Interactive games and tabletop roleplaying games as a teaching tool

Interactive games and tabletop roleplaying games can be used as a teaching tool to promote storytelling and foster creativity and learning.

Every student has a different style of learning but an effective strategy to motivate all students is to focus on how students can create meaning in what they are learning. By incorporating the constructivist learning theory into the curriculum, educators can help students learn beyond the classroom experience and encourage creativity.

Storytelling is an important form of media that teaches critical thinking skills and helps people improve their communications skills. More importantly, it encourages students to be creative and gives them a chance to learn by doing something fun.

At the 2011 Gifted and Talented Symposium held in Austin, TX, Bonnie Cramond, a professor of Educational Psychology at the University of Georgia discussed how she used interactive fantasy games to teach mythology. Using a simplified version of Dungeons and Dragons (D&D), she gave her middle school students a chance to collaborate and learn material in a different way. She discovered that her students would read the myths (they weren’t assigned readings), thinking that they could gain an advantage in the game (Mewes, 2011).

There is a boarding school in Denmark that developed its curriculum around roleplaying. Østerskov Efterskole (Østerskov School) provides their students with an opportunity to learn and express their creativity. According to the school’s website, their goal is to use roleplaying as a teaching method for all academic subjects.

For many years, a friend of mine who is a high school science teacher organized an after school club to teach students how to play D&D and other roleplaying games. He believes that these games not alone provide students with educational benefits; they can change their lives. These games can be alternatives to less productive hobbies or activities, such as drugs, gangs, etc.

I know an individual who believes D&D saved his life and kept him out of prison. This individual once had a quick temper and would often let his anger dominate him. Instead of acting out his aggression, the game allowed him to focus his emotions on characters within the game. Creativity defines his identity. Ever since he was a child, he was a storyteller. He would make up fantastic stories about science and fantasy. His favorite part of these role-playing games is being able to create worlds, cities, and cultures.

There are other types of games that can be used to encourage storytelling and creativity. An example would be Rory’s Story Cubes, a game that uses dice to tell a story. With this game, nine six-sided dice are used and each side has a different image (54 different images) that can be used to inspire the storyteller.

Roleplaying and storytelling can be used to motivate students and encourage them to want to learn. Roleplaying games can teach students about vocabulary, math, public speaking, teamwork, and about dealing with loss and success. These games are effective because students engage in learning more when they are actively participating and it is important to work with their interests.

Roleplaying games also encourage students to work together and learn from one another. Together, they make these imaginary worlds come alive. It is often believed that only individuals can truly be considered creative. However, teamwork can be an important aspect of creativity. Berleson (1965) used a description about theatrical productions that seems rather appropriate to compare to. He explained that a group could not have created Shakespeare’s work, but it takes a team to perform them. In D&D, every person plays an important role. Without teamwork, these adventures do not happen.

“Without this playing with fantasy no creative work has ever yet come to birth. The debt we owe to the play of imagination is incalculable” (Jung,  [1921] 1971, p. 82).




Berelson, B. (1965). Creativity and the graduate school. In G. A. Steiner (Ed.), The Creative Organization (pp. 214-226). Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

Jung, C. ([1921] 1971). Psychological Types (Collected Works, Volume 6), Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press.

Mewes, T. (2011, June 16). Foundation continues symposium support. Austin Daily Herald. Retrieved from





Tackling Racism

Everybody is a little racist.

Avenue Q, an American satirical musical, made a good point about how “everyone’s a little bit racist sometimes”. The show is best defined as an adult version of Sesame Street. It addresses issues associated with entering adulthood.

One of the messages presented in the musical is that even though everyone might be a little racist, it does not mean they go around committing hate crimes.

Racism does not always mean we wish to harm someone who is different. It can be as subtle as a fleeting thought or assumption.

Racism is a complex issue and everyone is biased in one way or another.

It is our human nature to identify more with people who are like ourselves. People have a preference for the familiar.

However, we must not use “human nature” to dismiss it as not being problematic. Having preconceptions based on how people appear may not cause any immediate harm, but when this is compounded over time and by everyone in society, it can lead to much greater harm.

Admitting racism is not easy but it is an important step in tackling the issue.

The problem will never go away as long as we neglect to acknowledge it in both society and within ourselves.

This issue is especially important as evident with recent events.

Tim Wise, an American anti-racism activist and author, posted a reaction to the Zimmerman verdict. In a video posted on July 19, he asks his audience to consider an important question: “Does having black friends mean you’re free from racial bias?”

The answer is no. As stressed in the first sentence, everybody is a little racist.

It is also crucial that people understand the role the media plays.

According to Rem Rieder of USA Today, the media played a role in the Zimmerman case that cannot be ignored. Rieder suggested in this case, the media went after the best story rather than the truth.

The media perpetuates stereotypes. Therefore is of upmost importance for people to learn to understand the complex messages presented by the media.

In a previous blog, Why Media Literacy Matters – Stereotypes, I discuss how photographs, film and video are used to perpetuate stereotypes. I explained how these images are used to present people of other races as “other” and establish them as inferior.

Such media messages perpetuate the idea of “us versus them”.

People need to be aware of how media messages influence them. They need to learn how to analyze those messages so they are not misled by false information.

People need to understand the importance of being media literate.

There needs to be a push for media literacy education.

It will help minimize the harm.

Roles and responsibilities of the media

There are two important points that need to be reiterated.

First, as I stressed many times before, journalists must not mislead.

Next, we need to remember why we need photojournalists.

The role of the media is to inform the public, to share accurate information and more importantly, the truth.

The four fake Asiana Air pilot names should never have been broadcast.

A summer intern working at the National Transportation Safety Board was blamed for this fiasco.

Intern or not, this problem shows that there needs to be better communication between government agencies and the media.

I previously wrote in Why Media Literacy Matters – Times of Crisis:

Media involvement in the emergency management process can help minimize misunderstanding. The goal is after all, to provide the public with accurate information as quickly as possible. Media agencies are great at doing that.

This means that journalists and government agencies need to work together and establish positive mutual working relationships. However, it is important to note that journalists are not the only source of media.

Another news organization recently got rid of its entire photography staff.

According to Jim Romenesko, Michael Gebhart, the chief executive of Southern Community Newspapers (in Georgia) wrote in an email, “How many photographers need dark room skills to develop film and make prints?”

Like many other professional photographers, I have not used a darkroom in a very long time. With the advancement of technology and digital cameras, no one really needs a darkroom anymore.

Gebhart obviously does not understand the importance of professional photographers.

Photography is a powerful tool and a universal language that can be used to inform the public and share with them the truth about what is going on in the world around them.

I previously stressed that reporting and photography require different levels of training and understanding.

I wrote in Importance of professional photographers, Part II:

So does having a blog make you a journalist? Does having a professional camera make you a photographer?

Anyone is capable of taking a snapshot or writing an article but the answer to both questions is no. They might possess the tools and equipment but that does not mean they have the technical expertise to do the job.

They are different forms of storytelling and we need them both.

Reporters and photographers are different types of storytellers and neither is more important than the other.

But one thing is for certain, as journalists they are responsible for telling the truth.

The media needs to remind themselves that people need to be informed, not misled.