they all require me to work with other players with differing skill sets to do interesting and difficult but not impossible tasks in an situation in which we can fail safely. Pandemic has us attempt to save the world from multiplying viruses. Arkham Horror pits a group of characters against an impossible foe. Red November asks a group of drunken gnomes to try and survive a sinking nuclear submarine (and all of the obstacles that go with it, the Kraken, fires, flooding, etc.). Even when I think of PC games, my favorite is Dungeons Siege because I can form parties with other players. My favorite console game is Super Mario Bros. Wii because four people can play together on the same team at the same time. All of this is to say that collaborative gaming is my favorite. I love it, and I find this disconnect between loving collaborative gaming and dreading collaborative classwork (as an undergrad) confusing.
While I don’t think I will ever not feel worried about my introverted students, if I work to intentionally gamify teamwork, I will feel better about it and will feel more confident that more students are enjoying it and getting something useful from it.