Currentlab Teacher Institute 2014

My mind is still reeling as I write this. Yesterday, Dr. Ryan Patton (website) and I concluded the very first Currentlab Teacher Institute on New Media Tools and Digital Game Design for K-12 Art Education. In one word, this week was supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. In attendance, we had 1 Emerging Technology Librarian and 15 VA Art Educators from every school level and different counties. We had 1 week of classes, 9am – 4:30 pm, to share resources, connections, lessons, art relevancy, Game Maker programming, two guest speakers, and 4 different modules on bringing games into art programs.

Dr. Ryan Patton has been working up to this point for 8 years, through research and implementation in summer programs, after-school non-profit programs, and in public schools. In the Fall of 2011, Patton began teaching in the VCU Art Education Department, where I took his ARTE 310 pre-service course. The following summer, he gave me the opportunity to continue his program of Basic and Advanced Game Design at the Smithsonian Associates Summer Camp. After 8 weeks, I was hooked and started collaborating with him to improve resources and develop new ones.

Besides this being one of the most ridiculously fantastic experiences of my life, I am so excited to see what our Currentlab attendees do with their new skills and knowledge over the next year. This year, as a result of this week, I estimate that at least 400 VA K-12 students are going receive game design on some level in their art classes or after-school programs. I knew I needed a way to map out what happened over the week for both myself and for the institute as we continue developing. Visual Mapping is one of my favorite ways to reflect, understand, and decompress abstract concepts. I use it with my students and the gallery pictures are a result of this week.

For those of you who find this headache inducing, here’s a quick synopsis of what we did in Currentlab 2014.

We dissected Game Structure and Mechanics, examining them from both Analog (Non-Digital) and Digital perspectives. The participants created analog games and two core types of video games, the “freeform” and the “platform.” We had two guest speakers. Nate Kling (website) shared perspectives on sprite animation, indie game design, game-related careers, and fine art connections. Haley Gravis (website) shared interactive physical computing with augmented keyboards. Her hands-on demonstration with Makey Makey and Verve was eye-opening to avenues for collaborative circuit design for students of all ages. We shared more resources and received more feedback than I know what to do with right now.

Dr. Patton received grant support from the National Endowment of the Arts and VCU to continue his work in game design education. Future Currentlab developments are imminent and anticipated.  We intend to keep contact with our participants and are looking forward to all the ways they use games in their programs. Anyone interested in more information on Currentlab should visit the website.

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