DML 2016 Recap

This week I attended my first Digital Media and Learning conference, which was held here on the UC Irvine campus. I thought I would write a short recap of my experiences. Disclaimer: these thoughts are by no means all encompassing.

photo of a sign with lego texture that reads, DML Digital Media and Learning Conference

My first impressions of the DML community is that they are very friendly and very passionate about what they do. It’s a wonderful combination for someone joining in for the first time. There was also lots of engagement on Twitter throughout the conference, which I found to be a helpful way to make the event more accessible.
hand hold a DML conference badge, the text on the badge reads Kathryn Ringland Kate, University of California Irvine
Fun DML 2016 badge.
While I enjoyed all the sessions I attended, the keynote and plenary conversation were definitely the highlights. The conversations I had in between sessions and during the reception were by far the most inspiring part of the conference for me in terms of ideas for my own scholarly work.
a woman at a podium next to a projected slide
Constance Steinkuehler talking about the future that is games.

What is most exciting for me are the following two takeaways:
1. Play and games are truly coming into their own in the academic space. I am so excited to see games research in these more educational and learning spaces realize the potential of well designed games (i.e., not those educational games that kids see straight through and aren’t fun at all to play.)
a photo of a slide of a trojan horse painted, with text reading games are a trojan horse for interest driven learning
Slide of the trojan horse that is GAMES.
2. There were hints and whispers throughout DML of inclusion. For many this meant socioeconomic status, race/ethnicity, gender, but very little about ability. The last two ignite talks at the end of the conference were calls for more disability work in the space. I whole-heartedly agree and am very excited to contribute next year as I can.

Of the many memorable moments, the students on campus held a protest during the plenary talk this morning because apparently the LA Police Chief was giving a talk somewhere else on campus.

I was ecstatic when Henry Jenkins discussed how Star Trek changed his world view.

All in all, it was an awesome event and I’m looking forward to attending again next year!

ASSETS Best Paper Finalist

Our ASSETS 2016 paper, “Would You Be Mine: Appropriating Minecraft as an Assistive Technology for Youth with Autism” is a Best Paper Finalist! I will be presenting this work at ASSETS October 24.

Kathryn E. Ringland, Christine T. Wolf, LouAnne E. Boyd, Mark Baldwin, and Gillian R. Hayes. 2016. Would You Be Mine: Appropriating Minecraft as an Assistive Technology for Youth with Autism. In ASSETS 2016. [PDF]

Happy Times at Grace Hopper 2011

This year, November 9th through 11th, I went to my first technical convention. The Grace Hopper Celebrating Women in Computing is not your typical convention, however. It is plugged as primarily for women attendees (men were, of course, welcome but it turns out very few elected to come). It is held in a different city in the United States every fall and I was lucky enough to have it come near me this year, Portland, Oregon. Not only that, but as a student, I was selected through lottery to become a Hopper, which is a student volunteer at the convention. This meant that in exchange for a few hours of my time during the weekend I would receive a refund on my entrance fee. Not an insignificant amount of money. Even though it was in the middle of my school semester, all my professors made allowances for me to go and my computer science professor was particularly enthusiastic that all the women in his class attend.

I knew all this was going to be a huge opportunity for me to grow as a woman in technology and as a person in general. I didn’t fully realize how much of an effect it was going to have on me until I was a part of it.

I arrived at my hotel the evening before the convention opened. I had to be at the convention center before 7 am in order to get debriefed on my Hopper shifts. I wanted to get to my hotel with plenty of time to walk around and time how long it would take me to get to various places, but I ended up packing and repacking so many times that we didn’t get there until 8:30 at night. Now, bear in mind, that my house is a 30 minute drive to the hotel room. I was packing out of sheer nervousness and excitement for the weekend. Had I forgotten something (which I invariably always do) I knew I could just run home and get it, but that didn’t matter. It was the act of getting ready for the trip that made the whole thing seem more real for me. I spent so much time in the weeks preceding thinking and talking about how wonderful and fun the convention was going to be that I had really worked up into this glorious thing, the night before I was worrying my expectations were too high.

Anita Borg Institute Throws Grace Hopper Celebration 2011.

I hadn’t. I got there early the first day to go to my shift debriefing, as I mentioned. The place was very quiet, there were only a few early birds like me. I didn’t have to wait in line to pick up my goodie bag and badge. Having never been to a conference or convention like this before, I had no idea how much free loot I was going to get. The crazy amount of swag was impressive. My only comment to the companies out there would be: 4 different compact mirrors? Really? That’s what webcams are for. Someone is CLEARLY not in touch with today’s technical woman. I would have been much happier with cute flash drives.

Lots of Goodies From the Conference!

On the plus side, Google and Microsoft both had very nice t-shirts (women’s cut ++) that I actually feel sexy in. There is something about Microsoft’s red “Geek Girl” shirt that makes me feel really good. Also, Microsoft wins again by giving out air plants at their booth instead of more plastic crap, thereby showing they have a vested interest in reducing their carbon footprint. I’d say they get the overall prize for best free stuff ever.

One of my first thoughts as I wandered the halls locating the essentials (coffee stands, food carts, escape routes, and bathrooms) was, “The lines for the bathrooms are going to be ENORMOUS. What a pain.” Well, apparently, I wasn’t the only one who had that thought because almost every single men’s room door had this taped on them:

Men's Rooms were all converted to Women's except for one.

Glorious. In his speech about how important diversity is to the future of technology and encouraging women to join the technological field could only be a good thing, President of the ACM, Alain Chesnais said that he finally understood what it was to be in the minority because he had to walk halfway across the convention center just to go to the bathroom.

Overall, there was an energy about the conference and a camaraderie that I have not really felt before. The closest I think I’ve ever come to it is at PAX (when I had the good fortune of going a few years ago.) There were about 2600 women in attendance at Grace Hopper and they were all there to help each other out and give the kind of support that is hard to get in a male dominated classroom or workplace.

I learned a lot from everyone I interacted with and a motivation to excel in my field was rooted in me that I didn’t know existed. I came home from the conference with a desire to pursue my dreams of making my own computer games and starting an ACM-W chapter at my school. I want to share this support and courage that I gained from the women at the convention with all the women in my department that didn’t have the good fortune of attending. I guess you could say I want to pass it on or pay it forward.

Most importantly, I want to keep going because I’m not just doing it for myself but all the women who will come after me, who perhaps just need a little more encouragement to get there.

Grace Hopper Celebrating Women in Computing 2012 is being held in Baltimore, Maryland next year. I’m already brainstorming ways that I am going to get there. This year’s convention was that good.