Koreen started Tandem Learning in 2008 to address an unmet need in the learning space using technology with an emphasis on performance improvement and behavioral change. Koreen has strong ties to education and Philadelphia, having received her MS in Curriculum and Instruction from Penn State University and helping start Freire Charter School in Philadelphia in 1999.
Recently, Koreen’s experience has been in the development of learning solutions, with particular expertise in simulations, serious games, mobile learning, augmented reality and the application of virtual worlds for learning. That means she’s a serious gamer, readers!
Tell me about Learning in Tandem.
Koreen: Learning in Tandem was the blog that I started when I started my company, Tandem Learning, four years ago. I thought when I started that I would be writing about being a female entrepreneur and all of the challenges of founding a tech services start up. Over the years it evolved into a journal of sorts, and I write about all kinds of things, but I try to always tie it back to learning, design or other business-related topics.
When my company was acquired by Ayogo Games last fall, I realized how varied the topics I write about are. I started writing for myself, assuming no one would ever read it, but its amazing how many times I’ll meet someone and they’ll bring up a specific blog post or say, “oh, I read about that on your blog!”
Realizing I wasn’t just talking to myself has made me try to bring meaning to my personal experiences and make my lessons learned (hopefully!) relevant for other people. Only very rarely do I talk about my adorable children or hilarious anecdotes!
You’re a self-proclaimed gamer, tell me about your favorite games.
Koreen: Ugh, I am a gamer that doesn’t play nearly enough games! I think that’s probably fairly common with game designers. I was having a conversation recently about my gaming “style”…basically I play a new game for an hour or so and figure out if there is anything new that I could incorporate into one of my designs. If there is, then I’ll play more to figure out how it works. If not, it gets shelved. I was told that I’m a deconstructionist. I interpreted that as a shade of gamer snob…but I’m ok with that.
That said, I have some favorites that really expanded my own game design and what I teach my grad students. Scribblenauts… brilliant in its design and potential for learning. Heavy Rain is an amazing example of decision-making impacting storyline. Portal 2 is maybe the best puzzle-based game I’ve seen. I do tend to prefer the more immersive storyline driven experiences; Myst is still the only game I’ve ever finished. I have SkyRim waiting for me to play…I’ve “gamified” finishing my book, Immersive Learning, so I’m not allowed to play until I submit all of my chapters, which thankfully is any second now. My guilty pleasure game is Endless Ocean.
I’m also playing a lot of mobile games, since they tend to be shorter and I can play easily when I travel. Lately its Jetpack Joyride and Zwonks, which was recently released by Rude Boy Games, a division of my new company. I’m not sure they know how much I’ve been playing and I have hesitated to bring it up in any of our meetings. I guess they know now 🙂
Any other geeky interests?
Koreen: I’m trying to think of what interests I have that aren’t geeky…I’m a huge comic book fan and try to make it to as many ComicCons as I can every year. My favorite comics in the last year have been Kill Shakespeare (I used to be an English teacher, so its the perfect intersection of my geekiness), Chew, and iZombie. Zombies in general are kind of a big deal. Bacon. I’ve recently taken up photography with my iPhone, so I have more pictures and photo apps than I know what to do with.
I could tell you more than you’d ever want to know about virtual worlds. I spend most of my time investigating new technologies and how they can be leveraged for learning, so anything tech-related is exciting. The coolest stuff I’ve been playing with lately is augmented reality and how to use it in alternate reality games. I don’t watch much TV but I’m counting down until Season 2 of Game of Thrones. I’m also holding my breath for The Avengers; I hope that the movie lives up to the trailer. And football! (but that’s not geeky, is it?) I’m originally from Michigan, so I’m still a Lions fan.
What are some of your favorite places in Philly?
Koreen: I’m dying to go to Barcade! I can’t believe I haven’t been there yet…sigh.
I don’t get into the city nearly as much as I’d like to, but when I do, I tend towards places like Amada for cava and cheese or Village Whiskey for burgers and duck fat fries and, of course, whiskey. I love food and trying new places, Zahav and Vetri are amazing but there are so many smaller BYOs in Philly that are opening up all the time, I don’t usually go back to the same places twice. I’ve historically been a hardcore wine drinker, but in the last couple years I’ve acquired a taste for beer. This is actually making me sad that I don’t get out more…
What’s going on next for you?
Koreen: My book! Yay! The title is Immersive Learning, the tentative publication date is August this year and I’m so excited to have it done and out there. I’m always running around doing speaking gigs on leveraging games for learning, so I’ll be traveling throughout the year…you can always find out where I’ll be next by following my on Twitter @koreenolbrish. Yes, I tweet a lot. I think I’m teaching a graduate class on learning game design this fall again at Harrisburg University. And I’m hoping to actually go on vacation this year. I hear that’s what people do?