Alexander Repenning
Alexander Repenning


Dr. Alexander Repenning is a professor of computer science, the CTO of AgentSheets Inc., and a member of the Center for Lifelong Learning and Design at the University of Colorado in Boulder. Repenning’s research interests include end-user programmable agents, computers and education, human-computer interaction, and artificial intelligence. Repenning is teaching interdisciplinary courses on game design and exploring game design based curriculum. He has worked in research and development at Asea Brown Boveri, Xerox PARC, Apple Computer, and Hewlett Packard. Repenning is the creator of the AgentSheets simulation and game-authoring tool. He has used AgentSheets to teach game design nationally at Stanford, the MIT media Lab, and University of Colorado as well as internationally in Europe and Japan. Repenning is teaching simulation and game design courses at the graduate student, undergraduate, high school and middle school level. Repenning is an advisor to National Academy of Sciences (NAS), the European Commission (EC), the National Science Foundation (NSF), The Japanese Ministry of Education (MEXT) and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).



Gamelet Design for Education

The design and implementation of educational games can be highly motivational to undergraduate students. In many cases it allows them to build the kind of computational artifacts that they envisioned building when they entered a computer science program. Additionally, the design and implementation of games is demanding, as it requires mastering a variety of skills and combining them in a context that typically includes collaborative and interdisciplinary work styles. Initially, computer science programs did not welcome the notion of game design, as they perceived games as a non-serious application of computer science principles. With the game industry growing at an enormous rate and the complexity of the games clearly approaching, and in many cases exceeding, the level of most "serious" computer science applications, the evidence has reached critical mass that games have become computer science showcases. At the same time there is also increasing evidence that games have high educational potential. Rich simulations, for instance, promise to engage learners in activities in ways not previously possible with traditional media such as books and even electronic media such as movies. Our goal is to combine these two directions by offering courses on game design for education.

In the context of the NSF-supported Trails project ( researchers at the Stanford University, Drexel, Pen State and University of Colorado have explored how to broaden and support the pool of talent available to address the needs of K-12 education by creating powerful technology in forms such as simulations, interactive drill and practice, adaptive tutorials, and virtual manipulatives. At the University of Colorado we have specifically explored the notion of simple educational games called gamelets to train students in building learning technology. With our game design methodology called Gamelet Design we have found a way for students to rapidly develop educational games. An important design consideration is meaningful integration of design for engagement and design for education. Existing design perspectives as backward design, found in educational design, and the design for engagement, found in game design, often prove hard to combine. Educational games resulting from uninformed combination are often neither educational nor engaging.

In the first part of this Chat 'n' Frag we will briefly share our experiences over the last 4 years in supporting students to design, implement and test educational games. The second, intense hands-on, part of the Chat 'n' Frag will include the complete design and implementation of a simple classic game such as Frogger. Participants will be given access to the AgentSheets game-authoring environment. The short third part of the Chat 'n' Frag will discuss practical issues of using educational game-design in computer science education including: how to support collaboration in the class room, how to manage students expectations of game design, how to balance learning and engagement in games, and how to grade games.

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