Monday, July 27, 2009

Pedagogy First, at The House of Usher's Front Door

Front Door
Location: Front Door, House of Usher Build

I am continually surprised by how much little details count, with this generation of college students.

We want, in our build, to have pedagogy drive the design. It would be easy to build with some "cool factor" in mind. Coolness could mean too any scripts early on, too much fussing about the furniture. These might simply detract from the immersive experience we want. After all, the faculty members working on this house want to make Poe's story come to life.

Part of that is getting students engaged in wanting to change Poe's ending, while comparing their decisions to those of the narrator.

One thing I did spend time doing--maybe too much time--is making a decent front door for the House of Usher. It's the first impression, after all. Thanks to a simple scripting technique by Bob Suter with IBM, not to mention a publicly available script, I soon had a slab of plywood in place that would open on a hinge and not in the center. Then I dove into some vacation photos of old English doors, as well as battered versions of a family crest for the Usher Family. I soon had a seven-prim textured door that had seen better days.

Inside, of course, we'll use simple one-prim rectangular doors, but in a virtual world complexity of design becomes necessary at key spots. For the library railing where Roderick's books will be scattered about the floor, I employed a TGA file with lots of transparent cut-outs.

When the faculty member for the Poe class looked over my shoulder, he approved. "That railing texture looks like bones."

Good touch for a Poe story! And in Richmond, you can have a sense of the author looking over your shoulder. Our town is haunted by his tragic life. We have to get this right.

Faculty in writing-intensive classes don't think visually when designing assignments. But for this project to work--even when my writing students beta-test it for later courses on Poe--I'll need the skills of a story-teller, cinematographer, and graphic designer at one stroke.

Stay tuned. No lag so far at the House...but lag happens. Let's hope that it's in the service of good pedagogy.

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