“Game Terakoya” Catch up

The Game Terakoya is an extracurricular project that aims to help students interested in games and language transform those interests into public or professional participation. I have run a lot of projects with students (e.g., volunteer teaching, designing games, playtesting games for designers) but have found it hard to “measure” or contextualize the activity and development of my students.

The multiliteracies (New London Group) and learning by design (Cope and Kalantzis) frameworks were shared with me a few years ago, and I found them fascinating and something I wanted to put into practice. I wanted to “expand my repertoire” of teaching, and get students to do more conceptualizing and analysis around games.  I wanted a way to tie together game literacy, project based learning, 21st Century skills, participation in society activities. I’ve been working lately to write about the connections between multiliteracies/learning by design, media education, bridging and connected learning (Buckingham, Thorne, Reinhardt, Ito, Jenkins).


In this project, I am appropriating the term “Terakoya:
Terakoya (寺子屋 terako-ya?, literally temple schools, private elementary schools[1]) were private educational institutions that taught writing and reading to the children of Japanese commoners during the Edo period. (wikipedia).

I’m working under a broad definition of and multiple literacies: reading/understanding –> creation/participation (games/other media in addition to English languages)


The model that I am testing this year is represented in the following chart. It’s my general blueprint for moves up down left and right.

Part of the research I’m doing this year is to see how feasible all these moves are. Ultimately, I would like to make these pedagogical moves more explicit parts of other teaching that I do. I’m currently working with 2 highly motivated university undergraduate students (“M” and “N”) and am testing out various exercises and materials with them. They want to improve their English skills and learn more about games, and have fun. Sounds great to me!

We meet every Friday afternoon for 90 minutes. They are busy, but they can complete some homework each week. This is an extracurricular project, so I am trying not to overload them.

A very quick recap of the last 2 months:

  1. Students completed a variety of background English, knowledge, participation habits questionnaires
  2. We brainstormed participation options (to set a kind of roadmap for the project – something to aim for). They are interested in teaching using games, joining a gamejam, making a social impact game, teaching at our local kids center, writing online game reviews, making a game for a company and interviewing game designers… lots of great possibilities!
  3. We talked about games we all know and have played (the first step in multiliteracies work – “experience the known”). We decided to explore UNO. We examined the rules http://www.unorules.com/ and watched some actual plays https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nfwZ9cY6iTo  and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gf9lzuPxMQs
  4. We created a gmail account, website and twitter account as a group: https://sites.google.com/site/gameterakoyashizuoka/home and https://twitter.com/gameterakoya_16
  5. We played UNO and examined our own language. Our discussions brought us to discussing “house rules” and “cheating” and “licensing” and “the magic circle” concept in game studies. I plan to come back to them in a few weeks, depending on how future games and discussions go.
  6. Our discussions start with M and N’s notes, then move into my focusing them on things they didn’t point out.
  7. We then moved to looking at some online reviews of UNO, on Boardgamegeek.com – a hobbyist site, and Amazon.com – a consumer site: https://boardgamegeek.com/thread/1366371/game-deep-strategy https://boardgamegeek.com/thread/312340/game-kids-not-geeks https://www.amazon.com/Mattel-42003-Uno-Card-Game/dp/B00004TZY8 What was fascinating was that the students read the first review completely at face value. They didn’t realize that the review was written sarcastically, even though they pointed out the adjectives and dramatic writing. In fact, one member said she changed her views about UNO after reading the article (she began to think of UNO as a deep strategy game). I’ve given them some info about English sarcasm and we will re-analyze it next week. It’s very interesting to me that I had to explicitly tell them that it was sarcastic (they reported to me afterwards that they knew what sarcasm was and how it was used).
  8. This coming week, we will be looking at a variety of new games for us to repeat the exercises in #3,5,6,7 with, then move into more conceptualizing, analyzing, then participating (they are intrigued with the idea of writing a sarcastic review as a participation option).

It’s been an incredible process and project so far.

I will try to blog each week with shorter updates.

Let me know if you have any questions or comments!