Monday, February 18, 2008

projects or games?

I think it's better that we ask our students to create projects rather than games

This represents a trade off between motivation (games are more motivating for some) and a curriculum based more on educational principles

Motivation is very important. But if the teacher leans too far towards the motivation principle they may well lose their authority to introduce other important educational content into the mix. Teacher authority? Well, yes, teachers ought to use their authority to do what they think is best.

This also represents a change in my thought that computing as such and programming in particular ought to be some sort of "centre of gravity" to one where I see science and maths as a more important "centre of gravity"

Hence, this year I have gone back to teaching as a Middle School maths / science teacher as well as a senior school computing teacher

This is also represented in a shift in my current programming software of choice from Game Maker (focus on games) to Scratch (focus on projects)

So tonight, I've been reworking an old Game Maker worksheet into a Scratch Project worksheet.

As well as the global replace, "game" with "project", what has disappeared off the worksheet? Some questions about configuration (Can the player configure the game to suit themselves – such as alter the backgrounds, music, difficulty, character?), emotions invoked, the quality of the game play and some hints about good game design.

What has stayed on the worksheet and been transformed in this process? Some questions about the quality of help, educational goals, fun factor, interactivity, ideas and things like that.

These criteria are also influencing the projects that I pick and provide to the students for them to critique. I don't pick something because it has good game play but I look for some other broader educational objective. I searched the Scratch site for projects using the tags maths, science and simulations, not games or animations. And I will ask my students to produce an educational project to teach a real person something and not a game. This will lead to some interesting conversations when some students will ask, "Can I build a game?"

I think developing a scientific world view is a more important educational goal than computer programming as such.

related:

in general programmers are not creatures of the enlightenment

the decline of IT in education

comparing game maker with etoys / squeak
Interesting to compare my current thinking with points 1,2 and 3 of this earlier post (April 2007)

Something is making me do it (September 2005)

5 comments:

Jared M. Stein said...

It does seem easier to tie a project to one's teaching outcomes, but to me the most important trait of projects over games is that projects have a tangibility; they are something students can take with them, use, reuse, or portfolio-ize. Project can have varying degrees of authenticity to emphasize their long-term meaningfulness, an attribute with which games may have a hard time competing.

Tom Hoffman said...

I think I understand what you're saying and agree with it -- there is a ton of overhead to creating a playable game that is not likely to be relevant to the subject at hand. It is like the difference between saying "make a presentation" and "stage a play." In most cases the overhead of considering all the apparatus of scriptwriting and stagecraft is not necessary to getting one's point across.

Still, a clearer definition of "project" here would make your case stronger.

Bill Kerr said...

hi tom,

I don't have a clear definition of project (or game for that matter). But a look at the tag cloud on the scratch site is perhaps a reasonable start as to where software not specifically orientated towards games might lead (in most cases without any teacher intervention) --> the largest tags are animation, art, game, music.

A project can be a game IMO but the concept of project is broader and allows more for negotiation between the adult learner / teacher and child learner. Project is fuzzier whereas kids often have a clear mental image of what a computer game ought to be, eg. a shooter, platform, RPG etc.

Tony Forster said...

Yes agree, game making is just so good that the class is difficult to direct, it just takes on a direction of its own and bypasses some desirable objectives.

It is worth abstracting what is good in game making to see where it can be reused.

relevant - personally valued
authentic - valued by others & real world situated
right tools - able to match challenge to skills, ie concepts of ZPD and flow
collaborative environment - more ZPD

Some other opportunities to use these positive aspects:
Guitar http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QjA5faZF1A8 now 37 million views
Claymation http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vgkg4xkLswM
Poetry and video http://www.celt.lsu.edu/cfd/E-Proceedings_05/Major-edit.pdf
Literacy and virtual worlds http://www.timrylands.com/
Game modding/ virtual world creation http://tinyurl.com/yt59pm

Tony Forster said...

tiny URL for
http://www.celt.lsu.edu/cfd/E-Proceedings_05/Major-edit.pdf
http://tinyurl.com/yvftb4