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Small Colleges and Digital Gaming: Collaboration and the State of Play. Coalition for Networked Information, fall 2009 Bryan Alexander, NITLE. For the next hour, we control the horizontal and the vertical: Gaming, teaching, liberal education: a 2009 snapshot

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Small Colleges and Digital Gaming: Collaboration and the State of Play

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Small Colleges and Digital Gaming:

Collaboration and the State of Play

Coalition for Networked Information, fall 2009

Bryan Alexander, NITLE

For the next hour, we control the horizontal and the vertical:

Gaming, teaching, liberal education: a 2009 snapshot

A taxonomy of practices, with selected examples

The role of NITLE

Futures, next steps, discussion, and futures: into 2010

Plan of the session

Quick note-taking: what are the two most salient uses of computer gaming in your institution?

Making the audience work already

Three key takeaways, for today:

Gaming as art and industry continues to develop and grow

Pedagogical uses unfolding

Liberal arts campus cases are now available, and practitioners are networking

I. Gaming and cultures, late 2009

James Paul Gee

Claims games offer pedagogical experiences (2003ff)

Other experts follow suit:

Marc Presnsky

Henry Jenkins

John Seely Brown

Mia Consalvo

Constance Steinkuehler

Kurt Squire


Sample pedagogical principles:

Semiotic domains; transference

Embodied action and feedback

Projective identity

Edging the regime of competence (Vygotsky)

Probe-reprobe cycle

Social learning (roles; consumption-production)

“Fish tank” tutorial

Strategic self-assessment

Gaming’s pedagogical functions

Jason Mittell, Middlebury

College: games are platforms

for learning…



Media studies (psych, cultural studies, media)

NITLE brownbag, January 2008

Another summary

Classroom and courses

Curriculum content

Delivery mechanism

Creating games

How is gaming used now?

Peacemaker, Impact Games

Revolution (via Jason Mittell)

Oiligarchy, Molle Industries

DimensionM, Tabula Digita

  • Jetset, Persuasive Games

  • The Great Shakeout, California

Median age of gamers shoots past 30

Industry size comparable to music

Impacts on hardware, software, interfaces, other industries

Large and growing diversity of platforms, topics, genres, niches, players

Gaming as part of mainstream culture

Anecdata: Number of Facebook FarmVille players: 27,539,610 (, as of December 2009)

Gaming as part of mainstream culture

(Casual games are more mainstream than most heavy-duty games)

Diversity of game genres American teenagers, Pew Internet, 2008

Game studies as academic field

  • Joost Raessens and Jeffrey Goldstein, eds, Handbook of Computer Game Studies (MIT, 2005)

  • Frans Mayra, An Introduction to Game Studies (Sage, 2008)

  • Pat Harrigan and Noah Wardrip-Fruin, eds. Third Person: Authoring and Exploring Vast Narratives (MIT, 2009)



Game night

Creating games

How is gaming used now?

Defense of Hidgeon, Games Archive: University of Michigan

Maturing professional venues

Return to your earlier note-taking, and compare notes with people near you: where on campus are you seeing this?

And where might you see more in ‘10?

Making the audience work some more

What are the intersections?

Shared: classic academic concerns

Pedagogical uses




Gaming and liberal education

  • Image: Bryn Mawr College,

  • Michael Toler

And what is liberal education, again?

Learning for learning's sake

Pedagogy (active learning, faculty/student collab. etc)

Democratic, engaged citizenship/leadership

Specific institutional type

-Jo Ellen Parker, 2008

Gaming and liberal education

Scripps College library

II. A taxonomy of practices

  • Liberal arts uses

  • Gettysburg, Hope, Depauw

Faculty research

Faculty/staff game creation

Classes and learning

Professional games delivering learning content

“ “ “ objects of study

Students creating game content

“ “ games

II. A taxonomy of current practices

Harry Brown, Depauw University

(M.E. Sharpe, 2008)

Part I: Poetics

Chapter 1: Videogames and Storytelling

Chapter 2: Videogame Aesthetics

Chapter 3: Videogames and Film

Part II: Rhetoric

Chapter 4: Politics, Persuasion, and Propaganda in Videogames

Chapter 5: The Ethics of Videogames

Chapter 6: Religion and Myth in Videogames

Part III: Pedagogy

Chapter 7: Videogames, History, and Education

Chapter 8: Identity and Community in Virtual Worlds

Chapter 9: Modding, Education, and Art

1. Faculty research

Valley Sim, Christian Spielvogel (Hope College): MMOG

American Civil War simulation

based on primary documents already in digital archive (Valley of the Shadow)

MMOG: Players experience and debate the war’s epochal events as avatars based on the lives of residents from two wartime communities

2. Faculty/staff game creation

Trinity University library: ARG

2. Faculty/staff game creation

Dickinson College, class on empires: game modding

2. Faculty/staff game creation

Shalom Staub, Assistant Provost for Academic Affairs, Dickinson College: Conflict Resolution course

3A: Games as learning content


“integrate and apply the concepts and strategies that you will encounter elsewhere in the course.”

Todd Bryant, Dickinson College: teaching German with World of Warcraft

3A: Games as learning content

“If the game provides authentic language content and requires communication in order to progress through the game—and our students are willing to spend hours of their time immersed in this environment—we can greatly increase not only their overall exposure to the language but their motivation to learn as well.”

Aaron Delwiche, Trinity University: COMM 3344, interactive multimedia (Spring 2006)

3B: Games as objects of study

Chris Fee, Gettysburg: Interactive Fiction (2007-)

3C: Students creating game content

Venatio Creo, Ursinus College

3D: Students creating games

Nonprofit, working to advance technology in liberal education

III. The role of NITLE

Professional development (workshops, videoconferencing)

NITLE Network

Several venues (NITLE-IT, Summit)


Exploration of field



Network facilitation

Game co-creation

ARG (ELI 2009)

Web game (futures market)

NITLE programs

Web 2.0 networking

Conference (Dickinson, 2007)

Workshop (Bryn Mawr, 2008)

The gaming initiative


MIV sessions (starting 2008)

Presentations (CNI, Educause, NITLE Summit, NMC 2008-9)

Publications (Alvarado, Alexander, Bryant)

“Overcoming the Fear of Gaming: A Strategy for Incorporating Games into Teaching and Learning.” EDUCAUSE Quarterly Magazine, Volume 31, Number 3. 2008.

The gaming initiative

Faculty involved from:

Albion College

Austin College

Depauw University

Dickinson College

Gettysburg College

Hope College

Middlebury College

Swarthmore College

Trinity University (Texas)

Ursinus College

Vassar College

The gaming network

Disciplines include:





International relations


Media studies

NB: strong emphasis on humanities and non-quantitative social sciences, so far

The gaming network

NITLE prediction markets (

We launch one game

More social media strategies

  • Diigo group (

More social media strategies

NITLE blogging,

What supports intercampus collaboration for educational gaming?

Strength in diversity (disciplines, regions, projects, sectors)

Supernodes make the network workshop (the Dickinson movement)

Low barriers to entry are crucial

Educational examples are essential

Lessons learned?

What else is possible for teaching and learning with games, based on practice outside of the classroom?

IV. What next?

“Computer games as liberal arts?

Educators who teach kids to make their own video games are on education's cutting edge.”

(CNN, 2008)

Already in use in other .edu sectors:

Machinima for video production

Information/media fluency curricula

More modding (ex: Civ IV mod)

More current options

Exploring no- and low-cost games further

“Nanw’s Adventure”, National Library of Wales


Looking into 2010:

Diigo group continues (68 items so far)

Ruthless blogging

NITLE prediction market trades, grows

Reaching out to more schools and organizations

What next in liberal arts gaming?

Looking into 2010:

Iterations and new projects for spring classes

Reacting to the Past interest (Pearson)

Mobile gaming pilots (Vassar)

Repurposing gaming tools for visualization (machinima), computing power, presentation (Wii remote)

Involvement from sciences

What next in liberal arts gaming?

Liberal Education Tomorrow blog

Prediction Markets game

Diigo group


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