Presented By CyGames
Selene: a lunar construction game

CyGaMEs Principal Investigator Debbie Denise Reese, Ph.D.

Date Posted: Sept. 16, 2014

Theorist, Senior Educational Researcher, Learning Engineer, Metaphorist

Image of Debbie Denise Reese, Ph.D

Can video games help people learn better? Can video games measure learning and how people feel when they learn? Dr. Debbie Denise Reese’s research focuses around these two important questions. In order to discover the answers, Dr. Reese has become a metaphorist specializing in interactive digital learning systems. Serving as the nexus for design, development, implementation, and analytics, Reese produces embodied learning systems as digital games that translate what targeted knowledge experts think into procedural transactions that learners do. Reese served as the embodied learning systems expert for the SAGE Encyclopedia of Educational Technology.

Reese’s instructional game research is currently investigating (a) the interplay between learning and affect and (b) player use of game dashboards to define and develop targeted expertise.

As the Principal Investigator and senior educational researcher at the Wheeling Jesuit University Center for Educational Technologies® and NASA-sponsored Classroom of the Future in Wheeling, WV, Reese invented the CyGaMEs approach in order to make learning more intuitive. CyGaMEs studies instructional design, learning, and assessment using game-based technologies. At the same time, the CyGaMEs environment tracks each student’s gameplay to assess learning and perceived experience (Flow). CyGaMEs created the nationally recognized and award-winning Selene: A Lunar Construction GaME ( Reese integrated CyGaMEs as a five-component Metaphorics process.

  • Input learning theory.
  • Specify targeted knowledge.
  • Embody knowledge.
  • Assess knowledge.
  • Integrate knowledge.

Watch a five-minute explanation of Metaphorics at

Reese earned her Ph. D. in Instructional Technology from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. With this background, she designed the CyGaMEs method to apply cognitive science metaphor theory (structure mapping and pragmatic constraints) toward design of instructional environments that prepare students to learn complex science concepts. Reese has led Classroom of the FutureTM design and research teams in development, research, and evaluation of technology tools for enhancing self-efficacy, identity, and argumentation. She conducts evaluation and needs assessment. She led research, design, and development of the Classroom of the Future’s virtual world MoonWorld ( ), a simulation for authentic lunar science field work. Reese designed classroom materials, such as MoonGazers—an integrated package to help students go beyond classroom learning and outside to explore the Moon.

Reese has produced over 40 publications/technical reports and over 60 presentations. Reese’s expertise extends beyond her innovative CyGaMEs research. Whether face-to-face or virtual, Reese is regarded as a dynamic speaker and educator. She conducts professional development and workshops for researchers, graduate students, educators, and K-12 students. Reese has designed effective work flow processes for projects with teams larger than 50 staff/partners and over 100 collaborators. Multi-year external evaluation of Reese’s leadership finds her project work exemplary ( ).