Teaching Commons > Events > Teaching & Learning Conference > Playing with a Purpose (2012)

Playing with Purpose: Applying Game Design Principles for Learning (2012)

James Paul Gee giving keynote address at conference.
James Paul Gee gives the keynote address during the 2012 conference.
This year we celebrated the 17th anniversary of the conference. Notable presentations included a workshop from Katie Salen (CDM) and a keynote by James Paul Gee, a nationally recognized scholar and Mary Lou Fulton Presidential Professor of Literacy Studies at Arizona State University. In addition, concurrent sessions were held throughout the day, with approximately 20 presentations from DePaul faculty and staff.

Keynote Presentation: What Video Games Have to Teach Us about Teaching and Learning

In his keynote presentation, Professor James Paul Gee argued that good video games incorporate good principles of both teaching and learning. Furthermore, they do so in ways that portend the future of teaching and learning in society, though with important issues centered on equity and access. He argued that video games do not teach via a game (as software) alone but via the game combined with certain ways of socially organizing learning outside the game, in what he calls “passionate affinity spaces.” Digital literacies—of which games are a part—operate in many ways like traditional literacy, since both are technologies for making meaning and solving problems. Both are capable of doing good or doing harm and have good or bad effects only in specific contexts of use.

About the Keynote Speaker

James Paul Gee is the Mary Lou Fulton Presidential Professor of Literacy Studies at Arizona State University. He is a member of the National Academy of Education. His book Social Linguistics and Literacies (4th Ed., 2011) was one of the founding documents in the formation of the “New Literacy Studies,” and his most recent books have dealt with video games, language, and learning. What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Learning and Literacy (2nd Ed., 2007) argues that good video games are designed to enhance learning through effective learning principles supported by research in the Learning Sciences. Situated Language and Learning (2004) places video games within an overall theory of learning and literacy and shows how they can help us in thinking about the reform of schools. His other recent books include: Good Video Games and Good Learning: Collected Essays (2007)How to Do Discourse Analysis (2011)Women and Gaming: The Sims and 21st Century Learning (2010) and Language and Learning in the Digital Age (2011), both written with Elizabeth Hayes.

Afternoon Workshop: Design for Game-like Learning

To conclude the conference, CDM Professor Katie Salen led a practical workshop that provided an opportunity for a hands-on exploration into ways of bringing game-like or challenge-based learning into your classroom. Rather than thinking about a total redesign of your course, she instead focused on enhancing the strengths that already exist in terms of content, classroom structures, and learning outcomes through the integration of core principles of game design and play. These include approaches to creating contexts for collaborative problem-solving, the integration of participatory digital media tools and platforms, and incentive and motivation structures.


  • Morning Sessions
    • "Play It Again, Sam: Using Successive, Short, Role-Playing Scenarios in the Classroom for Student Success" [slides (798 KB)].  Krista Johnsen Mikos, School of Public Service.
    • “'It's-a me, Mario!'—What Playing Video Games Taught Me about Effective Online Course Design" [website].  James Moore, Driehaus College of Business.
    • "Using Analogies to Teach Complicated Processes" [slides (711 KB); handout(88 KB)].  Richard Hudson, College of Science and Health.
    • "Teaching Excellence Lunch Panel" [slides (141 KB)].  Phil Timberlake, The Theatre School.
    • "Organic Web: An Interactive Web-based Approach to Teaching and Learning Organic Chemistry" [slides (1408 KB)].  Matthew Dintzner, College of Science and Health.
    • "Competition, Social Change, and Business Presentations" [slides (737 KB)].  Beth Zoufal (College of Communication), Kristen Pengelly (Campus Recreation), and Adriane Stoner (College of Communication). 
    • "Improving Engagement in a Traditional Programming Class through Progressive Challenge and Community Building" [slides (146 KB)].  Amber Settle, College of Computing and Digital Media.
    • "Today's College Students: What Makes Them so Different from When I Was in College?" [slides (141 KB)].  Peggy Burke and James Halstead, O.S.A.
    • "Learning Principles in Teaching and Video Games [slides (722 KB)].  Peter Hastings, Jarvis ​College of Computing and Digital Media.