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NMSU researcher recognized nationally for learning games, leadership in Extension

Lab work is usually not considered all fun and games, but one professor at New Mexico State University has received a national award for her work in the university's Learning Games Lab and her leadership in Extension outreach.


NMSU Professor and Barbara Chamberlin holds her award and stands next to Agricultural Department Head Jeanne Gleason.
NMSU researcher Barbara Chamberlin poses with Agricultural Department Head Jeanne Gleason after having received the 2011 National Excellence in Extension Award from the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, United States Department of Agriculture and Extension Committee on Organization and Policy. (Courtesy photo)

Barbara Chamberlin, associate professor and director of NMSU's games lab was honored by the Association of Public Land-Grant Universities at their annual meeting in San Francisco. The Excellence in Extension Award is a national honor presented to one individual who has initiated high-impact programs and shown visionary leadership.

So what does working in Extension involve? For Chamberlin, it involves translating university-based research to help solve real problems, and teaching outside the traditional classroom.

"Dr. Chamberlin is changing the way we communicate Extension-based research and is pioneering new ways to educate, teach and change behavior," said Jon Boren, director of Cooperative Extension Service at NMSU.

Chamberlin has been involved in developing games for learners of all ages, including games for classrooms and home-based learning. The games encompass diverse topics such as food safety, career exploration, ATV safety and math learning. Chamberlin has also been involved in researching how "exergames," or video games that encourage physical activity, can be used in a variety of settings.

"I think that sometimes as educators, we forget that we don't have to 'make learning fun,' learning itself really is fun," Chamberlin said. "We use games to build an environment that allows and encourages that learning."

With Chamberlin's work, NMSU was among the first Extension organizations to publish interactive learning applications for the iPod, iPhone and iPad, with apps available for download the day the iPad was released.

"Dr. Chamberlin has been creating and distributing interactive games for Extension before CD-ROMs were in computers and before the Internet was even discussed in most homes," said Jeanne Gleason, head of NMSU's media productions unit.

While Chamberlin's main focus is development and research of learning games, she has also taught classes in educational game design and technology-career integration.

"I've been itching lately to teach a class about assessing game-based learning," Chamberlin said. "Teaching classes is a great way for me to really reflect and revisit game design principles."

For more information about educational game development or NMSU's Learning Games Lab Chamberlin can be reached at bchamber@nmsu.edu. Information is also available on the lab's website at www.learninggameslab.org.