Category Archives: York College Transformative Games Initiative

EdSurge News Reports on CUNY Games Network

The following was published on Ed Surge News. Follow the link at the bottom of this reprint to find the original publication.

When four professors from the Borough of Manhattan Community College (BMCC) started collaborating on game-based learning (GBL) in developmental math and writing instruction in the mid-2000s, they had no idea what they were setting in motion. Today, more than 160 GBL researchers and practitioners contribute to the dynamic CUNY Games Network (CGN), housed within the City University of New York (CUNY), with its more than 540,000 students on 24 campuses.

The network links educators across disciplines who are interested in using games and other forms of interactive teaching to improve student success. And participants are showing that gameplay is serious business: data from BMCC classes suggests that when students have fun learning they appear to have more meaningful learning experiences.

Can a Classic Board Game Teach Writing Skills?

BMCC associate professors of English Joe Bisz and Carlos Fernandez stimulated the formation of CGN when they were awarded a 2007/08 CUNY faculty development grant to study how using the board game “Diplomacy” in sections of their remedial writing courses could possibly combat a lack of student motivation and critical thinking skills. They found the classic game of strategy and world domination particularly useful in teaching problem solving, and used it to help explain logical paragraph construction.

Around the same time, Kathleen Offenholley, associate professor of mathematics, and Francesco Crocco, formerly a BMCC associate professor of English and now associate director of Excelsior College’s Online Writing Lab (OWL), began collaborating with Bisz and Fernandez on their varied and similar research efforts in the field of GBL, and, in 2008/09, their combined efforts helped to launch CGN.

Active professionals within this network have put on numerous GBL workshops for interested CUNY faculty members and have developed both board and paper (e.g. card) games, as well as digital game-based learning (DGBL) teaching and learning environments, including a DGBL learning management system designed by Bisz and Crocco, called Levelfly. The CGN also has hosted three increasingly well-attended conferences, called the CUNY Games Festival.

Robert O. Duncan, associate professor of behavioral sciences at York College, joined the network early on and has taken on a leading role.

“The network is fantastic,” Duncan says. “I can only describe it as you throw a party and you think no one is going to come, but actually everybody comes.”

The Levelfly game-based learning platform includes a profile page that enables users to view and share information about themselves.

Connecting the Dots Between Enjoyment and Learning

As part of their research in the field, Crocco, Offenholley and Hernandez conducted a study on GBL and co-wrote “A Proof-of-Concept Study of Game-based Learning in Higher Education,” published in the August 2016 issue of the journal Simulation & Gaming. The study covered two BMCC semesters, from fall 2011 to spring 2012, and involved nine faculty members, 18 sections and 440 students enrolled in remedial, general education and major-specific game and non-game classes in English, math and science. The key finding:

Enjoyment correlated with improvements in deep learning in both the game and non-game classes. Games increased reported enjoyment levels, especially in subjects where students reported the greatest anxiety about learning, and this increase in enjoyment correlated positively with improvements in deep learning and higher-order thinking. These results may have particular impact on non-traditional students… While further investigation is necessary to assess the specific affordances and long-term effects of GBL in higher education, this study offers preliminary support for the claim that GBL can improve deep learning in this setting, by increasing enjoyment.

“I think for community colleges, there is a big appeal for games and learning because it helps to improve engagement, which is a problem at the community college level because of the amount of remediation that goes on there,” Crocco says.

Finding New Ways to Make Math Fun

The research from that study helped to land Offenholley, Crocco and another CGN member, BMCC professor of Computing Science Ching-Song Wei, a $875,794 National Science Foundation Advanced Technological Education award in March 2015 through April 2018 called “A Simulation-Based Curriculum to Accelerate Math Remediation and Improve Degree Completion for STEM Majors.” The grant is expected to create three to five math games, the first of which is currently being piloted at BMCC with 20 Geographic Information Systems (GIS) majors enrolled in a required intermediate math class.

Project Sampson is one of several games under development by CGN members and sponsored by an NSF ATE grant. Players work on saving the world from disasters by manipulating linear equations.

“We targeted math skills for STEM majors who want to go into GIS because we found that there was a need to help them remediate,” Crocco says. “A lot of our STEM majors are unable to pass this required course, so we thought that we could intervene, accelerate them and get them into the GIS program.”

“It’s amazing what happens when you play games with students, especially if they are scared of math,” Offenholley adds. “All of a sudden their brains get freed up to actually be able to think where they could not think before because they were stuck in old ways of looking at math.”

As noted in a BMCC press release announcing the award, “the project aims to impact STEM education across the country by providing free, open-source gaming materials to secondary and post-secondary institutions through downloadable curricula, game software, video tutorials, and professional development materials for faculty and staff.”

Some Practical Advice

Finally, Bisz offers advice related to GBL adoption by faculty who are thinking about adding GBL to their courses but are hesitant to adopt it because of the time it takes to fully learn what’s needed to use it effectively in their courses.

“If you are going to give faculty a new tool, then give them some kind of very accessible way to test it out without having to become a master of it,” he says. “One of the greatest things we love about teaching other than the students is the creativity behind generating new curricula, but we often get so overwhelmed that we do not have the time to really sit down and create new curricula.”

Game On: How Four Community College Professors Spawned the CUNY Games Network | EdSurge News.

Source: Game On: How Four Community College Professors Spawned the CUNY Games Network | EdSurge News

Kill Screen Festival Scholars 2016 Application

Women have been behind almost every major technological advancement of the 20th and 21st century, and have rarely gained proper recognition. We want to change that.We want to foster the next class of diverse game makers. Kill Screen and Intel will hand-pick 15 young women interested or already involved in the world of games and sponsor their attendance to this year’s festival.

The Kill Screen Festival Scholars is a four-month program that pairs female participants with female mentors in the field of game design and technology with general instruction, resources, and advice in how to break-out in a male-heavy industry.

At the Kill Screen Festival, participants will be paired with mentors, based on background, interests, and skill-set and will be given designated time to speak with their mentors at the conference. From there, they will enjoy a full day of panelists and will meet a month later for their first set of classes.

Mentors will provide the week-to-week support for the scholars through phone calls, emails, and online message boards. Additionally, you’ll be connected with “Godmothers:” women more active in tech and games who will serve as occasional touchpoints for advice and access through video chats and on-site visits.

Over the course of four months, you’ll get a crash course in game design. The final project: A playable title to release into the world.

This year, applications are open only to those that identify as female by gender identity in the NYC area.


Presented in partnership with Intel.

Kill Screen Festival Scholars 2016 Application.

Source: Kill Screen Festival Scholars 2016 Application

The National STEM Video Game Challenge

2016 National STEM Video Game Challenge

Level up from video game player to video game designer!

Inspired by President Obama’s Educate to Innovate Campaign to promote a renewed focus on Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) education, the National STEM Video Game Challenge taps into middle and high school students’ passion for playing video games and motivates them to work as individuals or in teams to design and make original, playable games or written game design documents about any subject. Registration is now open and submissions are due by August 15, 2016.

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New this Year: Nat Geo Explore!

National Geographic is bringing the spirit of exploration to video gaming and sponsoring a new prize stream called Nat Geo Explore. This prize is open to any eligible design document or playable game submission that thematically expresses the spirit of exploration and adventure. Winners will have their games and game design documents featured on the National Geographic Education website, which reaches more than 1 million visitors a month, and also will receive additional National Geographic merchandise.

The National STEM Video Game Challenge.

Source: The National STEM Video Game Challenge