What is your educational background?
My undergraduate is a double major in secondary education and computer information systems. Basically, it is computer education. My masters is in secondary administration and my doctorate is in educational administration policy analysis. My dissertation focused on the question, “Do people learn in 3D or 4D worlds?” I applied computers and learning, which is what I am passionate about.
What is your work background?
I started out in charge of a department of computer maintenance at Ball State University. At 22, I had 30 people working for me and was in charge of the entire campus’ computer network infrastructure as well as keeping all the computers on that campus functional. This was a campus of about 18,000 students. I then taught junior high and high school for a number of years. Once I got my master’s degree, I was asked to teach at the university level. There, I started a computer gaming degree at Missouri State. ACU invited me to come and get a digital entertainment degree.
What do you teach at ACU?
Mobile development and digital entertainment classes.
What committees/other duties do you have at ACU aside from teaching?
I am the primary faculty for the Digital Entertainment Technology students. My key role is making sure that it runs smoothly. We have over 60 students in that program and I’m their academic liaison and advisor. I am also on the suspension appeals committee and was on the disciplinary committee. I deal a lot with incoming students that are wanting to return or have had problems in the past.
What drew you to teaching? Why did you want to work with students?
My first experience in working with students was teaching an upper elementary bible class. At the time I was a computer technician. They asked me to teach and I realized that I liked the teaching! I liked working with studentsand doing things in a different fashion. We would talk about things from the bible. I think one time we were talking about the size of the first temple; so I took the group of students outside and we stepped out how large of a space that the first temple was, to give them a better idea of how large it was. To see that light come on – that understanding – is very exciting. There was no question after that, I was hooked on teaching.
What’s the best part of working with students?
Seeing what they create. Digital entertainment is a creative field. Everybody comes in with a story or idea that they want to tell, whether it is through gaming, animation, or film. They want to do something with that and that’s the exciting part – helping them gain the skills necessary to accomplish telling the story they want to tell.
Have you ever given up any big opportunities to keep working with students?
Yes. I started the mobile application classes and I had a number of offers from corporate companies and universities, some of them very attractive. I made the decision to stay here at ACU.
Outside of teaching, what passions and hobbies do you have?
My wife and I write. We are writing a series of books and also developing games of our own. My number one passion goes back to teaching. We used to run an online school in the late nineties. We were running one of the first K-12 online educational services primarily aimed at homeschooled or students who simply could not attend a traditional educational environment.
What is a good, early story about your teaching?
I was teaching a sixth grade class. This was a group of students at a private Christian school who, in the case of many, had been dismissed from public schools. They were no longer able to attend public schools so they were there for their education. We had taken them on a field trip. On the way back from the field trip they had thrown a note out the window of the van I was driving saying “help, we’re being kidnapped and he has a gun”. Within a few miles I was surrounded by police and they asked me to exit the vehicle. Now, the van said “Christian school” all over it, but they still asked me to step out of the van. They saw the title on the van and the students in the van and said, “We’re pretty sure this was a false note, but we still have to investigate it.” That’s when my hair started going grey.
Tell me about a project or accomplishment that you consider to be the most significant in your career.
I’ve got two. A couple years ago I finished one of the very first textbooks available for teaching mobile application and game development for university and for high schools. That has been very successful and has been one of the few textbooks available for learning to do mobile application and game development. I have actually gotten to travel all over North America teaching on mobile applications because of this textbook.
My most exciting project is my current one, which is examining the Pygmalion effect. It places students inside a virtual environment and assigns them an avatar, investigating whether that impacts their learning. That is a project that is still in its early stages. Working with my DET students, we are creating those avatars and creating that virtual world for them to be able to interact in and will give them educational projects to achieve. Is the selection of the avatar important? Do they learn the same with a stick figure as they would a figure that they would associate with learning? If we are doing physics or advanced math and I give you an avatar that looks like Einstein, does that give the student motivation, or do you just not try because you have Einstein to do your math? We don’t know, this hasn’t been researched.
Are there any press releases or online mentions in any magazines, newspapers, or online articles that you would like included in this spotlight?
- Say Something Smart (Aug, 2015) – Podcast discussing the educational/therapeutic uses of games.
- Corona Geek (Aug, 2012 to present) – Weekly Google+ Hangout covering the field of mobile application and game development.
- KTXS News (Mar. 3, 2011) “100% Job Placement For Game And App Design Students” http://bigcountryhomepage.com/search-fulltext?nxd_id=349046.
- KTXS News, (Feb. 15, 2011). “ACU Offers New Course About Application Development” http://bigcountryhomepage.com/fulltext/?nxd_id=342956.
- KTXS News (Apr. 6, 2010) “ACU Launches First Student Paper on iPad” http://bigcountryhomepage.com/search-fulltext?nxd_id=233495.
- ACU (Apr, 2010). “The Optimist is first to publish on iPad.” http://www.acu.edu/promise/innovative/ipad_optimist.html
Do you do any charity or non-profit work?
My main charity work is through church. I used to be very active in Junior Achievement, Habitat for Humanity, Big Brothers, and things like that as well.
Who is your role model, and why?
Role models are a tough thing. I started out as an atheist. You look to the world for your role models when you’re an atheist. After becoming a Christian, my role model became
Jesus. I try to be more like Him in my daily actions. Some days I am better at it than others. That’s my role model, and I’m sure that is a common role model for Christians.
Who was your most inspirational professor and why?
There were several while I was attending ACU that had a huge impact.
I primarily came to ACU because Dr. Leonard Allen was teaching. He had written several books on being a Christian and what it meant to be a Christian. I wanted to learn from him.
I think the man who had the greatest impact on me while I was here was Dr. Terry Meethy. He encouraged us to not accept limitations. He challenged us to go for more. I was finishing up my undergraduate at the time and I had not even considered masters or doctorate work. He challenged me to think bigger. He taught me to think about more than impacting one school or one congregation, but to think on a more global scale. He was one of those people who, when he walked into a room, knowledge spilled off and you just had to soak up all that you possibly could. That was very inspirational. I only had him for a few individual classes, but he had a huge impact on my perspective and my view of the world.
If you could have a superpower, what would it be and why?
As a teenager I was into comic books. I always liked the flash. He could run fast and zip through walls and get wherever he needed to be. And he was a scientist! He was really smart about what he did. I was also into the X-Men as well. Professor Xavier used his brain to communicate with people. So, I never settled on one.
What is something that students might be surprised to find out about you?
I am a former atheist. I was an active atheist when I went off to college. I actively worked to convert people to atheism. It was in my early twenties that I became a Christian.
What would you really want students and alums to know about you?
Be passionate about what it is you do. If you’re passionate about it, you can make a difference and change the world.