• Blog Post!

    I wrote a short article about my experiences at the Games for Change festival for the Advancement Courses blog. You can check it out here!

  • SeraSymphony Chorus

    Last Sunday, I had the opportunity to perform as part of the SeraSymphony chorus. We performed music from and inspired by the Sailor Moon franchise. It was a fantasic experience getting to perform for a crowd of such dedicated and enthusiastic fans! 

    You can see more photos from the performance here: 

  • Volunteering at Games for Change

    I had the opportunity to volunteer with the Games for Change fesitval for the third year last week. It was, as usual, an amazing experience. I spent the first day with the Games for Change app, Save the Park. I was able to meet a wide range of festival participants as they played the game and chatted about their own games projects. The rest of the time I worked more behind-the-scenes, helping with the administrative work that keeps the festival running. But at the very end of the conference, I had the chance to try out a VR drawing system similar to this video: 

     It was a very cool experience to be able to put your whole body into making art, and to draw around yourself. My artistic skills are limited, so I stayed away from disney characters and instead simply drew a tree whose branches could hang over me. Before long, I had a friend join me in the virtual space. All I could see was her goggles and two controllers. We drew smiley faces at each other for a bit before retreating to our own separate drawings.

    I'm excited to see how this technology develops in the future and how it can be used to create powerfully immersive and creative games.

  • Making Faces is now available!

    Making Faces, Interactable's third game, is available for download on iPads today. This is an expansion of a minigame from uChoose where players can build facial expressions and then practice making their own. You can see more and download the game here.

  • Customary Japan released!

    Customary Japan released!

    Customary Japan is new game built for the Columbia Business School to help their students acclimate to Japanese culture. It uses the same structure as uChoose, but the content is designed for an adult audience. You can view it in the app store here.

    I worked on the overall design of the game as well as writing most of the educational content and story in each level. 

  • uChoose at IDC

    uChoose is going to the Interaction Design and Children conference! You can check out our paper here and then catch our demo at the conference Tuesday afternoon.

  • Games for Change

    I had the opportunity to volunteer at the Games for Change festival last week, and it was a fantastic experience. I attended sessions at the first Games for Learning Summit, where industry leaders, policy makers, game designers, and educators came together to discuss the future of games in education. I also served as a game ambassador for games that had been nominated for awards, helping everyone experience these innovative games. The most valuable part of the experience, though, was meeting people who are equally enthusiastic about the power of games for education and social change.

  • We Don't Need No Stinkin' Badges

    Or, Why I’m Unenthusiastic about the Badging Fad

    This article was originally published on the PB&Games blog in November 2013.

    Badges are gaining considerable traction in the field of educational technology, and are a cornerstone of the “gamification” movement. However, I’m unenthusiastic about their potential to increase student engagement or motivation, because no matter how they are used, they serve as a proxy for real, meaningful accomplishments. I’ll discuss the three main purposes of badges, and their limitations, here:

    A reward

    Badges are a pretty terrible reward. I mean, imagine you’re a kid who has in the past received candy or pizza as a reward for completing schoolwork, and now your teacher offers you a little digital icon instead. What a rip-off! Homework should be worth at least a mini snickers!

    But that’s the problem with using anything – badges, stickers, or candy – as a reward. It sends a very powerful message to students that the activity we’re asking them to do isn’t worth doing on its own. And unfortunately, sometimes educational activities are just busywork. But rather than providing students with artificial incentives to perform meaningless tasks, let’s try giving students something valuable to do instead.

    A record

    I admit, I love my badges on Codecademy. They are a visual representation of all the hours I’ve put into learning how to code in JavaScript. I’m proud of the work I’ve done, so that pride is represented in the form of the little digital icons. However, although I love Codecademy, one of its main flaws is that all the coding you do never produces anything valuable or meaningful. As I go through the exercises, I’m learning core concepts of programming, but all I’m left with at the end are a bunch of completed exercises.

    A much better way of providing students with a record of their accomplishments is to have them accomplish something they find valuable or meaningful. Ask them to code a program that they (and others) might actually use. Then instead of a bunch of badges, they’ll have the actual creation as a record of the work they’ve done. And if students are encouraged to work on projects they care about,  we lose the need for badges as a reward, as well.

    A goal

    In scouting, the badges not only serve as a record of past accomplishments, but also a clearly defined path to future accomplishments. They are a way of organizing tasks into gradually more and more difficult challenges with clearly defined steps and goals. However, these badges define artificial goals. If the goals were worthy of pursuit by themselves without the incentive of a badge, why use badges at all? And if these goals need to be propped up with badges, why pursue them?

    Basically, no matter how they are used, badges are a way of perpetuating poor pedagogy by legitimizing otherwise worthless tasks. If educators can re-link knowledge and skills to their real-world applications, we can offer students much more meaningful rewards, records, and goals than a detached digital image.