As a graduate student at Ohio State University, Michelle Aubrecht was fortunate to work as a graduate assistant at the Digital Union – auspicious for both Aubrecht and the Digital Union. Her work soon became her passion, and she developed into the Digital Union’s game pedagogy expert. Aubrecht has since grown the program to support and educate faculty, staff and students, reaching over 200 people in diverse departments. “My current projects have pulled together all I’ve learned about working with children, grant writing, and coordinating projects with everything I studied,” says Aubrecht. “The result is that I anticipate making a great educational video game and creating a self-sustaining learning community and badge system around the game.”
Here, Aubrecht tells us about her hopes for the future, and why she believe hands-on learning is essential to today’s students.
What has changed as a result of your efforts?
Mostly me. However, I think Ohio State University is opening up to the idea of research about game-based learning.
How can others facing similar challenges implement what you’ve learned through your work?
Allow yourself to be open to ideas and ways of thinking and learning, and realize that not everyone thinks about things or learns the way you do. Respect and gratitude are the most important ideas that guide me.
How have you applied technology in innovative ways to support your work?
I read books and articles by people whose work I admire, or I follow them on their websites or projects they are involved in, or attend their presentations at conferences. I read blog articles and attend webinars on technology, but mostly about game-based learning. I take time to reflect upon how to best implement the ideas I see, looking for ways to make connections among people and in my immediate community. Primarily, I work with other people so that together we make something bigger than what I could make by myself.
What conditions must change in your country to better support education?
I would like to see schools use their computer labs for after-school programs, integrating with the community, involving both adults and tech savvy students to staff them. Game making is the best activity I can imagine for kids to be involved with – being on a team, working together to make something. These resources should be used and shared.
What is the best opportunity for innovation in education?
Providing opportunities for children to apply what they are learning through creative acts and self-expression and integrating disciplines, as opposed to presenting knowledge in a siloed way, especially among the younger learners. Hands-on learning is very important, especially for children. I appreciate the Montessori method and it seems to offer a promising way of teaching and learning, but I am not trained in it.
What advice would you give a new teacher (or to anyone wanting to make a difference in education)?
Find a teaching environment where the administrators treat you as a professional and respect your need to grow professionally, and encourage you to use formative assessment methods regularly.
What educational “trend” do you think is helping students? Is there a trend that is getting in the way of learning?
Testing using multiple-choice questions is getting in the way of learning. For example, the No-Child Left Behind program relies on testing to evaluate a student’s ability and the effectiveness of a teacher’s teaching methods. I believe this has undermined education, focusing learning on memorization rather than contextualized, deep learning where students learn systems thinking, analytical and critical thinking, problem-solving skills and evidence-based reasoning.
If you could give one educational tool to every child in the world, what would it be? Why?
A computer with Internet access. It’s like have a portable library, plus all there’s all the things you can do, make (with the right apps/software), play with, not to mention the ways you can communicate through it.
About Michelle Aubrecht
Game-based learning specialist, Ohio State University, Art Education
Aubrecht hosts monthly game pedagogy meetings, writes blog articles, teaches workshops, and created a game-based learning wiki. She has written two book chapters on game pedagogy, one published in 2011 by IGI Global and one currently at press. Aubrecht is the coordinator and environment artist for the NEH-funded project “Meet the Earthworks Builders,” a video game, and is currently coordinating the HASTAC-funded project for the stage one winning team, working with partners from Digital Watershed. She also designed and hosted the game-based learning area for eTech Ohio’s 2012 annual conference.
Birthplace: Shelbyville, Indiana
Current residence: Delaware, Ohio
Education: BA, History from College of Wooster, and MA in Art Education from Ohio State University
Website I check regularly: http://www.reddit.com/, http://lifehacker.com/
Person who inspires me most: Katie Salen: http://www.cdm.depaul.edu/people/pages/facultyinfo.aspx?fid=1037
Favorite childhood memory: exiting my playroom and entering my fenced-in backyard on a beautiful sunny, summer day when I was 5, ready to play and deciding what to do first: swing-set, sandbox, tricycle…I felt like the world was a very good place.
Next travel destination (work or pleasure): Istanbul and Greece, summer 2012
(pleasure) Madison, WI for the GLS conference and NYC for the G4C conference, summer 2012 (work)
When was the last time you laughed? Why? This morning. I read a poster on my friend’s Facebook page. I laughed out loud. I regularly laugh when watching Jon Stewart and Arrested Development (just finished watching it on Netflix). I love to make people laugh, and am always looking for situational humor and commenting, and I laugh, even if no one else does. I am not good at telling jokes, however.
Favorite book: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (fiction), A people’s history of the
U.S. by Howard Zinn (non-fiction)
Favorite video game: Skyrim
Favorite music: Talking Heads, 90’s alternative such as Pearl Jam, Nirvana
Your favorite quote or motto: Don’t really have one, but I just made this one up a few
weeks ago: “You can’t find new ground if you’re looking back.”
For more information on Michelle Aubrecht’s projects: http://hastac.org/node/103542/content/blogs