David J. Gagnon

University of Wisconsin – Madison Division of Information Technology – Academic Technology
1305 Linden Drive. Madison, WI 53704

Last Updated Jan 1, 2012


M.S. University of Wisconsin – Madison, Curriculum and Instruction. 2010.
B.S. University of Wisconsin – Madison, Computer Science

Professional Appointments

2012- Program Manager, Mobile Learning Incubator, University of Wisconsin – Madison. Direct a team of software developers, media producers and education researchers to produce and research the intersections of situated learning and mobile media through prototyping.
2012- Director, ARIS LLC. Support the development, community and operations of the open ARIS project and provide design services that leverage it’s capacities.
2008- Project Leader, ENGAGE Program – Academic Technology, University of Wisconsin – Madison. Design and produce innovative educational games, visualizations and classroom activities that leverage technology.
2003-2008 Instructional Designer, Professional and Technical Education, University of Wisconsin – Madison. Design and produce interactive training content.

Major Projects

Play the Past (2010-). Mobile development director, game co-designer, developer. Project leaders J. Sly & W. Jones. The Minnesota Historical Society. $2.5 million budget. Design a mixed-reality mobile game to enhance the 21st century field trip experience and connect that experience back to the classroom.

Mobile Field Research Platform (2014-). Principal Investigator, project producer. Other Principal Investigators: Cathy Middlecamp – UW Madison Nelson Institute. $63,120 University of Wisconsin Education Innovation Award. Design and produce a suite of tools that support the distributed creation of mobile field guides, citizen science and citizen ethnography projects.

Sustainable U (2014-). Principal Investigator, project producer, lead designer. Other Principal Investigators: Cathy Middlecamp – UW Madison Nelson Institute and Chris Lupton – UW Madison Engage Program. $48,554 University of Wisconsin Office of Sustainability Grant. Design a locative mobile game that engages new audiences to sustainability topics.

Thermo-Golf (2011-2014). Producer and co-PI. Principal Investigator John Pfotenhauer. $199,000 NSF Transforming Undergraduate Education grant. A game to teach introductory thermodynamics, study the effects of game aesthetics on player engagement and develop methods of real-time assessment based on player logs.

Augmented Reality and Interactive Storytelling (ARIS) (2008-). Project director and lead developer. $350,000 combined funding from MacArthur (Principal Investigator Kurt Squire), ENGAGE, New Learning Institute, Pearson Foundation, Library of Congress Teaching with Primary Sources (Principal Investigator Lucianne Brown), Minnesota Historical Society, Covenant Foundation (Principal Investigator Owen Gottlieb), SITIAC Fund, UW Children’s Hospital. An open source mobile experience design platform used by over 25,000 people worldwide.

The N Game (2010). Producer and game co-designer. Principal Investigator Teri Balser. $50,000 award from UW Madison Engage Program. A card game to teach the nitrogen cycle.

Cool-It (2008). Producer and game co-designer. Principal Investigator John Pfotenhauer. $142,000 award from UW Madison Engage Program.  A digital simulation game to teach cryogenics; a method for assessing player competencies from in-game activity.

Minor Projects and Pilots

The FIRM (2014). Producer and Designer. Seed funding from University of Wisconsin School of Business. Produce a game to teach international currency trading strategies.

Civil War Medic (2014). $5,000 seed funding provided by Wisconsin Veterans Museum. Design a mobile game to teach civil war era medical practice for use by Veterans Museum.

Designing Wisconsin Experiences (2014). Collaboration with UW Madison English department.  Develop a design facilitation approach for student designed mobile experiences, research the ways in which learners make meaning through re-representation using digital media.

Learning History and Culture through Designing Mobile Games (2013). Collaboration with UW Madison English department.  Develop a design facilitation approach for student designed mobile experiences.

WeBIRD Ornithology Pilot  (2013-). Producer and designer. A pilot to research the affordances and results of adding specific game mechanics to a field research mobile app.

SIFR (2013). Producer and co-designer. $15,000 provided by UW Madison Year of Innovation Committee.  An open source social photography application and database.

Waste Eliminators (2013). Producer and co-designer. UW Madison Engage Situated Learning award. A pilot mobile game to expose students to sustainability places and topics.

Exploring Town Center (2013). Producer and co-designer. $15,000 provided by Wisconsin Institute of Discovery. A mobile application and set of mini-games to deepen visitor experience around the art, design and exhibits at the Town Center community space.

Designing for Digital Literacy (2013). Co-curriculum designer, co-facilitator. Collaboration with UW Madison Curriculum and Instruction, UW Engage Situated Learning award. Develop a design facilitation approach for student designed mobile experiences in effort to increase digital literacy.

Plant Identification App (2012-). Producer and co-designer. Part of $190,788 Mobile Learning Incubator SITIAC funding. A mobile utility for identifying prarie grasses flowers, a research study into the efficiency and accuracy of digital application in comparison to traditional dichotomous keys.

Wisconsin Key to Woody Plants (2011). Producer and lead developer. $12,000 grant from WEEB. A mobile application for identifying trees shrubs and vines.

Breathe (2011). Game co-designer. $20,000 budget. A game to increase mindfulness through breath counting. A collaboration between the Center for the Healthy Mind, Morgridge Institute for Research and the University of Wisconsin Academic Technology Department.

Harmony Mixer (2010). Producer and game co-designer. $37,000 award from ENGAGE. A game to teach introductory music theory.

Design Quest (2009). Co-Designer. A card game to simulate the project management and design considerations of producing an educational game.

Game Quest (2008). Co-Designer. A card game to simulate the funding, politics, staff and cultural issues encountered while creating a games-based education program in a higher education context.

National Awards and Nominations

2014 Serious Play Gold Award. Play the Past
2014 American Association of Museums Bronze Award. Play the Past.
2013 Games for Change Most Innovative Game Nominee. Jewish Time Jump.

Press and Media References

Campus Technology, U Wisconsin Students Learn about Sustainability with Mobile Game. Bolkan, J. (2014, June 11). Retrieved from http://campustechnology.com/articles/2014/06/11/u-wisconsin-madison-students-learn-about-sustainability-with-mobile-game.aspx

SciGirls, PBS Kids, Season 2, Episode 4: The Awesome App Race. 2012.

Playful Design: Creating Game Experiences in Everyday Interfaces. Ferrara, J. 2012. Rosenfeld Media.

MacArthur Spotlight on Digital Media and Learning, The Magic of Going Mobile: Augmented Reality, Design Thinking and the Power of Place. Jackson, S. (2012, April 20). Retrieved from http://spotlight.macfound.org/featured-stories/entry/the-magic-of-going-mobile-augmented-reality-design-thinking-power-place/

Mind Meld: Micro-Collaboration Between eLearning Designers and Instructor Experts. Aleckson, J.D., Ralston-Berg, P. (2011).  Atwood Publishing.

Video Games and Learning: Teaching Participatory Culture in the Digital Age. Squire, K. (2011). Teachers College Press.

New Learning Institute, ARIS Platform Debuts – Placework Studio Program Rolls Out. (2001). Retrieved from http://www.newlearninginstitute.org/digital-media-programs/community-based-programs/aris-platform-debuts-placework-studio-program-rolls-out

Huffington Post, NYC Haunts: Bronx Teens Discover Their Neighborhood Through an Interactive Look at the Dead. Martin, H. Jack. (2011, June 14). Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/the-new-york-public-library/nyc-haunts-bronx-teens-di_b_898206.html

Laboral Centro, ARIS, creando narraciones geolocalizadas. Waelder, P. (2011, April 27). Retrieved from http://laboralcentrodearte.uoc.edu/2011/04/27/aris-creando-narraciones-geolocalizadas/

MacArthur Spotlight on Digital Media and Learning, Designing the Future of Mobile Learning at the ARIS Global Game Jam. Jackson, S. (2011, April 27). Retrieved from http://spotlight.macfound.org/blog/entry/designing-the-future-of-mobile-learning-at-the-aris-global-game-jam/

MacArthur Spotlight on Digital Media and Learning, Global Game Jam: Design a Place-Based Mobile Game. Jackson, S. (2011, April 4). Retrieved from http://spotlight.macfound.org/blog/entry/global-game-jam-design-a-place-based-mobile-game/

Chronicle of Higher Education, ‘Augmented Reality’ on Smartphones Brings Teaching Down to Earth. Li, S. (2010, June 20). Retrieved from http://chronicle.com/article/Augmented-Reality-on/65991/

MacArthur Spotlight on Digital Media and Learning, Prototyping Our Way to Reforming Education. Chaplin, H. (2010, January 14). Retrieved from http://spotlight.macfound.org/featured-stories/entry/prototyping-our-way-to-reforming-education/

The Daily Page, Designers show off their skills in ARIS Global Game Jam contest. Conklin, A. R. (2011, April 18). Retrieved from http://www.thedailypage.com/daily/article.php?article=33225

The Daily Page, 2011 ARIS Global Game Jam Draws Participants Worldwide. Conklin, A. R. (2011, April 25). Retrieved from http://www.thedailypage.com/daily/article.php?article=33289


Refereed Journal Articles

Litts, B., Gagnon, D., Martin, J., Holden, C., & Smith, G. (forthcoming). Mobile technologies, learning, and play: Connecting theory to design. Playing to Learn, Learning from Play: Pedagogy and the Promise of Play.

Martin, J., Dikkers, S., Squire, K., Gagnon, D. (2013). “Participatory Scaling Through Augmented Reality Learning Through Local Games”. TechTrends, 58(1), 35-41. DOI 10.1007/s11528-013-0718-1.

Online Articles

Gagnon, D. (2010). Mobile Learning Environments. Educause Quarterly, 33(1). http://www.educause.edu/ero/article/mobile-learning-environments

Gagnon, D. (2010). ARIS: An open source platform for developing mobile learning experiences. Unpublished Master’s thesis. Available at http://arisgames.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/ARIS-Gagnon-MS-Project.pdf

Book Chapters

Holden, C., Gagnon, D., Litts, B., & Smith, G. (2014). ARIS: An open platform for distributed mobile learning innovation. In M. Mendes, Technology Platform Innovations and Forthcoming Trends in Ubiquitous Learning (pp.19-34). Hershey, PA: IGI Global.

Technical and White papers

Gagnon, D. McGee, S., Litts, B., Martin, J., Moeller, J., Heindl, N., Dougherty, P. (2014). Mobile‐Enhanced Field Research: Increasing Plant Identification Accuracy and Efficiency. University of Wisconsin Mobile Learning Incubator. Retrieved from http://mobile.wisc.edu/teaching-and-learning/field-research-plant-identification-at-the-biocore-prarie/

Gagnon, D. Berres, M., Litts, B., Martin, J., Dougherty, P. (In Preparation). Mobile‐Enhanced Field Research: Increasing Bird Observation Using  Game Mechanics. University of Wisconsin Mobile Learning Incubator.

Gagnon, D., Litts, B., Martin, J., Vang, R. (In Preparation). Learning Through Design: Facilitating an Intersection of Content, Design and Tools. University of Wisconsin Mobile Learning Incubator.

Refereed Conference Papers

Litts, B., Smith, G., Gagnon, D., Martin, J., Mathews, J. (2013). Situated learning and mobile technologies: Connecting theory to design. Games+Learning+Society Conference 9.0: Madison, WI.

Squire, K., Martin, J., Gagnon, D., Holden, C., Dikkers, S. (2013). Scaling Augmented Reality Education through Local Games. Paper presented at the American Educational Research Association Conference. April 27. San Francisco, CA.

Pfotenhauer, J., Gagnon, D., Litzkow, M., Blakesley C. (2009). “Designing and Using and On-line Game to Teach Engineering”. Paper presented at the 39th Annual ASEE/IEEE Frontiers in Education Conference, October 21. San Antonio, TX. http://ieeexplore.ieee.org/stamp/stamp.jsp?arnumber=05350501

Squire, K., Blakesley, C., Dikkers, S., Gagnon, D., and Harris, K. (2009). “Where Do We Go From Here? How to Make an Augmented Reality Game” Paper presented at the Annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, Apr 14. San Diego, CA.

Conference Papers

Dikkers, S., Blakesley, C. Mathews, J., Holden, C., Martin, J., Gagnon, D. (2011) “Building a Community of Practice and Sustainable Open Source Mobile Design Community”. Paper presented at Games+Learning+Society Conference. June 17. Madison, WI.

Gagnon, D. (2011). “What teachers can learn from Rock Band, Facebook and Angry Birds”. Paper presented at 27th Annual Conference on Distance Teaching and Learning Conference. Madison, WI. http://www.uwex.edu/disted/conference/Resource_library/proceedings/46593_2011.pdf

National Summits

2012 Mobile Gaming Expert, Whitehouse Convening on Outdoor Mobile Games, a meeting to discuss the role of mobile games for health and outdoor appreciation. Hosted by the White House office of Science and Technology Policy. Washington, D.C.
2012 Mobile Learning Expert, MacArthur workshop on 21st. century learning spaces for the director of the Smithsonian Institute, National Museum of African American History and Culture. Chicago, IL.
2010 Mobile Learning Expert, Smithsonian Leadership Summit on Digital Media. July 16. Washington, D.C

Invited Presentations and Workshops

Gagnon, D. (2014). Mixed Reality media design.  Tufts Center for Playful Computation: Medford, MA.

Gagnon, D. (2013). “Gaming Technology and the Future of Education”. Keynote Address, Teaching Enhancement Symposium. August 12. Gainesville, FL.

Gagnon, D. (2013). Place and Design: Facilitating 21st century learning experiences with ARIS.”  Museum of Science and Industry 2013 Games Summit. March 6. Chicago, IL.

Kolb, Liz., Blanton, J., Gagnon, D., Scullin, R. (2013). Teachers and Students: Real-life mobile implementation with learners. MacArthur Connected Learning Webinar Series.

Gagnon, D. (2012). “What Teachers Can Learn From Rock Band”. Aalto University Design Summit on Mobile Gaming and Technology. November 2012. Helsinki, Finland.

Gagnon, D. (2012). “ARIS: A Mobile Game Authoring Tool”. Aalto University Design Summit on Mobile Gaming and Technology. November 2012. Helsinki, Finland.

Gagnon, D. (2012). “Situated Learning with Mobile Educational Gaming”. Future Technologies Conference. May 8. Madison, WI. Gagnon, D. (2011). “Games, Play and Learning”. International Society of Technology in Education – SIGCT. Breakfast Keynote. June 29. Philadelphia, PA.

Gagnon, D., Martin, J. (2011). “A Classroom in Your Pocket: Mobile Teaching and Learning”. Keynote Address. 2012 Teaching and Technology Institute. June 1. DeKalb, IL.

Rubio, J., Gagnon, D. (2011). “Geolocative Gaming, the ARIS Project”. EdTechTalk: Teachers Teaching Teachers podcast. April 20. Gagnon, D. (2011). “The impact of Mobile Media on Society”. 11th Annual Digital Now Executive Summit. April 8. Orlando, FL.

Gagnon, D. (2010). “Re-Imagining Learning: What Facebook, Rockband and iPhones have to Teach Teachers”. Governors State University Faculty Summer Institute. September 21. University Park, IL.

Gagnon, D. (2010). “New Media and Learning”. University of Wisconsin – Teaching Academy Summer Retreat. Madison, WI. Squire, K.,

Gagnon, D. (2010). “Designing Place Based Mobile Learning Experiences”. maclearning.org mobile learning podcast.

Gagnon, D. (2010). “The Mobile Learning Revolution”. Governors State University Faculty Summer Institute. June 13. University Park, IL.

Gagnon, D., Blakesley, C. (2010). “Social Media, Gaming and Mobile Devices”. Digital Salon Symposium. April. Madison, WI.

Gagnon, D. (2009). “Innovative Pedogogies using the iPhone and Mobile Media”. University of Wisconsin Deans Leadership Symposium, Apple Inc. April 19. Madison, WI

Gagnon, D. (2009). “Game On! The Culture of Videogames”. University of Wisconsin Center for Humanities. April 13. Madison, WI.

Gagnon, D. (2008). “Web 2.0: Examples and redefinition as subversive media”. WiscNet Podcast. Gagnon, D. (2009). “Mobile Media Learning”. University of Wisconsin E-Learning Roadmap Committee. January. Madison, WI.

Gagnon, D. (2008). “Mobile Media Technologies and ARIS”. University of Wisconsin Library System. December. Madison, WI.

Gagnon, D. (2007). “New and Emerging forms of Media”. Wisconsin Public Television October. Madison, WI.

Henriques, J., Gagnon, D. (2007). “Making Learning Click – Using Clickers for Instruction” e-Pedagogy Livecast. September. Madison, WI.


Branon, R.,Gagnon, D., Brown, J., Scagnoli, N. (2012). “Preparing Instruction for Mobile Learning”. Annual Conference on Distance Teaching and Learning. August 9. Madison, WI.

Gagnon, D., Henkie, J., Pfotenhauer, J. (2010). “ENGAGE to LEARN: Simulations and Games in Higher Education”. UW System 2010 President’s Summit on Excellence in Teaching and Learning. April. Madison, WI.

Gagnon, D., Henkie, J., Pfotenhauer, J., Balser, T. (2010). “Learning through Play: Teaching Music, Engineering and Biology with video games”. University of Wisconsin Teaching and Learning Symposium. April. Madison, WI.

Blakesley, C., Holden, J., Mathews, J., Dikkers, S., Gagnon, D. (2009). “ARIS Game Jam Results: Designing 30 mobile games in four months”.  Games+Learning+Society 5.0. July. Madison, WI.

Akkerman, S., Christoph, K., Howles, L., Frietag, C., Gagnon, D. (2008) “GameQuest: Creating an Educational Gaming Program for Higher Education”. EDUCAUSE National Conference. October 30. Orlando, FL.

Blakesley, C., Gagnon, D. (2008). “ARIS: A new way to create Mobile learning Experiences”. Open Education National Conference. September. Park City, UT. Schmidt L., Gagnon, D. (2008) “Facilitating Group Collaborative Work”. ENGAGE Faculty Orientation. July. Madison, WI

Lupton, C., Gagnon, D., Howles, L., LaValley, D., Blakesley, C. (2008). “GameQuest – Designing Games and Simulations for Higher Education” Games, Learning and Society 4.0 National Conference. July 11. Madison, WI

Gagnon, D. (2008). “Facilitating Collaborative and Group Projects” University of Wisconsin Teaching and Learning Symposium. May. Madison, WI

Gagnon, D. (2008). “Group Collaboration Theory”. University of Wisconsin ComETS – Community of Educational Technology Support Conference. April. Madison, WI.

Akerman, S., Lupton, C., Christoph, K. (2008). “GameQuest: Creating an Educational Gaming Program for Higher Education”. EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative National Conference. January. San Antonio, TX.

Martin J., Dikkers, S., Mathews, J., Blakesley, C., Gagnon, D., Harris, K. (2008) “A Comparison of Augmented Reality (AR) Platforms”. Games, Learning and Society 3.0 National Conference. July 11. Madison, WI. Gagnon, D., Howles, L. (2007). “The Grant and Prototyping process of making Games for Higher Education”. Games, Learning and Society 3.0 National Conference. July 12. Madison, WI.


Holden. C., Litts. B., Gagnon, D., Dikkers, S., & Mathews, J. (2012). Building locative games with ARIS. Meaningful Play. June, 2012. East Lansing, MI.

Holden, C., Mathews, J., Martin, J., Gagnon, D.(2012). “Building Mobile Applications for Learning”. Games+Learning+Society Educators Symposium. June, 2012. Madison, WI.

Gagnon, D., Martin, J., Dikkers, S., Holden, C., Blakesley, C., Mathews, J. (2011). “Building Mobile Applications for Learning”. Workshop for New Media Consortium Conference. June, 2011. Madison, WI.

Blakesley, C. Gagnon, Dikkers, S., D. Holden, C., Martin, J., Mathews, J., (2011). “ARIS Global Game Jam”. International game design event. April 18-20.

Gagnon, D., Holden, C., Matthews, J. & Dikkers, S. (2010). “Mobile Game Design Workshop”. Workshop for Games+Learning+Society Educators Symposium, June 14. Madison, WI.

Howles, L., Feitag, C., Gagnon, D. (2009) “GameQuest: Managing Educational Game Design”. Distance Teaching and Learning Conference, April 5. Madison, WI.

Higher Education Classroom


Guest Lecture, “The intersections of Situated Learning, Play and iPhones”. Engineering Professional Development 690: Informal Science Education for Scientists. University of Wisconsin, Madison.


Guest Lecture, “Situated Learning and Place Based Games.” Videogames and Learning MOOC. University of Wisconsin, Madison.


Co-Facilitation for 4 weeks, “Videogames and Field Research.” Animal Science 351 Ornithology Seminar. University of Wisconsin, Madison.


Co-Facilitation for 6 weeks, “Designing Locative Narratives with ARIS.” English 177: Literature and Popular Culture. University of Wisconsin, Madison


Co-Facilitation, “Designing Locative Narratives.” Curriculum and Instruction 209 Digital Media and Literacy. University of Wisconsin, Madison.


Guest Lecture, “Mobile Educational Gaming.” Curriculum and Instruction 277. University of Wisconsin, Madison.


Guest Lecture, “Mobile Media Experience.” Communication Arts 308 The Mediated Landscape. Marymount Manhattan College.


Guest Lecturers, “Game Design 101/102” and “Game Production Workflows.” Workshop on Javascript for online games. Class project consultant and grader. Computer Science 679. University of Wisconsin, Madison.


Guest Lecture, “Game Design.” Curriculum and Instruction 277. University of Wisconsin, Madison.


Guest Lecture, “The 2011 ARIS Global Game Jam.” Communication Arts 101.


Guest Lecture, “Game Design 101” and “Rapid Prototyping for Game Design.” Art 356. University of Wisconsin, Madison.


Guest Lectures, “Agile Game Development Methods for Small Teams,” “The Mechanics, Dynamics, Aesthetics model” and “Competing Design Questions in Game Design.”  Computer Science 679. University of Wisconsin, Madison.




Oakland Museum of California, Hacking the Museum initiative. Develop a strategy for institutional reform that results in youth interfacing with the museum as interest-driven, co-creators of concepts and content.


Miami University, Orientation to the Mississippi Summer Project: An Interactive quest for social justice. Develop a geo-locative game to teach local history and critical theory.


Spencer Museum of Art, Performing History. Develop a geo-locative game to teach local history and critical theory.


ConverJent. A game to teach New York City’s Jewish History. ARIS Consultant.


ENGAGE Data Visualization Award. A set of projects to build data visualizations for higher educational classroom use. Faculty Consultant for engineering visualizations.


Global Kids “NYC Haunts” after school program to engage youth with the history and culture of their neighborhood through an augmented reality game. ARIS game design consultant.


Library of Congress Teaching With Primary Sources Program. Equipping K-12 teachers in Chicago area to use primary sources as the basis for interactive narratives.


ENGAGE Situated Learning Award. A set of projects for applying situated learning theory to higher education. Faculty Consultant for mobile learning projects in Folklore, Art and Biology. Learning theory research team leader. Video producer.


ENGAGE Games and Simulations Award. A set of projects to build games and simulations for higher education courses.

Professional Service and Community Organizing

2014 Host and presenter for 2014 International ARIS Summit. Madison, WI.
2013 Host and presenter for 2013 International ARIS Summit. Madison, WI.
2012 Host and presenter for the “Play/Hack Forum,” a weekly event for interactive media developers in the University of Wisconsin.
2011- Reviewer, Games+Learning+Society Annual Conference. Madison, WI
2010 Host and co-organizer of 2010 Games+Learning+Society Mobile Learning Summit
2010 Host and presenter for “Teaching Ourselves to Teach,” a weekly event for discussing the design and implications of video games for education.

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