Meet the Intern Analyzing TTRP Game Sessions with Teens
Caroline Pitt gets to combine one of her hobbies with research on the foundry10 collaboration with Games to Grow.
Caroline Pitt is a design for informal learning researcher with a background in social science and media production, combining these areas to explore multimedia data through qualitative analysis. She is currently a PhD candidate in the Information School at the University of Washington, Seattle. Much of her research focuses on designing informal educational technologies with and for teens and their communities, as well as developing best practices for concluding long-term research-practice partnerships in informal settings. Caroline is passionate about justice in education and design, as well as exploring diverse approaches to learning. When not conducting research or teaching, she enjoys playing tabletop role-playing games (TTRPGs) such as D&D, gardening, meandering exploratory neighborhood walks, and crafting.
Describe your experience so far as a foundry10 graduate research intern. What are you learning?
I’m interning on part of the Research team working on the Game To Grow video data. Basically, we have video of a bunch of tabletop role-playing game sessions with teens using Game To Grow’s system and structure, and we’re looking at how the group learns and changes together, as well as some other aspects. I’m learning a lot about how foundry10 works, as well as the experience of working on research somewhere other than a university. This is also my first time really getting to combine one of my hobbies with my research, and my mentors are bringing in some great new theoretical perspectives and methodological approaches. So I’m learning quite a bit and bringing in my own expertise as well!
What is one thing you think most people would be surprised to learn about you?
In high school and undergrad I did several film and video related internships, and strongly considered getting more into media production before realizing I preferred the social sciences. I still draw on those production skills for a lot of my work. I also love crafting and did a lot of theater tech work in high school, so I’m often the one with the sewing kit or the screwdriver or the first aid kit. I’m great at assembling flat pack furniture.
Tell us about your research on teens and digital badges (and teens and COVID-19).
I’ve been working with my advisor Dr. Katie Davis on the Digital Badges for STEM Education project for a bit over five years now. Unfortunately, the pandemic shut down some of our wrap-up work but we got a chance to work very closely with our research partners at the Pacific Science Center, using participatory design techniques to create the system directly with the youth who would be using it. We’ve explored the design process as well as implementation and continued use, and have worked on new features, such as portfolios, over the years. Our technical backend partner, Badgr, has continued to grow, incorporating some of our findings.
Due to the pandemic, we pivoted some of our work to explore how teens are experiencing this new world of social distancing. In April 2020, we started interviewing Seattle area youth about their experiences and having them fill out surveys three times a week, focusing on their wellbeing and technology use. We’re currently conducting the next phase of that study. Some of the 2020 study findings were documented in our CHI 2021 paper “The Kids Are / Not / Sort of All Right.”
I’m currently focusing on how research-practice partnerships change or come to an end over time for my dissertation work, so the pandemic hurdles have been challenging but interesting.
What do you think adults misunderstand about teens these days? What do you enjoy most about working with teens?
Teens are incredibly smart, insightful, and clever. They’re trying to figure out how to be adults while still being kids and it’s so complicated. If a teen is acting out for some reason, I encourage the adult(s) to take a step back and consider what the problem actually is! Fundamental attribution error is something we can all work on.
Also, don’t assume kids and teens are great with technology just because they know how to use a smartphone! Often they’re familiar with a specific device, set of apps, and particular actions within those apps. Modern apps are often designed to keep users in the app ecosystem for as long as possible, and many of them are “walled gardens” that don’t allow access to everything. I think we could all use more lessons in information and tech literacy, as well as online safety. Critical thinking about decisions online is incredibly important to teach and exercise. For instance: Real name policies online? They may sound like a good idea on the surface level in popular media, but online harassment experts point out that they can be extremely dangerous for at-risk populations such as marginalized individuals (e.g. trans youth), dissidents, and so on.
Working with teens is fantastic, though it does take a while to get past the cool exterior and make them believe I actually care about what they’re saying.
What are you currently reading/watching/playing?
I’m currently reading a number of books related to my research, including Roleplaying Games in the Digital Age: Essays on Transmedia Storytelling, Tabletop RPGs and Fandom. I’ve been watching Black Dice Society, Into the Mother Lands, Exandria Unlimited, and some other actual-play tabletop role-playing game shows, as well as getting back into Leverage. In terms of games, I was playing a lot of Hades for a while, I enjoy a good game of Wingspan, and of course I have a couple of D&D campaigns I’m playing in. I’m also planning some D&D oneshots for co-workers and colleagues.