Thursday, October 30, 2008

More Learning in 2008

I knew that being involved in the Emergent Media Center was going to be an excellent opportunity to get involved in a creative and technical field with greater, social purpose that feeds my soul.  I’m not the only one as 60+ students who work at the center feel the same way during the time I interview them for positions prior to hiring them. Being part of a young generation who can have the opportunity to work in areas rarely explored is incredible and, knowing all of them, they would agree with me.

As an example, Saturday morning, October 25, Ann DeMarle, 6 Students and I, flew out to Orlando, Florida for the Learning 2008 conference.

Once again, the Emergent Media Center was offered another amazing opportunity by Elliott Masie to have a group of students create a game within a 3-day period on the topic of “Teleworking”.  This year’s stellar team consisted of Chris Rolfs, Kate Baxter, Max Nichols, Auston Montville, Dan Peavey, and Vanessa Blockland.

I must say, the audience, and even I, was impressed with what they pulled off in the short amount of time they had to research, design and program the game.

I view my job at the center as to not only act as the Project Director and to manage projects, but to also help students manage their lives in many cases.  At the conference, the students were working non-stop.

Almost ironically, some of the topics brought up in the game this past week revolved around the idea of balancing out work and life.  Their time awake over the short period was about 60 hours and all of it was worth the effort from their point of view.  They barely slept, needed to cut loose to release their stress and take a breather, but it was not easy.

It took me a little finessing with the help of some attendees and literally closing a laptop of a student to pry them away the last night so they could have some fun by dancing on the dance floor.

Later at probably around 4am, they started sprinting up and down the long, empty corridors to have a little more enjoyment… There’s nothing wrong with that, right?  I’m glad they had some freedom to have fun, which should be part of the whole experience of having a job in my mind.

When they took the stage the final day, they impressed.

Their game is called “Teletrust” and focuses on how employees of a company need to gain each other’s trust while working from home to complete important individual and team tasks with distractions getting in their way.

My eyes swelled as they presented and showed off the game on stage to the 1,800+ attendees.  They spoke well with confidence.

People laughed and applauded as the game mechanics and in-game jokes worked well.  It proved how the team did their research, listened and created the content based on the Learning 2008 participants’ input, feedback and contributions.  Even Tony O'Driscoll had blogged a bit about it!  People filled the halls after the closing session, while we were packing up and getting to ready for the bus to the airport, telling the students how awesome they are and how much fun they had as participants in the game process.  I believe we even had some “groupies” who hung out during every day to talk and catch a glimpse of what was to come.

The game at this point works and is fully functional, however, the students want to spend this weekend to fix a few game play/balancing issues and minor bugs.  In addition to this, they want to continue developing a side component to the game that makes it modular and modifiable. It is not critical to the deliverable people were expecting, but they thought it would vital for the companies who want to use this tool to easily modify game components, without delving into the open source code, to fit in line better with the companies’ training goals.  Who does or thinks this way other than professionals with a large amount of time?!?!

What a great experience it was to be involved in this great process and event.  Unfortunately, Ann had to bow out as she hopped a plane to Boston on Tuesday, a day and a half before the conference ended, to attend the CIMIT Innovation Conference.  She’s definitely a busy woman… Maybe she’ll read this post to get the update on what happened when she’s back.  ;o)

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Emergent Media Center Open House Celebration

Yesterday we celebrated all the work of our marvelous students, staff and faculty with an Open House Event!

News coverage has been incredible and I would like to share it with you. Wonderful is that, in the varying publications and video coverage, you can hear and see many of our students and our team.

It was great for the students to connect up with industry, government and community to share their projects. Here are blog posts by students Heather Conover and another by Robert Witbeck before and after the event which illustrates the depth of their commitment to their work:
Below are the press links that I can find at present.
Seven Days:
The Burlington Free Press:
Television News:
WCAX TV news:
You can see photos of the event courtesy Steve Mease, three of which are in this post, at:

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

It's in the Air

It is fall in New England. There couldn't be a more beautiful experience. The entire world explodes into flaming oranges, reds and golds before going quietly to sleep. Change and intensity are in the air—life at Champlain is fully awake from the summer's slumber and all is aflame on the learning fronts. I wonder if the students sleep at all during this time. It is insightful to read the student blogs and listen to their creative roar as they attack the myriad of learning instances that involve them.
Likewise the Center is in almost over its head. This month is our busiest to date. The new facility is still being adjusted but we are firmly "in" evidenced by the new set of doors that grace our entry. 
Aminata's visit was all we could hope for. The students connected to their sponsor sharing their discoveries. Aminata directed us all to reach broader and empowered us with her deep intellect. Wonderfully, news coverage highlighted our project. Here are two links to coverage:
  1. To Public Radio station WAMC
  2. To WCAX TV coverage with both a written description AND video clip
Coming up next week is the Center's official Open House. All are invited to meet our students, test drive their projects, partake in conversation, food and emergent media from 4:00-6:30. Vermont Governor James Douglas will hold a press conference at 4:30 to discuss his hopes for Vermont in this sphere. Our friends from around the globe are invited to a post-opening dinner exploring collaborative opportunities in the emergent media sphere.
Speaking of Governors, I just received very big personal news. I have been elected to a three year term as an IEEE Computer Society Board of Governor! It is an incredible honor with potential to connect youth to an esteemed organization. Last month IEEE Computer Magazine published an article I wrote entitled "Standards: Innovation and Value" on the place for standards in game development.

Two weeks from now student teams will be participating in two major external events all about innovation:
  1. Elliott Masie's Learning 2008 in Orlando where once again a student team will be challenged to create games on site with participation from attendees. I will be conducting workshops on developing games.
  2. CIMIT's Innovation Congress where students will act as docents guiding attendees through games supporting medicine and health to include two of our own projects - the Cystic Fibrosis project with Dr. Peter Bingham and CIMIT's RIPS project with Ryan Scott Bardsley.
By the end of the month, as the trees lose their splendor, we will be more than ready to take in the night air and celebrate Halloween. Students have been deciding what EMC staff and faculty, Ray, Sarah, Heather, Ken and myself shall come costumed as. All great fun!