Leading Edge / Spring 2018
All In on Gutenberg

Students in Prof. Paolo Granata’s book and media studies class learn print culture terms while playing poker

Photo of four cards, the top three facing up showing the Jack, Queen and King of hearts with definitions for "plate," "quarto," and "recto" in the centre of the respective cards.

Photo: Paul Weeks.

 
At times, Prof. Paolo Granata encourages his students to play poker (and other card games) – in class. There’s no money at stake, but he does hope they’ll learn a few things.

Granata, a professor in the Book and Media Studies program, has designed a deck of playing cards to help students remember unique terms from print culture and the history of books. Inspired by both traditional flash cards and a deck of aphorisms created by media theorist Marshall McLuhan, the cards feature a picture of Johannes Gutenberg, the inventor of mechanical movable type, on one side and a definition on the reverse.

“Marginalia” appears on the 10 of diamonds, for example, and “codex” on the queen of spades. Gutenberg himself is the joker. Granata gets students to correctly explain the words on the cards as they are played. This kind of experiential learning is a great way to help students grasp and retain knowledge, he says; the unusual experience of playing cards in class sticks in the memory. “I strongly believe in the power of playfulness to inspire creativity and imagination,” he says.


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