GLS11 Recap

July 17, 2015

Each summer, GLS (Games+Learning+Society) hosts a conference that brings together game designers, researchers, teachers, and like-minded organizations to talk about games and learning. GLS tracks and promotes innovation in educational gaming, and all of us at iCivics work hard to apply best practices to everything that we do. So, on Wednesday I jumped a plane bound for some serious fun and learning. (Also cheese curds, I went for the cheese curds.)

The conference was held at the University of Wisconsin- Madison on the sunny banks of Lake Mendota. Sessions covered everything from the role of narrative and the use of meta-fiction in game play,  to the state of research on culture of modding communities (the folks to hack/modify games for new experiences), to an inside peek at what it’s like being the White House “Fun Czar”.  What united these sessions and the others is a shared goal of improving the field- be it through research, great new games, or innovative teaching practices.

There were a lot of great ideas that lead to pages and pages of notes and ideas for implementation with the iCivics curriculum. It was also very cool to find myself nodding along with researchers’ findings. Support games with activities? We do that!  Promote discussion before and after games? All over it! Base game mechanics on learning objectives? But of course!  

Thursday night saw gamers and developers alike polishing their sneakers for two main events: a competition, and… a party. The GLS Showcase featured five amazing educational games and the winner was the historical game, Czechoslovakia 38-39: Assassination by the team at AMIS.  Check out the trailer here.

After the awards ended, the crowd moved downtown to the open house event at the new offices of our pals at Filament Games. A jazz band played along with the “ooohs” and “ahhhs” of my fellow party goers taking in the Madison skyline. Games were set up around the office to help us let off some steam after sitting in conference rooms all day. I had the immense pleasure of meeting an iCivics teacher in the Madison school district, Kurt. We swapped stories and shared ideas for cool new stuff from iCivics.

Late Friday night, I traveled back to DC with visions of data sets, game ideas, and bratwursts dancing in my head.  I am already looking forward to attending next summer, who’s with me?
Carrie Ray-Hill iCivics

Carrie Ray-Hill is the Director of Programming at iCivics and oversees the conceptualization and development of iCivics’ educational resources, with a particular concern for teacher usability.  She is responsible for maintaining a consistent focus on iCivics’ educational mission.   In addition to seeking out the finest of cheeses, Carrie spends her spare time watching cats on the internet, making cookies for the office, and killing zombies.