Penn State ID2ID Program: Reflecting on our accomplishments and challenges thus far


By Erin McCully and Susannah Simmons

Initial thoughts on the Penn State ID2ID program

We really didn’t know what to expect when starting the ID2ID program, but one thing was clear. We were fortunate to have been randomly paired together in a wildly successful, worldwide program.

The open structure of the ID2ID program has allowed us to choose our own topic of interest. We decided to explore accessibility online education and set the lofty goal of hosting an accessibility event that focused on the “how” of accessibility, rather than the “why.”

As an added benefit, Susannah introduced Erin to an online ID community named Their slack group connects instructional designers across the country and helps IDs discuss current challenges and offers an outlet for brainstorming new solutions with like-minded professionals. This was particularly helpful for Erin because her work could sometimes feel isolated.


We have determined the type of event we will host, the date, and the audience for the event. We have also teamed up with another ID2ID team, La Dawna Minnis and Sam Coulson, while Susannah has made connections with Mike Hess and Ethan Twisdale from the Blind Institute of Technology. Ethan will be our guide in creating an accessible Word document that can be read by a free screen reader.

Next Steps & Progress

We need to do the following:

  • Determine the roles each of us will take during the event
  • Create and distribute marketing materials
  • Find a webinar platform

Unanticipated Obstacles

It isn’t always easy for the four of us IDs to get together once a week via Zoom, but we are managing! We originally thought one of us would have access to the Zoom webinar feature, but that is not the case. We are currently looking for a webinar solution.

Might the ID2ID program be able to help us find a webinar platform?

Addressing Obstacles

We are currently reaching out to members of the group to see if someone has access to a webinar platform for our event. There must be someone out there who can share their resources, especially for such an important topic. We will keep shaking trees until we find a platform and the event isn’t until November 15th, so have through October to secure a solution.

Future Plans

We will continue to meet at a regular weekly time and whoever is unable to be present can catch up using the slack channel or the shared Google doc. We are hopeful that this first session with Ethan may turn into a series that will help instructional designers and others become more familiar with how to create accessible materials and address other issues of accessibility in education.

My Code Combat Affinity Space Experience

One of the final Games and Learning projects is a presentation of my Code Combat affinity space. Through this game designed for young students, I was able to learn the basics of javascript code. My Camtasia video details why I think the following three Gee and Haye’s affinity space features apply to the Code Combat discourse:

  1. The development of both specialist and broad, general knowledge are encourage and specialized knowledge is pooled.

  2. There are many different forms and routes to participation.

  3. A view of learning that is individually proactive, but does not exclude help, it’s encouraged.



Gee, J. P., & Hayes, E. (2011). Nurturing Affinity Spaces and Game-Based Learning. Learning and Meaning in the Digital Age Games, Learning, and Society, 129-153. doi:10.1017/cbo9781139031127.015



The “Pedagogical Trifecta” of Game Making

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All semester, I have been studying how game playing fosters learning. I never considered making the leap to game making as an exceptional learning opportunity, until I noticed a retweet in my Games and Learning course’s #ILT5320 Twitter feed. The article Why Making Your Own Video Games Leads to Quality Learning by Jordan Shapiro completely shifted my games and learning paradigm. Why didn’t I make that connection sooner? The discourse of gamers becoming game makers is an obvious progression.

  • gamers (be)come) Gamers
  • Gamers (be)come game makers
  • game makers (be)come Game Makers

Shapiro explained that applications like Gamestar Mechanic, Unity, GameMaker, and Scratch have been “video game changers” that removed the necessity to master coding in order to create a game. Now, children who have been playing video games all their life are better able to analyze and interpret what the game design, mechanics, and aesthetic means to their experience. They are reflecting upon their game playing observations, which makes sense for any sort of enthusiast. 

In creating a game, there is an intentional shift from simply interacting with a game to interpreting and analyzing how to create a game. This requires the application of STEM skills in order to envision how the game will play for others. For this reason, the National STEM Video Game Challenge was founded and created to motivate youth to transform their game playing skills into game making skills. Last year, almost 4000 middle and high schoolers competed in the 2014-2015 National STEM Video Game Challenge for cash and software prizes. This year’s competition is underway and students have until August 15th to submit an entry.

Not only is game making valuable for developing STEM skills, Shapiro describes game making as the “pedagogical trifecta” of quality learning. (For us elearning geeks, it doesn’t get much better than pedagogical trifecta, unless of course, it’s a pedagogical superfecta.)  Game creation combines content, affective/experiential, and metacognitive learning. A great example would be my assignment to play and reflect upon the board game Pandemic in my Games and Learning course:

  • Content – Studying how games foster learning
  • Affective/Experiential – Playing the game, Pandemic
  • Metacognitive – Reflecting upon the cooperative mechanics of Pandemic

Shapiro explained that making a game forces intentional thought and design decisions. If I were to take all that I’ve learned from the above Pandemic example and create a game, my learning would compound with interest. On a side note, I am certain, given my experience and study, if I were to create a game, it would be cooperative. However, deciding that my game would be cooperative is only one decision and there are millions more to make. For example:

  • Do I have characters in my game?
  • What will they look like?
  • Do I even need characters?
  • What’s my storyline?
  • What is the goal of my game?
  • How to I make a cooperative goal that’s appealing to others?..and the list goes on.

The evolution of game playing into game making is a huge deal. It means that students are able to metacognitively connect the dots and step outside the role of player into the role of creator. With the 2015-2016 National STEM Video Game Challenge underway, perhaps participation will reach new heights of more than 4000 game makers this year. (I know it’s cheesy, but I have to say it.) To all of this year’s National STEM Video Game Challenge participants, “You’re all winners!”

It’s about the community, stupid.

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Between my affinity space, open annotations, and scholarly critiques required of my Games and Learning class at CU Denver, I keep coming back to the importance of community. Each of these aspects revolves around curating new connections and deepening my understanding of applying play skillfully. I feel like I’m beginning to think in a completely new way: the community I form now will sustain me in my new career after school.

Affinity Space

Although I have never posted on the Code Combat discourse board, I have been able to find most any answer I need when stumped by the game. Even simple problems are openly discussed on the board for the world to see. All my needs are being met through lurking, but if I were to build community, active participation is warranted.  

Open Annotations & Scholarly Critiques

Annotating the course readings through has led to new streams of curiosity. Often times a conversation over a reading would lead to my next article to critique. I have become quite picky about my articles because I’m not simply completing the assignment, I’m carving my own unique, educational pathway. More specifically, here are a couple conversations that led me down the path of critiquing articles on serious play and playful assessment: 

Games Taken Seriously = Serious Play Learning

I previously wrote The Science Behind Serious Games around the game, Mars Generations One: Argubot Academy EDU, which was a collaboration between GlassLab, The Educational Testing Service, and Pearson Education. I was amazed by the idea of learning scientists developing learning progressions to create superior learning experiences. I thought, “Wow, learning scientists must be really smart people. They have the secrets to how to make a learning progression.” My professor, Remi Holden, point blank asked if I could describe what learning progressions they used or what research they shared to back it up. I could not answer his question. I think I got enamored by the flashy words and big name companies. This was a reminder to always dig a bit deeper.

Below is a snippet of our conversation where Remi suggests I look into the research behind the serious game, Place Out of Time (POOT).  

He directed me to his the article, It Matters Because It’s a Game: Serious Games and Serious Players by Jeff Kupperman and team. I devoured this article and realized the game they created wasn’t some high-tech video game. It was a very thoughtful, imaginative opportunity for students to act out their characters roles in a safe, online setting. Then I thought, “Hey, I could do that!” it was a nice perspective shift to see that I am fully capable of being a part of the serious game scene. 

Assess(ment) as Play?

My next tip-off stemmed from a conversation with Remi about the article, Questing as learning: iterative course design using game inspired elements by Seann M. Dikkers. In the margins of this readings, Remi respectfully disagree with Dikker’s belief that time is best spent playing the games online and not in the classroom. This statement intrigued me, so I asked for specific examples about how playing games in Remi’s classroom proved to be valuable learning experiences.

Our conversation pointed to my next article of study, which happened to be written by Remi himself: Playful Possibilities for Assessment: Fluffy Ducks and The Queen’s Gambit  I was beginning to see that playful teaching and learning were not just a technique to use, but rather a pedagogical way of being. True, playful learning requires more of the students, but it also requires more of the teacher. Playful teachers need to be just as interested and invested in the students’ learning as the students themselves.

The scholarly critiques have proven the most enlightening part of this cycle’s activities. The articles about serious play in POOT and Playful Possibilities for Assessment opened me up to the larger playful learning movement. These articles, along with my conversations are influencing and shaping my educational path. So much so, that I found a way, which is very well hidden might I add, to develop my own independent study this summer to further explore playful learning, open source education, and instructional design and technology.  

Changed Preconceptions

My biggest realization has been that a game doesn’t have to be complex or full of rich video game graphics to be engaging. In the context of POOT, I love the element of imagination tempered with serious role play. The students get to chose their character, but they are also expected to convincingly play this person through their discussions and word choice. The game maker has captured the student’s  imagination, which means that even I, without any video game creation experience, could create a playful and meaningful learning experience. 

Growing Network

My annotations and work as a CU Tech TA have been creating a critical mass in me on the topic of open educational technology. I’m starting to know the key players and have begun to connect the dots tracing back from my first class this past summer, Digital Storytelling. There are so many wonderful avenues to explore and connections to make. I’ve listed a few of the connections below:  

  • Medium
  • DS106
  • Jim Groom
  • Digital Pedagogy Lab
  • Quest 2 Learn
  • LTMedia.lab
  • Domain of One’s Own

What I’m left with is how to ensure that I truly become a part of the community. It seems that there so much to do in order to stay current within the realm of educational, technology.

  • Do I tweet enough?
  • Do I read enough?
  • Do I tinker enough?

Right now I’m simply trying to catch all the information as it comes at me. Luckily, I learned about Google+ Communities in another class and am using it as a warehouse for information. Who knows, maybe it’ll grow into something, but right now, I’m happy to have found a good system for tracking all the information flying at me.

I’m creating a personal learning network in order to ensure, sustain, and grow my career in education technology.