Connecting dots of digital learning

Why Play Games When You Can Build Ones

In UK, Volunteers have kicked off a project to set up nationwide after-school clubs that wants to make programming cool and fun and inspire kids to learn coding. Called Code Clubs, it will aim to teach the basics of computer programming into children aged 10-11.

The clubs will facilitate hands-on tasks that will let children making games or controlling robots. It aims to have 25% of the UK’s primary schools running a Code Club by 2014. Code Club would also give advice and support to anyone that wanted to set up a club in their local school.

This Code Club project was initiated by Clare Sutcliffe and Linda Sandvik, they think the current education is teaching kids to be secretaries rather than programmers(creators). According to BBC news, they already have about 100 volunteers signed up to help. At first stage, they will create online teaching resources for 12 weeks lesson plan based on Scratch, the most famous tool to teach kids coding from MIT. Scrath has been used in many schools worldwide. It’s a visualized interface for kids to build games by dragging and dropping elements or modules

The ICT curriculum of computer science in UK is in the process of changing what children learn about computers following a successful campaign that showed how important basic programming skills would be in the future. Instead of learning about PowerPoint and Word, students are more motivated by more interactive things like programming. The logic thinking skills are built through game making lessons.

If the learning journey is deep to its full purpose, designing a successful game involves:

  • system thinking
  • creative problem solving
  • art and aesthetics
  • writing and storytelling
  • interactive design
  • technical design
  • communication and collaboration

There are a lot of resources created around the Scratch tool to support the learning. Twenty Webs Sites To Support Scratch And The Itch For Transforming Education   by Michael Gorman is a summary. KinderCoder was built for the 1st & 2nd graders prior to them being introduced to the full Scratch version from GreenBush Lab.

One free program Stencyl uses a drag-and-drop system, where users pull together different building blocks in order to create programs. It lets the game creation process even easier for kids because it extends Scratch’s simple block-snapping interface with new functionality and hundreds of ready-to-use blocks.  Then you can make iOS or flash games to play anywhere.
stencyl, game building, gamification of education
But there are even more “kids-friendly” tools, which start the journey for young learners from a game-design-focused environment with even less programming feeling.

Gamestar Mechanic is both a game and a online community that teaches kids how to design video games. Designed for 4th – 9th grade students, it’s probably the best starter for making games. The free version is available with unlimited use for teachers who want to use it with their students.  This account option comes with 1 teacher login and 40 student logins.  A premium account offers some additional classroom goodies including: class management, the ability for students to incorporate their own custom artwork, live professional training webinars, tools for tracking student activity and assessing progress, the option of having a “walled” school community, and more. It’s published by Institute of Play and E-Line Media, with initial funding from MacArthur Foundation.

Sharendipity is another free creation tools inside the browser, it could be used to build student generated learning material, puzzles and games(without programming). It even lets you create website widget and apps and integrate third-party web services.

Move the Turtle is a graphical app for the iPhone and iPad for beginners to learn programming concepts in a hands-on, non-theoretical way. The app consists of giving instructions to a turtle who moves around the screen trying to capture diamonds. It teaches basic programming concepts through a game type interface. (review from GeekDad)

Why only play games when kids can build ones? Introducing playing game into education is far beyond how playing video games can benefit the brain functions. Learning to build games is a good start to become creators and exercise all the thinking skills needed.

Just in case you haven’t read these articles :

Why all our kids should be taught how to code

Coding for the rest of us: Why you should learn, and how to get started

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