Today, I would like to welcome you to a new segment that I plan to take up: Featured Teacher. There are a lot of great educators out there across all levels, and I am constantly using them to refine and inspire my own teaching. While today’s featured teacher is appearing in my regular Monday post slot, moving forward I plan to do this on Thursdays. I’ll be starting with once a month and then moving onward from there.
If Eddie’s name sounds familiar, it’s because I recently wrote a post based on his work around video game theater. His work was so inspiring that I wanted to learn more about him as an educator and thus this section was born. I was curious to know his thinking behind video game theater, the challenges with implementing it, and his thoughts on what people like myself could do to help others develop the kinds of skills and thinking needed to do similar work.
Note: In the following sections what you will read are predominately Eddie’s words with very minor editing.
I graduated with a degree in Theater from Amherst College in 2000. Then I taught English in Koshigaya City, Japan, for two years after that. I’ve been teaching theater at the Pierrepont School in Westport, CT, since 2004.
What Kinds of Support Did You Have in Developing Video Game Theater?
Pierrepont has provided me with a great amount of support. Since 2007, I have been creating pieces and performing with students from the school. Rehearsals take place at the school. Many projects including the 2012’s Japanese ghost stories and 2013’s stories from Livy started as live-action theater pieces performed in my more traditional theater classes. My talented colleagues have provided original translations of works for me, assisted with press releases, and even designed postcards for my shows. In addition, this past year, the school has taken upon the expenses of my many workshops in area schools.
What Do You Think Teacher Educators Can Do to Support Teachers in Ways that Would Contribute to the Kinds of Innovative Work You Do?
Educators need to keep an open mind about the use of technology in the classroom. In my experience, students have been able to engage with text more deeply through the use of video games. My students become experts on the stories once they create a piece out of them.
Also, I just returned from creating a performance with a group of high school students in Tainan City, Taiwan. My team worked closely with this group of students for 5 days and created an amazing piece based on a section from Journey to the West that was performed in Chinese. Early on, these Taiwanese students admitted to me their nervousness about performing in a large auditorium. The technology allowed them to perform before a large audience without stepping onto the stage in a traditional way.
What Has Been the Most Challenging Aspect of Implementing Video Game Theater?
Technology can be fickle. Computers update and games are patched presenting compatibility issues; hardware breaks; batteries run out. Once we had a subscription run out in the middle of a performance at the Brick Theater in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. In our workshops at schools, we’ve also had problems accessing video games as they often are blocked by the schools’ firewalls.
What Has Been the Most Rewarding Aspect of Implementing Video Game Theater?
The audience at my professional performances often sees my work as being quite technical and out-of-reach. Kotaku.com said of one of my pieces, “The basic concept is simple: breathing life into classic literature via video games. Yet the execution is anything but.” This has not been my experience at our school workshops. It is wonderful when students see my performances, see the potential in them, and are inspired to create their own work. This is evident when they contribute their own ideas for how they would choreograph different scenes or ask me how they might incorporate one of their own games.
Do you know an interesting educator who should be featured? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org