“Don’t let grades get in the way of a good time. If students enjoy the material, they’re bound to pick up something useful. They won’t enjoy the material if they [see] you as the stodgy know-it-all who controls their future with a single letter. So, be who you are: somebody going along with them for the ride, trying to learn something new.”
This is the teaching philosophy of Dr. Ray Klump, Assistant Professor of Mathematics and Computer Science at Lewis University. As an undergraduate student at the University of Illinois, he says he spent too much time worrying about his grades. “I started to get really good grades, and I wanted to keep that up,” he claims. After graduating and entering the workforce, he realized that the grades were less important than the experience and what he took from it.
With this in mind, he went back to the University of Illinois for his Masters and Doctorate degrees. Now he teaches at Lewis with that same philosophy in mind. Though grades may be deemed necessary to assess performance, Klump believes they can often get in the way of learning. “For some people, [grades] are a good motivator, because it gives them something to shoot for, and a reason. But it’s not a good reason,” he admits.
It definitely seems like Dr. Klump believes in a more immersive form of learning, something that is further proved by his involvement in the Prometheon Club on campus. Klump formed the club with students David Eccles and Matt Knor last spring, as many students had been clamoring for an outlet to express their love of gaming. “The focus has always been both on using computer hardware and software for entertainment purposes, because what they really want to ultimately develop is a computer game.”
The club has roughly twenty-five members at this point, meeting every two weeks during the semester. In addition to this, they hold a LAN party roughly every six weeks. At a LAN party, the students bring their computers and link them together to play popular games like F.E.A.R. and Battlefield 2. Having all the students in one space eliminates the potential lag and anonymity of online play, yet allows each student to have their own full screen to play on.
With several students already interested, discussions are underway to introduce a game design major at Lewis. More than just a programming exercise, the proposed major would draw from all aspects of the gaming experience, involving the English, Music, and Art departments. Though it is still very early in the planning stages, it seemed clear that Klump was excited at the possibility of introducing something new for incoming students.
When asked about the potential effects of video game violence on children, Dr. Klump proved to have very strong opinions. “It desensitizes you to what it means to be a human being, and the harm that you can do to people.” Though he has played violent games himself, he sees it as more of an issue for younger, developing minds: “Some people just aren’t ready to handle it.”
Though he concedes that it is a tough issue, he believes that parents should be more vigilant when determining what is right for their children. “Some parents aren’t that dedicated to being parents,” he claims. To combat the violent images, Klump believes that perhaps religion could have a place in schools. “Maybe the solution is to balance what they see in these games with lessons in morality, or even some sort of religion without espousing a particular religious faith. I just think we’ve swung too far one way.”
Klump no longer has the time to play video games, but played Atari 2600 as a young child. He also played games regularly in the late 1990’s, with games like Duke Nukem 3D and Quake dominating his computer screen. Instead of gaming, he spends his few spare moments playing guitar. He has been playing for over twenty years, though he mostly just jams by himself these days. Klump is a big fan of blues-based hard-rock artists like AC/DC, because “they kinda have fun with it; it’s not ultra-serious metal stuff.”
Dr. Klump has the potential to be a breath of fresh air at Lewis University. His teaching philosophy encourages more than the pursuit of high grades, while his support of the Prometheon group gives many of his students an outlet to pursue their craft outside of class. Though he speaks of the potential harm of video games, he also knows of the potential goodness that they may bring, and thus uses his power and position to encourage Lewis’ future game designers.