There Go My Heroes Part 1: Kurt Squire

If you’ve been reading my blog, or you follow me on Twitter, or listen to the pod, or have heard me speak recently (so basically anytime I’ve said something for public consumption) you would know that I am in a pretty reflective state these days. I am thinking a lot about my tenure as a teacher, about how I taught and my “style”. I am thinking about how I treated the kids and how I could have done better. I am thinking about the things I didn’t work hard enough for and about missed opportunities. And I am also thinking about how I got here.

A lot has changed for me over the last 18 months or so. But I honestly feel like my path was always leading me here. That path has seen a lot of twists and turns to be sure. I remember breaking down crying my first year because I was so tired. I was coming in at 6:30 and not leaving until 6 and it seemed a lot of the things I was doing weren’t working out. I was spinning my wheels on a few big assignments, and I was arguing a lot with the director of my school about the direction of the technology programs I was in charge of. It was a lot to deal with for a first time teacher, first time department head, first time curriculum designer, first time anything.

As I have been reflecting on everything I’ve done to get here I’ve also been thinking about the folks who helped me along the way. There are a lot of them. From the people who I worked with part time while I was trying to raise a family and go to school at the same time. To the professors who encouraged me and told me that my crazy ideas about video games may not be as crazy as they seem (who knew?) Obviously I’ve thought a lot about the sacrifices my wife and her parents made (we lived with them while I went back to school). We couldn’t have done it without them. I’ve also been thinking about all the educators who’ve inspired me, mentored me, encouraged me, amplified me, and taught me.

This is a series of posts about my educational heroes. This small group of people have had a HUGE impact on my life. The criteria to make it to this list is simple: Would I be doing what I am doing now, without them? If the answer is no, they’re on this list. I can also clearly explain WHY I wouldn’t be doing what I am doing now without them, which is important when you’re writing a blog post, they say… I also have EVIDENCE for most of them, which is amazing. I can show you clear examples of them going WAY BEYOND what is expected to help me. That, in my mind is what a hero is. So here we go. These are in chronological order. I think that hones a good narrative for my career and this path I’ve been on.

Kurt Squire

clMjehcK_400x400.jpg - Kurt is probably the person on this list I talk about the most (I’ve been made fun of in fact for going on a ‘Kurt Squire is my hero’ rant), and also the person most people reading this wouldn’t know. He’s a professor at UC Irvine (formerly University of Wisconsin-Madison) and works primarily in the games-based learning space. Most of the GBL folks know Kurt well and love his work. If you don’t live in that world, it’s likely you don’t know of him. He wrote his dissertation on learning World History through playing the video game Civilization III. It’s become a must read for GBL academics, it is cited profusely in papers and articles, and is 100% my inspiration for getting into this world. When I was doing my B.Ed I was an odd duck. I spent a lot of my time arguing with professors and students about the importance and value of STEM, Games Based Learning, Coding in the classroom, and gamification. Most people thought I was insane - I guess we know who won in the end right? I was trying DESPERATELY to come up with evidence. I needed something I could use to say “LOOK, I know what I am talking about! You can use games in school and it will do all these amazing things” Then I found Kurt. It’s like the clouds parted and the sun came out (seriously). I don’t know how I came up on it but I bet you it has something to do with the fact that I am a fanatically passionate Civilization player, and am absolutely convinced it should be used in history class. I was so thrilled to see someone thought the exact same thing and did the work to prove it. THIS is when I realized I could do it. I could bring my passions and hobbies closer to my career. This is when I knew I was right about the importance of the home-school connection and that when kids play games they learn as well doing that as any other way. This is when I realized I wasn’t crazy. I’ve used Kurt’s work as my armour for a decade now. When I need a defender, I point to this as my proof. I wouldn’t be here without Kurt’s work.

Kurt, thank you for being brave enough to take a nerdy passion we share like playing Civilization III and writing about it. Thanks for pouring your life and reputation into a space that is only recently getting the credit it deserves. I know you’ll say there were many others who came before you, I agree, but if not for you, I wouldn’t have discovered them. Your work is important, not just to me, but to everyone.

Mike WashburnComment