I completed my doctoral dissertation in Educational Technology in 2008, but my experience extends well beyond Ed Tech. I have over 35 years of teaching experience at the university level, having taught my first computer labs while still a sophomore and my first course while completing my master’s degree. Both my B.Sc. and M.Sc. are in Computer Science which is also where I taught until 2006. My early career was dedicated primarily to teaching excellence and to helping my students learn and develop as professionals, and in the later years I added a strong research focus centered on the synergy of software systems analysis, software design, and instructional design.
I’ve taught courses in five different academic departments (Computer Science, General Education, Education, Engineering, Fine Art) representing three different faculties (Science*, Education, Art).
*The Engineering Department where I taught was part of the Science and Tech faculty, or it would have been four faculties.
I have been responsible for numerous innovations in computer science teaching and course design which have been internationally recognized. My gamified course design has won several awards for innovation. I have published widely in Computer Science Education, Game Studies, Digital Game-Based Learning and Instructional Design.
I have done research that breaks new ground in the theoretical landscape of digital game based learning by applying a synergy of ethological methods and reverse engineering to uncovering instructional design principles in existing successful games. I bring expertise and literacy in both computer science and educational research to bear on the question of how and what people learn in digital game based environments, and my knowledge of software and game design afford me a unique perspective on the design of educational digital games. I began using digital games to teach programming in 1998, designed and taught one of the first Digital Game Based Learning courses for an Education faculty in 2005 (which was offered again in 2006, and 2008).
I have developed several methodologies for analyzing games for educational content. The best known of these is the ‘Magic Bullet‘, a simple and flexible approach that can be used with existing games as well as during the design phase. This, along with my 4PEG Model for game analysis are discussed at length in my upcoming book, “Choosing and Using Digital Games in the Classroom – A Practical Guide” to be published by Springer in 2016.
In addition to my primary research, I have also been exploring the role of digital games in teacher preparation and ongoing teacher professional development; specifically, how and why teachers need to play digital games in order to better connect with today’s youth.
Finally, perhaps as counterpoint to my work in and with digital technology, I maintain a small farm where we have been raising waterfowl for over twenty years. This farm forms the basis for our “Ducks in the Classroom” program, which provided eggs for hatching in classrooms locally from 1988 to 2012, and information on school hatching projects globally since 2001. These days, our farm mostly focuses on raising quality Rex Rabbits a long with a few chickens who gift us with eggs.
If you are interested in hiring me to give a talk or teach a workshop, or if you have questions for me you can contact me at: becker at minkhollow dot ca, or through my company, Mink Hollow Media, Ltd.
Brief Bio (originally written in 2006, with updates below)
Born in Berlin (Germany), raised in Ontario (Canada), moved to Calgary with my family when I was 15. I liked it, so I’m still here.
I started university (at Calgary) in 1977, and I’ve been here ever since (until recently – see below). I’m not the work-at-a-regular-job kind of person: where else can you get paid to learn stuff? I’ve taught on and off in the Department of Computer Science since 1983. My status was part-time until about 1999, largely because I have 3 children and we felt it was important to spend time with them while they were growing up. I’ve been married to the same guy since 1981, and I still like it (cool, huh?).
I’ve had an interest in teaching throughout my career, and now that I’ve been at this for over 20 years, I finally felt I had enough experience, and something worth sharing, to take the next step: my Ph.D.
My big passion these days is Serious Games (games used for purposes other than pure entertainment), and the use of games in teaching. I’ve been using games as assignments in my first-year classes for some years. The students tell me they really like it, but that it’s also pretty hard. Teaching with games is not about making things easy.
In my spare time, I look after our small farm (see link), and try to do my little bit towards reminding people what real life is about.
Here is a picture pf me, taken in 2005, in front of Sunnydale High School (where Buffy & the Scooby gang went). Click on the image to see a larger version.
2015: I am teaching occasionally at Mount Royal University, primarily for the Department of Mathematics and Computing. I am still writing: my second book is due out next year, and I am working on a third. This one is about practical gamification in the classroom.
2011: I am now consulting and writing full-time. I do educational design, development and evaluation. I have particular expertise in serious games, but with 30+ years’ experience, I can work with almost any approach. For more information, see: Mink Hollow Media, Ltd.
2010: I have signed my first book contract. It will be a technical introduction to computer simulations and games for non-technical people. You can view the Table of Contents here.
Katrin Becker, Jim Parker
The Guide to Computer Simulations and Games
2009: I am back to part-time work, still at Mount Royal University, this time teaching technical writing to engineers.
As of July 1, 2006, I am no longer employed as a (tenured) Senior Instructor in Computer Science at the University of Calgary.