Professor Katie Salen Tekinbaş works at the intersection of games, design and learning, bridging the gap between academia and industry to create practical, real-world platforms that better educate and empower the next generation. “I’m trying to figure out how you develop really engaging learning experiences for young people that are centered around their interests.” For the past decade, Professor Salen Tekinbaş has been working with educators to bring core principles of game design, play and connected learning to school curricula and informal learning activities, because, as she explains, “people learn best when they can work on something that they care about, with the support of others who have a shared interest.”
Raising Good Gamers
With UCI colleague Mimi Ito, Professor Salen Tekinbaş started the nonprofit Connected Camps, which runs hands-on online camps and courses in Minecraft to promote creativity, problem-solving, and collaboration. Salen Tekinbaş hopes to expand the camps to support not only STEM activities such as coding and engineering but also socio-emotional learning. She’s working to embed the teaching of soft skills, such as mindfulness, into online communities like Minecraft. “We talk about it as ‘raising good gamers’ by helping kids develop skills in conflict resolution, peer mediation, problem solving, independent learning, and mentorship.”
Professor Salen Tekinbaş also teamed up with other Informatics professors on a project sponsored by the Samueli Foundation to launch an Orange County high school esports league focused on the game League of Legends. “There are lots of kids interested in video games, so this validates their interests and creates a platform for helping youth develop positive approaches to gaming online,” she says. Attached to the league is a pilot program for a year-long course on esports entrepreneurship, which will explore STEM topics through the lens of esports broadcasting, web development, IT support, streaming, marketing, and merchandising, exposing students to game-related career opportunities.