UConn Hosts Inaugural Frontiers in Playful Studying Convention


After a yr of cautious planning, the Neag College of Training’s Two Summers Instructional Expertise program and the UConn College of Positive Artwork’s Digital Media Design (DMD) program co-hosted the inaugural Frontiers in Playful Studying convention from June 1 – 3, 2022.

The three-day convention attracted roughly 55 in-person attendees from across the U.S. (Connecticut, New York, Massachusetts, Florida, Ohio, Virginia, and extra) with further nationwide and worldwide participation by way of live-streamed periods. Most attendees have been students and graduate college students from analysis universities, however some very devoted Okay-12 academics and trade professionals additionally took the time to attend.

The way it All Began

Organized by Stephen Slota, who has twin college appointments in each the UConn Studying Sciences (previously often known as the Cognition, Instruction, & Studying Expertise program) and DMD packages, the concept to host Frontiers happened after a sequence of conversations between playful studying students who felt that they had fallen out of contact by way of the pandemic. “Though there are a number of different occasions centered on game-based training, we needed to focus on game-and play-based instructing and analysis in larger training, particularly,” stated Slota.

“Bringing collectively a small, tightly-knit group of interdisciplinary consultants appeared like a great first step,” remarked Slota.

The UConn Two Summers Instructional Expertise program (among the many Prime 15 within the U.S. in response to SuccessfulStudent.org) has change into a nationally-recognized hub for frolicsome instructing and studying analysis due largely to their frequently-cited (2012) Evaluation of Instructional Analysis meta-analysis Our Princess is in One other Citadel: A Evaluation of Traits in Critical Gaming for Training and (2017) edited quantity Exploding the Citadel: Rethinking How Video Video games & Sport Mechanics Can Form the Way forward for Training.

“What’s nice in regards to the group is its interdisciplinary nature, which creates factors of contact that may’t be achieved with a slim concentrate on only one self-discipline or position.”
— Assistant Professor-in-Residence Stephen Slota

“We acknowledged that our distinctive standing positioned us to revitalize and arrange the sphere round a set of shared targets by welcoming academics, researchers, and designers to UConn’s campus as a part of our group of apply,” Slota famous.

Along with reengaging game- and play-based instructors and students, Slota and different Frontiers attendees sought to discover technique of enhancing their particular person and collaborative efforts. For some, that meant discovering co-researchers and co-authors; for others, it meant discovering complementary skillsets that would facilitate design work.

“What’s nice in regards to the group is its interdisciplinary nature, which creates factors of contact that may’t be achieved with a slim concentrate on only one self-discipline or position,”  Slota.

Individual with short hair gives a presentation.
Caro Murphy provides the keynote tackle in the course of the Frontiers in Playful Studying convention. (Photograph courtesy of Stephen Slota)

What the Presenters and Attendees Thought

Anecdotal suggestions indicated that attendees felt Frontiers was a “big success,” they usually appeared “impressed with how easily it went, particularly because it was the primary time internet hosting the occasion.”

Slota rapidly acknowledged and credited Juliet Kapsis, the consultant contact by way of UConn’s College Occasions and Convention Providers, for her assist. “She went above and past to work with varied departments, packages, and folks in the course of the yr it took to carry Frontiers collectively.”

In response to one presenter, Trent Hergenrader, an assistant professor of English on the Rochester Institute of Expertise, “What I appreciated about Frontiers is that everybody was within the strategy of instructing by way of using completely different sorts of video games; to leverage deeper studying for our college students.”

“In different phrases, it centered on video games as instructing instruments for larger training and, particularly, which video games provide explicit instructing and studying affordances (fairly than a narrower focus simply on how you can use or make studying video games),” he added.

One other presenter, Evan Torner, an affiliate professor of German Research and Movie/Media Research from the College of Cincinnati, felt the three days he spent at Frontiers in Playful Studying have been “among the best [he’s] skilled in [his] profession.”

“It was a wholesome mixture of displays, discussions, postmortems, ideation, and play,” stated Torner.

Tori Wagner ’20 MA, an incoming UConn Studying Sciences doctoral pupil and former Staples (Connecticut) Excessive College physics trainer, tremendously benefited from her connections with established consultants and fellow up-and-coming playful studying professionals.

“The convention was a improbable mixture of displays on cutting-edge analysis and casual discussions throughout varied disciplines.”
— Incoming Doctoral Pupil Tori Wagner

“The convention was a improbable mixture of displays on cutting-edge analysis and casual discussions throughout varied disciplines,” stated Wagner. “It was enlightening to collect views of these exterior my customary STEM circle. I’m excited to proceed to be taught from and work with the proficient students I met as we contribute to the rising physique of video games and training analysis.”

Roger Travis, a UConn affiliate professor of Literatures, Cultures, and Languages, was additionally complimentary about Frontiers. “Everyone knows video games educate, however conferences like Frontiers are serving to us work out how we will use that limitless energy to interact and educate.”

Summing up a extensively shared perspective, presenter Wendi Sierra, assistant professor of Sport Research on the Texas Christian College Honors Faculty, noticed, “With such a wealthy and numerous group of individuals, the conversations have been superb, and I walked away with so many new concepts. Consequently, my listing of books to learn, video games to play, and issues to strive in my classroom is (excitingly) overwhelming.”

Outcomes and Future Plans

Via the unanimously constructive suggestions, Slota concluded that “there was an settlement we must always proceed internet hosting Frontiers in Playful Studying on an annual foundation,” and he felt “crucial end result was networking.”

“That’s what’s fantastic about bringing collectively so many passionate, hard-working students—nerding out about matters we spend all our private {and professional} time desirous about,” Slota articulated with a smile. “Not solely did we meet face-to-face with people we’d solely ‘seen’ by way of video conferencing over the past three years, however we cultivated friendships which have already led to new scholarly discourse and publication efforts.”

Many presenters and attendees are already wanting ahead to a different Frontiers, together with Torner, who recommends “anybody fascinated about video games and studying think about attending subsequent yr!”

Slota acknowledged that limiting attendance to fewer than 100 folks allowed them to encourage one-on-one interactions throughout and between periods, which proved to be “probably the greatest choices we made.”

The organizers are planning for Frontiers in Playful Studying 2023 to run from Could 31 – June 2, 2023. They’ll introduce minor modifications to the session codecs (together with a peer-reviewed play monitor for demoing board, card, roleplaying, and video video games). Nonetheless, the attendees have been “so glad” with the primary go-around that the organizers will concentrate on “merely increasing an already-solid infrastructure.”

Go to the convention web site to be taught extra about Frontiers in Playful Studying, together with an archive of photographs and session recordings.


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