Ninety percent of 13- to 17-year-olds play video games on a computer, game console or cellphone, according to the Pew Research Center. That fact isn’t lost on teachers.
“In the 1960s, everyone wanted to be a filmmaker. In the 1970s, they wanted to study broadcasting, and video gaming is the current hot one,” said Kevin O’Gorman of the Lewisville Independent School District in Texas.
Some schools are taking advantage of this enthusiasm for video games to build student interest in computer science and STEM.
In Lewisville ISD, students in the popular Game Programming and Design classes get to work on top-of-the-line Macs and Alienware PCs — computers that professional game developers use. Students are tasked with designing an edutainment game, delivering a lesson in an entertaining way. They can choose the subject and the lesson.
Students learn the principles and practice of modeling in polygons, applying textures and materials to those models, and rendering them with appropriate lighting. The students implement game sound mechanics as well as add audio sound effects and music. So, really, game design incorporates both STEM and STEAM skills.
The classes also mirror, in some ways, how professional game companies work. For example, there are many tasks for the students to complete on a time schedule, just like a real job would have. In addition, the students are expected to place their finished games into the hands of reviewers. In this case, it’s kindergartners.
When the kindergartners get their hands on the games, they’re not just playing for fun, they’re giving feedback on what works and what doesn’t. They can tell the high school students whether the games are too hard or too easy — and if they’ve actually learned something.
For teachers looking to build more science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) connections into curriculum, game design and programming can serve as an immediate gateway by tapping into students’ interests, strengthening their connections to what they’re learning, and even building additional skills to help them in school as well as their future professional life.
Sharon Lambert, a teacher at Florida’s Dunnellon High School, also helps her game design and programming students develop soft skills. “Games and programs are not built by one individual usually,” she said. “It takes a team, and learning how to work on a team is an important skill that students learn. From … communication, time management, integrity, organizational skills and others, soft skills are important to them so they can be able to compete and function successfully in the job market.”
There are opportunities to integrate computer science in almost any curricula if you think creatively and look for ways to use video games as a learning experience.
Full Story: K-12 Dive (12/9)
Have you incorporated video games into your lessons? Please tell us what equipment and resources you use!