Saturday, August 6, 2011
Video Game Programming for the Classroom
Last spring I discovered Gamestar Mechanic through the Scholastic Level Up! materials. It's a promising resource for bringing the excitement of video game creation to the classroom. More things are in the works for this fall too.
As for the Level Up! resources, I wasn't too impressed with the superficial blending of video game creation and course content, so I created a short math lesson for 5th graders based on the site. I worked with two teachers and 12 students in my district testing out the project as part of my graduate program.
Overall, I can say the students really got excited about the program. It takes them awhile to work through the levels and acquire enough skills and resources to make a decent game. It might be a little difficult to justify that amount of class time, especially if there isn't some clear course content being learned as well. One of the teachers had the students do most of this at home--as if we could have stopped some of them! I wasn't completely successful with my own attempt to integrate math and programming, but it gave me some hope that it's possible.
From what I've been told, there will be a teacher community introduced this fall and from there, these issues can be addressed. I've been asked to submit my project in the next week as they prepare for the launch. Based on the enthusiasm for authentic learning that I see from this group's leaders, I am excited to watch where this will lead. Be sure to take a look at what's there now and keep coming back to check on developments.
I should add that I introduced this site to my kids at home. My daughter is going into 7th grade and my son will be in 6th. They both have a lot of fun creating the games and acquiring new sprites, tools and even the badges. There was much excitement when one of my son's games was featured and it generated some buzz in the associated, very safe online community.