I FINALLY made it to the Games+Learning+Society Conference! I heard about it probably 4 or 5 years ago and it was always held right at the end of the school year. GLS was a big reason that I wanted to come to Madison to graduate school.
- I love the people and the ideas and discussions they have. Game designers, academics, teachers, and lots who bridge all three communities. That said, games are not a core piece of my research, so I was able to do the “slow conference” thing: not rushing to every session, picking sessions at the last minute, not furiously taking notes to remember everything that was said.
- My reading list just got longer. First, Seymour Papert’s Connected Family. Also, Ready Player One by Ernest Cline (on audiobook narrated by Wil Wheaton???). And maybe, The Game Believes in You, by Greg Toppo.
- Definitely a thread running through the conference about whether schools are the answer or the problem. Clearly some have given up on schools as a place to create change, which is disheartening. (Someone said: “[It’s] such a pain to get technology in the classroom.”) My question to them: If you don’t think schools, then who? You? The game design companies? Maybe schools aren’t universally where we want them to be, and goodness knows change is hard, but I still think they are a critical player (pun intended) worth paying attention to in making society better.
- The keynotes were great – Sean Dikkers on Tuesday, Nichole Pinkard on Wednesday, and Brenda Romero on Thursday:
- Seann‘s presentation reminded me that I really need to start crafting my personal story that translates the importance and drive of my professional work. The most compelling talks always seem to come through these personal stories (“When I was a kid…”). I also need to dig out some good (read: embarrassing) pictures of me as a kid.
- Nichole spoke about her work with YouMedia in Chicago. As I’ve become more interested in the Cities of Learning initiatives, it was exciting to hear her take on using informal learning spaces to create pathways for learning across content and sites. She proposed three questions:
– How do we follow the opportunities, follow the kids, and try to connect them?– How do we understand organizations and how they connect? Because kids can only go to things that exist.– How do we know what kids are doing, particularly in out of school time? Digital badges?
- Brenda was funny, serious, and real. She talked about being a game designer and being a woman. The most interesting part, though, was sitting behind three white guys clearly uncomfortable with how to react or process the (sometimes) rant, particularly when she mentioned breastfeeding, pregnancy, or reproductive parts. There were eye rolls and sideways glances to each other while they read their email and surfed the web.
- Finally, I loved the Fireside Chats and attended more of these than any other type of session. They were designed to be the informal, casual conversations that everyone wants to have with the well known people. I got to listen to Kurt Squire talk about “What’s Next?” in games and digital media, Constance Steinkuehler and Mark DeLoura on working in the White House, and Elizabeth Gee and Erica Halverson on Games and Families. I’ll admit, though, I was frustrated by the predominance of men asking questions and their willingness to speak without awareness of other hands raised or any sensitivity towards whether they had already (in some cases) said more than the people running the chat.
- Oh, also, I got to present with some folks from GLS about the teaching that I did at spring break at Game-a-Palooza, which was fun.
I’m not sure exactly how my research and academic work will involve digital media and games, but I know I love being in that space and talking and thinking with the people there!