Some honors students at the University of Central Florida are playing video games for homework as a nontraditional way to develop critical thinking skills.
Students in “Gaming Literacy and Culture” are asked to think critically about something they might not ordinarily think twice about. It’s an approach common throughout UCF’s Burnett Honors College, which teaches students to think about traditional subjects creatively as a way to help solve new challenges they may face in the 21st Century.
“This semester, we’re spending time looking at games as texts to be critiqued,” said Assistant Professor Rudy McDaniel. “This means identifying the various cultural and literary themes found in games and studying how players interact with games as ‘readers.’”
The gaming class is just one option. Topics vary from fairy tales and baseball to medicine and music. They look for each theme’s impact on culture and social norms.
The goal of these unique academic offerings is to get students to embrace other points of view, a skill that will benefit them when faced with future challenges both inside and outside of the workplace. To achieve that, seminars are often taught by two faculty members from different disciplines so that students can experience a different type of learning.
“By offering interdisciplinary seminars we expose our students to innovative, cutting-edge ideas and challenge them to think about their own discipline from the perspective of others,” said Alvin Wang, the dean of the Burnett Honors College.
That’s why each semester, students can choose from nearly 20 different honors seminars, such as “Religion and Medicine” and “How Music Affects the Brain.” Honors students are required to take at least one interdisciplinary seminar to graduate.
Since seminars are limited to about 20 seats per class, they give students from a variety of majors the opportunity to interact with and learn from one another.
“A lot of these students might have never spoken to each other if it wasn’t for this class,” said Lecturer Sybil St. Claire, who teaches “Theatre for Social Change,” a course that challenges students to explore social themes and use them to generate thought-provoking stories.
“American Indian Literature and Culture in Florida” explores the history of Florida’s natives through archival research, film and guest presentations. Earlier this semester, students in the course took a field trip to Wekiva Springs to learn about the land and traditions of the Timucua Indians.
Other classes are meant to expose students to history, politics and foreign cultures as good background for their own analysis of today’s challenges.
“It takes a multi-faceted approach combined with interdisciplinary thinking to come up with answers to the complex issues that confront our society,” Wang said.
To learn more about the Burnett Honors College, go to http://honors.ucf.edu.