My print project proposal involves reviewing the new game Ripped Apart: A Civil War Mystery, in order to assess learning goals and outcomes by mainly using the rubric of learning principles as enumerated by James Paul Gee. Though Gee has thirty-six principles of learning that he applies to video games, I propose to use approximately a dozen in order to evaluate how a deeper and more engaged understanding of American history can be learned through the aforementioned game.
Ripped Apart is an Ipad app created by the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History and produced with a grant from the Verizon foundation. It was released February 18, 2015 to the public, and so other reviews could be scant and participation could be hard to track. Though I am proposing to review the game in terms of learning goals, further considerations could include marketing, development, and usage statistics.
James Paul Gee lays out thirty-six learning principles in his 2007 book What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Learning and Literacy. Gee stresses that literacy should encompass how to read not only text, but also images, symbols, graphs, diagrams, artifacts, and other visual symbols (17). Multi-modal texts (texts that mix words and images) that can be found in video games, Gee argues, can increase literacy creatively and pragmatically.
The link between playing video games and learning a broader application of literacy can be applied productively to assess Ripped Apart. In his book, Gee states and elaborates on learning principles “equally relevant to learning in video games and learning in content areas in classrooms” (41). So, how does this museum video game app address some of those learning principles?
Ripped Apart asks the player to become an intern at the museum to help a curator complete some very important research on American History. By matching carte de visits with historical documents the player can then identify the owner of certain photo albums and let those owners’ spirits rest. There is an element of other worldliness to the game in two senses: you learn about a different time period through historical documents and the spirits of some of these historical people are lingering down in the office / storage space where the player’s work desk is located. The spirits guide the player and so does the curator that the player is working for.
Because the player is working with different types of historical documents and artifacts (photographs, illustrations, letters, newspaper clippings, maps, clothing, and more), the most salient learning principle that can be applied would be the multimodal principle. This principle states that “meaning and knowledge are built up through various modalities (images, texts, symbols, interactions, abstract design, sound, etc.), not just words” (224). The game supplies players with a reference index where they can learn more about the documents and artifact they find at their desk that they takes notes about, and then connect to a selection of portraits to help determine the owner of an album. The diverse portraits include famous people of the period as well unknown people of the time. Political, economic, and geographic clues are also included in the artifact box.
Ron Morris also writes about how video games about American history, specifically the Civil War, can aid classroom curriculum by extending learning into a place where the student can engage with history and make decisions. http://www.playthepast.org/?p=3546
The extension of learning is an important and complex aspect that would be elaborated on in terms of assessing how the museum, the historians, and the teachers present and debrief video game experiences.