Hour of Code: Scalable Game Design

December 09, 2013
By Educator Innovator

By Joe Dillon, Instructional Coordinator for Educational Technology, Aurora Public Schools; Denver Writing Project 

The week of December 9 – 15th is Computer Science Education Week and this year Code.org aims to have 10 million people engage in an Hour of Code to promote computer science education. In Aurora Public Schools (APS), middle and high school technology teachers will highlight the work of students who are learning to design video games in a project called Scalable Game Design, a research effort from the University of Colorado at Boulder’s Computer Science and Education departments.

With Scalable Game Design students gain their  first exposure to coding by building a game patterned after Frogger, the classic arcade game. With Frogger as a model, or a mentor text,  students create the graphics and program the game in a few days. After completing a Frogger-like game, students have the familiarity with Agent Sheets, the programming software, and the design approach of building a game by first studying a professional model and other student models.

The research side of the project  aims to first study the interest level of students in designing and programming games after completing just one design. Instead of taking traditional approaches to computer science education that have historically served a small set of mostly male students who self-select computer classes, Scalable Game Design aims to also hook girls and students of color by exposing larger numbers of students to accessible, engaging programming projects. The hope is that instead of seeing programming as boring and hard, which research shows is the majority of students’ opinion of programming, students will find game design rewarding and fun while they develop computational thinking and gain the skills needed to build increasingly sophisticated games and simulations.

In Thursday’s Educator Innovator webinar, we’ll hear from APS teachers who have implemented game design in their classroom as well as the district  technology leaders who hope to see the project grow. They’ll reflect on the successes and challenges that come with supporting students in coding games and simulations, and they’ll share about the role creativity and writing play in their game design instruction.