Event to examine power of games in education, health, social impact

August 31, 2012

ASU explores power of play Sept. 27 at Arizona Science Center

Leading researchers, game developers and digital entrepreneurs from the Arizona State University Center for Games and Impact will gather at Arizona Science Center in downtown Phoenix Sept. 27 to discuss and demonstrate the power of computer and video games to influence education, health care and social challenges. Sasha Barab Download Full Image

The event, “Playing Games with a Purpose: The Power of Play in Learning, Health and Social Impact,” is scheduled to take place from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m., and is free and open to the public. Families, ages 6 and older, are welcome.

Presented by the ASU Foundation for A New American University’s Presidential Engagement Programs (PEP), Arizona Science Center and ASU’s Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College, the event requires registration. Arizona Science Center is located at 600 E. Washington St., and validated parking at the Heritage and Science Parking Garage will be provided.

The three founders of the ASU center – co-director Alan Gershfeld and professors Sasha Barab and James Gee – will share the center’s mission, impact areas and initiatives. Additionally, the Game Savvy Teacher Initiative will be launched during the event, and a formal presentation, including previews of the latest educational games, will be demonstrated on the science center’s IMAX theater.

Attendees will be invited to play games with leading game developers in digitally infused educational curriculum. Discussions will be led by Barab, the Pinnacle West Chair of Education in the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College, and the event is the result of a partnership between Arizona Science Center and PEP. The collaboration speaks to an institutional, interdisciplinary effort emerging between the science center and ASU, established and facilitated through the efforts of the ASU Office of Knowledge Enterprise Development.

Computer and video games have emerged as one of the most engaging mediums of the 21st century, generating billions of hours of highly interactive entertainment, even surpassing the film industry in terms of revenue. According to a recent Summit on Education report by the Federation of American Scientists, the success of complex video games demonstrates games can teach higher-order thinking skills such as strategic thinking, interpretative analysis, problem-solving, plan formulation and execution, and adaptation to rapid change.

A growing body of research is highlighting the enormous potential of games to drive meaningful and measurable learning, health and social impact.

The session will explore the power of the medium to create more engaging and effective education models, foster healthy living practices, more efficiently train employees and engage global youth in the critical issues facing a highly-connected, fast-moving, 21st-century world. In addition, hands-on demonstrations will offer attendees new and innovative ways to experience the impact of games.

A founding senior scientist and scholar in ASU’s Learning Sciences Institute, Barab is highly acclaimed for his research on the value of transformational play as well as the development of gaming environments designed to assist children in developing a sense of purpose as individuals, as members of their communities and as knowledgeable citizens of the world.

Formerly the Barbara Jacobs Chair of Education and Technology at Indiana University, Barab is well known for his work in developing the education game “Quest Atlantis,” a ground-breaking learning and teaching project that uses a 3D multi-user environment to immerse children, ages 9-12, in educational tasks.

James Paul Gee is the Mary Lou Fulton Presidential Professor of Literacy Studies, and also a member of the National Academy of Education. His book, “Sociolinguistics and Literacies” (Fourth Edition 2011), was one of the founding documents in the formation of the “New Literacy Studies,” an interdisciplinary field devoted to studying language, learning and literacy in an integrated way in the full range of their cognitive, social and cultural contexts. His most recent books have dealt with video games, language, and learning.

“What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Learning and Literacy” (Second Edition 2007) argues that good video games are designed to enhance learning through effective learning principles supported by research in the learning ciences.

Alan Gershenfeld, Founding Industry Fellow, has spent the last 20 years at the intersection of entertainment, technology and social entrepreneurship. He is currently founder and president of E-Line Media, a publisher of digital entertainment that engages, educates and empowers – with a core focus on computer/video games. E-Line works with leading foundations, academics, non-profits and government agencies to harness the power of games for learning, health, and social impact.

For more information about “Playing Games with a Purpose,” contact Sally Moore at 480-965-4814 or via email at sally.moore@asu.edu.

Steve Des Georges
Senior Director, Editorial Services
ASU Foundation for A New American University

Exhibit explores Phoenix history through stories, science

August 31, 2012

Once upon a time, the Salt River flowed through southern Phoenix. Open canals lined with shady cottonwood trees carried water to farms. Families picnicked on the riverbank, caught fish and swam in the refreshing water.

It’s not like that anymore. Picnicking along the banks of the Salt River Download Full Image

The area’s historic Hispanic and African American neighborhoods have changed dramatically over the past century. A new exhibit, “Environmental Memories of South Central Phoenix,” explores how and why those changes occurred.

The exhibit is co-sponsored by Arizona State University (ASU) and the Phoenix Revitalization Corporation (PRC), a non-profit community development organization dedicated to revitalizing neighborhoods. It will be on display at the George Washington Carver Museum and Cultural Center from Sept. 6, 2012 to Jan. 31, 2013.  

The exhibit uses historic black-and-white photographs to vividly demonstrate how local industries have evolved from farms and Chinese laundries in the early 1900s to the brick yards and auto repair shops of today. Personal interviews with residents whose families have lived in the area for generations are paired with scientific data to help explain how urbanization and industrialization have affected the local community. Visitors will see a replica of a 1920s home and learn how lower-income Phoenicians kept cool in the summertime.

“These are some of the most historic neighborhoods in Phoenix,” says Katelyn Parady, graduate student in the School of Human Evolution and Social Change in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and the exhibit’s project manager. “The people there have a cultural and environmental history that’s very vibrant and strong – and different from other parts of the city. The purpose of the exhibit is to get researchers and residents thinking together about how that history can help us respond to today’s environmental problems, like pollution and climate change.”

Wendoly Abrego, the PRC’s sustainable communities coordinator, says PRC is excited to co-sponsor the exhibit because it provides a history of the area that residents may not know, and also because it addresses environmental issues that may impact their health. Parady conducted ethnographic research with residents in South Central Phoenix as part of a larger study on urban vulnerability to climate change. The study examines the urban heat island in Phoenix and its relationship to land cover, human health and the demographic characteristics of neighborhoods.

“This exhibit is a fine example of community engagement that complements traditional graduate study," says School of Human Evolution and Social Change sociologist Sharon Harlan, the lead researcher on the urban vulnerability study. "Katelyn and other graduate students in our environmental social science doctoral program have done an outstanding job of working with the Phoenix Revitalization Corporation and residents to support and promote this community’s vision of itself. The community-university partnership enriches our research on environmental health and will help create authentic solutions for the climate challenges that lie ahead.”

The exhibit was made possible by the School of Human Evolution and Social Change's museum studies program. Victoria Sargent, an ASU master's student pursuing a certificate in the museum program, designed the exhibit and led the exhibition team.

George Washington Carver Museum and Cultural Center was a segregated high school for African American students from 1926-1954. It became a museum and cultural center in 1996 when alumni purchased the land from the school.

“The exhibit provides an opportunity for us to showcase the history of the community and bring awareness to the facility and the story of that timeframe,” says Princess Crump, executive director of the Carver Museum.

Exhibit dates: Sept. 6-Jan. 31
Admission: Donations welcomed
Location: George Washington Carver Museum and Cultural Center, 415 E. Grant St., Phoenix, AZ 85004
Hours: noon-5 p.m., Monday-Friday, and by appointment
More information: visit azcmcc.org or email info@carvermuseum.com

There will be an opening reception at 5:30 p.m., Sept. 6. The reception is free and open to the public. Refreshments will be served and children are welcome.

This exhibit is based on work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant Numbers GEO-0816168 Urban Vulnerability to Climate Change and DGE-0504248 IGERT in Urban Ecology.

Jodi Guyot, jodi.guyot@asu.edu
School of Human Evolution and Social Change

Rebecca Howe

Communications Specialist, School of Human Evolution and Social Change