Thursday, October 13, 2005

engagement, hands on, higher order thinking

If you were a high school student and had the following choices for an Information Technology course, which one would you do?

* Design and build a computer game (programming, multimedia)
* Design and build a web application (web apps, programming)
* Design and build a relational data base using the Systems Development Life Cycle (RDB, SDLC, programming)
* Learn how to build a network and obtain an industry qualification (CISCO)

One of the reasons I developed my Year 12 Game Making course was a reaction against the RDB option above, which I did teach in 2001-02. The course was rigorous but dry, a bit too serious and predictable for my taste.

Systems Development Life Cycle (SDLC) is just one way to plan ahead - there are others used by computer professionals, eg. the approach offered by Extreme or Agile programming. From an educational perspective this also reflect different styles of learning (top down, bottom up, middle out).

IT offers us the opportunity to combine hands on doing (eg. programming) with higher order thinking (programming is hard) in a way that can be very engaging for some students (eg. make a game of your design)

Engagement + hands on doing + higher order thinking is a good combination

I'm currently quite reluctant to change my current HESS Restricted Design & Technology Game Making course into the more academic University entrance Design & Technology Studies because that would curtail severely the amount of hands on time that students need to build their games. I think IT is unique or at least a special subject in this regard.

I currently have students who regard Game Making as both harder and more engaging than their HESS General (Uni entrance) physics, maths, chemistry - which they describe as just recipe subjects, look up a book, learn for a test. They will spend 8 hours straight programming their game on the weekend but they are not doing that for their HESS General subjects.

Another thing that strikes me is that School courses are too much bound to one school - that some want to maintain small fortresses in a world that is becoming increasingly like a global village. There is a lot of bureaucracy, red tape and bottom line (money) involved if I was to offer game making to students in other schools, students who want to do game making but don't have a teacher in their school who teaches it.


Blogger Bill Kerr said...

Critical response to the ideas in my post - busy now but hoping to find time to respond

1:08 PM  
Blogger Jay said...

I'd agree with your post. Having worked as both a professional programmer and a college instructor in programming, I can say that the one skill that is most lacking in both students and professionals is the ability to problem solve, to think algorithmically. Game programming definitely builds those skills, and Game Maker is not something you can use without some thought to the design of your game first.

While a student who completes a game in Game Maker won't be ready for advanced programming, they will have built skills that will make their later programming classes much easier.

Keep up the good work!

2:30 PM  

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