Thursday, August 16, 2012

Teaching thinking by pretending to teach gaming.

Logic is a critical skill in game design. The ability to "test" one's logic is in my opinion a metacognitive skill that I don't believe I would have been able to get my year 9 students to do external to the activity of game design. Halfway through a game design unit I can see and evidence the progression in thinking achieved by each member of my class. The real beauty with the teaching of thinking through game design though is that it enables effective differentiation based on knowledge, thinking skills and ability.

I am using Microsoft Kodu as the game engine, and the game design task has listed certain elements to the game that must be included. One of these elements is the concept of levels. Within Kodu (and I will freely admit my knowledge is beginner) levels need to be represented differently to how they are thought of in popular games. There is not a way (as far as we have discovered) to generate stages within the game - as in you complete a stage and a new environment loads for the next stage. Observing the range of ways my learners implement the concept of levelling within Kodu is a great representation of their ability to think, apply and test logic.

Some examples that I have seen include vast open areas with sections that include different challenges. To cater for an increase in challenge script pages have been created that respond to game occurrences. For example, each section may have a golden apple. Within each section the non player characters have a page of script that responds to the number of golden apples eaten and increases their strength or damage accordingly. Others have clearly marked the number of the level (section) with a non player character that "says" through a speech bubble what level this section represents.

Some of the more enterprising students have areas of land joined by thin corridors. The corridors are blocked by an object that disappears dependent on a game occurrence. The programmed game occurrence indicates the completion of a level.

What is most exciting for me is the open sharing that is occurring when the learners are problem solving (testing logic). They swap computers, ask each other for advice, offer help without asking and a whole range of other occurrences. It is as if they realise that by sharing their knowledge, they will all create a better product. Kudos to them.

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