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Education conference to draw together games researchers

Madison, Wis. - Educators and software developers will have the chance to combine their ideas on videogames and the learning process at the first annual Games+Learning+Society conference at the Monona Terrace.

The sold-out conference is being held by Games And Professional Practice Simulations, a joint project of the Advanced Academic Distributed Learning (ADL) Co-Lab and a group of instructors at the UW-Madison School of Education. Speakers include educators and developers from companies such as Eidos Interactive and Turbine Entertainment Software.

Whereas there have been many conventions in the past about specific uses of games as an education tool, this conference will focus on the use of games in exploring a holistic method of learning and cognitive science and how to apply those principles to the classroom environment.

Among the dozens of speakers are former Xerox PARC director John Seely Brown, "Second Life" senior engineer James Cook, and James Gee, a professor at UW-Madison's School of Education. Gee has written extensively about videogames representing a different style of learning from the traditional style, where the individual must first become grounded in all sorts of background information before even starting any practice.

"They allow learning to be put inside the worlds we're learning about. They create worlds and they allow you to put the language and the symbols and the activities inside a world where you can learn them in practice."
Gee further maintains that there are benefits to how videogames will present the data just when someone needs it, immediately ingraining a valuable, intuitively learned lesson in the current situation that will then lead to greater problem-solving later as the challenges become greater but nevertheless built on a similar foundation.

Judy Brown, director of the Academic ADL Co-Lab, said the overall goal of the conference is to create that immersive game-type learning environment in the classroom.

One anecdote Brown used as an example was of an educator who found that students left alone in a typical exercise would back away and socialize with one another, while students placed at a computer game lesson would immediately jump into the exercise, learning while also intuitively knowing how to start operating within that environment.

"I'm looking at any kind of learning that will engage the student and make them want to learn, make learning fun. It doesn't have to be really boring, and I'm hoping we're going to see some very good examples of how…this is being done today and what we need to do to move it to the next steps tomorrow"

Alice Robison, an assistant director at the UW-Madison Department of English, said there is untapped potential in games for this alternative kind of learning.

"There's a potential that good videogames have for learning. Not all games, but good games. We're not trying to say that games are excellent teaching tools and we're not saying that all games are appropriate for all learning purposes, but we think that games embody a lot of good research and cognitive science on how learning happens."

Eric Kleefeld is a writer for WTN based in Madison. He can be reached at


Jim Whyte responded 10 years ago: #1

As a staff development manager for a hospital, I've been wondering why there hasn't been more inquiry into the gaming side of informatics to create learning experiences. If you can effectively incorporate gaming technology, with the artificial intelligence of taking the different paths in a medical treatment algorithm and stuffing it into on of these $20,000 patient simulators you potentially woud have potentially a fine piece of training equipment. I mentioned this at the Wisconsin Technology Conference in Madison earlier in June and just got blank looks. Sorry this conference is sold out, I would have loved to attend.

Judy Brown responded 10 years ago: #2

To Jim Whyte's comment, there was a Games for Health Conference here in Madison last Fall, so there are some of us who would definitely not give you blank looks.
For the current conference we have recorded one track of sessions which will be available online next week. There will be a link available at We hope this will be of value to you.

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