Image of Barbara Johnson

Before coming to teach at Grinnell College, I worked with software services and development in industry and academia at companies such as EcoLab, Banker's Systems, and the Universities of Minnesota and Wisconsin. I even worked at Grinnell College in 2010/2011 as a Curricular Technologies Specialist. Later, I started teaching at the University of Minnesota (Duluth) and University of Wisconsing (Whitewater and LaCrosse).

Since 2000, I have specialized in Educational Technology - combining together software development with educational theory to create new types of learning opportunities and tools, especially using games and simulations to support experiential learning in the sciences. As such, I play with examples and proofs of concept, using many different tools.

I am a strong believer in work/life balance and make time daily to get some exercise and enjoy some hobbies. If I don't respond to an email or voice mail message immediately, I may be in class or a meeting .... or I may be taking some time to recharge my batteries.

Fun Facts

I am from Minnesota and consider Duluth my hometown, eventhough I didn't grow up there. I still have family up in southern Minnesota and will often be dashing "up north" for holidays. Check out Alex Frecon's goofy video for insights into what it means to be Minnesotan.

I am an avid reader --- mostly of science fiction and fantasy.


I research the use of computer games, virtual worlds, and new media for learning for learning and practicing concepts in fields as diverse as philosophy and science.

Since the late 1970's, I have been exploring the intersection of Plato's Philosopher King and the Jedi Knights of the Star Wars mythos, writing first as C.J. Meyerson and later as Chris-Tien Jinn and Christien Suntzu. This work has ranged from the fan fiction of 'zines through creation of simulations in Second Life and discussion forums and blogs for a group called the Jedi Temple (aka Temple of the Jedi). Currently, I am collecting a variety of articles written by members of that group, gathered at the Jedi Temple Library.

I also play some of computer games for fun. The list changes fairly frequently, but currently I am playing:

Augmented Reality Games

Computer/Console Games


I'm pretty much interested in everything and am the epitome of a life-long learner. This can be a problem because I am too willing to get involved in projects that incorporate educational technology in some fashion, and these days, you can hardly walk down the hallway without running into yet another opportunity. So, if I hesitate when you bring me an idea, realize it is because I'm already probably overcommitted.