MSU GEL Lab creates educational game that transports students of Jewish history to ancient world

Posted on: September 30, 2016

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A new game engineered by a team of students and faculty in the MSU Games for Entertainment and Learning Lab in the College of ComArtSci makes history come alive for students at the Frankel Jewish Academy in southeast Michigan this fall.

"Kerem B'Yavneh"— Hebrew for "A Vineyard in Yavneh"— motivates students to engage with the academy's rabbinic curriculum and resulted from a collaboration between the GEL Lab and the academy. The game is available for Windows and Mac via the web. Students play the game on classroom iPads provided through the academy's recent technology initiative.

"It really is the first serious Jewish educational game at this level of immersion and game mechanics," says Rabbi Reuven Margrett of the Frankel Jewish Academy. "There are games and then there are good games. Staggered learning, motivation to play the game—that's what's critical with this one."

"Kerem B'Yavneh"—or "KeBY" for short—is a casual, social, homestead-simulation, world-building game similar the popular "Farmville." The game transports students to the ancient agricultural community of Yavneh where they become budding scholar-farmers. Participants lead the transformation of the community into a center of Jewish life and learning while adhering to traditional rabbinic law, culture, and practice. Students also raise families, grow crops, trade in the marketplace, and play key roles in helping Yavneh flourish.

"The goal of the game is to experience the lifestyle and challenges of people living in ancient Israel," says Margrett. "Students are also experiencing challenges and accountability with their peers."

Margrett says the game targets students in middle - or early high school who are just beginning concentrated study of Jewish history. Teachers can customize the game to their classroom lessons, and can build in rewards and incentives that motivate students to advance and move to different levels.

"We included a study-to-play feature in which students can take quizzes and earn resources or 'sparks' that they use to move further and faster in the game," says Brian Winn, an associate professor in the Department of Media and Information. "Teachers create the assignments and guide the learning, but the game serves as an additional motivator to learn."

Winn says "KeBY" drives a form of blended learning that allows students to learn independently in combination with teacher prompts and follow-up discussion. The game was developed over more than 16 months of collaboration between MSU and Frankel, and followed an earlier collaboration on "Sparks of Eternity"—an educational game that explored classic texts and cornerstones of Jewish culture.

Associate Professor of Media and Information Casey O'Donnell joined Winn in leading a team of undergraduate and graduate students in the design and testing of the game. The team came up with characters, scenarios, and settings in consult with members of the Frankel Academy. Winn says that Frankel is promoting the game to other Jewish schools, and hopes to become a leader in Jewish educational gaming through a continued partnership with MSU.

"They saw a deficit in gaming in Jewish education and came to us," says Winn. "Together, we succeeded in creating a fun and engaging game that integrates educational content in a stealthy way. Anyone can play it, and you don't realize it's a learning game and view it instead as a fun to play experience."

Established in 2005, MSU's undergraduate game design program enables students to learn the technology, design fundamentals, and development process of digital games. Students gain valuable skills in communicating and collaborating in team-based projects while building a strong portfolio of games.

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‘From Flint’ wins Student Academy Award, first time honor for MSU

Posted on: September 23, 2016
Elise Conklin, winner of the bronze medal in the documentary film category for “From Flint: Voices of a Poisoned City,” during the 43rd Annual Student Academy Awards® on Thursday, September 22, in Beverly Hills.

Elise Conklin, winner of the bronze medal in the documentary film category for “From Flint: Voices of a Poisoned City,” during the 43rd Annual Student Academy Awards® on Thursday, September 22, in Beverly Hills.

Many young people grow up dreaming of winning an Oscar someday. For five student filmmakers from Michigan State University, that dream just got a lot closer to becoming reality.

On Sept. 22, the crew of the student-produced film From Flint: Voices of a Poisoned City formally accepted a Student Academy Award after winning Bronze in the documentary category.

The award qualifies the students to submit their film for a 2016 Oscar alongside other major motion pictures, and represents the first time in MSU's history that a student film has been honored with an award from the Academy.

The award-winning crew includes Liv Larsen (producer), Elise Conklin (director), Izak Gracy (director of photography), Jenna Ange (gaffer) and Lauren Selewski (lead editor). Bob Albers, a senior video specialist in the Department of Media and Information, mentored the students through the class for which they created the film.

“It’s a validation of the quality of our students,” Albers said about the award.

Albers believes the film went all the way because of the professional quality of what he calls “the documentary craft.” He said, too, the film's subject matter is a national issue that many people care about.

He added that the student awards handed out this year by the Academy were particularly remarkable since many new schools from a wide geographic area were recognized.

“This was the first time that more awards were won by non-West Coast people, so that’s really significant,” Albers said. “The winners are not just people from the big schools, the ones that typically get these (awards).”

The whole crew attended the ceremony in Beverly Hills, California, thanks to MSU, the College of Communication Arts and Sciences and the Department of Media and Information.

Larsen said the students had not been together since graduation in the spring of 2016, so the ceremony was a long-anticipated reunion.

Conklin shared her enthusiasm about the award, as well as about the publicity that has helped promote the voices of the people of Flint.

“I’m just completely overwhelmed and so happy that Flint trusted us with their stories and we were able to tell them in a way that’s helping to raise awareness about this issue,” she said.

The film was inspired by a desire to make people realize that the crisis in Flint is not over just because the major news coverage has ceased.

“We know we made something really special, but we weren’t sure if we’d be able to get it out there and distribute it properly,” said Conklin. “But it seems like it’s actually really starting to make a huge impact and we’re so happy that we’re able to get Flint’s story out there and people are actually listening to it.”

By Savannah Swix

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MSU business-IT students help area companies on new tech projects

Posted on: September 21, 2016

East Lansing, Michigan – September 19, 2016 – Nearly 20 teams of Michigan State University undergraduate seniors are ready and waiting to help mid-Michigan businesses and nonprofits solve their digital problems. As part of their final course in their Information Technology minor, the students are required to work in cross-functional teams on a real-world IT (information technology) project. They just need a few more “clients.”

Professors Constantinos K. Coursaris and Wietske van Osch, who are teaching the course through MSU’s Department of Media and Information, say the students are capable of taking on a wide range of technology-related projects, because each team will comprise of students majoring in business, media and information, and computer science and engineering. A short list of recently completed and successful projects follows:

Websites and Web Content Management Systems
Student teams designed and implemented content management systems for clients such as the Lansing Old Town Business and Arts Development Association and TechTown, Detroit’s research and technology development park along the Woodward corridor.

Database and Workflow Systems
Student teams also help with “back end” office operations. For example, one team designed and implemented a new membership database for the Michigan Kiwanis Club using Microsoft Access and another team used Microsoft InfoPath to design and implement a workflow system for a petroleum distribution company.

Wireless Web Access
A student team created a prototype for the Oakland County Mobile Services system to format website information for smaller screens on mobile phones and PDAs.

Video Production
Students produced promotional videos and DVDs for clients ranging from St. Johns Public Schools to Walnut Hills Country Club.

Social Media
Students created a comprehensive social media strategy, initial presence and maintenance plan for Harper’s Restaurant and Brewpub.

To submit a project for consideration, please contact Dr. Coursaris via email as soon as possible and no later than September 25, 2016, at coursari@msu.edu.

Professors Coursaris and Van Osch are now accepting proposals from area organizations (business, government or nonprofit) to have student teams take on projects for the fall 2016 academic semester, starting in September and ending on December 9. The ideal project is “hands-on,” with a well-defined outcome that can be achieved by three to four students in 8-10 weeks.

To submit a project for consideration, please contact Dr. Coursaris via email by September 25, 2016, at coursari@msu.edu.

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Online strategic communication degree empowers working professionals

Pretty woman is working in a café

Organizations seek out the abilities. Professionals strive for the knowledge and skills. And starting Spring 2017, the MSU College of Communication Arts and Sciences will welcome its first class into a new online master’s program, convenient for working professionals, on strategic communications.

The Master of Arts in Strategic Communication represents the first time the College has offered a degree program 100 percent online. The program responds to the needs of professionals through its flexible delivery as well as through content that addresses the challenges of a 21st century communication environment.

"Given the rapidly changing communication ecosystem, mid-career professionals are eager for training to update their skills," says Prabu David, Dean of the College of ComArtSci. "Currently, communication professionals, including our own alumni, do not have rich, in-state options to learn new media techniques. This new online M.A. in strategic communication fills that gap."

Students in the nine-course, 30-credit program will examine how to leverage today's evolving media and digital mix into an integrated marketing and communications strategy for businesses, start-ups, non-profits or government agencies. Expert faculty will handle all aspects of course content and bring expertise in corporate messaging, news and information, fundamental communication processes, audience research and data analytics, and new technologies. Students will also complete a service-learning project that enables them to apply their newly acquired expertise within a community setting.

"The College of ComArtSci has long-standing leadership in an integrated theory-to-practice orientation toward effective communication strategy and tactics," says John Sherry, associate dean of for graduate studies in ComArtSci. "There is no other college in the world with such broad and deep coverage of these issues."

Students can complete courses and requirements from anywhere, anytime and at their own pace in one to three years. The program is ideally suited for working professionals with three to five years of experience in communications as well as for business and communication entrepreneurs. Students will also have opportunity to collaborate with other online learners, further enhancing their professional network.

"The ability for individuals to be located anywhere and enroll in this master's program is a distinct advantage," says ComArtSci Alum April M. Clobes, president and CEO of the MSU Federal Credit Union. "Being able to complete the program while working full-time is also essential for long-term success. MSU's high rankings in the field of communications along with excellent faculty, will make this a highly sought after degree."

The program is currently accepting applications and no GRE is required. To learn more about MSU's new online master's degree program in strategic communication through the College of ComArtSci, visit stratcom.msu.edu or contact the program director at stratcom@msu.edu.

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'The Woz' at TCFF will showcase the future of gaming

Posted on: July 21, 2016

Michigan State University has partnered with the Traverse City Film Festival to facilitate and host its hands-on, interactive showcase called “The Woz.” MSU staff, students and volunteers will be on site to offer out-of-this-world and innovative virtual reality experiences and video games.

A unique addition to this year’s showcase is the new HTC Vive, a virtual reality head-mounted display that transforms gaming and film by placing you inside the game, giving you control of your surroundings and allowing you to interact with the story.

“The Woz” will be located at Hotel Indigo at 263 West Grandview Parkway in Traverse City. Stop by on July 27 to 30 from noon to 9 p.m. and July 31 from noon to 5 p.m.

HTC Vive

theBluTHEBLU

In this game, explore the depths of the ocean and the remains of a sunken ship while coming face-to-face with a variety of sea creatures, including an 80-foot whale.

Tilt Brush 

Test your artistic ability with Tilt Brush, a virtual reality painting program which allows you to create 3D, life-size art and be a part of your creation.

Job Simulator  

Find out what job best fits your skillset in this robotic world by living out a day as a mechanic, an office worker or even a short order cook.

Space Pirate Trainer 

Fulfill your childhood fantasies of becoming a space pirate and test your aim on the virtual targets.

Arizona Sunshine 

Jump into the zombie apocalypse in the Grand Canyon state and defend yourself against the living dead while searching for fellow survivors.

The Lab

Experience virtual reality in all forms: adopt a mechanical dog, make repairs to a robot, protect a castle using your archery skills and more.

Party Games

Rocket League and Live eSports Casting 

This game puts a twist on the average soccer game by replacing the athletes with rocket-powered cars. Use your rocket-engines to battle the opposing team and shoot the ball into their goal. Rocket League is taking eSports by storm, so stop by the casting booth and try calling a match!

Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes

It’s a race against time as you and your teammates help a trapped player to defuse a bomb. Only the player in the room with the bomb can see it. The rest of the players have the bomb defusal manual. It’s up to teamwork and communication to beat the clock!

Indie Games

That Dragon, Cancer 

That Dragon, Cancer offers a look into the real-life story of the Green family and their experience raising their son Joel, who was diagnosed with terminal cancer at twelve months old, but lived for four more years. The game is designed to make the player feel the emotions and experience the high and low moments of this time in the Green family’s life.  

Her Story 

This game gives the player access to fictional police interviews with a woman about her missing husband. The player has to search the database and review video clips in order to solve the case.

GameDev @ MSU

Several games designed and programmed by students and faculty from the Game Design and Development Program at Michigan State University will also be available at “The Woz”. Come meet the next generation of game developers and play the games that they’ve created!

Rogues Like Us 

Become a rogue, find your weapons and fight your way out of exile.

Asundr 

Rival treasure hunters team up to find and obtain a technological artifact called the Key. Players must fight their way through challenges in order to capture the Key.

DROp 

In Debris Removal Operation (DROp), the player explores asteroid fields as a space pioneer while removing debris.  

Games for Entertainment and Learning Lab

Discover how games go beyond entertainment with the latest from the Games for Entertainment and Learning Lab.

SAVINGDRAGGYSaving Draggy

Search for your missing baby dragon in this children’s adventure game developed in collaboration with Michigan State University Federal Credit Union to help kids learn about finances.

Kerem B’Yavneh 

Your favorite farming, city-building games meet the richness and vibrancy of Jewish ritual, history and thought.

Reach Higher 

In this game, play as your favorite Big Ten mascot: Sparty! Help him reach as many cotton tufts and roses as possible before the big game.

More Information

When you’re ready to exit virtual reality and step back into real life, check out the other opportunities that MSU has to offer at the Traverse City Film Festival! Don’t miss the documentary films produced by students or the work of festival interns from MSU. Learn more about what to expect at the MSU at TCFF website.

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Media & Info Professor Shelia Cotten awarded for Gerontology research, career achievement

Posted on: June 2, 2016

Usage limited to World Wide Web and CMYK offset printing- NO photographic prints- Please email: AranKessler@Earthlink.net to obtain archival prints: 4x6-     $2.50 5x7-     $12.00 8x10-   $22.00 11x14- $35.00 16x20- $60.00 20x24- $80.00 24x36-$100.00

Shelia Cotten, a professor in the Department of Media and Information, has received a lot of good news lately surrounding her research in Gerontology. Cotten was awarded Fellow status in The Gerontological Society of America (GSA) in addition to earning the American Sociological Association’s Communication, Information Technologies, and Media Sociology section (CITAMS) William F. Ogburn Career Achievement Award for her work in discovering how to help the elderly cross the digital divide and utilize technology to enhance their lives.

GSA, with over 500 Fellows, is the largest organization focused on studying older adults with a focus on trying to proactively improve their health and well-being.

“Most of the work I do is thinking about: How can we use technology to enhance people’s lives? Are there existing technologies that could be beneficial, or technologies that need to be modified or created that could enhance older adults lives?” Cotten said.  

Cotten and her research team have recently conducted focus groups with older adults around the state of Michigan. She looks at how older adults benefit from technology and what is most useful to them and their needs. Tablets are increasingly being used by this demographic, but some of these individuals still don’t see the device as the right fit for them.

“A lot of times older adults don’t want to use (tablets or other technologies) because they don’t see the relevance of them for their lives. If you can help them see the relevance then they’ll be more likely to learn to use the technology,” said Cotten. “Showing them how they can communicate and find information can be really powerful for them.”

The American Sociological Association's CITAMS William F. Ogburn Career Achievement Award is given to scholars with outstanding research that has contributed “to the advancement of knowledge in the area of sociology of communication, media, and/or information technology.”

Cotten, who has studied technology for nearly 20 years, said that the Career Achievement Award recognizes the larger body of her work with technology-use over the life course and, specifically, how we approach the idea of the digital divide.

“They’re both wonderful organizations and I feel very fortunate to be a part of both of those organizations,” said Cotten. “I hope I’m not done yet and have more to contribute to enhance people’s lives through the use of technology."

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GEL Lab collaborates with MSUFCU on new game Saving Draggy

Posted on: May 26, 2016

Saving Draggy

The Games for Entertainment and Learning (GEL) Lab at MSU, part of the Media and Information (M&I) department in the College of Communication Arts and Sciences (ComArtSci), recently completed a new game sponsored by the Michigan State University Federal Credit Union (MSUFCU) called Saving Draggy.

Targeted to kids aged 5 -10, Saving Draggy focuses on increasing their cognition and understanding of basic financial concepts as they engage in an epic quest to save Draggy – their baby dragon. All graphics, music, code, script, story and game design were created by undergraduate M & I and computer science students in conjunction with Associate Professor Brian Winn.

So far, the game is a hit. At least that’s what Winn told us after performing a few rounds of user testing with kids aged 5-10, “(The) kids had a very positive response to the game. They were excited about the theme (saving your baby dragon in an epic adventure game) and really liked the mini games embedded within the larger adventure game.”

This isn’t the first time the GEL Lab and MSUFCU have partnered on a gaming project. In fact, Saving Draggy is the fourth financial literacy game MSU has created with the credit union. Past games include Spartan Villa (ages 17+), Saving Magic (ages 10-13) and Saving with Piggy (ages 2-5). The GEL Lab is currently working on the fifth game for MSUFCU, geared for ages 13-16.

Saving Draggy is available on the web, Apple iOS and Android. It is 100% free to download and play.

By Nikki W. O'Meara

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Media Sandbox Creative Challenge Focuses on Issues Facing College Students

Posted on: February 5, 2016

Media Sandbox Challenge 2016 posterThis year’s Media Sandbox Creative Challenge is to choose an issue facing college students, such as binge drinking, sexual assault or depression, and craft a unique, creative message that will help MSU students deal with that issue.

“This year the challenge is more personal,” said Karl Gude, Media Sandbox faculty member and Graphics Editor in Residence for the School of Journalism. “It deals with how to help students handle some of the problems they face in college. I hope that the groups will find creative and workable solutions that will help students heal and deal with these issues.”

The Media Sandbox Creative Challenge is in it’s fifth year and there are no limits to what students may create. This is the first year the Media Sandbox is not dictating what students have to produce.

“It’s up to them to create a media campaign that will get the job done,” Gude said.

The challenge theme was chosen because Media Sandbox faculty wanted students to use their communication skills to help each other, rather than have them work on a corporate- or college-focused theme, as they have in the past.

Students who participate may do so alone or as a team and will need to choose one of the following topics:

  • binge drinking
  • sexual assault
  • depression
  • anorexia
  • anxiety
  • obesity
  • racism
  • suicide

They then must craft a unique, creative message to help their fellow students with this issue.

Although plenty of students have entered previous competitions, “the challenge for them is finishing it,” Gude said. “This year, however, we will have set a series of completion goals throughout the semester that will help students stay on task.”

The prizes are $5,000 for first place, $2,500 for second and $1,000 for third.

Judges for this year’s competition will include highly successful alumni from the College of Communication Arts and Sciences, chosen by faculty and administrators.

For more information on the competition, including deadlines and progressive goals, see the Media Sandbox Creative Challenge web page.

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Register Now for 2016 Media Summer Camps

Posted on: February 4, 2016

media-summer-camp-20150709-v12 copy

Each summer, the Department of Media and Information offers media camps for middle and high school students. These camps are pre-college exposure programs for students interested in media and technology topics, including game design, 3D animation, web design, digital cinema and TV production.

Each camp includes five full days of interactive and intensive instruction with MSU faculty and staff, resulting with a showcase of student work on the last day.

Program Director Luke Kane says that more than 80 percent of students who participate say they have an increased interest and proficiency in technology as a result of the camps.

During the three weeks of camp in 2015, the Department of Media and Information hosted 231 students in 12 different courses.

media-summer-camp-20150717-007 copyRegistration for Summer 2016 is now open. For the early bird discount, register before Feb. 29.

This summer, a new Audio Programming course will be offered to the high school level to teach students how to compose their own digital music and audio.

Students may participate in day-only instruction or choose to stay overnight as a visiting residential student.

The day-only camp includes all instruction, instructional materials, computer facilities, all daytime activities and supervision. Students will receive a lunch meal plan through university cafeteria services. Camp hours run 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.

The Overnight/Residential option includes all the features of the day camp and more. Overnight lodging for five nights (Sunday-Thursday) as well as breakfast, lunch and dinner meals throughout the week are included. There will be night recreational activities and overnight chaperone supervision.

Media Camps kick off in July and run for three weeks:

WEEK 1: MIDDLE SCHOOL CAMPS (July 11-15)

  • Beginner Game Design
  • Digital Cinema
  • Game Design with Minecraft
  • Intro to Programming using MInecraft

WEEK 2: HIGH SCHOOL CAMPS (July 18-22)

  • 3D Animation
  • Beginner Game Design
  • Mobile Game Design
  • Miss Media Michigan Girls Tech Camp

WEEK 3: HIGH SCHOOL CAMPS (July 25-29)

  • 3D Animation
  • Advanced Game Design
  • Audio Programming
  • Beginner Game Design
  • Digital Cinema

For more information, including informational videos, or to register, visit the Media Summer Camps web page.

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Students to Help Companies with New Tech Projects

Posted on: January 19, 2016

More than 15 teams of Michigan State University undergraduates are ready and waiting to help mid-Michigan businesses and nonprofits solve their complex digital problems.

As part of their final course in the ITMS-WP1Information Technology minor, students are required to work in cross-functional teams on a real-world IT (information technology) project.

They just need a few more “clients.”

“The students are capable of taking on a wide range of technology-related projects, because each team will comprise of students majoring in business, media and information, and computer science and engineering,” say Professors Constantinos K. Coursaris and Wietske van Osch, who are teaching the course through MSU’s Department of Media and Information.

In past semesters, students have developed websites and content management systems as well as database and workflow systems. They have produced promotional videos and developed social media strategies and online membership databases for various companies.

Proposals are now being accepted from area organizations for student teams to take on projects for the spring 2016 academic semester, starting in January and ending April 30. The ideal project is "hands-on" with a well-defined outcome that can be achieved by three to four students in 8-10 weeks.

To submit a project for consideration, please contact Dr. Coursaris via email by January 25, 2016, at coursari@msu.edu.

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