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Digital Games for Learning. A Palaeography project.
Leonor Zozaya Montes

Last modified: 2015-10-01


If you could, would you sponsor a project about digital games of Palaeography? If you do not have enough money to invest, never mind: you can always work as a volunteer in this project.

Jokes apart, in this five minutes talk I will try to find people interested in games to reinforce knowledge, more precisely to reinforce knowledge of Palaeography.

You may know what games are, but what about Palaeography? It is a discipline that studies old writings (in this case, mainly from Medieval and Early Modern Period, e.g. from 12th to 18th centuries). To read old letterforms is easiest if you already know some Palaeography. That is quite necessary for Humanities students, given the fact that many cultural institutions around the world are constantly digitizing historical documents. There are millions of facsimiles with free access on the Internet.

Olden matters can get happily married with newest technologies. That is proved by Digital Humanities, with the creation of great free online palaeography courses. That initiatives are coming mainly from United Kingdom, with courses such as English Handwriting, Scottish Handwriting or Palaeography and Latin Palaeography of The National Archives (=TNA)[1]. There are more online courses from other countries; for example, USA with Spanish Paleography Tool[2], Australia with Medieval Writings[3], and France with Theleme or Interactive Album of Medieaeval Palaeography[4], among others (sadly there are none in Spanish or Portuguese).

All that courses present a playful appearance, but only one of them includes a game. Is The ducking stool game, from the Palaeography course of TNA, were a 17th-century woman is facing the ducking stool punishment. To free her you must correctly transcribe some words written in old letterforms. If you fail, she submerges into the river.

In a very modest and rudimentary level I have made some games about palaeographical abbreviations on a virtual playroom, the Paleoteca[5].

Summarizing, there exists just only a few interactive games about Palaeography. This amount is quite reduced in the wide digital humanities panorama. Digital games are not very well received at the university study programmes, in spite of their didactic benefits.

Virtues of Games had been remarked by many famous thinkers, such as Huizinga or Callois, and pedagogues as Piaget, Thorndike, Vigotsky, Elkonin, Skynner or Brunner.

Games can help to acquire and reinforce knowledge. They can accelerate maturation of aptitudes. Especially with a digital appearance, providing a relaxing framework that reduces academic stress. Games can incentive to get deeper into a scientific field, even serious one such as Palaeography.

When can students and amateurs play palaeography games? In several occasions, especially when they are tired, like in the lasts moments before finishing a class. A changing activity will be received as a kind of rest.

Here an online game project is proposed. It has the aim of motivate students and complement palaeography –and history– knowledge, with tests and challenges.

The proposal consists in this story. You have successfully made a trip to the past. Your memory is unclear, as is under the effects of a magic potion once the inquisitor –your worst enemy– has sedated you (that suffering from amnesia will justify that clues will be facilitated). Under a secret identity, you have the mission to find Santo’s censored books and manuscripts. Santos was Francisco Santos, a real clergyman censored by Spanish Inquisition in the 18th century. His writings are preserved, between many others, in Gnosipolis, the city of knowledge, which was created underground to circumvent the Inquisition, and which shapes were built to confuse it. Although the spaces seems to be open, they are impassable. You could only threshold them deciphering old manuscript letters. Thus, you will be able to open the invisible door, the infinite stairs or the unfinished vain, to finally…

The end of this story will be written in truth when I find a patron that helps to realize this project; a patron that trust in games to improve knowledge of respectable subjects such as Palaeography.

[1] The National Archives Palaeography courses: http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/latinpalaeography/ http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/palaeography/ ; English Handwriting: http://www.english.cam.ac.uk/ceres/ehoc/index.html ; Scottish Handwriting: http://www.scottishhandwriting.com/coach.asp .

[2] Spanish Paleography Digital Teaching and Learning Tool, http://spanishpaleographytool.org/

[3] http://medievalwriting.50megs.com/writing.htm

[4] Theleme: http://theleme.enc.sorbonne.fr/ ; the IAMP: http://ciham.ish-lyon.cnrs.fr/paleographie/index.php?l=en .

[5] Paleoteca, espacio virtual con juegos paleográficos, https://paleoteca.wordpress.com/ Main lines of this discourse were extended at Leonor Zozaya: “Educational Innovation: New Digital Games to Complement the Learning of Palaeography”, DigiPal Symposium 2015 (Kings College London, England).