Connected Camps is a not-for profit organization focused on building a global online community where kids build, code, play, and learn from one another. Our programs tap the power of youth tech experts to teach and mentor. We have served thousands of kids through our online and community-based programs.
Mimi Ito, Tara Tiger-Brown and I founded Connected Camps in 2013 around a shared passion for education and the positive potential of technology. Mimi is the Executive Director and I serve as Chief Design Officer. Together we are on a mission to make the internet and online games a force of good in the lives of kids.
Institute of Play is a design-based non-profit in New York City known for the design of learning experiences that are both engaging and empowering. The Institute’s research and design work has been widely featured as an innovative and accessible approach to transforming education through games, design, and play.
I was the founding Executive Director (2007-2013) and continue to serve on the Board. During my tenure I built an interdisciplinary team of designers, strategists, and learning practitioners committed to the design of alternative learning futures.
When Quest to Learn opened its doors in New York City in the fall of 2009, it was the first of its kind—a 6th–12th-grade public school purposefully designed around the core principles of game design and play. Its engagement model proposed to not only support learning with academic, civic, and career implications, but also to support teachers and students in taking on identities as designers.
I led the team that designed Quest to Learn. This included the design of a pedagogical approach called game-like learning, the design of professional development structures, curricular structures, a student advisory program, an assessment framework, brand, and more.
Through collaboration with the small New York City-based non-profit Institute of Play, the school has sought to create a twenty-first century model for teaching and learning that places kids’ interests and expertise at the center. While the curriculum tackles all the required state learning standards, it does so in a way that empowers students to see the world as made up of interconnected systems. Learning how to understand, affect, and ultimately transform these systems through a design mindset is a primary goal.
See Quest learning in action here.
Download Quest to Learn: Growing the School for Digital Kids. Katie Salen, Robert Torres, Arana Shapiro, Rebecca Rufo-Tepper, Loretta Wolozin. MIT Press. September 2010.
This project aims to change the way SEL programs are designed and delivered. Situated within the social space of a Minecraft server, the SE-rich program explores ways in which kids can develop problem-solving capacities in the face of authentic and naturally arising conflict. The server allows many kids to play together in a shared virtual space, providing a framework for conflict resolution and communication tools. The program pairs SEL-infused online moderation strategies with a scaffolded conflict resolution program. It is designed for kids 8-11 in blended afterschool settings.
The program has been developed through a unique partnership between Committee for Children and Connected Camps. Our project team includes Petr Slovak, Greg Livingston, Lynne Hurdle, and Steve Isaacs. Advisors include Linda Lantieri and Tom Roderick.
Launching the first high school esports league in California in less than 3 months comes with its share of challenges. How does virtual coaching work? What might times to STEM look like? Who participates and for what purpose?
Major partners for the project include the Samueli Foundation, Henry Samueli School of Engineering, OC Dept of Ed, OC STEM, Connected Learning Lab, Connected Camps, and UCI Esports.
The Connected Learning Lab (CLL) is dedicated to studying, designing, and mobilizing learning technologies in equitable, innovative, and learner-centered ways. Located at the University of California, Irvine, the CLL supports interdisciplinary research and design, and partnerships with a broad network of educational practitioners and technologists.
My collaborators in the lab include Richard Arum, David Theo Goldberg, Mimi Ito, Bill Maurer, Kurt Squire, and Constance Steinkuhler.
A interdisciplinary research network dedicated to researching and reimagining learning for the 21st century. I and other members of the network are working to understand the opportunities and risks for learning afforded by today’s changing media ecology, as well as building new learning environments that support effective learning and educational equity.
Our work cuts across research, design, and practice and includes social scientists, learning theorists, educators, and designers. We are committed to research that is collaborative, action-oriented, and united by educational values of equity, social connection, and full participation.
The network focuses on a model of connected learning — learning that is socially connected, interest-driven, and oriented towards educational opportunity. Started in 2007, the network was funded by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.
Read our influential report: Connected Learning: An Agenda For Research and Design
The Leveling Up project investigated the learning dynamics of interest-driven online groups that support academically-relevant knowledge seeking and expertise development. How do online groups and platforms support feedback, publicity, and reputation development that fosters skills and expertise? What kinds of learning resources are in the environment, such as teachers, coaches, and instructional materials? What kinds of social and technological supports encourage young people to participate, persist, and achieve? What are the learning and social outcomes of participation?
Mimi Ito and I served as Co-PIs on the work. Our new book, Mastering Multiplayer, will be published by NYU Press in 2018. Additional writing includes:
“Welcome to Sackboy Planet: Connected Learning Among LittleBigPlanet 2 Players.” By Matthew H. Rafalow, Katie Salen Tekinbaş. Connected Learning Research Network series, 2014.
“Crafting the Metagame: Connected Learning in the Starcraft II Community.” By Yong Ming Kow and Katie Salen Tekinbaş. Connected Learning Research Network series, 2014.
Gamestar Mechanic is an online game designed to teach kids how to design games by making games of their own. I was the original lead designer on the project, which was developed by Gamelab and published by E-Line Ventures. The game has won numerous awards, including the American Association of School Librarians Top 25 Website for Teaching and Learning; Kids at Play Interactive Award for Innovation in Children's Media; Serious Play Awards Gold Medal for Education; Finalist: IndieCade Awards.
Designed by Nick Fortugno, Frank Lantz, and Katie Salen as a 2003 commission by the University of Minnesota's Design Institute. The game was created to "promote visual awareness of the Twin Cities' urban environment, frame new perspectives, provoke fresh perceptions and encourage wide input on how the Twin Cities' public realm design could be improved from streets to transit to parks and other urban amenities."
Citizens of the twin cities could vote for and move giant inflatable game pieces along different routes over the course of five days, with the piece arriving at the final destination in the shortest time winning.
View video documentation here.
A mobile public art project that leveraged 3 kinds of "network culture:" ice cream trucks, datasets, and karaoke bars. By Marina Zurkow, Katie Salen, and Nancy Nowacek. 2006.
Commissioned for ZeroOne San Jose: A Global Festival of Art on the Edge, CADRE / SJSU, and the Montalvo Arts Center Sally and Don Lucas Artists Programs. Designed and produced in collaboration with students and graduates of the San Jose State Cadre Laboratory for New Media. Custom tinkle pop music created by Music by Lem Jay Ignacio.
SMALLab is an embodied learning environment where students are up out of their seats, moving as they learn. Developed by David Birchfield and his team at SMALLAB Learning, the mixed-reality environment provided an experimental design space for inventing new kinds of learning experiences for students. Working closely with my collaborators Kyle Li and Mike Edwards, we co-designed games with kids and educators tied to curricular units in math, science, social studies, and more.
The work was supported through funding by Intel and by the John T. and Catherine D. MacArthur Foundation.