Laquana Cooke

Ph.D. Scholar Fellow
Department of Communication and Media


My research contributes to the scholarship in video game studies by examining the pedagogical uses and implications of youth video game practices, both in informal gaming contexts and in the classroom. I seek to describe and theorize the rhetorical potential of commercial video games in educational settings by investigating the procedural affordances of such games (for example, how they evoke customizable and participatory experiences) as well as the social dynamics of game play (such as the norms and ethos of affinity spaces that foster learning/literacy) in various gaming spaces that include physical leisure, classroom, and online gaming contexts.


Merging Culturally Situated Design Tools and Gaming Concepts

K-12 educational data shows that under-represented youth score far below their white and Asian peers in academic achievement, and that even among white students the numbers of college majors in STEM disciplines such as computer science has been dropping. This “quiet crisis,” as RPI President Shirley Ann Jackson has named it, has brought many researchers, teachers, and policy-makers together to find ways to address these issues. RPI’s successful STEM education project, Culturally Situated Design Tools (CSDTs) has demonstrated statistically significant improvement in the test scores and career aspirations of under-represented youth. CSDTs are an NSF-funded suite of free web applets ( that build upon and utilize the math and computing knowledge embedded in cultural practices such as Native American beadwork, Latino percussion rhythms, and skateboarding. CSDTs provide a platform for students to apply underlying math and computing concepts in creative and enriching ways: students can simulate the original cultural designs, create/invent their very own designs, and engage in specific learning inquiries. These affordances raise a poignant question of how can CSDTs, which are specifically designed to be an “open-ended” design tool, be modified to use a gaming framework? The inherent goal of this particular CCC project is to merge gaming concepts and CSDT’s to strengthen youth cognitive development, foster communication and collaboration, and hone cultural heritages and practices. With a primary focus on CSDT’s Skateboarding Tool, the objective is to maximize the tool’s engine for motivational learning by creating cultural context-specific challenges that evoke creativity, foster problem solving skills, and hone procedural literacy. Supplementary media such as informative videos and community websites will also be developed to enhance the pedagogic efficacy of the Skateboarding Tool.