UC Davis Professor Uses Video Games to Make Learning More Interactive

Realizing that the current generation has been raised on video games and technology that is constantly evolving, University of California, Davis Professor Colin Milburn has found a novel way of reaching students: getting them to use creativity and technology to bring poetry and literature to life in 3D. Milburn, who is an associate professor of English, was recently appointed to the inaugural Gary Snyder Endowed Chair in Science and the Humanities at UC Davis. In this new position Davis is developing research and teaching techniques that are geared towards tech savvy youngsters.

“UC Davis is quickly becoming the top institution for productive, transformative collaborations between the sciences and the humanities,” said Milburn, who now holds one of only a handful of endowed professorships in the country that unite sciences and humanities as a primary focus. “UC Davis is a particularly exciting place to be because it has a culture of interdisciplinary collaboration.”

One of Milburn’s goals is to develop environments that allow students to immerse themselves in the time and place they are studying through interactive virtual environments. He also is authoring a book called "Mondo Nano: Fun and Games in the World of Digital Matter," which examines the convergence of video game culture with science.

One of those virtual projects is a prototype called "Going to the Movies in Paris in the 1930s." It uses the virtual world of Second Life to give students the ability to make and share interactive experiences on their computer screens. Based on the research of UC Davis American studies professor Eric Smoodin, this project has been created in both Second Life and the UC Davis KeckCAVES to investigate practices of cinema spectatorship in 1930s Paris. The prototype lets participants walk through the theaters of Paris as 1930s moviegoers did.

"This kind of technology can be used for science as well as the humanities, for example, to help researchers to understand their data or experience cultural materials in new ways,” explains Milburn. “It really comes alive.”

Milburn also teaches courses that focus on video games and their social impact on everyday life. During the next six years, Milburn will be co-principal investigator with the IMMERSe project (Interactive and Multi-Modal Experience Research Syndicate), a collaborative effort between the Games Institute at Canada’s University of Waterloo, the UC Davis Humanities Innovation Lab and several other universities. Funded by a $2.5 million grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, Milburn and his colleagues will study the cultural impact of video games and technologies.

You can learn more about "Going to the Movies in Paris in the 1930s" by visiting modlab.ucdavis.edu.

"cartoon arcade game character" © lineartestpilot / Shutterstock. All rights reserved, used with permission.

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