Creating a World of MAGIC

[The Rochester Institute of Technology has taken Maker Spaces to a new dimension. They’ve looked at how MAGIC -Media, Arts, Games, Interaction and Creativity – can solve institutional problems. In my work as an educational technology broker I’ve seen some great projects, but this Campus Technology interview really demonstrates how far you can take a brilliant idea.]

By Mary Grush, 11/29/16

What happens when you mix a high-end technology sandbox loaded with ample, cutting-edge digital media tools and production facilities with some of the world’s brightest students and most innovative faculty? Andrew Phelps, founder and director of the Rochester Institute of Technology’s Center for Media, Arts, Games, Interaction and Creativity (MAGIC) and MAGIC Spell Studios talks with CT about MAGIC at RIT.

Mary Grush: Why did you start MAGIC Spell Studios at RIT, and what does it do?

Andy Phelps: In my prior academic days, I was the founder and director of RIT’s games school, the School of Interactive Games and Media. We were doing a lot of things in games, and in what we termed ‘new media’ — which is sort of the fusion of design thinking with technology.

One intriguing thing about that work was that increasingly, none of the faculty were necessarily in the right homes. We had a games program that grew in a college of computing; we had a new media program that was trying hard to straddle a college of computing and a college of imaging arts and sciences (which is our art school); we had folks running over to the college of business to try to take entrepreneurship and digital marketing courses; and we had a ‘digital humanities’ effort coming out of liberal arts.

RIT had what amounted to a kind of hodgepodge across campus in trying to make all this work. So, if you take for example something like games — which was my area — and looked at what you would need to facilitate that kind of work, you’d see that it spreads broadly across a campus in ways that the traditional academic management model isn’t necessarily set up to address. And everybody says ‘multidisciplinary’, but very few actually do ‘multidisciplinary’ very well.

I had a number of talks with the president, with the provost, and with others on campus, and we came to this idea of trying to move the research and development function a little bit away from being placed simply at the department level. Instead, we were going to create a center that cut sideways through all of the things that were happening at the university. Then, we would seed it with resources so that people had some incentive to play. It’s not an uncommon model — it’s been done in different places — but we looked at it and said: “We’re creating the center, providing the space, and we’re using some campus resources to get people engaged and crossing multidisciplinary lines.”

Hopefully, we thought, people were going to be able to make things — but the question became: What happens to what they make? And that’s where MAGIC Spell Studios was really conceived. If we are serious about facilitating faculty and student work in digital media, a big part of the digital media ecosystem is actually publishing it — getting it out there; putting it in front of the public; and having the public react to it (seeing what that looks like, understanding it, and incorporating what you learn into the next thing that you do).

We looked at our university, and found that it was really not set up to do all that. We had students publishing things into the app stores and then walking away from them. We had multiple groups of people trying to figure out how they were going to do dissemination as defined in their research — but that usually meant writing and publishing a paper or a book about the work, usually without ever publishing the thing itself that they had created, at least not broadly.

We decided we want to get our work ‘out there’. In order to do that, we needed a publishing studio. Usually people will just casually say, maybe over lunch, “We’ll publish it this week.” But really, publishing and and supporting a digital media work is a very involved thing, including dealing with the finances, branding, marketing, and first- and third-party relations… All of this really means you need a place, a center that’s committed to publishing and helping others publish their work, servicing the work once it’s out there, and helping people understand its impact.

Read more….

Twitch club brings gaming to school

[Sometimes after-school activities are the perfect vehicle to engage student interests. In this LA Times article the students started a club using the web tool – Twitch – in order to promote their interest in gaming.]


Brayden Foxhoven reacts to action in a “Minecraft” game during a lunchtime Twitch Club at Viewpoint School in Calabasas. (Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times)

By Paresh Dave

Seventh-grader Brayden Foxhoven hurries to finish his chicken fingers. He has bases to capture. Gems to collect. Viewers to entertain.

And he knows better than to break the cardinal rule of playing video games at middle school: Don’t spill your lunch on the keyboard.

Foxhoven and his Viewpoint School classmates are getting an education in Twitch, the app that lets anyone stream their game play for the world to watch.

This school year, the private school in Calabasas formed a Twitch club — a weekly gathering that has quickly become as popular as established clubs for Spanish speakers and “Harry Potter” fanatics.

Where students who toiled on computers during lunch were once the audiovisual club nerds, Foxhoven and his dark blue Twitch hoodie are among the cool on campus. Even high schoolers are jealous of the lunchtime gaming privilege, which occurs about once a week on the school’s complex bell schedule.

“I didn’t expect people to want to do the club,” Foxhoven said. “I didn’t expect the 25 sign-ups. It was unimaginable.”

The Twitch Club — which the company believes is the first middle school group named in its honor — reflects gaming’s emergence into the mainstream.

“Gamers are leading the cultural vanguard,” said Twitch marketing chief Matthew DiPietro. “The school’s endorsement acknowledges what most people under 35 already know, which is that gaming is a large, integral part of pop culture.”

Foxhoven got the idea in September during the first week of classes when he wore the same Twitch hoodie each day. Some two dozen strangers complimented him over the sweatshirt, gifted by a family friend at the San Francisco firm.

“Cool! You do Twitch? Are you going to make a club?” students would ask him. “I said, ‘Sure why not?’” recalled Foxhoven, 13.

But he faced resistance from school officials, who’d never heard of Twitch but knew of gaming’s associations with laziness and violent behavior. In a couple of weeks of daily meetings with Foxhoven, they also questioned whether broadcasting online would threaten students’ privacy and safety — not to mention the risk they would be exposed to the kind of bad language that seeps into any online comment section.

A discouraged Foxhoven considered hosting an unofficial, after-school club at his dad’s video production studio.

But Foxhoven offered one last pitch to Casey Dodd, the school official in charge of approving clubs. He showed that 30 students backed him and explained that gaming was core to their lives and aspirations. Dodd loved it.

“We have tons of clubs, but we have a solid five or 10 that gather the most energy and intensity,” Dodd said, placing Twitch Club in that category. “The tech ones are definitely on the up and up.”

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Pursuing Quests: How Digital Games Can Create a Learning Journey

[Using games in a classroom has been traditionally a reward factor. Today many teachers realize that the game-based learning process has real potential to engage students. However, there’s been a problem with how to make this game-based process work as a personalized tool. Discover in this Mindshift article how two professors from Boise State developed an online system built around Quests and how K-12 teachers across the country are now tapping into this tool.]


By Paul Darvasi

Completing missions for rewards is a core mechanic in many video games, including best-sellers like “World of Warcraft,” “Grand Theft Auto,” “Fallout” and “Skyrim.” Quests are diverse and optional, and players can undertake them on their own schedule. Unlike their plastic and cardboard counterparts, digital games leverage a computer’s power to manage elaborate player profiles and track complex, dynamic and personalized task structures. Now that students have increased access to computers and smartphones, the powerful digital engagement system can be put in the service of education.

Taking a page from the video game book, Dr. Chris Haskell and Dr. Lisa Dawley, from the education department at Boise State University, saw the potential for integrating quests and other game elements to deliver coursework. Six years ago, they developed 3D GameLab, a Web-based learning management system that helps run classes in a gamelike, quest-based format.

“A good quest-based curriculum meets the needs of many students by offering a multiplicity of choices that cover standards,” said Haskell.

Read more….