Leaders and top researchers in the videogame industry will gather tomorrow and Friday for the eighth annual Games+Learning+Society Conference, held at the University of Wisconsin’s Memorial Union. The videogame landscape has changed both in technical capacity and creative development, and videogame and learning experts will discuss how these innovations can be applied to learning and education systems.

I’ve never been shy about the fact that I think a well-made game can teach players skills and concepts that translate to everyday life. Videogames cannot be dismissed as child’s play– multiple speakers at GLS 8.0 will make a compelling case that popular gaming systems and games themselves can change the way people learn and elicit problem solving skills in the gamer.

World of Warcraft will be just one of the many games up for discussion at this year’s GLS conference. Image courtesy of us.battle.net/wow

If you’re curious about the speakers but can’t make it down to the UW campus, the GLS 8.0 is streaming many of the presentations online the same day they are given. You can find them here to tune in.

There are some fascinating developments coming down the pipeline, including a presentation on potential game designs to teach playing musical instruments to a mobile app game which may help people quit smoking. But not every topic of study is on something in the early stages of development: Some researchers and experts will be offering academic takes on the educational merits and possibilities of well-known games like World of Warcraft and popular systems like the Xbox Kinect.
What would a conference about games be without, well, games? GLS 8.0 has an educational arcade conference-goers can peruse during the day on Friday. The arcade hosts a bevy of games, most of which take a creative approach to teaching and exploring complex topics. For example, “You Make Me Sick” lets students play as bacteria to show how infectious diseases spread, and “Crazy Plant Shop” lets players “build” fictional, wacky plants to demonstrate recessive and dominant genes.

Full Disclosure: Web Courseworks develops children’s health education programs using game-based learning.

While I won’t be in attendance at GLS 8.0, I’ll be keeping tabs on the event, especially Jody Clark-Midura and Jennifer Groff’s talk on Thursday at 2 p.m. at the Memorial Union about  how testing systems relate to games, titled, “Formal Game-Based Assessments: The challenge and opportunity of building next generation assessments.” It is one thing to have a well-designed and stimulating game aimed at learning, but it is another to develop a system that gauges how effective players are learning. The speakers will posit some ideas as to how to connect effective games with equally effective assessments. You can watch the cast here.

Managing eLearning is written by the Blog team at Web Courseworks which includes Jon Aleckson, Karissa Schuchardt and Adelaide Blanchard.  Ideas and concepts are originated and final copy reviewed by Jon Aleckson.