12602 EF: Expanding Access to College through Play: A Tale of Four Games

06/11/2015 @ 11:00 AM – 12:30 PM
The Wiltern A

Organizers: Zoe Corwin, Tracy Fullerton,
Presenters: Tracy Fullerton, Zoe Corwin, Elizabeth Swensen, Sean Bouchard, High School Student, Foshay Learning Center
Discussant: Leslie Aaronson

Improving college access and completion for underrepresented, underprepared, and low-income students has been a persistent challenge for practitioners, policymakers, and academics for decades. Despite having high college aspirations, many first generation college-goers do not have solid understandings of college options and processes, are poorly informed or misinformed about college costs and financial aid, and have limited support for college preparation and college behaviors such as submitting applications to college and for financial aid. These challenges are exacerbated by abysmal college counselor to student ratios in schools serving low-income and/or first generation students – and substandard technology infrastructures at low-income schools. Five years ago, panelists initiated a collaboration to address systemic shortcomings in access to college information and support for first generation college students/students from under-represented backgrounds through the creation of innovative digital tools. The students’ perspectives anchored all aspects of the project, from conceptualization to development to research. By meeting students where they were — in virtual and game spaces – panelists sought to incorporate students’ cultural repertoires into the design and implementation of the games, and thus dramatically change college access tools available to youth.

The primary goal of the project was to capitalize on game-based tools, social media and technology to move beyond simply providing under-served students with information about college. Instead the team sought to cultivate strategies and skills conducive to expanding students’ college knowledge and college-going efficacy. What started as an effort to create one game evolved into a multi-year collaboration among game designers, researchers, educators and students to develop a suite of college access games. The suite now includes: (1) a no-tech card game and (2) a Facebook application where players role-play a college applicant as she balances activities and deadlines during a college application cycle; (3) an online game designed to illustrate the importance of financial literacy and choosing the right college; and (4) an online game targeted at middle school students intended to boost college aspirations.

In this session, panelists will: (1) outline the “unfreedoms” informing the project; (2) describe the development process including conceptualization, iterative playtesting with target audience members, and implementation; and (3) describe each of the games highlighting learning objectives, features and game mechanics, and related research. The discussants, a high school teacher from one of the playtest sites and one of her students, will provide a practitioner and student perspective on the games and guide Q & A among session attendees. The goals of the session are to: (1) provide examples of digital tools being used in school and home settings to address inequitable access to information about college and lack of high quality support for college aspirations in low-income schools; (2) highlight the value of centering student players in the design and research process; and (3) stimulate dialogue among session attendees about best practices, challenges and future possibilities. Furthermore, the session will offer an example of a local collaboration with ramifications for national-level scale up.

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