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October 5, 2007

Second serious gaming forum to engage public, researchers, industry

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Purdue University's Discovery Learning Center will hold a two-day forum Oct. 11-12 aimed at showcasing and discussing the latest advances in using video games and virtual environments as teaching tools.

Purdue's Serious Games Research Forum reflects a growing trend to harness the power of video games for learning, said Beverly Davenport Sypher, associate provost and former interim director of the Discovery Learning Center. Simulation, virtual reality, interactive games and other gaming formats are being used to transform everything from education and health care to public policy, government, science and work force training, she said.

The two-day forum begins with a town hall meeting Thursday (Oct. 11) at 7 p.m. in Room 121 of the Burton D. Morgan Center, which is located at State Street and Martin Jischke Drive. This event is targeted toward parents, teachers and those interested in education at all levels. It is free and open to the public.

The Serious Games Forum continues all day Friday (Oct. 12) beginning at 9 a.m. and features panels of industry and academic experts who will discuss current issues in serious gaming, including race and gender, cognition and behavior, and learning in virtual worlds. Featured projects include the MIT's New Media Literacies Project; Indiana University's Arden Project, a virtual world built to teach about Shakespeare; the Games for Change initiative; and work currently being done in Second Life.

"We want to showcase the breadth and scope of the work being done to develop serious games for learning," Sypher said. "We are especially interested in identifying the features of gaming that can be effective in education and training of all types."

James Paul Gee, Mary Lou Fulton Presidential Professor of Literacy Studies at Arizona State University, whose most recent books deal with video games, language and learning, will moderate the town hall meeting Thursday night and deliver the keynote address for the Friday program.  His book, "What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Learning and Literacy," discusses a series of learning principles that he sees present in "good" commercial video games.

Gee also will moderate the town hall meeting Thursday night with panelists Samantha Blackmon, an English professor who helped organize the conference; Carlos Morales, associate professor in computer graphics technology; Sorin Matei, associate professor of communication; and Wendy K.Z. Anderson, a graduate assistant in the Department of Communication.

"This is a conversation we want to have with the community and not at the community," Blackmon said. "Teachers have a lot of questions about gaming. Parents have a lot of questions. We want to get a variety of feedback and create an environment where we can learn from each other."

"We want to bring together K-12 teachers, parents, gamers, and university educators and researchers to talk about gaming," said Jonathan M. Harbor, associate vice president for research for centers and institutes and interim director of Discovery Learning Center.

Serious games use gaming technologies for purposes beyond entertainment, including education, training, and simulations. The principles of entertainment, creativity, and storytelling are used to create more engaging means to reach a serious objective, such as concept and skill learning. Flight simulators that train pilots, medical games that simulate health care settings and train surgeons, and games used in university level courses in English and engineering are examples of how serious games make new contributions to teaching and learning.

"Serious games take gaming out of the living room and into the classroom, and bring fun, creativity and engaging interactive capabilities to create learning environments that are more relevant to today's digital learners," said Lorraine Kisselburgh, a doctoral candidate in the Department of Communication and research assistant who assisted in organizing the forum.

At the end of the second day, the event shifts to the Envision Center for Data Perceptualization at 4 p.m. for the final presentation by Gary Bertoline, assistant dean for graduate studies and professor in the Department of Computer Graphics Technology, called "Cyber-enabled Infrastructures for Games-based Learning."

Additional information about the forum and speakers can be found at:

The Discovery Learning Center, located in Purdue's Discovery Park, conducted an industry- focused gaming forum in April, and featured serious games experts from BreakAway Games, Microsoft, Lauer and Associates and the Naval Postgraduate School. Later that same month, Marc Prensky, author of "Don't Bother Me Mom – I'm Learning" came to campus. Also in April, the Discovery Learning Center launched a Games-to-Teach competition in which a winning proposal received $150,000 to design a serious game for a university-level course at Purdue. A team of professors from the College of Engineering, Dan DeLaurentis, Sean Brophy and David Ebert, submitted the winning proposal  and are currently developing a game-based version of Introduction to Aerospace Design (AAE 251), a second-year course in aeronautics and astronautics. The new course will be introduced in fall 2009.

Writer: Jim Bush, (765) 494-2077,

Source: Beverly Davenport Sypher, (765) 494-9709,

Jonathan Harbor, (765) 496-1938,

Samantha Blackmon, (765) 494-3742,

Lorraine Kisselburgh, (765) 494-3429, 

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096;

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