Kurt Squire


Kurt Squire is an assistant professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the Educational Communications and Technology division of Curriculum and Instruction. He is a former Montessori and primary school teacher and, before coming to Wisconsin, was Research Manager of the Games-to-Teach Project at MIT and Co-Director of the Education Arcade. Squire earned his doctorate in Instructional Systems Technology from Indiana University; his dissertation research examined students' learning through a game-based learning program he designed around Civilization III. Squire co-founded Joystick101.org with Jon Goodwin and currently writes a monthly column with Henry Jenkins for Computer Games magazine. In addition to writing over 30 scholarly articles and book chapters, and he has given dozens of talks and invited addresses in North America, Europe, and Asia. Squire's current research interests center on the impact of contemporary gaming practices on learning, schooling and society. Along with several other University Wisconsin-Madison faculty, he runs the Games and Professional Practice Simulations (GAPPS) initiative located at the Academic Advanced Distributed Learning Co-Lab.


Videogames as Designed Experiences

Over the past few years, an increasing number of educators have turned their attention to video games noting the strong learning principles that exist in successful video games and the contrasts between students' engagement in games and in schooling. Models of game-based learning environments have begun to emerge, but thusfar, we have lacked a coherent theoretical underpinning for how they work. This talk provides both a theoretical model for the design of game-based learning environments and a theoretical model for the design and development of game-based learning environments. This presentation ties together naturalistic studies of games and gaming cultures with examples of games designed for learning that span across commercially available games, research-developed games, and emerging prototypes. This model argues for the design of game-based learning environments that emphasize trajectories of participation for players from novice users of systems, to designers, and eventually, to proactive participants in (aspects of) society.

SYMPOSIUM: Media Literacy & Gaming Literacy

Historically, media literacy efforts have been couched in terms of helping a younger generation of students learn to "see through" media messages emanating from corporate-produced media that are designed to produce hegemonic discourse. Today's emerging media environment, built on a logic of participation operates quite differently. To be literate in today's media environment means to produce knowledge as represented through multiple media forms, and, critically, to understand the modes for producing and distributing that media via various private and public media channels (usually centered around the Internet). In short, if yesterday's media landscape was one of /broadcast/, today's is one of interaction, and those people who learn to leverage technologies, social structures, and design grammars to produce and communicate messages will be those who profit.

This session focuses on recent research done at the games, learning, and society program at UW-Madison demonstrating how to participate in today's media landscape fundamentally is to engage in the practice of design (writ large), critically, meaning not just to engage in the design of software, but to engage in the design of social networks and institutions. It begins with naturalistic studies of gamers, showing how "entertainment" today means to design collective experiences via sociotechnical networks. We will demonstrate how educators can create similar game-based learning programs that use learners' interest in games like Civilization III to develop expertise and gaming, and skills in media production. David Shaffer describes his work developing and researching epistemic games, games that involve players in the roles of media producers where they confront problems, posit design solutions, and examine the consequences of decisions within worlds designed to simulate the practices of professions. Unlike past approaches to media literacy, these approaches take into account the social contexts and communities in which knowledge is developed and legitimized.

This approach argues that new approaches to media literacy need to develop a design inclination toward the production of media materials. By design, we mean more than just simply the production of materials; rather, we mean critical reflection on the part of students in identifying and understanding needs in their social worlds, the production of materials that meet those needs, and critical feedback from interested parties and constituents on students' work. We believe that this last component -- students receiving feedback on the projects that they create by and from constituencies that they value and are in a position to judge the quality of their works is a key way that new media literacy initiatives can avoid the trappings of liberal pedagogies.

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