Play, Learn, Innovate

Where will you be on Tuesday June 7th? I know where I plan to be. I’ll be taking part in the free, virtual OCLC Symposium called Play, Learn, Innovate being held from 1-3pm (Eastern Time). The symposium is co-sponsored by Library Journal.

I’ll be there as a librarian-type person, speaking briefly and moderating, but the spotlight will be shining on the superstars of the symposium: Constance Steinkuehler and Kurt Squire.

In addition, the bright lights of Justin Hoenke and Lisa Carlucci Thomas will be moderating the simultaneous discussion on Twitter (hashtag #playlearn) for those who cannot attend the symposium itself.

Dr Steinkuehler has been on my radar for a number of years now, and I’m very excited to hear what she has to say. This brief sketch describes her and her work…

Constance Steinkuehler is an Assistant Professor in the Educational Communications and Technology (ECT) program in the Curriculum & Instruction department at the University of Wisconsin‚ Madison. She is a founding fellow of the Games+Learning+Society Initiative and chairs the annual Games, Learning & Society Conference held each summer in Madison, Wisconsin. Dr. Steinkuehler served on the National Academy of Science Committee on games in 2009.

…but I don’t think that begins to cover the extent of her impact.

Back when I was getting my MLS, her name came up again and again as I was doing literature reviews of what game players learned in terms of literacy, leadership, collaboration and creativity while engaged in massively-multiplayer virtual game worlds like the Sims and World of Warcraft. Dr Steinkuehler’s work focuses on identifying and empirically documenting what is actually taking place in a pop culture environment ‚ scientific reasoning and scientific habits of mind, ethical reasoning, distributed situated cognition, and other substantive intellectual practices.

She carries her efforts beyond the games discussed into what supports transference of learning into the real world, particularly with the otherwise-disaffected and -disengaged. Her knowledge and curiosity are being passed along to a number of equally-interesting graduate students and researchers like Beth King, whom I heard speak at the 2008 ALA Techsource Gaming Symposium.

Many of Steinkuehler’s papers are available as PDF downloads — I want to set aside a day or three just to spend reading them all. Check out a few of the titles and see if you don’t feel the same.

I am not as familiar with Kurt Squire, but he is Steinkuehler’s colleague at the University of Wisconsin‚ Madison, and co-founder of the Games+Learning+Society initiative. As such, I anticipate he too will have fascinating things to share.

Dr Squire’s academic interests are also in how games teach and what they teach. He is specifically invested in exploring how to integrate those ad hoc methodologies back into the educational system. I say “back into the educational system” because, as he points out, this how humanity learned for millenia and how we learn to this day… everywhere except in the classrooms of the 20th Century.

In this video (sponsored by the educational non-profit Pearson Foundation), he discusses the recent protests and political rallies in Wisconsin in the context of people who have cut their teeth playing video games, where the demanding dynamics of group play (such as that required to create and run guilds, clans, and raids) in multiplayer games gives players the conceptual tools and desire to participate in the creation of their own social future. That’s a pretty powerful statement, and mirrors the correlation revealed by the Pew Internet and American Life Project, when they released their study of teens, video games, and civics in 2008.

Although everyone involved is interested in games, I don’t expect this discussion to be primarily about games or gaming. I expect it to be about playfulness, and about fostering the mental approach to the world that is open in heart and mind, the foundational essence of creativity and innovation. I am eager to learn more about what Steinkuhler and Squire intend to share, but I am quite sure it won’t be how to run yet another afternoon game program where you pile the board games on the table, hook up the Wii, and step back hoping someone will darken your meeting room door.

If 140 character snippets are easier to fit into your day than the full two-hour program, a Twitter mirror will run simultaneously during the discussion, and for at least an hour afterward. Justin Hoenke, one of the co-founders of the 8bit games and libraries blog and 2010 Emerging Leader, will be tweeting from @justinlibrarian.

His Twitter co-host, digital diva Lisa Carlucci Thomas, was chosen as one of the 2010 Mover and Shaker recipients, and she has an unparalleled grasp of the power of technology, and its effects in and on society. Follow her as @lisacarlucci.

I predict that Hoenke’s and Thomas’ acumen will add an insightful dimension to the panel discussion itself, and I’ll join the followup conversation once the formal presentation is over. I tweet from @lizdanforth, and we will all be using the hashtag #playlearn for the duration.

I understand that @LibraryJournal will also be participating, and I look forward to seeing many other interested parties conversant with games and gaming come to participate.

The syposium is free but you need to register in advance. It will be conducted by WebEx, which means you’ll need unfettered access to a computer for a few hours. The registration form solicits information about your institution, about your concerns about gaming, and whether you have specific questions for the presenters. I hope you’ll also feel free to drop a word here, if there’s something you’d like to have discussed.

I hope to see a lot of people attend this. I think this will be something pretty special.



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  2. […] week, 635 people from everywhere in the English-speaking world logged into the Play Learn Innovate symposium that was co-sponsored by Library Journal and OCLC. The discussion was free online, ably […]