Dr. Matthew Harrison: Digital Solutions for Inclusive Spaces

Upgrade your leadership toolkit with Dr. Matthew Harrison’s insights on technology, accessibility, and communication.

In This Episode

In this episode, Emily and Dave sit down with Dr. Matthew Harrison, a seasoned educator and digital innovator. Matt’s journey from an accidental teacher to a champion of neurodiversity and inclusion unveils the unexpected ways gaming can foster social skills and empowerment.

Matt’s passion for utilizing technology to enhance social capacity building, belonging, and inclusion in education comes to the forefront. As a gamer himself, he sheds light on the transformative power of gaming in developing crucial social skills, ranging from turn-taking to effective communication. Through personal anecdotes and insights, he emphasizes how gaming can be a potent tool for leadership development, paving the way for a more inclusive society.

The conversation takes a deep dive into the concept of “gaming for good.” Matt discusses the innovative initiative, Next Level Collaboration—a program that employs cooperative video games to empower neurodivergent children. With co-founder and Next Level Collaboration CEO, Jess Rowlings, they not only bring lived experience to the table but also a vision for using gaming to boost confidence and social capabilities in young individuals. This venture showcases how unconventional approaches can lead to remarkable outcomes in education and leadership.

Beyond gaming, the discussion expands to the significance of accessibility in leadership. Dr. Harrison provides practical insights for leaders and organizations to make workplaces more accessible and inclusive, highlighting the untapped potential of existing accessibility features within common tools and platforms. His emphasis on understanding preferred communication styles and integrating technology underscores the importance of creating environments where everyone can thrive.

As the conversation wraps up, Emily and Dave reflect on the episode’s key takeaways. Listeners are left with a fresh perspective on leadership—a reminder that fostering inclusion requires embracing diverse tools and strategies.

Show Notes

First 10 minutes

Emily and Dave talk about healthy habits. Dr. Matthew Harrison introduces himself and shares the story of how he accidentally became a teacher.

10-20 minutes

Matt shares more of his career journey, leading him to where he is now. The group talks about the social aspects of gaming, the value of gaming, and the misconceptions we may have. Matt reflects on his childhood and how gaming was an incredible social experience for him and his peers—gaming introduced social skills like turn taking and giving verbal & non-verbal cues and instructions. Matt’s stories help illustrate the idea of “gaming for good” and using gaming to build social skills. Dr. Harrison likens gaming spaces to locker rooms; gaming spaces can be very healthy and supportive, they can also me unhealthy and incredibly toxic.

20-30 minutes

Matt reflects on an old Friday afternoon gaming club/incentive from his teaching days and about how that experience helped inform or inspire Next Level Collaboration, an inclusive community for neurodivergent children that uses cooperative video games to build confidence and social capabilities. The hosts hear the story of how Matt met Next Level Collaboration cofounder and CEO, Jess Rowlings. He explains that he knew that if he was going to take his PhD research to work on or start something up for the autistic community that it needed to include lived experience. Jess brings that lived experience, along with awesome hair and a Zelda sleeve of tattoos.

30-40 minutes

The group discusses the idea of ‘surveying your community’ to help us understand the preferred communication styles of others. Matt talks about Discord and how it has some great accessibility features. When discussing how leaders can make their workplaces more accessible and inclusive, Matt encourages leaders and organizations to poke around and learn about the accessibility features already available to them in the programs that they are already using.

40+ minutes

Emily and Dave share their takeaways.

Dr. Matthew Harrison

Dr. Matthew Harrison

Director of Professional and Continuing Education (PACE) at the University of Melbourne & Cofounder of Next Level Collaboration

Dr. Matthew Harrison is an experienced teacher, researcher and digital creator with a keen passion for utilising technology to enhance social capacity building, belonging and inclusion in education. He has taught in Australia, South Korea and the United Kingdom at primary, secondary and tertiary levels.

Matthew is currently coordinating Autism Intervention within the Master of Learning Intervention, and is the Director of Professional and Continuing Education (PACE) at the University of Melbourne Graduate School of Education. His research primarily focuses on neurodiversity, inclusive education, and the effective use of digital technologies as teaching and learning tools. As a gamer, he has a particular interest in digital games-based learning and digital games-based social support programs.

Matthew’s PhD thesis examined how cooperative video games can be used as spaces for developing social capabilities for students with disabilities and neurological differences. Building from this innovative research he co-founded the social enterprise Next Level Collaboration, an inclusive community for neurodivergent children that uses cooperative video games to build confidence and social capabilities. He also founded Hatt Designs, developing educational apps for tablets and smartphones, and serves as the Vice President of Digital Learning and Teaching Victoria.