Keynote Speech by Jane McGonigal Inspires New Questions and Ideas for Kids, Creative Storyworlds and Wearables Research

By Bridgette Atkins

Speaker-JMcGonigalOn March 23rd and 24th, I attended the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario’s 6th annual Transitions conference at the Royal York hotel with Dr. Shirley Van Nuland of the Faculty of Education.   Dr. Jane McGonigal provided the keynote speech on the second morning of the conference. I was inspired by so many aspects of her talk – from her relaxed yet passionate approach to delivering her speech before a large banquet hall of conference attendees, to her well-designed slides, to her story of designing a wildly successful Find the Future game commissioned by the New York Public Library to attract the interest of youth.

The conference Twitter feed was abuzz with musings about what we could learn from the global obsession with games like Candy Crush Saga, bringing a ‘gameful mindsight’ to education, and a number of other insightful quotes from Jane. I couldn’t type fast enough to record all the gems of information that were coming out of this talk. The empowering element of game play that Jane reiterated – repeating the mantra that gamers are ‘super-empowered, hopeful individuals’ – resonated with me and seems to align well with the Mosaic approach to ethnography we will employ as we explore children’s creative ideas about wearable technology through their own stories and artwork. This talk brought a few questions to mind such as: ‘How might young children be empowered by the use of wearable technology?’ And, ‘Will young children share any stories of how they might be empowered by wearables in the Kids, Creative Storyworlds and Wearables project?’

In her talk, Jane also made mention of the late Brian Sutton-Smith, a prominent play theorist. She shared a quote from Sutton-Smith that caught my attention and the attention of many fellow conference attendees: ‘The opposite of play isn’t work; it’s depression’. I have since been intrigued by Sutton-Smith’s work and how it might relate to where children’s imaginations may take them while using wearables. I look forward to bringing aspects of his and Jane’s work into the Kids, Creative Storyworlds and Wearables project and am grateful to have had the opportunity to hear Jane speak.