My name is Jared Fishman, from Tarrytown, NY. I’m currently employed at the Hackley School, where I’ve been teaching history for over 13 years. As a long time gamer, I’ve always implemented games into my curriculum – everything from Diplomacy to simulations about the Black Death. Hackley is very interested in utilizing more games within our curriculum and recognize their inherent value as a teaching tool. I first heard about NASAGA from one of my coworkers named Peter Sawkins, who along with Mike Canterino and I formed a teaching collective whose purpose is to learn everything we can about gaming in the classroom. Mike and I attended NASAGA 2018 and had a revelatory experience in so many ways.
The first thing that struck me about NASAGA was how welcoming everyone was. Attendees, facilitators, and board members went out of their way to greet Mike and I, asking questions about our interests and goals for the conference. It was a wonderful feeling- to be surrounded by people from all walks of life that included game designers, teachers, and other professions. Yet, each person had a love of all things gaming, tying us together with a common thread. This made the NASAGA conference a very unique experience.
Similarly, the workshops, speakers, and other activities run at the conference left me with new knowledge, tons of ideas, and a “I can do this” type of attitude which has directly carried over to my teaching at Hackley. While gaming and simulations have always been a part of my courses and career, NASAGA helped me look at my own practices in new ways. For example, I learned from Thiagi that games don’t necessarily need to be weeks long, encompassing every aspect of pedagogy on a daily basis. They can be far shorter in duration, even sometimes as a simple, 5 minute activity to start the day. Cards, a specialty of Thiagi, have found their way into many of my lessons, everything from using them to arrange groups or to assign content activities within a project. Moreover, he helped me understand that just about anything in a classroom can be gamified.
On the flipside, playing the Spy Simulation, run by the awesome, energetic force of nature that is Kathleen Mercury, got me thinking about all the ways to better my long term simulations that I’ve been employing for over a decade. Running to drop off points, interacting with dozens and dozens of people at once, and having to rely on one another to solve problems were just some of the things that went on during her epic simulation. Playing such a game helped reinforce beliefs I already had about the power of these kinds of activities. The more immersive they are, the more they will serve to draw the students in and engage them in content they might normally find boring or disconnected from.
Evening gaming was also a lot of fun. NASAGA does a great job of incorporating downtime into the schedule, to give attendees a chance to mingle, get to know one another, and play all sorts of board and roleplaying games. There was a friendliness and camaraderie to the group that was different than some of the other conferences I’ve been to, and is a testament to the power of games as a way of bringing people together. Also, there was a sense of longevity around the whole experience, especially when seeing the kinds of connections long time members have crafted in their years going to the conference. With any luck, Hackley as an institution can become part of such tradition in the long term.
Moving forward, I would recommend NASAGA to anyone that wants to add a new dimension to their classrooms. Gaming can sometimes seem overwhelming, but the NASAGA presenters and facilitators do a good job of dispelling such notions. Like anything else, using games as a tool is a skill that can be honed and crafted. NASAGA is a breeding ground for this kind of thinking, and I surmise that it’s not all that different than being a painter and going to Florence in the 1400s. Bump into anyone at NASAGA and you’re more than likely going to find someone that has an idea on how to bring content to life through a game or simulation.