Category Archives: NASAGA

What now? How we will be continuing EDL 290T. Part one: Process.

Social Distancing is now a part of our lives, at least for the foreseeable future. Unfortunately, now I won’t be able to see the students in my class for the rest of the semester and watch them learning and playing games. However, we will still be moving forward with the class, and I’ve spent the past few weeks trying to figure out how we would be moving forward with this class. At the same time I’ve been contemplating what to do with my OTHER class as well, which is student organization leadership. That class also uses games, activities, and interactive activities to teach students what they need to know about making their student organizations the best they can be.

This blog is mainly going to be aimed at my students in 290T and is all about: how are we going to continue this class going forward? It will be a challenge, more for some than others, but we are going to work to make it through. I will offer what tools I know of and will gladly accept feedback from others. I have received feedback already from friends and colleagues that teach games, from one who work in the games industry and much more to help come up with some of the options we have for continuing this class. I’m dividing this into two separate blogs. Today we are going to focus more on the HOW. How will you continue getting the experience you signed up for, or to the best of your abilities, while we are distance learning. The next blog will be more of the WHAT. What games will will be playing? For that I will say I’ve opened a lot more options for what we could do, including video games.

A short note there: when the class was created one of my supporters asked about and thought this was going to be a video game related class. I told her it would not as we would not be feasible to have everyone purchase, say, a PS4 and a bunch of video game to take the class. However, I’ve always told the class we can use video games for many of the assignments. Now, as I will (next time) be providing a list of games people can play and letting them pick what and how they play we will open video games up as an option.

So: on to how we will do what we will do:

Play the game. The simplest solution: If you own the game, play the game with people! Another option is, if you have the capabilities, play with your classmates over Skype, Google Hangouts, etc. If one person has the game and can focus a camera on the board it will create a way for you to play the game with others either in class or other friends.

You can watch an example of a couple of my NASAGA friends playing Gloomhaven in this manner.

Mark and Melissa from NASAGA playing Gloomhaven (YouTube link)

Board Game Arena – I’ve used Board Game Arena to test a few games I was interested in trying to see if I wanted to buy/remember how to play. Students will be able to play many different games here for free. You will need to register for an account soon as they are filling up on spots with the ongoing crisis.

A game of Seasons from Board Game Arena. Taken from the forum site for BGA.

Tabletopia – Also free (however with much of the content premium where you do need to buy the game), Tabletopia has a TON of great games you can play. I would suggest downloading the app via Steam over the website interface but realistically you can do either to play the games you want for class.

Tabletopia cover image. Showing the Tabletopia logo and some games from Tabletopia in action.

Tabletop Simulator – Another Steam option, however this one is 19.99 (plus some games you have to buy separately.)

Tabletop Simulator Logo

The Crucible Online – For one week Keyforge is going to be an option. The Crucible allows you to play Keyforge online with others.

A game of Keyforge in progress from The Crucible Online.

For video games, these are just a few of the choices. However, I would look into which, if any, of these options work best for you and feel free to reach out to me with any comments, concerns, or questions. Soon we will have the list of optional games we will use going forward in the class.

I look forward to continuing EDL 290T in this rather unorthodox way soon!

EDL 290T: Origins, Trailers, and more!

Yesterday something awesome happened that relates to the class and I decided I would blog about it today. I’m glad I didn’t last night, because something new happened today that I also need to share!

Last summer I blogged twice about my experience at Origins Game Fair and how I could relate some of the things to the class. I later blogged about how a connection I made there helped to improve the class.

Bethany and I discussed things earlier this semester and decided we wanted to try something new. We know Origins does educators passes and wants to start doing more educational programming. So we decided to submit a session about how we use board games for leadership. Well, in short…we were selected and if you look in the event grid you can come see Bethany and I presenting at Origins! For us going to one of the largest board game conventions in the world and talking about this little class we created based on a dream is just amazing. The question remains: will anyone care and want to see what we have done based on a NASAGA dream and Bethany forcing it into reality…but just the fact we are part of the program amazes me.

Origins Session

So as I was preparing to write the blog a student from when Aidyn taught a session of the class emailed me. His name is Jeremy Gunsett and he came into class when John and I were teaching to film things about our class for a class project. He created a preview for the class and gave me permission to use it to promote the class! So…in addition to the awesome news about Origins, I can also now present a video showing what EDL 290T is like! The video showcases the game demo day where students last semester were showing the games they created for the class and letting others play them. Jeremy did an excellent job of capturing exactly what makes this class such a special experiment. Check it out!

Too many people I could thank that keeps the train rolling on this class but thank you to everyone who continues to make this class a reality!

Games in Schools and Libraries Podcast

This is going to be the most casual, conversational blog I write most likely. Just because…well…I am blown away.

I won’t lie…in 2012 when I had the idea for this class after attending the NASAGA conference (which you should absolutely attend this October) it was little more than a dream I thought was a cool idea. The EDL department (and in particular Dr. Kathleen Knight Abowitz) supported the idea. It was really Bethany MacMillan who made the idea a reality. Dr. Bob De Schutter and the IMS Department supported us as we got started in making it happen. It couldn’t have happened without CTE and the grant we received through them. Thankful for Jennifer, my wife, always supporting what I do. However…all of that said it still feels like a dream that this is a thing we did…even though the class is very much a reality that around 70 students have taken so far and another batch is prepared to take this fall.

It seemed so weird to me I still have the screen shot when the course list first came out and I saw the class listed. I had been teaching classes for a decade but this was something totally different.

Course Listing

This is the original course listing for EDL 290T for the first time.

I was surprised when the university wanted to send in a photographer to take pictures for use in marketing materials to show the awesome classes we have at Miami. Now another step that seemed dream like but isn’t: at the end of March Bethany and I were recorded as guests for the Games in Schools and Libraries podcast. Really…why would anyone care about this little class we created? But people seemed to and now we were being recorded for a podcast.

That podcast is now live. Which just doesn’t seem real to me. I won’t lie…it always baffles me when people consider me knowledgeable or an expert on any type of content…primarily because I know me and I don’t consider me an expert on anything, for the most part. People asking me for advice or looking to me as this great wise person just baffles and humbles me. However, I’ll ride this train (I have a Ticket to Ride!) for as long as I can and enjoy it while I can.

Games in Schools and Libraries Website

Feel free to follow the link/click the picture to go to the GSL website to hear our podcast.

Thanks to all those that have taken the class, helped make the class possible, and that have believed in me! Don’t worry…this is just the beginning!

What is NASAGA?


The North American Simulation and Gaming Association

We will be talking a bit about NASAGA over the course of this blog. NASAGA has had a tremendous impact on us (and our ideas and methods for creating the class as well as other aspects of our work.) So, I feel we should introduce what NASAGA is.

NASAGA is the North American Simulation and Gaming Association.  From the website, “The North American Simulation and Gaming Association is THE home for trainers, teachers, and educators who use active learning methods to increase engagement, enhance retention, and improve performance.”  When people hear I’m going to a “gaming conference” for professional development they frequently question whether I am attending a professional conference and whether it is worth the university’s money. After seeing the results of what I have produced after attending the conference those questions quickly vanish. I can also point people to NASAGA’s Why Use Games page to help explain why our approach works.

My first trip to NASAGA was in 2012. Part of the ability to attend was it was close-two hours away in Columbus. While there I not only met some fantastic people but also was rejuvenated and blown away by the ideas and approaches that were being taken for training and learning. I had previously attended another excellent conference roughly 20 times (NACA-the National Association for Campus Activities) which I enjoyed but rarely hit my particular learning style. Someone I had met through NACA suggested I consider NASAGA and it was amazing. I felt awkward at first attending a conference where I didn’t know anyone and knew little of what to expect but quickly was enveloped into the fold and made to feel like I was home.

I attended every session slot and all but one (where the technology didn’t work) were excellent. If you would like to see what I attended at the conference you can view the report on the sessions I attended I turned in when I returned to campus. Notice one of the sessions is “Mining for Gold: Discovering Board Games’ Principles for Learning.” Greg Koeser (Founder/Game Designer for Short Attention Span Games) and Scott Nicholson Professor of Game Design and Development at Wilfrid Laurier University in Brantford, Ontario presented a session about using board games to learn. While I did find a few games I eventually bought for personal use at that conference, I think it goes without saying this was one of the things that helped with the idea behind the class launching this fall. I was excited, energized and ready to make an impact with what I had learned.


Part of the final presentation at NASAGA 2012

I did make an impact from that first trip and had a desire to begin attending annually, but things stopped me both personally and professionally from returning (or doing as much as I had intended.) Part of that was a new supervisor who also didn’t understand the value I found in going to a conference for gaming. However, when it was again just a couple of hours away, I was able to go along with two others from Miami; Bethany, who has been wowing you with her blog entries on here and Aidyn, who may be eventually as he is possibly also teaching a section of this class in the spring.  This semester we presented on the conference instead of writing a full report but I can tell you for all three of us NASAGA has revolutionized what we are doing in all aspects of our careers. Aidyn and I are working to create a number of breakout boxes/escape rooms with materials from Breakoutedu to use for training and team building. Bethany and I are creating this class. And that is just a couple of the things that have come from the conference. Trainings we have conducted, work with colleagues and our staffs-they have all been changed for the better by NASAGA. This fall Aidyn, Bethany and I will be returning as a trio to NASAGA…and this time it is not two hours away…it is in Reno, Nevada. (Side note-I’ve never been further west than St. Louis, so…adventure!)

Miami trio at NASAGA

The Miami Trio took NASAGA 2016 by storm.

This isn’t meant to sell you on attending NASAGA (although you should attend NASAGA-we hope to see you there!) This is to show you where we got a lot of the ideas and inspiration for what we do. Also to say take a risk. There are opportunities out there to revolutionize your work in ways you would never expect. NASAGA has twice done it for me and will be again this fall. Bethany and I are presenting on the class (more on that in a future blog) and Aidyn is presenting as well as helping plan part of the conference. Find those tools that help you do what you do better. We all did with NASAGA. Hopefully you find your way to do so also!