David Shaffer


David Williamson Shaffer is a former teacher, curriculum developer, gamer and game designer. He has taught grades 4-12 in the United States and abroad, including two years working with the Asian Development Bank and US Peace Corps in Nepal. Dr. Shaffer's M.S. and Ph.D. are from the Media Laboratory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where his work focused on the development of epistemic games in which players learn about traditional academic subjects through simulations of authentic professional practices. Dr. Shaffer taught and conducted research at the Technology and Education Program at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, and is now Assistant Professor of Learning Science in the University of Wisconsin-Madison Department of Educational Psychology and a Game Scientist at the Academic Advanced Distributed Learning CoLaboratory. Dr. Shaffer's research interests are in how new technologies change the way people think and learn.


Games for Thought: The Future of Education & How We can Get There.
Session Chair, Friday (3:15 - 4:45) in Hall of Ideas E

We live in a wired world, but send our children to industrial schools. Our classrooms simulate life in a factory, and the skills of medieval scholarship.

In this symposium, we present Games for Thought, a view of games that moves our education system beyond traditional academic disciplines and classroom practices to a new model of learning through meaningful activity in virtual worlds as preparation for meaningful activity in a post-industrial, technology-rich society.

We argue that practices in the world, such as the professions, have coherent epistemic frameworks. So the ways in which professionals and members of other valued communities acquire their practices provide an alternative educational model: a model based on epistemic games, or games that recreate the training and practice of professions and other socially-valued communities.

In this symposium, we examine three epistemic games. We use these games to illustrate an educational system of Games for Thought, in which students learn to think as urban planners, architects, engineers, journalists, and other socially-valued practitioners not in order to train them for these pursuits in the traditional sense of vocational education, but because learning to work in as members of these communities of practice provides students with an opportunity to learn about the world in ways that are fundamentally grounded in meaningful activity and well aligned with core skills, knowledge, identities, values, and epistemologies for life in a postindustrial society.


Pop Culture & Life as We Know it
Respondent, Thursday (9:00 - 10:30) in Hall of Ideas G

Learning Through Designing
Respondent, Friday (9:00 - 10:30) in Hall of Ideas F

The Quest Atlantis Project: A Socially Responsive Play Space for Learning
Session Chair, Friday (10:45-12:15) in Hall of Ideas E

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