Game Design Programs for Teens Create Innovative Learning Experiences

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I recently attended a Youth Game Design Workshop which was part of the Games for Change Festival held in NYC last week. Games for Change is dedicated to the new movement of using digital games for social change, including education. The game design for youth program was created especially for teachers, after school program leaders and mentors to incorporate this new learning experience that teaches teens many of the skills they need in today’s world.

“…game design is an activity that allows learners to build technical, technological, artistic, cognitive, social, and linguistic skills suitable for our current and future world. Beyond their value as entertainment media, digital games and game modification are currently key entry points for many young people into digital literacy, social communities, and tech-savvy identities.” Gamestar Mechanic Learning Guide

Some of the many wonderful educational programs that I learned about at the festival were:

1. World Wide Workshop – A non-profit educational organization that develops social media and game production technology to enrich education with the latest technology and learning opportunities. Doing this helps close the digital literacy gap, helps students learn by doing and helps them achieve digital literacy.

In 2006, The World Wide Workshop created Globaloria, a program which prepares teens 12 and up to create educational games. They learn game design and programming for their own development and for the social benefit for their communities. While doing this, students also learn science, technology, engineering, math, wiki formatting, writing and multimedia production skills. So far, Globaloria is in schools in West Virginia and Texas but has plans to expand.

2. P4Games – P4Games stands for Pixels, Programming, Play & Pedagogy and is an organization which explores the creation of interactive videogames as a project based teaching method in high schools. P4 has two programs. The Teachers Game Institute teaches the teachers, while the other project is teaching video game creation skills directly to high school students in summer camps. Students learn visual arts, computer programming, game design and technology.

3. Institute of Play – The Institute of Play promotes gaming literacy – the play, analysis and creation of games as a foundation for learning, innovation and change. The institute has a variety of platforms in which it supports with its “toolkits” for their own programs. Programs include Mobo Studeio: Activate!, an afterschool program, Being Me, an online social netwrok and integrated wellness curriculum and Smallab, a suite of game-based learning models.

In addition to these programs, the Institute of Play led the design of a school, Quest to Learn, in NYC. Quest to Learn is a school for digital kids from 6th grade and up. Quest opened with a 6th grade class in the Fall of 2009 and will add a new grade each year. The focus is on learning based on access to online resources and tools from around the globe, learning that supports customized content for every student that is game-like in its ability to inspire and motivate.

Miracles Technology Academy – A technology-based program for tweens 9-13. This is an after school program in conjunction with Boys & Girls Clubs of America.

PETlab – A joint project from Parsons The New School for Design and Games for Change. Support comes from the MacArthur Foundation’s Digital Media and Learning Initiative. PETlab is not about teens making video games, but about learning through them. It is a public interest game design and research lab that develops new games, simulations, and play experiences which encourage experimental learning and investigation into social and global issues.

Education must include change to keep relevant in today’s world. To keep up, students need to learn more than just how to use a computer and the Internet. Teens will learn better if they are having fun. Teaching teens to create video games, and playing educational video games, will help give them the tools and skills they need to thrive. Hopefully many students who love video games will go on to earn an engineering or an online computer science degree. Students don’t have to learn the same boring way that we did anymore. Why listen to a teacher talk all day, when you can actually learn by doing.

See also:
Teen Tech Summer Camp for Game Creation, Programming or Visual Arts
National Game Design Competition for Teens and Tweens
Creating Innovators – What Parents Can Do
Video Games Have More Benefits Than You Realize
Education and Technology #140edu Conference Day 2

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