UT Series Explores Computer Games as Teaching Tools

KNOXVILLE — Computer games will play a greater role in the university of the future.

That’s the message experts from around the country will convey during a series of live videoconferences that begin at 12:30 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 3, in the Hodges Library Auditorium at the University of Tennessee.

The videoconferences, free and open to the public, are sponsored by the Innovative Technology Center and SunSITE, a program to promote emerging technologies on campus.

“We’re not talking about ‘edu-tainment’ here. Computer games are both serious research and serious teaching,” said Chris Hodge, SunSITE coordinator. “It’s about keeping UT on the cutting edge of educational technology.”

Games not only are playing a greater role in the classroom, but game design is emerging as a multi-disciplinary curriculum. Southern Methodist University, the Rhode Island School of Design, the University of Southern California and Georgia Institute of Technology are among schools now offering degree programs to meet the demand for sophisticated game developers.

The education community and the business community will find these videoconferences useful.

“We want to help spark discussion among educators, technology experts, researchers and students,” Hodge said.

The first talk, “Getting Serious About Games,” will feature Dr. Richard van Eck, graduate director for University of North Dakota’s Instruction Design and Technology program.

Eck’s research has focused on instructional simulations and games, intelligent tutoring systems and artificial intelligence, and gender and technology.

“Computer games embody sound education principles such as inquiry, hypothesis testing, problem solving, and critical thinking, that make them excellent vehicles for promoting these qualities in students,” van Eck said.

Although they know computer games can be useful classroom tools, some instructors struggle with how to use them, van Eck said.

“This session will present an overview of what it means to integrate games into the curriculum and the rationale behind how, why, and with whom games are effective,” he said.

All talks will be held from 12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. in the Hodges Library Auditorium, with the exception of the March 3 presentation, which will be held in the University Center Ballroom.

Future talks will be:

– Feb. 17 – Katie Vale, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, “An Instructional Designer Looks at ‘World of Warcraft.'” Vale is head of the educational technology consulting group in academic computing at MIT. “World of Warcraft” is an online multi-player game involving geography, commerce, teamwork, community-building, conflict and problem-solving.

– March 3 – Nora Barry, Druid Media, “Descent to the Underworld.” Barry is a creator, producer and curator of networked Internet video events, web cinema and online digital media art. “Descent to the Underworld” is a video game. Players collect pieces of a film that, when edited together, tell a story of where the player has been in the game. Film clips were created in cooperation with eight universities around the world.

– March 17 – Asi Burak, Carnegie Mellon University, “PeaceMaker – A Video Game to Teach Peace.” A former Israeli Intelligence officer, Burak is now the producer and lead artist for the PeaceMaker project at the CMU’s Entertainment Technology. PeaceMaker is a cross-cultural political video game simulation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Players take the role of either the Israeli or Palestinian Prime Minister.

– March 31 – Chris Swain, University of Southern California School of Cinema-Television, “Play-centric Games Education.” Swain has designed and produced more than 150 interactive products for Disney, America Online, Children’s Television Network and others. He led the team that established the first Emmy Award for Excellence in Interactive Television.

For more information, please visit http://itc.utk.edu/about/promo.
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Contact:

Amy Blakely, (865-974-5034), amy.blakely@tennessee.edu
Chris Hodge, (865-974-7505), chodge5@utk.edu
Jean Derco, (865-974-9551), jderco@utk.edu
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