Brett E. Shelton
Brett Shelton


Dr. Brett E. Shelton is an assistant professor in the Department of Instructional Technology at Utah State University. He holds engineering degrees from the University of Idaho and Arizona State University, and a Ph.D. in Educational Technology from the University of Washington. He is the executive director of the Creative Learning Environments (CLE) Lab and the instructor of classes in instructional simulations and games. Dr. Shelton acted as the faculty advisor and geneticist for the Voices of Spoon River instructional game.



How Do I Get in the Game?: The Papers, Projects, and Practices of Teaching Educational Games

When people teach classes about educational games, what are they doing? What articles and books do they use? What do their assignments look like? What kind of projects do their students complete?

Starting with solicited contributions from individuals who teach educational games design classes, including those of the panel participants, we will create a publicly accessible wiki. Solicited contributions will be parsed by theme, and contributors invited to participate in the ongoing development of the wiki.

Using the exiting wiki as a starting point, participants in the workshop will collaborate to update and improve the wiki, adding resources they believe to be appropriate for each section. Contributors will lead a discussion of the originally synthesized syllabi and call on audience members to provide brief summaries of items they are adding to the wiki, updating the online wiki during the session as changes are made.

In the context of discussing and developing the wiki, we hope to address such questions as:

  • What are the approaches we take in teaching, related to the class' instructional goals?
  • What are the resources we use in our classrooms?
  • What kinds of projects make sense for our students?
  • What kinds of backgrounds do our students have them seem to make them more/less successful in our classes, and what implication might this have for our programs?
  • What is the future for these students after they leave our class?
  • What depts. are the classes in, and what types of certifications/degrees offered?
  • Does the cross-disciplinary nature splinter the field, and if so, how do we create a focus?

Prior to coming to the meeting, we will solicit contributions of syllabi from several individuals who teach educational games design classes, including those of the panel participants. We'll parse these out by theme (assignments, readings, rubrics) and place each of these pieces on separate pages on a publicly available wiki (clustered by instructional goals, assignments, readings, rubrics, etc.). We will invite everyone who contributes a syllabus to participate through the wiki, expanding the areas to include literacy-oriented approaches as well as more traditional instructional model approaches.

For the workshop, we will present attendees with the wiki address, and walk them through the table of contents. We'll then ask them to hop onto the wiki and add resources they think will be appropriate to each of the sections. Contributors will lead a discussion of the originally synthesized syllabi and call on audience members to provide brief summaries of items they are adding to the wiki as each contributor encounters them (the attendees will be editing the wiki *during* the presentation). Our discussant will monitor the wiki during the presentation, providing support to attendees who need it, and will play the role of respondent after the panel finishes the presentation of the new syllabus materials.

The resulting wiki will be kept available for the indefinite future, creating a space of resources, practices and discussion that we intend to be helpful to other instructors of games and simulations.

At the end of the session, attendees will have the experience of a participatory session that they can relate directly to the classes they teach, and access to what we hope will be a rich collection of teaching and learning ideas and resources categorized in ways that make them easy to incorporate into their own course syllabus.


Voices of Spoon River

Every cemetery has a plot, a series of secrets that some would prefer stayed buried.

You see ghosts. It's kind of a gift. You don't know how or why you have this power, but you know that many of those who have left this life, live on. Some have found peace, others still search. Many of those who have left this life can only hope that someone like you is willing to help. That is why on this particular chilly night, when others are tucked away safely in their homes and beds, you are alone, in the middle of the Spoon River cemetery.

As you walk past the fountain, you hear a very strange sound behind you. When you turn around your heart jumps and adrenaline rushes through your body as you catch a glimpse of movement. Were your eyes deceiving you?

"Hello!" you yell into the moonlit shadows. The stillness rings into the night as you wait silently for a response. Is someone following you?

To your horror the head of the statue in the middle of the fountain turns to look in your direction. After several moments of terrified silence, he begins to speak.

"Welcome to the Spoon River Graveyard. I am Edgar Lee Masters. Walk carefully tonight as the spirits are restless. Ease their pain and you shall be rewarded. You may TALK TO the spirits, but don't always expect them to see you as you are still in the world of the living."

Armed with nothing more than wits and courage, it is your mission to find those souls who suffer, and show them the way to eternal rest....

Voices of Spoon River is a grassroots instructional game of text adventure using interactive fiction to teach 9th grade English students.

VOSR introduces students to the works of early American poetry, while at the same time, provides an opportunity to solve puzzles, talk to ghosts, and engages the player in a computer-based reading adventure."

Our main goal for this interactive environment is to allow students to explore the world the Edgar Lee Masters first wrote about in his Spoon River Anthology, while using the exact text from his work. Based on instructional game design theory, we wanted to create a graveyard environment where students would have access to the actual epitaph text, a supportive framework to augment the students' grasp of the material, and puzzles and challenges that primarily forced students to critically examine the relationships and problems that were expressed in the SRA epitaphs.

We want students to walk away from their experience with an understanding of the relationships and problems of the specific epitaphs including an increased awareness and aptitude in exploring additional epitaphs, an increased appreciation for poetry, a sense of accomplishment and a smile. Secondary learning goals include problem solving, orientation and map generation, and confidence.

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