Game On – Students share the UNC experience at a game design event

Moving to Greeley from Denver to study early childhood education and starting his freshman year as a first-generation college student, Alex Archuleta had a lot to learn about the college experience. She has an older brother who also attends the University of Northern Colorado to help her adjust to changes here and there, but her advisors are a resource she relies heavily on.

Alex Archuleta“I really like my advisers, I have two and they are very helpful. They help me navigate whatever I need to do, ”Archuleta said.

With so many other students going through the same freshman challenges, In determining which courses they should take, for example, Archuleta believed her positive experience was worth sharing – and she did so by designing a custom digital game in a matter of hours.

Archuleta learned the opportunity to design a game through his involvement with the Cumbres program. Cumbres is a scholarship and support program that prepares educators competent in culturally and linguistically diverse practices within the College of Education and Behavioral Sciences at UNC. Assistant Pprofessor in Teacher Training School Matthew Farber, Ed.D., and Aassociate Pprofessor of applied statistics and research methods William Merchant, Ph.D., contacted UNC Cumbres students and asked them if they wanted to join a “Game Jam”. Farber and Merchant both run the SEL laboratory for games, a lab that studies how games can support social and emotional learning (SEL) skills.

“A ‘Game Jam’ is a rapid prototyping event,” Farber explained. “You don’t necessarily have to be a game designer or a coder to participate. Making games can involve coding, but not always. It’s mostly about designing an experience so that someone can play it.

Knowing how the world is increasingly dependent on technology, Farber wanted to organize a “Game Jam” to give students, especially those studying education, a chance to learn to navigate systems. .

“The games are the campfire of the 21st century. They are all around us, ”Farber said. “So we have to understand how these systems work and how thinking in the systems is very important, especially with teachers. There is a strong overlap between designing a play experience and designing lessons, as they can become increasingly difficult and learning scaffolded in both.

Six students, including Archuleta, participated in the ‘Game Jam’ Saturday October 2. The students were asked to complete a task: designing a game to make students aware of the situations Cumbres students face when they go through office hours. This is what made Archuleta think about his advisers.

“I’ve been in my advisers’ office hours a few times, so I kind of built that into my game,” Archuleta said.

For having little experience with software technology, Archuleta says that creating the digital game was quite easy and got a certificate of participation.

“I really enjoyed that. It started off as a blank slate, and you start writing down parts of whatever you want in the game, then you hit enter, and it fits in, and then that keeps the flow going. game, ”Archuleta said.

Farber and Merchant asked students to create their games through a web tool called Twine. Farber came up with the idea of ​​including office hours as a prompt because he knows how intimidating this hour can be for new students.

“Last year I started taking the time to explain to my students what office hours really are. But I also wanted to know what else I could do. I started to hold office hours at the university center and told the students they could have lunch and stop by. Before, my office was at 5e floor at McKee Hall, ”Farber said.

Farber and Merchant are still combing through the six student-created games. They hope the results will help them and other faculty members understand how best to provide support and connect with students. They then plan to continue this type of “Jam Jam” to explore other systems in which the students navigate.

“For me, it’s a fascinating way to harness self-expression. What better way to understand what students are going through than by asking them to design playable experiences for others, ”said Farber.

Archuleta said she would be attending another “Game Jam”, calling it a fun way to learn tech.

“Especially since the pandemic, I think a lot of kids of all ages are now learning about technology and for my generation we grew up with technology, so I think exposure to it is pretty vital just because that’s what exists in the real world, ”Archuleta said.

See the Archuleta digital game created.

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