third year begins


Grad Student Life Survey results finally published and webified.






Marionberry cidering.

grow things



Always make things. If possible, grow them. Like beer.


some hops and juniper berries.


a pre-chiller.


an erlenmeyer flask full of yeast.


a baby beer.


a spent grain bread loaf.

Flow / game design for edu

access / games

Some thoughts on gaming and access.

A more equitable dragonborn.

A more equitable dragonborn.

If low-SES children are indeed significantly less likely to play games online as Andrews (2008) suggests, then to what extent this has to do with basic access (such as internet speeds, computers capable of playing games, having enough money to purchase games or game subscriptions and so forth) and with social circumstances and social capital (such as having friends who play online games, knowing people who know how to find free games, and having time to play these games).

Internet usage timelapse. Click through for more info.

Internet usage timelapse. Click through for more info.

On the subject of access, SES could affect this in ways that prevent youth from playing games. If the only broadband internet connection available to you is at your school or library, you are unlikely to be able to play anything but casual games. Many schools and libraries limit bandwidth or completely block many websites, and many games must be installed on computers—an activity prohibited in most shared computer labs.

Gaming 2013.

Gaming 2013.

For console games, of course cost of platforms and games is an issue in addition to connectivity. Although many low-SES youth have broadband internet access, it is often through their phones (and thus the motivation for programs like Vozmob, etc). The majority of people in the US play mobile games. However, the vast majority of phone games are casual games (such as Scrabble clones and Angry Birds). Most multiplayer phone games are turn-based and thus very different from a the typically synchronous multiplayer games available on consoles and computers.

Is gaming an equity issue?

Inequity in gaming

SES is a compelling explanation for differences in gaming, but social factors cannot be ignored. For instance, there are many excellent free online games (very sophisticated and well-developed games similar to AAA titles such as World of Warcraft or Halo)—so if affordability is the primary issue, then why are low-SES children not seeking out and playing these games? Is it a matter of marketing? Information literacy? Is it simply because their real life friends are not playing these games?

An eSports counterexample

LoL is a team game, arguably collaborative, with millions of players and fans.

LoL is a team game, arguably collaborative, with millions of players and fans.

Actually, some free-to-play games are insanely popular — not free-to-play but play-to-win games but legitimately free games. One example is the esports powerhouse League of Legends (LoL). This game is not only acclaimed as “the world’s most played video game” but also has a huge fan following when it comes to professional tournament viewership, edging out other esports titles such as Starcraft 2. Despite the success of LoL, the game is controversial for a number of reasons, including its too often rude/juvenile/sexist/racist players (even as plenty of multi-million dollar titles face similar problems with community climate/trolling). LoL is often criticized in other esports circles for being “not a real challenge” or “for kids” whereas Starcraft is for real gamers. Even when a free-to-play game gains worldwide following and esports fandom, it is frowned upon or considered lesser.

It ends with truisms

Given that gender (Andrews, 2008) seems to be a strong predictor of the extent of a child’s gaming and the types of games played, I suspect that SES alone (and gender alone) is not enough to explain significant disparities in gaming practices across different populations. I also suspect that differences in the types of games played are both symptoms and causes of inequity. In online spaces and games, we should theoretically be able to engage in play and collaboration and friendship with anyone; however, SES, gender, race, and other factors are clearly barriers to participation.

How does divergent participation in interactive media affect students? Are there games that youth “should” be playing?

Andrews, G. G. (2008). Gameplay, gender, and socioeconomic status in two American high schools. E-Learning, 5, 199-213.

is media technology a silver bullet for student engagement?

Is technology a one-way ticket to student enagementsville?


Ok, ok. I went to USC for Screenwriting. I have to admit that I would like to believe that multimedia projects are engaging supplements to other writing and storytelling assignments, but I am skeptical.

Nothing is nearly as engaging.

Nothing is nearly as engaging.

My cynicism arises from a few things, mainly: youth are saturated with opportunities for interacting (passively or actively) with media, multimedia creation (especially done well, to the extent that we would want students to learn to complete an essay well) is not easier than writing, and media habits are so diverse (especially among and between different socioeconomic and cultural groups) that a media program may not generalize well to individuals/populations/etc.

Making movies is just so dang cool, the appeal defies a student’s disenchantment with education, their worries about family/safety/money?

Bruce (2009) describes a well-received multimedia program in an affluent school. While these students may well have been more engaged with film projects than typical writing, these students may also already have many factors contributing to their success, such as increased resources (many schools can barely afford computers let alone film equipment and linear editing software). Additionally, the modes of media that these students are familiar and interested with may not be those used by students in other locales and sociocultural locations; it is probably not fruitful to consider how to generalize such programs.


It’s “easy” and “fun” and kids “grew up in the digital age” so it’s “okay.”

I also cringe at the idea that a film (or any other type) course or module would necessarily engage students. Making media may or may not interest students. Even when students are interested, youth—especially teens—have responsibilities that interfere with their core classwork, let alone their extracurricular activities.

The idea that filmmaking (or other types of multimedia creation) are somehow easier for students is also questionable to me. Certainly, digital storytelling is different from composing a story or essay in text. The process may or may not be more enjoyable or understandable.

It's easy to give up when things get challenging, even when you're working with media technology.

It’s easy to give up when things get challenging, even when you’re working with media technology.

Filmmaking, for instance, isn’t simple or easy. Nonlinear editing requires fine motor skills, technical knowledge, and reading skills, awareness of editing principles, etc etc etc. Composing a shot that conveys what you want it to mean is not trivial. Even with new, cheap Flip-esque cameras, technical problems and overwritten files and out of focus lenses are par for the course. Moreover, filmmaking takes time—longer, often, than writing. A few dedicated students might edit for hours and outside of regular class time; this is not trivial in terms of student or teacher commitment. Integrating media literacy into the curriculum further complicates these types of activities. This tirade is not meant to discount the potential for multimedia in promoting student literacies—but I question the types of language that we use and the assumptions we make. Media isn’t inherently interesting or fun or easy.