Serious Fun an educational gaming gathering

Education and fun are not two words that typically go together. But two instructional designers over at Academic Innovations & eLearning aim to prove why these two words can be the key to student success.

From 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. April 11 in the Student Union, Academic Innovations & eLearning presents “Serious Fun: An Educational Games Gathering.”

Serious Fun aims to promote and discuss game-based learning in secondary and post-secondary education. Pre-registration is advised and can be done online at http://games.commons.uaa.alaska.edu. The cost is $30 for faculty and staff, and is $10 for students. It includes lunch and a continental breakfast. Those who do not register beforehand are still welcome but are not promised there will be enough meals.

During the conference participants can expect to hear from keynote speaker Alex St. John, who is the founder of WildTangent, Inc., and co-creator of Microsoft DirectX technology platform. They can also attend informational sessions and game creation workshops. There will also be a game arcade with hands-on play booths and posters.

In addition to the event, a showcase will be open for all UAA students to enter games they have created. If a student’s game is accepted, the registration fee for that individual will be waived.

Event co-creator and instructional designer Jeanette Renaudineau said she witnessed the impact games have on learning when she was a high school mathematics teacher.

“While teaching high school math I noticed that my students would learn the material just to get through the exams but would forget the information soon after. However when I switched my teaching technique to become more game based I noticed that when I switched to game based learning they students seemed to retain the information easier and for longer,” Renaudineau said. “So I decided that I would try to put the material into a game and found that the students were not only more receptive to the material but also appeared to retain the information for longer.”

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During the conference there will be some events that everyone participates in together and others that participants can pick and choose to attend. Topics of interest include game mechanics, live classroom games, video games, massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs), simulations and virtual worlds, alternate reality games, use of augmented reality games, role play and location-based games.

“This event has a little something for everyone. Whether you’re a student or faculty, adding a little fun can improve learning for everyone,” said Melissa Banker, instructional designer and second co-creator of the event.