Woohoo, Freshmen Can Benefit from Videogames

By James Hawkins in Features
Monday, February 20, 2012 at 5:00 pm
Written By: Rich Shivener
I'm sitting in an airport in San Antonio, musing about the conference I just left. It was 31st Annual Conference on the First-Year Experience, a series of workshops and breakout sessions mainly focused on first-year (code: freshmen) students, and those who instruct them on the university level. On behalf of a university, I gathered tons of ideas about technology, active learning and reading programs, and among those ideas, there were a few I'm excited to share with the gaming community.

Here are some brief notes before I board.

- I participated in a workshop titled "Building Blocks for Learning with Technology: Integrating 21st Century Skills into First-Year Courses." The presenting faculty discussed ways to incorporate new media, and one cited a brief course based on Max Brooks' "Zombie Survival Guide." That faculty explained that the students, after playing an alternate reality game about zombie survival, were permitted to compare that experience to Resident Evil and Dead Island.

- The breakout session "EPIC Communication with Your First-Year Students" drove the idea that freshmen need learning that is experiential, participatory, image rich and connected. At one point, he cited the increased interested in young people playing videogames and utilizing "i"technologies, iPads and the like. And while he didn't cite specific videogames, it was clear that they can fit into this EPIC model. After all, we gamers like epic wins, yeah?

- And as luck would have it, I'm missing the breakout session "First-Year Students Reported Use of Videogames and Social Media in High School: Should we be Concerned?" According to the conference program, "This session reports on first-year students use of videogames and social media during high school and its relationship to students' academic engagement in college."

Even though discussions on video games are minimal in numbers, I'm excited that institutions are talking about our prized medium. Here's hoping we see more talks next year.
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