Friday, January 6, 2012

A welcome from the faculty mentor

Greetings and welcome

I am Paul Gestwicki, an Associate Professor of Computer Science at Ball State University and, in Spring 2012, a Fellow with the Virginia B. Ball Center for Creative  Inquiry. The VBC is a unique center in higher education: since 2000, it has brought together multidisciplinary teams of students into high-impact immersive learning experiences under the direction of a faculty mentor and in collaboration with community partners. The students earn 15 credit hours for participating, making it their only obligation for the semester, and the faculty fellow is assigned to the project full-time.

During 2011, I recruited a multidisciplinary team to join me for this Spring 2012 seminar. I am bringing in a few of my best Computer Science students, including a few who already have significant experience through Morgan's Raid and the Digital Archaeology Project. The team also includes some junior developers and a critical team of content experts. We will be meeting away from the main body of campus at the Kitselman Center, a renovated mansion that feels more like a retreat house than a traditional teaching space.

In September, my colleague Ronald Morris and I presented our work at the Association of Indiana Museums conference. We discussed the relationship between games, fun, and learning, showing Morgan's Raid as an example of how museums might use video games as alternative ways to showcase their collections and expertise. This led to discussions with a few organizations about potential collaborations, one such organization being the Indianapolis Children's Museum. If you have never been to the Children's Museum, you owe it to yourself to go. My family loves it, and the chance to partner with one of the jewels of Indiana was certainly too good to pass up! They are serving as our community partner for the seminar, and my students and I are thrilled to be working with them.

I have prepared an intensive game design workshop for the first week of the semester. This will serve to bring all the students up to the same level of competency in fundamentals such as the common terminology and challenges of game design, and I am basing much of it on Raph Koster's Theory of Fun for Game Design and Ian Schreiber's Game Design Concepts. After the first week, I'll be turning over the reins to the students, following best practices of agile software development to create some great new games.

I have been using blogs as a form of reflective practice for a few years now. This has helped me personally and professionally, and it has also demonstrated to my students the value of public reflective writing for academic inquiry. This blog was created for the team to use during the seminar. You'll see a few posts coming up this week as the students start engaging in critical analysis of our games canon, and I'm hopeful that over time you will find increasingly mature perspectives on the relationship between games, fun, and learning.

Thanks for reading, and welcome to our immersive learning experience!

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