Category Archives: Game Development Based Learning

Computer Programming as Digital Literacy

If the so-called ‘Digital Natives’ don’t know how to program a computer, are they really digitally literate? In his blog, Tony Forster presents an “argument for the authoring of interactive or programmable multimedia as an important meta-literacy skill.”  It’s a good start to this particular discussion, I think.

Certainly, in traditional schooling literacy is not just about reading – it is also about authoring. With digital literacy, in writing blogs or posting videos to YouTube students are using digital technologies while authoring written or visual content. They are acting as consumers of digital technology while producing content. Full digital literacy requires the ability to create new interactive experiences – i.e. programming. This view is also presented by Mitch Resnick et. al. in their recent paper for CACM:

Resnick, M., Maloney, J., Monroy-Hernández, A., Rusk, N., Eastmond, E., Brennan, K., et al. (2009). Scratch: programming for all. Commun. ACM, 52(11), 60-67. doi: 10.1145/1592761.1592779

Yamake – game maker for Nokia mobile phones

It was surely only a matter of time…

Yamake is a groundbreaking new game for the N-Gage platform. Players can make, play and share games that are customized using user-generated multimedia content, and we are proud to be pioneering this new way of playing,” said Dr Mark Ollila, Director of Technology and Strategy and Head of Games Publishing, Nokia. “This is exactly what the future of mobile gaming should be about – creating games that you love and want to play, then sharing them with other players.”

Images and details still a little thin on the ground, but Jon Jordan had a go over at Pocket Gamer. Didn’t get a chance to actually try out the game creation side of it though, which is the bit I’m most interested in. There is some suspicion that the game making activities will be quite tightly constrained and fairly limited. For example, puzzle games such as jig-saws and sliding puzzles simply ask you to add your own image. Other game types include ‘Top Trumps’ card games, crosswords and quizzes. So probably not very open in terms of creating novel gameplay, but there could still be a fair amount of  classroom potential in a tool like this…

Links for today

Who plays, how much and why?

Dmitri Williams, Nick Yee and colleagues have published the first results from a Sony Online supported study into Everquest 2 players. With a rare item gift in-game for participants, the survey had a very large response – and the team also have been looking at a huge range of in-game data.

North  Carolina High Schools to Pilot Game Development Based Learning for Science

“Ideally, our goal is that students will create educational games that appeal to their counterparts so that teachers can then integrate those games into their classrooms,”

Upgrade: Technology-Enhanced Learning

The new issue of UPGRADE is now online, a special issue on Technology-Enhanced Learning. Quite a few interesting papers, two on game-technology for learning which I mention here.

Pablo Moreno-Ger and co-authors consider “Game-Based Learning in e-Learning Environments”, and present <e-Adventure>, an authoring system for educational graphic adventure games. The games created using <e-Adventure> can ten be integrated into standard web-based Virtual Learning Environments (VLEs) using the IMS Learning Design standard.

Another paper considers a different approach to integrating VLEs and game-based technologies… its a paper on Sloodle, by Jeremy Kemp and myself. (And there is another paper discussing an implementation of Moodle to support 30,000 plus users, of interest to Moodler’s out there…)

All papers are also available in Spanish in the print edition of Novatica – and will hopefully be available online soon.

Scratch for Second Life

What it says… Eric Rosenbaum at MIT (where Scratch, the programming environment for children, is developed) has put together Scratch for Second Life – allowing the creation of LSL scripts via the Scratch system of drag-and-drop blocks.

Put this together with classes in Teen Second Life, and suddenly programming in Second Life becomes a whole lot more accessible!

Great work.

Education for Industry?

My colleague John Sutherland (who amongst other things founded the first games industry specific degrees while at a former employer) has started a new blog, Akademos Gamer. In his opening post he considers the relationship between universities and employers (specifically in relation to the games industry).

You can catch John’s biog here, on his home page.

I found his experience of Skillset accreditation (at a previous employer) different to my own at least. I recall some deliberation here on whether to apply – as it seemed like a lot of work with an uncertain outcome. In brief, teaching staff and line managers met and discussed what was required. I drafted one of the sections, and reviewed what paperwork we would need to put together. We met again, decided to proceed and shared out responsibilities for the final proposal. As a group we managed to put it all together, just in time.

When the accreditation panel did visit, they certainly gave the impression that they needed to be convinced – no sign of it being a mere formality. When we got notification that we had accreditation, we were very relieved!

Skills shortage hits games firms

From the BBC article of the same name, and further discussion on the Develop magazine website.

The UK games industry is claiming a skills shortage is impairing growth. While there has been a huge growth of games development degrees, David Braben claims that

95% of video gaming degrees are simply not fit for purpose. Without some sort of common standard, like Skillset accreditation, these degrees are a waste of time for all concerned.

(An opportune moment for me to mention that the course here at UWS is one of only four courses to have that Skillset accrediation… and that at least 3 of the small cohort of 9 students due to graduate next month have already accepted job offers)

Meanwhile I have to agree with Dan Hodgson of Northumbria when he notes that:

We do have people who don’t have the right mindset. We consistently tell them that this is one of the hardest courses we offer at this university. It’s certainly not for the sort of people who want to laze around and play games for three years.

Which is perhaps why we have a small graduating class – many of our students transfer to other courses which demand less technical and mathematical skills part way through the degree. The problem is not likely to be easy to fix, with the (noted elsewhere) decline in maths and physics in schools. Hopefully this is a trend that can be reversed.

Games on the curriculum

I spotted this intriguing piece earlier in the week -” ‘Games’ to be taught in Scottish Schools”

The article doesn’t reveal much in the way of details but claims:

Scottish schoolchildren are to be taught the basics of video game design as part of the country’s new national curriculum – dubbed the ‘Curriculum of Excellence’.

According to the Press Association, the move is to designed to ‘create the next generation of young programmers’.

Schools minister Maureen Watt unveiled the scheme … and added that the new lessons will teach children how to use computer software to create animations and feature films.

The typo there is that it is the Curriculum for Excellence, not of Excellence. But more frustrating were my attempts to learn more about this. Eventually via an enquiry to LTS I found the relevant details here. I’ve had a chance to briefly review these, searched out the references to games, and given this a little thought…

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Channel 4 sponsors Dare to Be Digital… Introduces education as a theme

Channel 4 has announced sponsorshop of the Dare to Be Digital summer game development competition. Announced here.

As part of their sponsorship (which apparently is for a significant sum of money to support the competition), a brief to develop games with an educational or serious ‘twist’ has also been provided:

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Alan Kay at TED

If I hadn’t fallen behind again on my RSS feeds, I might have had this last week… but I just realised that TED happened again this year – a few weeks ago, and now the videos are all online. It’s easily possible to spend a day just watching the TED videos – and I can guarantee that it wont be a day wasted, with so many fantastic thinkers and do-ers gathered together and sharing their ideas. Homepage for this year’s event is here.

Meanwhile, I’ve finally caught up with Alan Kay’s presentation from last year!.

The presentation includes some brilliant demonstrations – and quite possibly should be required viewing for everyone involved in education… with simple demonstrations which show that its quite achievable to get 6 year old children to manage to work with differential equations! (Though perhaps without the jargon)

His talk features children’s use of simulation for experiments (with e-toys) and also touches on the OLPC laptop.