The Gamers Lounge

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East Coast Game Conference 2014

I had the opportunity to attend the first day of the East Coast Game Conference 2014, held in Raleigh, NC on April 23 & 24. I am not a serious gamer, nor am I employed in the gaming industry. I originally looked at this as a day away with my husband. However, I discovered that many of the sessions that were offered appealed to me. I am an elementary school teacher and have become interested in taking on more of a leadership role within my school.

There were two sessions I was particularly interested in. The first, entitled "Gamified Talent Management: Using RPG design to motivate employees and redefine work" was led by IBM'er, Phaedra Boinodiris. Her presentation was called "Improving Business Engagement & Process With Gamification". This was an amazing look at how IBM has developed training sessions that use gamification to "hook" employees in to continuing education and training. I was blown away! All I could think of is how this technology could be used in the educational realm. It is used in business to group people working together toward a common goal or project. I related this to education by thinking of how this could be used to group teachers into effective instructional teams. On a student level, this technology could be used to group students into effective learning teams. However, public education simply doesn't have the funding that would be necessary to implement this product effectively. I think this could be a great opportunity for IBM to reach out and impact STEM instruction in our public schools.

Also, students are becoming more and more immersed in video games. A day doesn't go by that my 3rd graders don't talk about this or that in Minecraft, COD: Black Ops, or the latest edition of Grand Theft Auto. How enticing would this "gamification" be to a student? Imagine you are a bored 3rd grader and your teacher says you can play a game where you grab answers to multiplication facts with a net instead of using paper flash cards to learn your facts. Trust me, I would have a lot more students memorize their facts in a shorter time frame! There are some great educational websites available for free use. www.coolmath.com is one, www.multiplication.com is another. However, these only work if you have an internet connection. I teach in a very low economic area. Many students don't have internet connections at home. They have iPads, other brand tablets, iPods, etc. How about an app the teacher or parent can download to their device that doesn't require them to always have an internet connection? This wouldn't just be for math. This could be used for spelling activities, as well as reading comprehension. Ask any 3rd grade student or teacher in NC right now if reading comprehension is important. We are in the midst of "high-stakes" testing. If a student doesn't pass the End of Grade (EOG) test by the end of the school year, or meet a few other exemptions, they are forced to go to "Summer Camp", which is just summer school with a fun name. If they STILL do not pass or meet the exemptions, they will be retained in 3rd grade. Thank your NC lawmakers for this bit of educational ingenuity. But I digress...

There are many ways in which gamification could be used EFFECTIVELY in education. I just need a programmer to help me out...

The next session I attended was entitled "What Makes You Think You Know What a Leader Is?" presented by Keith Fuller. Honestly, I've attended better presentations. However, he did make some very valid points. His key points included: 1. Good leaders engage their employees. 2. Employee engagement is the emotional commitment an employee has to an organization and their mission. 3. When employees are engaged (they care) and they are willing to use "discretionary effort", which is essentially working on their personal time, without feeling bad about it. 4. A good leader objectively improves the business and does so by supporting the people (employees). 5. Have an open dialogue with all stakeholders and be open to stakeholder's suggestions.

The keynote address was on "Game Pitches" and was presented by Ken Rolston. He was a former teacher and that was apparent. His presentation style was engaging and entertaining. 

Unfortunately, I was unable to attend the panel discussion on April 24th, entitled "Panel: Serious Games for Serious Students". I am hoping to find a video of this!

I would definitely recommend attending an ECGC event in the future, especially if you are interested in game design. I will certainly keep my eye out for next year's session offerings, to see if they apply to my chosen field. If so, I will get to spend another day with my husband. And those days can be few and far between!

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