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Postsecondary Play

The Role of Games and Social Media in Higher Education

edited by William G. Tierney, Zoë B. Corwin, Tracy Fullerton, and Gisele Ragusa

Publication Year: 2014

Part of the barrier to college access is navigating the elaborate application process with its multiple essays, test scores, and deadlines. For students without substantial school and family support, this is enough to make entering college impossible. Higher education scholar William Tierney and his team at the University of Southern California approach this challenge innovatively. Using the tools of online games and social media, they have developed ways to make applying for college much less intimidating. While the vast majority of college students use social media and gaming in their everyday lives, colleges and universities have been slow to recognize and harness the power of either. Postsecondary Play explores the significance of games and social media in higher education, and particularly how they can be used to attract, retain, educate, and socialize students. Tierney, a past-president of American Educational Research Association, has gathered some of the best research on the emerging role of multiplayer games in the classroom and how these tools can boost student confidence and increase college access. Scholars writing from a wide variety of disciplines—college access, social media, game studies, and learning sciences—provide concrete examples to illustrate the new and complex ways in which students learn in response to social media and games. Tierney and the contributors find that, although games can be powerful tools for encouraging underserved students, quality game design and mastering the concept of play—the ability to develop skills while engaging the game—are essential in the effective use of serious games in teaching and learning. Summarizing a decade of research in game design and learning, Postsecondary Play will appeal to higher education scholars and students of learning, online gaming, education, and the media.

Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press


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Title Page, Copyright

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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii-viii

Five years ago we embarked on a collaboration to improve access to college through the creation of game-based tools. Our work on the project informed this edited volume. We are grateful to the University of Southern California (USC) Office of the Provost, TG, The Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Foundation, ...

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Introduction. Why Games and Social Media?

Zoë B. Corwin, William G. Tierney, Tracy Fullerton, Gisele Ragusa

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pp. 1-18

In the fall of 2008, faced with the per sis tent challenge of how to boost college-going rates for low-income students, we embarked on an interdisciplinary collaboration intended to create new technology and game-based college-access tools. With seed funding from the University of Southern California’s Office of the Provost, our team of educational researchers, game designers, and outreach practitioners convened to conceptualize these tools. ...

Part I: What Is the Current Landscape of Higher Education?

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1. The Disruptive Future of Higher Education

William G. Tierney

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pp. 21-44

Many have spoken about the changes that academe faces, but these changes often have been phrased in terms of some distant future. How we construct time in an age-old organization frequently gets measured in decades rather than days. ...

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2. The Need to Increase College Enrollment and Completion

Laura W. Perna

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pp. 45-70

This book describes the potential role of social media and games in improving college enrollment and completion. But do we really need to invest time, energy, and other finite resources into new approaches for addressing these outcomes? ...

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3. Transition Readiness: Making the Shift from High School to College in a Social Media World

David Conley, Mary Seburn

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pp. 71-102

A successful transition from high school to postsecondary education depends on many individual, social, and institutional factors. Throughout high school, students must develop and nurture an identity that evolves from “high school student” to “college student” or “employee.” ...

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4. From Communication to Community: How Games and Social Media Affect Postsecondary Stakeholders

Zoë B. Corwin

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pp. 103-122

Social media and games have begun to infiltrate most aspects of college life. From preparing for college to navigating freshman year to interacting with faculty, the postsecondary landscape is dramatically different from what it was a decade ago. Students now learn about colleges through social media, get to know their prospective roommates through Facebook, ...

Part II: What’s in a Game?

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5. What Games Do Well: Mastering Concepts in Play

Tracy Fullerton

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pp. 125-145

In the past several years there has been a growing interest in “using” games to “do things” (Bogost 2007, 2011; McGonigal 2011). The virtues of games as intrinsically motivating systems has been extolled, rather ironically, right alongside the excitement around creating extrinsic reward systems, such as badge and achievement systems in social media (Digital Media and Learning Competition 2011). ...

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6. The Open Laptop Exam: Reflections and Speculations

Henry Jenkins, Adam S. Kahn

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pp. 146-170

When Henry Jenkins relocated to the University of Southern California (USC) several years ago, his new teaching obligations required him to oversee a large lecture hall course on new media and culture, the first such course he had taught in many years. He was surprised by his students’ responses to practices that had once seemed unproblematic. ...

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7. Games, Passion, and “Higher” Education

James Paul Gee

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pp. 171-189

Colleges and universities have addressed undergraduate education in different ways (Cole 2009). One way is to offer undergraduate students “mini” versions (called “majors”) of what they offer graduate students. Faculty members teach undergraduates a scaled-down version of their disciplinary specialty. ...

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8. Game-Like Learning: Leveraging the Qualities of Game Design and Play

Katie Salen

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pp. 190-214

Back in the winter of 1891 in the town of Springfield, Massachusetts, James Naismith highlighted the potential of games to educate and engage. Enlisted in December of that year to create an activity that would provide some form of “socially redeeming physical expression” for the working-class youth of the town, Naismith invented the “Guiding Principles of Basket-Ball.” ...

Part III: What Do We Know about Games and What Do We Need to Learn?

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9. Assessing Learning in Video Games

Valerie Shute, Matthew Ventura, Yoon Jeon Kim, Lubin Wang

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pp. 217-235

As others have noted throughout the book, video games are hugely popular. For instance, revenues for the video game industry reached $7.2 billion in 2007, and overall 72% of the population in the United States plays video games (Entertainment Software Association 2011; Fullerton 2008). ...

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10. Implications and Applications of Sociable Gaming for Higher Education

Nicole B. Ellison, Donghee Yvette Wohn, Carrie Heeter

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pp. 236-261

Over the past few years, games that are played on social media platforms have garnered attention from game designers and game scholars—and, most recently, from higher education scholars and practitioners as well. Because they are embedded in social media platforms, these games have been dubbed social games (although, of course, any game that involves interpersonal interaction is inherently social). ...

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11. Gender, Social Media, Games, and the College Landscape

Gisele Ragusa

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pp. 262-282

To fully understand the role that gender plays in social media and its effect on higher education, we must first contextualize the changing landscape of technology in colleges and universities. This chapter offers a research-informed future forecasting of gender differences associated with new media. ...

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12. How Much Technology Is Enough?

Steven Weiland

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pp. 283-310

We do not think of the mechanical clock as an advanced form of technology, but its invention was one of Neil Postman’s favorite episodes in the mixed meanings of innovation. For the thirteenth-century Benedictine monks who invented it, the clock was to be used to regulate daily prayers. ...

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Conclusion. The Shape of Things to Come

William G. Tierney, Zoë B. Corwin

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pp. 311-318

Those who suggest that academe never changes are largely mistaken. Through similes such as “governing faculty is like herding cats” or “changing the curriculum is like moving a graveyard,” too often the picture gets painted of colleges and universities in stasis, wedded to the status quo. ...


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pp. 319-320


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pp. 321-326


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pp. 327-336

E-ISBN-13: 9781421413075
E-ISBN-10: 1421413078
Print-ISBN-13: 9781421413068
Print-ISBN-10: 142141306X

Page Count: 320
Illustrations: 6 halftones, 6 line drawings
Publication Year: 2014

OCLC Number: 880147747
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Postsecondary Play

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Education, Higher -- Effect of technological innovations on.
  • Education, Higher -- Social aspects.
  • Play -- Social aspects.
  • Video games.
  • Computer games.
  • Social media.
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  • Open Access
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