Learning Design by Making Games
One of my favourite chapters in Constructionism in Practice was written by Yasmin Kafai: Learning Design by Making Games (pp. 71-123). She was interested in learning more about the development of children’s design strategies within the context of creating an authentic artifact – a computer game.
Children were asked to design and create an interactive computer game that made the learning of fraction concepts fun and easy for younger children. It was a six month project that was self-directed, personally meaningful and cognitively complex. Students not only learned about the concept of design from the management of their projects but also learned through design about teaching, feedback, learning, mathematics, psychology, and problem solving. One of Kafai’s main research questions focused on discovering how students overcame various problems they faced over the months as they cycled through the many iterations of their interactive computer games.
I was inspired by this study and found a willing teacher collaborator and class of 23 students to embark on our own journey of design, creativity, and coding. In our case, a class of grade 4/5 students in Brampton are using Scratch to design their interactive games. As the winter break approaches, they are coming to the end of the initial phase of the project: building up basic a literacy and proficiency in Scratch. Students have been engaged in creating games or other programs over the last two months. The boy I highlighted in my previous post is one of those students.
In the new year, they will be challenged with a complex task that closely mirrors that of Kafai’s study: designing an interactive game using Scratch to make the learning of fractions easy and fun for younger students.
Like Kafai, we are interested in seeing how students tackle the design problems and we are looking forward to regular sharing and discussion sessions between students. There will be monthly visits from younger students in the school to try out early versions of the games and provide feedback. We are also interested in observing and hearing student reflections regarding the development of their computational thinking over the next six months. We will be helping students make connections between their projects and the many mathematical processes and curriculum expectations that also will be involved.
I will be posting roughly once per month about this project. Stay tuned…