My curriculum is going gaming

Writing a comment for Alfred Thompson’s CS blog post “Lines can be fun” got me thinking about what I want to teach and how I want to teach programming.  My advanced kids have been grinding through “Programming in Visual Basic 2008” by Bradley and Millspaugh.  It is a good book to teach simple coding; comprehensive and easy to read, but absolutely boring.  The projects are just plain uninteresting.  Computing sales for a coffee house just does not interest kids.  The book is intended for entry level so it cannot get too crazy but you would think authors would realize that this does not attract kids to programming.  With all the blog discussions and statistics flying around it seems obvious we (the US education system) are having a little problem with attracting students into CS.  Most intro books on programming just reinforce the stereotype that programming is about as exciting as watching grass grow.  The last few years our Programming I kids (usually sophomores) started out doing this type of programming in VB.  Attrition was high.  The only Programming II kids I got were the diehard programmers or those that could not find a class in that time slot (small school, not many choices).  This year I convinced the Programming I teacher to switch to Scratch and to make games.  The kids are enjoying the class, are proud of the games they make and best of all they are learning quite a bit of programming.  The class has nine kids, four of which are girls.  Keeping girls in CS has been a big issue for us.  I think I am going to get three of them in PII.  The gaming approach allows the kids to be artistic, imaginative, original and requires lots of planning.  With the previous VB/textbook approach all the assignment solutions looked identical, not much originality is required in a checkbook program.  With the games they are all original.  They get ideas on how to solve the programming problems from each other, but the code ends up looking quite different for each student.  It is really hard for the kid that wants to only copy some one else’s code for turn in to do so.  And they really do not want to; they want some ownership and uniqueness to their game.  The games are not fancy.  The first is just getting an object through a maze in time without touching a wall.  The next game adds bouncing objects to the playing field that need to be avoided while going through the maze.  Presently they are working on their own version of the “Red Square Game” which is a simple dodge the bouncing objects game.  It is a bit creepy during the class; a bunch of main stream students exclaiming how cool their program is and trying to outdo each other with their program.  It is just not normal.  So my curriculum is going gaming.

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5 Responses to “My curriculum is going gaming”

  1. Sites Saturday, 13 November 2010-Docs.com+Facebook Groups-WP7 apps via Bing Visual Search-WP7 dev get started-Alert for Messenger 2009 (Wave 3)-Word autocorrect « webDotWiz talks Windows Live Says:

    […] My curriculum is going gaming: gflint.wordpress.com […]

  2. Beck McLaughlin Says:

    Garth,

    Just read the daily digest I get for your blog for Nov. 13th.
    “The gaming approach allows the kids to be artistic, imaginative, original and requires lots of planning. With the previous VB/textbook approach all the assignment solutions looked identical, not much originality is required in a checkbook program. With the games they are all original. They get ideas on how to solve the programming problems from each other, but the code ends up looking quite different for each student.”

    I’m the Education Director at the MT Arts Council — state arts agency and I at least skim all your posts because I see a connection between programming and the arts – games. So I was delighted to read your comments above. I really think this is a way for technology and the arts to dove tail and there you are doing it with your students. You are the first person I’ve heard talking about this in MT.

    Beck

  3. gflint Says:

    Beck,
    I watched some video interviews with game company execs and who they like to hire. Very unexpected answers: physics majors, math majors, ART MAJORS. CS majors were pretty far down the list. The art aspect of a commercial game is a big selling point. My gaming geek students always commnet on the art aspect of the games they buy.

  4. Beck McLaughlin Says:

    I was delighted to hear your gaming geek students always comment on the art aspect of the games they buy. It gives me hope that the arts won’t ultimately end up in the round file of education.

    If I was 15 today I would definitely be in your programming class to learn how to create games.

    Beck

  5. My curriculum is going gaming | arts counterbalance Says:

    […] There may be unsuspecting collaborations waiting down the hall in the computer science classroom. https://gflint.wordpress.com/2010/11/12/my-curriculum-is-going-gaming Garth teaches in a “small Catholic high school in western Montana.” Missoula is my […]

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