Performing Literacies: A Minecraft Summer Reading Program by James Burling

Performing Literacies Thumbnail Image

COURSE: English 550 – Smart Media and Critical Information Design

MEDIUM: Website; Game

Working with Wisconsin Libraries, I designed several activities for their summer reading programs using the video game Minecraft. /  / In this example, I lead several activities for middle-schoolers in Janesville on survival-themed literature with books like the Hunger Games and Hatchet, and then dropped them onto a virtual desert island. Once there, they had to work together to survive, explore, build or escape. In the process, they performed their own “Survival” story.

I’m a PhD student in Theatre and Drama, and I’m intensely interested in dramatic performance that utilizes, either partially or wholly, virtual environments. Whether by engaging with video games as performance, or adding a layer augmented reality to live theatre, this kind of intermedial performance opens up new ways to do live performance, and mirror the new layers of technology being added to our lives each day. /  / I’m also currently the instructor of record for a UW–Madison course called Drama in Education, cross-listed between the Department of Theatre and Drama and Curriculum and Instruction. In this course, I teach student teachers how to utilize creative drama in educational lesson for children K-5, and how to foster learning through imaginative, hands on experiences.  “Structured Play” like this is way of using performance to enact and discuss all kinds of issue and subjects, and is a fun learning technique with a great deal of utility for both children and adults. /  / This project combines these two interests. By utilizing a video game to allow a group of children to play, explore ideas, and discuss themes related to their reading material, I’m hoping to find new ways to engage kids in drama and performance. In turn, I hope this can be one small part of the push to redefine live theatrical performance, and bring it into the 21st century.

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