Friday, September 13, 2013

Literature in the Age of the Internet

Even cats can learn online.
Our entire family thoroughly enjoys J.R.R. Tolkien's world of Middle Earth. We have all read the books, seen the movies, played various board games based on the books, and own far too many Lord of the Rings LEGO sets. When I saw that Vanderbilt University was offering a class through Coursera titled, Online Games: Literature, New Media, and Narrative , focused on Tolkien and Lord of the Rings Online, we jumped at the chance to take part.

JT, my husband, and I all signed up for the six week course. There are two tracks for the class, the regular track and the distinction track. Students following the distinction track are required to play Lord of the Rings Online, or LOTRO. JT and my husband are taking part in the game playing track. I am only following the regular track. I have never been good at those kinds of games. I can't even keep my character on a path, let alone fight the bad guys. EM is not taking the class due to his age, but he is watching some of the lectures with us. He also watches JT and his father play the game.

week one lectures
The nice thing about taking this class as a family is that we can all watch the lectures together. We hook my laptop up to the TV in the family room via an HDMI cable, take the wireless keyboard to the couch, and settle down for learning.

You can see a list of the first week's lectures in the picture to the right. In addition, week one's reading assignments look like this:

Reading for Week 1:
• J.R.R Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring
Read the “Prologue, Concerning Hobbits, and other matters” and Book One of the novel.
• Jesper Juul's Half-Real: Video Games between Real Rules and Fictional Worlds
Read the first 7-pages of the "introduction, " available online for free as a downloadable Pdf file at:
• Constantine P. Cavafy’s poem “Ithaca”
Available for free in the original Greek and several English translations at “The Official Website of the Cavafy Archive.” In the videos, we have used the translation by Daniel Mendelsohn:

The Distinction Track students have a separate week one assignment to set up their accounts with LOTRO and complete the introductory quests.

The only potential problem I can foresee is trying to limit JT's time playing the game. Typically he isn't allowed any game playing on the computer before his school work is completed. The boys are free to start their independent school work as early in the day as they would like, then we do our schooling together after lunch. JT almost never does any work before lunch time. Today he was happy to start his classwork making his character on LOTRO and completing those quests. We'll have to see what kind of controls I need to put in place as we go along. The exception allowing morning computer use will end when the class ends. I'm sure I'll hear more than once, "But Mom, I have to play. It's required for the class."

Modern parenting certainly puts me in strange situations.

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