Saturday, July 08, 2006

student feedback about game development

I've received a request from Gauri Lalwani, who is completing a MA in Games and Education:
I am basically researching on the motivational factor of games for learning. If possible, could you share with me, the feedback you received from the students on the use of games and the results after the use of games? Any supporting material will be of great help in my research. I appreciate your help...

Do you have any feedback from your students about the game based learning? I mean how did they react to the change in the learning process from the usual curriculum to the game based learning?
Gauri has indicated willingness to share final research. So, I'll put this up for others who may want to join in for what is a very worthwhile focus question.

My initial thoughts:

Feedback can be overt or implicit.

At the start I detect a lot of interest in game making. This is much stronger amongst boys than girls.

We dont teach computing at year 8 (the first year of secondary in South Australia) in my school but at the moment I have about a dozen year 8 boys who are pestering me on a regular basis to offer them game making in some form - they are very keen to learn it

When it comes to making games and / or solving game based problems what I find is that some students are eventually put off because at some stage it becomes "hard"
a) to achieve the effects they want to achieve
b) to debug - some students express irritation and get fedup about the demands from the program to debug

However, other students continue to accept the challenges as they arise, immerse themselves in the process and get a lot out of it.

This depends on their willingness to become more self reliant learners (perseverance, try different approaches, think logically about the problem, look up the manual, ask help from others)

Implicit feedback includes things like working on game development outside of lesson, borrowing the CD with game resources from the resource centre, enrolling in a game maker course, asking questions about gamemaker outside of normal lessons. All of this activity does happen wrt Game Maker and does not happen as much wrt other things that I teach (eg. chess, web design)

Other feedback (the sort of games students choose to make)
Recently I asked my year 11s to design an educational game - defined by me as a game that will teach a real person something (in the final week the expectation was that they would invite a real person in to evaluate their game)

The sort of games they attempted to develop were:
  • soccer (teaching offside and red / yellow card rules)
  • car (teaching road rules)
  • war (teaching facts about WW2, whilst making a fun shooter in the process!)
  • maths (simulations of primary maths problems)
  • spatial (find your way around a large area, with clues)
  • school (Q&A about traditional schools subjects)
  • finches (how to look after finches)
  • alchemy (the objective of this game was to memorize the symbols for various alchemical symbols)
Some of these games were not finished

My conclusions:
Many students (boys more than girls) like the idea of game making and quite a few are prepared to become more self reliant in their learning in order to create a game of their choice. Some drop out of the process because their motivation / interest wavers when hard problems are encountered. So, its not for everyone but everyone ought to receive an invitation.


Unknown said...

When kids self-select for a program (after hours club or program for gifted kids run during school hours) they do not drop out. They all complete a project and stay motivated. About 25% of a class self-select in the first case.

After about 3 terms (3 x 8 x 1.5 hours), they start to get distracted and are looking for new challenges.

Girls seem to enter with lower expectations: lower evaluation of their own skill and a lower value of the usefulness of computers. During the program, their level of engagement is only slightly less than boys, reporting similar levels of satisfaction with the program. Despite this, their drop out rate is high, not re-enrolling for the next program. Peer pressure may be a factor.

In the next program I am running, I have enhanced the GM sprite library with girl friendly flowers, ponies and fairies in pastel shades!

Bill Kerr said...

One of my year 11 girls this semester, who programmed the maths simulation, was a very good programmer - quick, good problem solver, resourceful, prepared to try out different ideas.

However, as her game became became more complex and more bugs arose she became increasingly annoyed and irritated with game maker and made disparaging remarks, "game maker sucks". Nevertheless, when I made suggestions about how to fix the bugs she very quickly did fix them.

She had started blogging on her own (myspace, without my assistance) before last year and has expressed preference for HTML (eg. tweaking HTML in blogger), which she enjoys.

She has decided quite definitely not to do game maker in year 12, even though she definitely has IMO the cognitive skills to become a good programmer. (but not the motivation when it comes to debugging). She plays computer games but doesn't attach high importance to that either.

I think this is more of a pattern for girls than it is for boys. I have boys who will put their hand up for more game maker who have less ability than the girl I am talking about.

A few girls in my class have blogs on myspace (nothing to do with me), this is less common amongst boys.

I tend to think the "girl friendly flowers, ponies and fairies in pastel shades" whilst a worthwhile experiment, won't make much difference to this underlying pattern ;-)

Bill Kerr said...

I just heard Mel Levine on Radio National, author of 'A Mind at a Time'.(follow the link for some good amazon reviews - some of them draw links with Gardner's Multiple Intelligences). He is a very good, humane speaker, his descriptions of individual cases are inspiring. The program will be available at allinthemind in the next few days

He defines 8 specific mind systems:

* attention,
* memory,
* language,
* spatial ordering,
* sequential ordering,
* motor,
* higher thinking,
* and social thinking

Some kids are good at some of these things and bad at others. He says that schools often fail with a "one size fits all" approach.

One of his stories was helping a girl who was v. skilled with language and poor with maths by her making a tape after each maths lesson of what she had learnt, of using her stronger side to access her weaker side

My feedback from students about game programming fits into this approach. That some kids love it, others don't.

I think that's the approach we should take - certainly not one that suggests we have the answer for everyone (to make that point explicit, I'm not suggesting that anyone is advocating that).