We at AvatarGeneration are always on the lookout for educationalists that are using technology in different and innovative ways. This week we have a guest post from Cathie Howe from the Macquarie ICT Innovations Centre, an Australian centre that is doing some great work with teaching primary school students game design principles through the children’s virtual world Little Space Heroes. In this particular project, they are aiming “to shift students thinking from that of a player to a game designer through deconstructing and reviewing games”.
Macquarie ICT Innovations Centre (MacICT) is a joint collaboration between the NSW Department of Education and Macquarie University. Our mission is to develop, implement and evaluate innovative ways of enhancing learning through the application of dynamic and emerging information and communication technologies. We offer a Good Game Design professional learning workshop for teachers and bootcamps for students of all ages. We also support teachers in the design and implementation of longer term game design projects.
Through our workshops and bootcamps, students and teachers are introduced to good game design principles through deconstructing, reviewing, designing and building games. Other technologies are layered throughout including social media, video production and blogging. An inquiry based approach to learning is employed that involves students in the joint construction and sharing of knowledge and the collaborative design and creative production of games.
An exciting part of our program is our recent collaboration with independent entertainment studio, Bubble Gum Interactive. From November last year, we have been able to offer students an opportunity to be a beta tester for the game, Little Space Heroes.
Teachers bring their classes to our Centre and students are immersed in a full day of activities aimed to shift students thinking from that of a player to a game designer through deconstructing and reviewing games. They then learn about design and begin to build a game using Kodu. Through the deconstruction and review activities we unpack six basic good game design principles.
Students are introduced to a designer scoreboard (rubric) for the review activity. This guides the students in addressing these principles when reviewing the game and provides a scaffold for students to write constructive feedback on the game. We allocate around 45 minutes to this activity. High school students review smartphone game apps and primary school students review Little Space Heroes. Bubble Gum Interactive provided us with ‘Ace and Kira’s instruction letter for kids’ to guide students through enough of the game in the time we have allocated so they are able to effectively review the game. Students send their feedback to Bubble Gum Interactive via the feedback tab in Little Space Heroes. They include a special word that allows the developers to filter the feedback they receive to identify students from our bootcamps. The developers summarise the student feedback and add comments from the team on the student feedback. The team indicate when some of the items are placed on their production roadmap. The student’s love the fact they are reviewing a real game with a chance to impact its development.
The collaboration between MacICT and Bubble Gum Interactive is only new but we are excited by the tremendous potential this has to involve students in rich learning experiences linked to curriculum outcomes situated in an authentic context. The team at Bubble Gum have been so open to explore different possibilities and to support us in making this possible. Having access to the students’ feedback and Bubble Gum Interactive’s comments on that feedback will assist MacICT to design more effective learning experiences within our bootcamps and longer term game design projects. The team at Bubble Gum Interactive benefit from the opportunity to have so many students playing and providing them with constructive feedback on their game. Together, we are busily planning more exciting opportunities to collaborate together including students reviewing the Little Space Heroes App when it is released, a game design competition and, game design Master classes for school students.