Faces and Voices

Michael Kicey

Michael Kicey, area librarian and adjunct instructor, in his office.

Michael Kicey, area librarian and UB adjunct instructor

Finding ways to make class engaging can be a challenge, but thanks to the LevelUp gaming and computing site, some professors are finding ways to put a world of experiences in the hands of their students, without ever having to leave campus.

Michael Kicey, area librarian and adjunct instructor at UB, has built in a series of special activity days for his Introductory Ancient Greek course where they can experience the sights and sounds of Ancient Greece thanks to LevelUp’s console gaming lounge.  Assassin’s Creed Odyssey has become part of Kicey’s curriculum and serves as an example of the exciting possibilities of collaboration between the classroom and LevelUp.

“Whether you’re talking about classics, or engineering, or anything in between,” Kicey says, “Technology like that… stands in the right place to change a lot of what we think about traditional education.”

Exploring the Virtual Ancient World

Print
“Whether you’re talking about classics, or engineering, or anything in between,” Kicey says, “Technology like that… stands in the right place to change a lot of what we think about traditional education”
Michael Kicey
Area librarian and UB adjunct instructor

Being able to step into virtual worlds through video games can often be for fun or relaxation, but these tools can also be hands-on means of discovery in the classroom. When Kicey was initially looking for engaging digital content for his Ancient Greek course, online sources began to direct him towards content from Assassin’s Creed Odyssey.

“I started to dig around the internet about the game and discovered that not only were researchers and archeologists looking at it and appreciating it, but that they had a big role in creating it.”

 Using the Discovery Tour mode of the game, students can explore the recreated world in Odyssey at their own pace. Each tour focuses on different places, objects, or festivals featured within the main game, and students are quizzed at the end of each tour by their in-game guide.

“You can walk around the Akropolis and see the temples, you can go through the house of an aristocrat, and you can also walk through the slums and see how a huge number of people in the ancient world lived,” Kicey says.

In-Class Gaming

Using video games to supplement lectures may not sound like much, but from Kicey’s perspective the in-class activity helps students connect with course material over the entirety of the semester. With a relatively relaxed structure on those days, Kicey asks his students to split into groups and complete at least two to three tours during the class period.

“It’s important to establish a rhythm,” Kicey suggests. “It’s not just sort of a one-day field trip.” By bringing student into the console lounge multiple times during the semester, they gain a deeper experience with the game and its detail-filled environment.

Video games offer such a direct way to experience worlds unlike our own, and students can see for themselves what the ancient world looked like without relying solely on the pages of books that were written centuries ago.

“It’s increasingly difficult to keep students engaged when all they have is a black and white page,” Kicey says. “And I too as a teacher, it can get dull when all you have in front of you is a page with Greek letters on it.”

Working with LevelUp

While picking up and playing the game is the easy part, Kicey does recommend working with staff at LevelUp closely to make something like this possible for your class. This is a process that takes some time to plan and coordinate, but for Kicey the planning was completely worth it in the end.

“Work with staff closely on things like licensing, and scheduling as well,” Kicey recommends. “Really everything else about this has been pretty effortless, it’s been very easy as long as I made contact with the right people.”

Although it may feel like extra steps just to play video games for class, Kicey believes that this kind of collaboration can offer so much more to the educational experience moving forward.

“I think that things like virtual reality, augmented reality, and virtual worlds you can get even inside a commercial video game like this one, they go a long way towards getting away from book-centric or other kinds of old-fashioned models of teaching, and that meet students where they are.”

To learn more about the spaces available in LevelUp, visit buffalo.edu/ubit/levelup