Tag Archive for conference

The View from AERA

Hello from AERA!

Today I presented Playing History, the research project on tabletop role-playing games and historical literacy that I did with the historian Kaitlin Heller. It was part of a Teachers College symposium on how game design decisions impact learning – including Seung-Oh Paek on touch versus mouse interfaces, Dan Hoffman on choice and feedback, and Aaron Hung on the material conditions of players’ lives.

I thought it was an unusually good panel. As our discussant put it, the papers challenged each other. For example, I looked deeply at players’ in-game activities, complementing Aaron’s focus on how games intersect with players’ day-to-day lives. It made me realize that as I continue to work on role-playing games, I need to think about how players deploy their real-world resources in order to play successfully, or even in order to be able to play at all. That insight alone was worth the trip!

Slides from the talk are here, though be aware: I’m a Powerpoint minimalist, so the slides don’t tell the whole story on their own.

If you check out the slides, you’ll notice I’ve got one slide hidden at the end, after the obvious closing slide. I wanted to be prepared to talk about how I’m connecting the work to two sets of standards: Jenkins’ 21st century skills and Seixas’s benchmarks of historical thinking. These are the two frameworks we’re using to analyze the data we collected. Our first paper was on Ars Magica and 21st century skills*, and I’m just starting to think about the second paper on evaluating the game through the lens of historical assessment.

I’ve been strategically choosing what sessions to attend with this new paper in mind. It turns out that it’s a really useful way to navigate a huge conference like this one. It pushes me to go to sessions given by people I don’t know, instead of staying in my comfortable games-and-technology world. But it also gives me an immediate, concrete, and specific context for applying the big ideas I’m encountering. I’m not left floundering in a sea of abstraction, because as soon as I hear people talk, I’m asking myself how I can use what they’re saying in my own work.

The moral of the story? I should have a cool new project at every AERA. That way I’ll keep having intellectual adventures!

* I keep wanting to make a joke about 21st century skills in the 13th century, but I can’t quite come up with a good punchline. Can you?

Useful Presentation Tips

A friend sent me a link to this great post on giving presentations.  I’ve got some major presentations coming up – GDC in March, AERA in May, and NMC in June, just to name a few – so this was pretty timely!

As a presenter, I draw a lot from my experience teaching.  I rely on talking to my audience, not at them; I focus on delivering material that they couldn’t get by reading a book (or, say, my slides); I change the emphasis on what I’m saying in real-time based on audience reaction.  This means I avoid a lot of the problems he mentions, like reading directly from the paper or being thrown by something unexpected happening.

That said, I’ve never had a true technical explosion, like having to operate entirely without visuals.  I’ll definitely be printing out my notes in the future, rather than using my slides as reference points – just in case!

I’m also wondering how I can incorporate these lessons into my teaching practice and improve my classroom skills.  For example, I’m good at speaking to a pre-defined length in a presentation – but somehow my classes often go over the alloted time.  Is that because my students are generally willing (and excited!) to stay longer?  Because teaching a class is more interactive than giving a presentation?  Or just because there’s no real consequence for ending class ten minutes late, while ending a presentation ten minutes late is a disaster?

Lit at G4H-NYC

For those following along at home, I presented on the Lit smoking-reduction game at the Games for Health NYC Meetup on Tuesday.  The talk went well, and I got some great questions and suggestions.  The thing that’s got me thinking hard is how we can integrate Lit with institutional smoking-reduction programs.  I don’t think that’s a near-term design goal -first we have to show it works! – but in the long run it sounds like we want to be accessible for both individual and institutional use.  Fortunately, I’ve got the email address of the person who brought it up, so we can continue the conversation!

While I think Games for Health is going to post my slides at some point, I wanted to share them here as well.  [pdf]  Enjoy!

Lit at G4H-NYC

If you’re in New York City and interested in learning more about the Lit project, I’m giving a talk at the New York Games for Health meeting on Tuesday, January 26th.  The event itself is free, but RSVP is required.  Given the project lineup, I’d say it’s well worth attending for any locals interested in the health games field!