I am originally from the Youngstown area of Ohio and graduated from University School, a private high school in the eastern Cleveland suburbs. During high school, I studied piano and music theory privately at the Cleveland Institute of Music.
I was a music major at Yale University and graduated cum laude with distinction in the major. I wanted to be an orchestral/opera conductor. A friend and I co-directed a student ensemble, the Pierson Camera, that was affiliated with Pierson College (one of the undergraduate residential colleges at Yale), and I was fortunate to conduct some fun stuff including Bach’s Cantata #140 (Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme), Bach’s Orchestral Suite #2, Beethoven’s Fidelio Overture, Dvořák’s String Serenade. In my final concert, I conducted Beethoven’s Eighth Symphony. During my junior year, I studied for a semester at the University of Tübingen in Germany. I also participated in some conducting seminars affiliated with the Conductors Guild (at the University of South Carolina, Illinois State University, and Wayne State University) and with Symphonic Workshops (in Kromněříž and Zlín in the Czech Republic).
After I graduated, I decided to retool, so I started taking computer science and mathematics courses at Youngstown State University. Although my math is rusty, I basically completed the equivalent of an undergraduate major in mathematics–and then some–as well as quite a bit of computer science. Then, I made it to the Entertainment Technology Center at Carnegie Mellon University, where I received a Master of Entertainment Technology degree. The program is a two year professional, applied media program that focuses on project-based work. During my time at Carnegie Mellon, I was the back-end programmer on a turn-based strategy game, PeaceMaker, along with a team of very talented students. PeaceMaker won some awards, and it’s still around. In fact, you can download it for free now. After graduation, I was special faculty for a year and was involved with the inauguration of Entertainment Technology Center – Silicon Valley, a satellite program of the Entertainment Technology Center. Our offices were in the creative studio building at Electronic Arts.
Since I wanted to explore applied media further, I decided to go for a Ph.D. at Arizona State University in educational technology. Dr. James Paul Gee was my adviser. The educational technology program was a traditional instructional design program rooted in the behaviorist psychology and cognitive science traditions. Jim Gee is, among other things, a pioneer in socio-cultural approaches to literacy. Therefore, I have a hybrid approach to learning that is a combination of instructional design and contemporary learning science. I worked on Our Courts (now iCivics), Justice Sandra Day O’Connor’s game-centric experience to teach middle school kids about civics. Later, I returned to the Entertainment Technology Center for the Working Examples project, which is an open publishing site for the digital media and learning company that has been supported by the MacArthur Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. For my dissertation, I created two casual games to introduce fundamental Newtonian mechanics ideas to high school and adult age students. Players did make some progress after playing the games as measured on a subset of questions of the Force Concept Inventory, an important assessment tool in physics education, but there is still much work to do in this area. I successfully defended my dissertation on July 15, 2014.