Using Game Design as a Means to Make Computer Science Accessible to Adolescents

Using Game Design as a Means to Make Computer Science Accessible to Adolescents

Roxana Hadad (Northeastern Illinois University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-2848-9.ch015


In this case, the author discusses using game design and community-building as methods for increasing interest and knowledge of computer science for students from underrepresented populations. Students in a six-week Upward Bound Math and Science (UBMS) summer program learned game design alongside programming basics, while they spoke to programming industry experts. For four weeks, students focused on the design concepts in different games they had played and with which they were familiar. They recreated these games by programming them using MIT’s Scratch software. In the remaining two weeks, students created their own game using the concepts and skills they had learned. Some students chose to program their games to use the Xbox 360® KinectTM controller as a way for the player to interact with their game using their whole body. Programmers spoke to the students weekly, both online and in person, answering questions about the field and the work that they do. Students shared their work with one another and the instructors in a Virtual Learning Environment (VLE).
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Case Description

Because of my role to promote STEM at CTC@NEIU, I belong to various educational technology organizations, including Adobe Education Leaders (AEL). It was through the AEL program that I met an assistant principal who taught at a large state-run secondary school in a suburb of London, England. When I met him, this teacher had just asked his students what they were most interested in so that they could focus on it in class. Almost in unison, the students called out that they loved playing video games. The teacher responded that he was not interested in having his students play video games all day; as an art teacher, he was more interested in having them create rather than consume media. What if they made games, instead? The students thought that would be fantastic. Soon after, the assistant principal hired me to teach game design to his high school students. Through the AEL community, he learned that I had studied game design and had some experience developing educational games. He thought that the fact that I lived in Chicago and his students were in England was irrelevant. With videoconferencing and asynchronous virtual learning environments, students could learn from anyone, anywhere in the world. Because we were using videoconferencing to meet, he and I agreed that we should capitalize on the opportunity and include industry professionals from all over the world in the course, exposing students to practitioners and their professional lives. Soon, the interaction with industry practitioners became the most popular part of the course, and the coursework began to revolve around those interactions.

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