Monday, November 10, 2014

Modern Mythology

So I am still working out the final shape of what the Monday post will look like. I thought about a bunch of things that I could talk about: Thor in the Marvel Universe, Stargate and Gods as Ancient Aliens, or Star Wars and the Hero’s Journey. All of those seemed too obvious, and are generally well tread territory, so I went back to some articles I been grabbing from the web over the past few months.

Which brings me to the article I wanted to talk about today. Specifically how Mythology can be used as a motivator. Bear with me here, because it only tangentially touches on Mythology. A few weeks ago I found this article on a learning blog (training is one of my day jobs). The article covers an ARG used by a 7th grade teacher to help his students better learn The Odyssey and specifically the character of Odysseus.

If you’re not familiar with what an ARG is, it is an Alternate Reality Game. Unlike a “normal” game where there is a very clear distinction between what is and is not part of the game, an ARG blurs that. One of the most famous is I Love Bees developed by 42 Entertainment as part of viral marketing campaign for Halo 2. I Love Bees told the story of an AI marooned on Earth trying to put itself back together. It's very interesting to read about, and I highly recommend checking it out.

ARGs are really good at organically pulling together groups of to solve problems, often problems that would be difficult, if not impossible, to solve as an individual. In Dolus, the game created by John Fallon, the goal was to get his students to better understand Odysseus as a character.
...students had to inhere the very qualities that helped the cunning Odysseus to prevail on his journey. “Odysseus is mortal and without superpowers but, above all, he’s a tenacious problem solver,” explained Fallon. “He is put into seemingly impossible situations and, through sheer human ingenuity and persistence, he finds a way out.”
Fallon got his students to think about what made Odysseus, his wit and problem solving skills. He set out challenges that got his students thinking like him, and as a result got them to see Odysseus not as a far off one dimensional stock hero. By making his players struggle to reach for the skills that made Odysseus a hero, he made the character someone that the students could admire. In the end the students ended up with a clearer vision on who Odysseus was for them.
“They did a better job of making their individual versions of Odysseus more clever and better problem solvers rather than just a cardboard cutout hero who bashes his way through problems. This likely stems from having experienced some difficult problem solving of their own in similar circumstances.”
Heroes and Heroic Journey’s have been used teach us what we can do at our best, as well they can be useful to warn  of hubris and Odysseus is a great example of both of those. Without any super powers, and with only his wits, he guides his crew through their long journey home. That story, even more than a thousand years later can still be used to motivate students.

If you’re interested the article can be found here.