Using Role Play in the Higher Ed Classroom

By David Simkins

Graduate students in an industry-focused game development masters program should be looking not only to their next job in industry, but also to their career trajectory. To facilitate development of industry leaders, we have incorporated a processes course that introduces game development skills along with introductions to publication, contracting, legal issues, business development, management, and other concerns that can practically influence the development of games. While texts address the issues presented, the students generally have limited background beyond the technical and design skills involved in game production. This research project involved the introduction of role play to provide context and limited consequence to learning about game production. This study uses qualitative analysis of classroom activities along with assignments and student feedback to discern the effectiveness of the inclusion of this kind of role play to introduce important new concepts into higher ed classrooms.

Based on the work of the Harvard Negotiations Project (Fisher & Ury, 1997), as well as authors in learning with and through role play (Van Ments, 1999; Carnes, 2014; author), this mixed-methods work uses a variety of techniques for the purposes of data triangulation including ground-up thematic coding (Boyatzis, 1998) and discourse analysis (Johnstone, 2008). The analysis discusses the structure of the role play intervention to help support the use of this technique in other classrooms and contexts, and it characterizes some key successes to this approach as well as some limitations and concerns that should be addressed when implementing it.

This talk will be roughly in thirds. The first will be the structure of this particular intervention. The second will be the data gathering and analytic methods and results. The third will be practical outcomes for those who would use role play as a tool in their higher education classroom.

The audience will hear an argument for when and how to use role play in the classroom with a focus on one context, but applications that extend to many other contexts. They will also learn some of the struggles encountered by this group when implementing role play in a classroom of students not accustomed to role play.

Students’ Choice: Personalized Learning in Online Courses

By Deborah Nagler

One-size-fits-all models for online instruction do not meet the needs of diverse learners.  This session invites the examination of a responsive instructional design approach that customizes each student’s learning path, addressing individual strengths, needs, and interests. Participants will “walk through” and discuss a template for the development of an online course facilitating personalized learning.

The methodology presented in this session applies a constructivist approach to learning that is learner-centered. The template to be presented is an amalgam of a number of online higher education courses taught by the presenter, along with those she participated in as a doctoral candidate at NJCU. In addition, the presenter has served as an Instructional Designer for an online college for the past five years.

While the session is designed to present a model of overall personalization of an online college course, participants will also be encouraged to consider the methodology as transferable in part – as a unit within a course, or as enhancements within existing practice. Participants will be given the opportunity to reflect and react on the issues that emerge from implementation of this model, including the those of subject matter, class size, and course requirements.

The presenter has designed a course based on the personalized learning template that is scheduled for summer 2017.

Deborah Nagler, EMDTMS, MAJE

The role of the teacher is to create the conditions for invention rather than provide ready-made knowledge.


With the Dice in the Library: Tabletop Games and Culture

By Teresa Slobuski

Nearly everyone has played some form of tabletop game in their life, whether dice, board, or card games. Indeed, the archaeological record shows humans have been playing games for at least 4000 years and have been an important socialization tool throughout this history. (Murray, H.J.R., 1952). As institutions that assemble artifacts of culture for future generations, libraries can and should include games in their collections. Indeed, some libraries have supported games and play for over a century, first documented when a chess club met at a library in San Francisco in the mid-1800’s (Nicholson, 2013). The early 20th century saw the emergence of toy libraries, established to support families in need by lending toys, board games, and other realia that support play (Moore, 1995). Today, more and more libraries are including tabletop games in their collections. In this session you will learn more about the history of games and their inclusion in library collections. You will also learn how tabletop/physical games can remain relevant and even thrive in our increasingly digital culture. Games and play are usually the first way humans and animals learn, so by understanding and engaging with the history of games participants may better conceive how games can fit into their teaching.


By Stephanie Mayer

In 2012, there was research published that has shown eye blinks correlate to the space between sentences and breaks that allow the brain to absorb information. Through this research when analyzing the brain activity, blinking plays a role in adjusting focus and aiding concentration.

This presentation will absorb the connection between “blinking” and focus related to the use of technology when learning. Activities will include different live demonstrations with focus and concentration in blinking. Topics will include focus, concentration, technology in classrooms vs text in classrooms and confidence in the ability to learn with technology. Outcomes will include the importance of blinking in the ability to retain information. As well as show how the attractiveness of technology allows the eye to separate information through “blinks.”

Why: Blinking is a process our brain will do without thought or force. The main cause for blinking is to hydrate our eyes, but it goes way beyond just hydration. Blinking allows for a physical connection in digesting information. This form of connection will show a physical separation of ideas and thought processes. By blinking, the brain is registering and organizing information through each blink.

Examples of Study through Experiment:
Throughout my own personal research I have found that students of all ages have this connection in retaining information through blinking. In an experiment with 15 Union County College students, participants were tested on retaining information based off unintentional and intentional blinking. Participants were tested on comprehension of physical passages and passages via technology. They were tested on a passage of reading without focus on blinking and then a separate passage – focused on blinking. Results have shown a higher accuracy of comprehension of the material when blinking was the focus.

Text vs Technology:
Further results of this experiment have also shown participants paid more attention of the passage assigned on technology rather than the physical passage. The score gap from the physical passage of unintentional to intentional blinking was larger compared to technological testing.  Studying more into why, was proven (through survey) that our eyes have more connection on movement and being able to customize the visual image to our own comfort. Physical text forces this “one size fits all,” where technology allows a “pick your size that best fits” method. With creating your own comfort to visually see information, our eyes feel more comfort and our blinking becomes more unintentional – creating a more fluid environment in comprehending information.

Live Demonstrations: Live demonstrations will include participating from the audience in similar tests presented through listed experiment.

The Specter of Edutainment: Re-emergent Mistakes & Opportunities

By Matthew Lee and Ronald D. Mina

In the headlong rush to adopt principles like game-based learning and gamification for classroom use, what often happens is that the elements of play, challenge and interactivity so central to successful games are lost, resulting in unengaging “learning app” in the spirit of the “educational CD’s” for which edutainment is remembered today. This is an existential danger for the current cycle of learning games, given that non-existent core gameplay and a diluted focus on learning content were also what made late-era edutainment games neither educational nor particularly entertaining.

Indeed, the state of learning games today closely parallels the age of edutainment, which focused on leveraging both new technologies (like personal computer & CDs) and collaborations between educators and developers to create new, more engaging ways of disseminating content. In the 1980s, this convergence of learning, technology, and play resulted in iconic franchises like Oregon Trail and Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? whose balance of challenge and interactive learning lent them a status beyond being merely entertainment – or merely educational. This spirit of collaboration and discovery also inspired franchises such as SimCity and Age of Empires in the traditional games industry, both of which were well-regarded for their educational content, and were highly successful on the commercial market.

In today’s world, for all our literature on best practices and focus on curricula, standards, and connected learning methodologies, as well as a much larger game-playing audience, no app has managed to replicate the success of these decades-old games. In fact, it is likely that today’s entertainment-focused games have done more for education than any current educational title!

This panel, primarily aimed at educators and developers, aims to correct this by looking into the commonalities behind the age of edutainment and today’s learning games ecosystem, examining both the critical mistakes being repeated today, as well as how the delicate balance of educational content and engaging gameplay early edutainment espoused not only made early games successful, but has implications for the future development of learning games in the 21st century.

Intended Structure: This session is envisioned as a concurrent session (panel), with the 45 minutes structured accordingly.
5 minutes: Panelist Intros
5 minutes: Relevant Background of “edutainment”
25 minute game demos / interactive discussion
10 minutes Q&A

Attendees will learn how the state of learning games today closely parallels the early age of edutainment, as well as how many of edutainment’s mistakes are being intentionally – or unintentionally – repeated in the modern era. Attendees will also be given core examples of what went into developing some of the most successful edutainment games, and what practices and lessons they can implement in their own work, with a particular focus on designing for hardware constraints, addressing short attention spans, and how to balance core gameplay with education in and out of the classroom, drawing on re-emergent thinking from an era that fostered interactivity, engagement, and long-term learning.

Digital Pedagogies: The Role of the Instructional Designer

By Veronica Armour and Gamin Bartle

As the Digital Humanities (DH) and digital pedagogies movements mature the need for effective DH pedagogy and digital literacy skills at the undergraduate level has increased.  When  teaching and learning emphasizing digital skills through DH methods takes place early in the undergraduate experience it provides a foundation for students to build the skills needed for a 21st Century workplace: collaboration, creative and critical thinking, content creation, and digital literacy.  If we look to where teaching, learning, and digital technology converge at liberal arts institutions, the strength of the Instructional Designer/Technologist role is revealed for its unique overlap of pedagogy and technology that supports teaching and learning across disciplines.  This presentation will explore the role of the Instructional Designer/Technologist as a guide and facilitator in the integration of DH and digital literacy in core curriculum and interdisciplinary collaboration.

While tools and technologies are ever changing the niche position the Instructional Designer/Technologist plays has remained constant.  The cornerstone of the role is the balance of  teaching and learning methodologies with the integration of technology.  Diverse projects for the Instructional

Designer/Technologist involving DH and digital literacy include:

Digital humanist that is looking to incorporate a DH project or methodologies within an established course

Training faculty and students on how to use DH and other digital tools

Guided workshops in design thinking

Professional development in best practices in DH and other digital pedagogies

Work with faculty in guiding students to become critical thinkers about the role of technology in their world and their work.

Develop interdisciplinary courses and programs that deploy digital pedagogies and tools.

The presenters will engage participants in a discussion throughout the session regarding the role of the Instructional Designer/Technologist and how faculty can work with them as they incorporate digital skills into their courses.  By way of example, two case studies of the Instructional Designer role within the liberal arts university will be presented.  The first case study will take a micro look at engaging with individual faculty members and students as a one-time guest lecturer to introduce DH tools and digital literacy skills to a class section.  The second case study will take a macro look at supporting a campus-wide DH project that aims to include all students.  Participants will be able to discuss how the two case studies might be applicable to their own teaching, faculty development programming, curricular design, and/or collaboration with the Library at their institution as well as bring faculty/student research to a higher level through best practices in DH methodologies.

The session will also offer a short digital literacy activity that focuses on creating an environment in which students are able to create a digital presence that will evolve with the student beyond graduation as a way to model how these objectives can be met in the parameters unique to liberal arts institutions.

Using Games to Support Inclusive Classrooms – A Panel Discussion

By Karen Schrier

How do we incorporate critical questions and uncomfortable issues, while maintaining an inclusive and comfortable classroom? In this panel presentation, panelists will share games, activities, exercises, and assessments that can be used to spur the critical consideration of cultural and ethical issues. We will also discuss some of the general requirements for addressing effective conversation in the classroom, such as encouraging active listening, building trust in the room, and tactics for engaging in positive confrontation and positive disagreement.

In this panel, we will discuss, and at times disagree, about some of the questions to ask, techniques to use, topics to broach, and successes achieved in challenging students’ perspectives as they relate to cultural competency, ethics, empathy and games. We will consider, specifically, which learning objectives and questions are most critical, and which games, examples, readings, tasks, exercises, assessments, and pedagogical techniques can support these goals.

While the specific ethics-related topics that are most relevant and most difficult to discuss change over time, they are often notable for inciting controversy and even discomfort in the classroom. However, this discomfort can often foster more inclusive dialogue, practices and design considerations. Current examples of topics include systemic bias and representations of gender, race, class, sexual identity, and disability in games; empathy and emotion; harassment and bullying, and transgressive play, and discussions of ethics in games journalism and #gamergate. Other examples include incorporating independent games and commercial games that challenge and introduce different social experiences and new mechanics centered on them; for example, games like Dys4ia and Triad, which remix traditional game mechanics in novel ways to understand and think about sexuality and transgendered experience. Such topics often invite controversy and even discomfort for students (and educators). Techniques will be shared on how to best support an inclusive classroom for critical conversations and reflection.

The presentation will share specific learning objectives, challenges, best practices, and questions related to incorporating ethics and cultural critique using games in the classroom. It will provide illustrative examples, “wins” and “fails,” exercises and techniques, assessment tools, and tips on how to support effective conversation, such as encouraging active listening, trust, and constructive disagreement.

The panel (anonymized) will be comprised of experienced educators who incorporate games into their classrooms, and consider how best to support inclusive classrooms.

Some questions we may discuss include:

What are some ways K-12 educators and college educators can use games to create more inclusive and equitable learning and development environments?

How do we effectively talk about race and inclusion, belongingness and empathy through games? How do we best discuss and probe topics such as sexuality, identity, or gender through games?

How do we help our students confront their presumptions or biases without losing their attention (or worse)?

How can we foster dialogue and multiple perspectives using games to create more inclusive learning environments?

What are some cases of successful or unsuccessful classroom activities around games and culturally responsive design?

Teaching EFL Pronunciation Through Audiovisual Remixes of Children’s Tales

By Maria Dolores Orta Gonzíçlez

The pervasiveness of technological devices with available functions such as video and voice recording, paired with access to open software online have considerably widened the pedagogical horizon of language teaching/learning processes in general and pronunciation training in particular. Open Educational Resources (OER) are those sites, materials and tools available online that are released under open licences, which allow for their free re-use and adaptation (Twigg, 2003). These innovations have naturally brought about new possibilities of developing creativity and fostering studentsäó» motivation for language learning, without the dangers of infringement of copyright laws. Such is the case of the activity of remixing, and in this particular case, the remixing of classical childrenäó»s tales like Aladdin, Cinderella and the like, which are, in their own right already, works in the public domain. The present presentation will thus aim at analysing the pedagogical, artistic and communicative potential of the remixing of classical children’s tales which will result in the production of originaly scripted audiovisual material based on the exploitation of mashup principles and the incorporation of fanfic features (Knobel & Lankshear, 2011), to be later used to cater for and enhance the practice of dictation and phonemic transcription in a core subject at Facultad de Lenguas, Universidad Nacional de Cordoba, Argentina.

The presentation will describe and explore a project that started in 2015 and which yearly actively involves teachers, student-assitants and students doing Pronunciation Practice, a core subject in the first year within a five-year teaching and translation degree in a national university in Argentina. As the context of the project is Argentina and the participants cannot attend the conference, the presentation will consist of a 5-minute video entirely produced by the presenter and all the people involved in the project. The video/presentation will first briefly discuss the rationale to the project, namely the main principles underlying the concepts of remix, mashup and fanfics, then delve into the process of audiovisual production, to finally share some of the audiovisual material/activities produced, which is shared on Facebook and on a collaborative open interface like Padlet. The relevance of these activities to the teaching of the pronunciation ef English and to the objectives of the course in question (Pronunciation Practice) will also be briefly discussed.

It is expected that the audience will be inspired and motivated by this experience in a university in such a remote country, where despite the obvious limited resources, students and teachers can collaboratively work towards the production of their own materials, using simple but interesting devices and OERs to design fun, engaging and pedagogically sound activities to improve dictation and phonemic transcription.

The New Jersey Digital Humanities Consortium

By Mary Balkun

This session will introduce attendees to a newly created organization (September 2016) dedicated to advancing the digital humanities in New Jersey: The New Jersey Digital Humanities Consortium. Created in the spirit of collaboration between universities and digital humanities programs, centers, and initiatives throughout the state, the NJDHC is modelled on similar consortia in New York, Massachusetts, Florida, and Texas, to name a few. The NJDHC is a partnership between Seton Hall University, Rutgers University, Montclair State University, Drew University, Princeton University, and Stockton University. Centenary College was recently added as a participating member. The NJDHC is dedicated to advancing both digital teaching and research, as well as promoting the humanities in a digital landscape.  The consortium’s primary objective is to provide a forum for collaboration at many levels. The goals, which were articulated at our first meeting in September 2016,  include sharing of materials, workshops, and speaker events in a time of limited resources; fostering inter-institutional communication and awareness of projects, whether new or long standing; cooperating on grants that will benefit the digital humanities both institutionally and more broadly; and providing avenues that enable and support various forms of collaboration–faculty to faculty, faculty to student, and student to student–at the participating colleges and universities. In this Spark! session we will give a brief history of the creation and purpose of the consortium, a quick snapshot of the projects at the member institutions, the current organizational structure, and our plans for moving forward. The goal of the sessions is to make people aware of this new resource for those involved in the digital humanities, to showcase the advantages of this kind of collaborative venture, and to encourage membership from additional institutions or individual faculty members.

Makey Makey and Spaces for Creative Learning

By Michael Patrick Wall

In this 5-minute Spark presentation, I will overview the Makey-Makey invention kit and briefly describe how and why it can be used in a classroom setting.  I will describe a project in an instrumental music classroom where this was integrated and the thought process behind the technological integration.  

The Makey-Makey is a small circuit board that connects to your computer through a USB cable and allows the user to turn almost anything into a proxy for a computer key.  By connecting anything that conducts electricity to the Makey-Makey via alligator clips, you can use everyday items to play music, games, or engage in a variety of other computer based activities.  Makey-Makey opens up a world of exploration that is quickly and easily accessible to teachers and students.  In this presentation, I will discuss the Makey-Makey in general as well as specifically how utilizing the Makey-Makey can help music educators expand the notion of creative music-making activities and allow for more varied and technological musical experiences within the classroom.

Within my own instrumental music classroom, I engaged in a project with three of my students.  Using the Makey-Makey, they experimented with various ways to make music, ultimately deciding to combine their love of music with art and robotics and create a working clock that played music as the hands passed each number.  This opened up a number of other possible music-making activities, such as performing acoustic music along with electronic music – combining art, robotics, and electronic music with traditional music-making activities.  In this presentation, I will describe and share examples of student work as well as describe the process of integrating the Makey-Makey into the classroom.  

Audience members who have not heard of Makey-Makey will take away a basic understanding of what it is and what it can do in and out of the classroom.  Audience members already familiar with Makey-Makey will see an example of a project done in a public school classroom as well as gain insight into the thought process behind the project so that they may feel more comfortable integrating it into their own classrooms.