CCTE Current Student Spotlight: Darnel Degand, Communication, Computing, and Technology in EducationBy mst • May 27th, 2013 • Category: Communication, Media, and Learning Technologies Design
Darnel Degand is a full-time doctoral student in the Instructional Technology and Media program within the Communication, Computing, and Technology in Education program. Darnel is also teaching a second-level interactive media course at Teachers College, Theory and Programing of Interactive Media, which covers user experience and ActionScript 3 programming. His academic interests include educational entertainment technology and media and social success skills (life skills) development.
His family is from Haiti. He was born in Brooklyn and raised in Queens but he also lived in Haiti for approximately two and half years when he was young.
He went to the University of Pennsylvania for his undergraduate degree in Mechanical Engineering and Applied Mechanics and upon graduation he worked for a company called AMC Computer Corporation. He then attended New York University and received his Master of Science degree in Digital Imaging and Design. Afterwards he began freelancing for various clients throughout White Plains and New York City. He eventually began working fulltime as a Multimedia Designer/Higher Education Assistant for the City University of New York’s Queensborough Community College campus.
While working at his first job for AMC Computer Corporation, Darnel was responsible for creating corporate graphics and online interactive multimedia tools to be used in business reports, advertisements, sales aids, and presentations. He also led workshops where he taught corporate clients how to use various desktop applications. He credits this job with introducing him to the concept of knowledge management within an organization. He began to see how media was being used to bring new employees up to speed as they learned their job responsibilities. Human resources departments always needed this work to be done and this was his primary role.
Darnel also stated “I thought from a young age that you could use media, cartoons, and T.V. to teach.” He received his first opportunity to do this fulltime when he began working as an online game developer for Sesame Workshop. This job allowed him to connect with his passion for teaching interactively through media and entertainment and provided him with valuable experience designing and developing online media content for Sesame Workshop.
Following his work in the positions mentioned above, he began his studies at TC in the CCTE program. The people at TC have enriched Darnel’s experience as a student at TC. “The people that I have met here have been really good resources, both students and teachers.” Darnel mentioned Ronah Harris and Carla Engelbrecht Fisher as colleagues who encouraged him to apply to Sesame Workshop. Dr. Vasudevan, his advisor, and Dr. Kinzer have been mentors to Darnel. He also noted other faculty and students that he has met along the way and values the relationships that have developed. “The courses that I have taken definitely helped …. That was the major reason I came here, to get more of a research and design background, with theoretical and educational design knowledge that I did not have.” He also mentioned Jessica Hammer as a notable colleague at TC because she spearheaded creating a library of books in the Game Research Lab. This library exposed him to numerous educational entertainment media-related books that he eventually purchased for himself.
Darnel was equipped with technical digital media and gaming design knowledge and skills, however he felt he needed to develop his skills in educational research and educational game design. He had a desire to develop educational games and realized he needed a theoretical base for the design choices he made. Darnel was creating what he thought were educational games, however, he wanted to know more about education to ensure his educational games were targeting the skills he wanted people to learn after playing his game. Therefore he chose to attend TC to do that work. Isaiah Belle, a former classmate from UPenn, was enrolled at TC and first introduced him to the CCTE website. After browsing the website, TC seemed to fit his needs. Darnel indicated, “Understanding what it means to really create something that is educational, that is entertaining, and is educational for x, y, and z reasons,” was of value to him.
Darnel has worked fulltime throughout his time at TC. He currently works at Digital Generation as the Team Lead of his company’s Product Innovation Team. His group works under Digital Generation’s MediaMind division and they create numerous rich media ad formats for various clients, such as Viacom, Microsoft, ABC, and NBC.
His research interest is closely tied to his academic interest; hence his dissertation title is Social Success Skills: Black Male High School Students’ Perspectives on Society and their Media Experiences. His study concentrated on the social aspects of his participants’ media products and media experiences.
Darnel graduates this May and is currently working on projects that include a mix of real-world production and theory-based articles fit for journal publication. He plans to submit several articles for publication. He also continues to engage in the interconnection between theory and practice in his work to develop games for education. He is currently developing a game based on several cartoon characters from Coomacka Island, a series of stories he co-created and self-published with his partner Don P. Hooper.
Moreover, Darnel names professors that had an impact on his academic and research interest. Dr. Vasudevan taught the course, Digital Geographies, and Darnel stated “It just opened my mind to the socio-cultural side of technology, that it’s not just about the technical aspect and developing for a user that comes up to the machine and starts working with it. Digital Geographies brought up the concept of communities online.” This gave Darnel a new perspective on the use and outcomes of creating virtual spaces for people to engage online that are not necessarily physical communities. Additionally, Dr. Charles Kinzer recommended the book Pause and Effect by Mark Stephen Meadows and Darnel appreciated it because of its discussion about interactive media development and theory.
After completing his degree, he plans to continue his research in educational gaming design in addition to his current work in advertising technology. Eventually, Darnel hopes to find an opportunity in the future that will allow him to simultaneously conduct research and produce media products.
From his days as a child he has valued visual arts, specifically drawing. “Visual arts is important to me. I also enjoy video games, comic books, and I really enjoy reading.” Although his schedule is full he finds time to indulge in outdoor activities through sports and travel, especially during warm weather months. He believes his family would describe him as passionate, hard-working, and family-oriented.
By Deiana Jackson, Graduate Student, Mathematics Education Ed.D.