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The Digital Carnival: Observations on the Role of Gaming in Student Life and Computer Science

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2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


San Antonio, Texas

Publication Date

June 10, 2012

Start Date

June 10, 2012

End Date

June 13, 2012



Conference Session

Topics in Computer Science and Programming

Tagged Division

Computers in Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

25.1291.1 - 25.1291.12



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Paper Authors


James Dean Palmer Northern Arizona University

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James Palmer is an Associate Professor at Northern Arizona University. His research concerns the use of language and visualization to solve problems and improve computer science education.

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Eck Doerry Northern Arizona University

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Eck Doerry is an Associate Professor of computer science at Northern Arizona University. His research interests fall within the broad area on “Groupware Support for Online Groups," with active research in portal-based tools to support distributed scientific communities, groupware tools to support small, distributed engineering design teams, and distance education tools and environments. He has been a long-time promoter of stronger social networks as a way of improving student retention and success in engineering disciplines. Exploring and evaluating innovative ideas in this area has become a central focus for him since serving as Department Chair.

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The Digital Carnival: Observations on the Role of Gaming in Student Life and Computer Science  Video games represent a huge shared experience formany students who have otherwise diverseeducational interests and aspirations. Video gamesare also a common entry point for studentsinterested in Computer Science (CS). Severalstudent population studies have shown that onaverage male CS students cite an interest indeveloping and understanding video games as onethe primary reasons they enter the discipline.Understanding and leveraging student motivationsfor entering CS is important because of a general Figure  1.  The  Digital  Carnival  circa  2007.  downward trend in CS enrollment since 2000(Computing Research 2007) and poor retention in CS1 classes as demonstrated by DFW ratesthat hover between 35% and 50% nationally (Communications of the ACM 2007).Realizing that gaming could play an important part of retention and recruitment efforts for bothour college and the Computer Science program, we began working with our ACM studentchapter to develop a series of gaming oriented events we call "Digital Carnivals". Over the pastfive years these events have been supported by the Computer Science program, the StudentUnion Network, the office of Student Life, and three retention and recruitment grants awarded byXxxxxxxx Xxxxxxx University.In this paper we will describe the funding, design,and evolution of these events, and more 100.00importantly we will reflect on five years ofexperience, surveys, and participation data 75.00collected from these events. The results supportour hypothesis that gaming represents a unique 50.00crosscut of the student population and somewhatsurprisingly these students are not well served by 25.00other extracurricular activities (See Figure 2).Our results suggest that gaming can be an 0 Yes noimportant part of student socialization, which can Figure  2.  Q7:  “Are  you  involved  in  other  extra-­be critical in student retention efforts. curricular  activities,  clubs,  or  sports?”  These events have been an important recruitment tool for our own computer science program.This recruitment effort is stronger than the peripheral advertising we get by sponsoring theevents because it's our ACM club that actually runs and directs the events. Thus, as studentsparticipate in the events they get to know students in our program often creating formativefriendships and stirring shared interests that in turn get those students interested in ComputerScience while also creating a support structure that helps students succeed in our program.

Palmer, J. D., & Doerry, E. (2012, June), The Digital Carnival: Observations on the Role of Gaming in Student Life and Computer Science Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--22048

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