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Gaming, smart phone apps get serious at Clemson

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CLEMSON — At Clemson University’s new Digital Media and Learning Labs, playing with game systems and smartphone apps is serious business.


Operated by the Eugene T. Moore School of Education, the labs are dedicated to promoting social, participatory and interest-driven learning through the use of digital media, said Dani Herro, co-director of the labs and assistant professor of digital media and learning.


The labs feature digital video, photography, music, podcasting, computer programming and video game and app creation. The labs also include a social and experiential gaming area dedicated to “serious” play and outfitted with two 65-inch displays and gaming systems like the Xbox 360, Wii U and PlayStation 3, Herro said.


“Serious play suggests play can be creative, academic and valuable,” Herro said. “Play (games and media) can inform, engage, teach and ask others for help solving big problems.”


Located in Tillman Hall, the labs will support academic efforts across campus.


“From these spaces, faculty and students can take part in research initiatives, coursework, learning and collaborative works that involve digital media,” Herro said. For example, students can create a video or podcast to support a research paper, or faculty members can create an app for students to use as part of their classes.


The labs will also support School of Education teaching, research and outreach related to the use of digital media in pre-kindergarten to 12th-grade classrooms, Herro said. Initial plans include hosting workshops for educators and inviting educational leaders to the labs to talk about technology leadership and digital-learning initiatives.


The gaming area is open to Clemson students for unfettered game play, with gamers participating in tournaments, online multiplayer games and “exergaming” — using games to get fit.


“This space welcomes feedback regarding game play experiences, and we hope the game play inspires community members to design or prototype their own games in the lab,” Herro said.


In addition to providing access to digital media technologies, the Digital Media and Learning Labs provide participants work places that mimic the layout of professional creative spaces and foster a “culture of participation,” which are beneficial to college students who will enter the workforce and the educators who are preparing them.


Whether the participants are college students, professors or pre-K-12 teachers, labs promote digital media and play as a tool to enhance “learning that sticks,” Herro said.


“Humans have this innate ability to work really hard to learn when they are really interested,” Herro said. “Digital media offers an avenue to connected learning that is interest-based and supported by peers, and it can have great academic value.” A growing body of research on digital learning environments backs up this claim, she added.


Along with Herro, teacher education assistant professor Matthew Boyer is co-director of the Digital Media and Learning Labs. Together with Ryan Visser, director of the Center of Excellence for Digital Media and Learning and a teacher education clinical faculty member, they developed the vision for the labs.


The School of Education will hold a grand opening for the Digital Media and Learning Labs from 5-7 p.m. Monday, Nov. 11, at 213 Tillman Hall. The event will include tours, demonstrations, refreshments and remarks by James Paul Gee, co-founder of the Center for Games & Impact and a professor at Arizona State University.

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