Semester Overview of readings Category

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Reading 6 TBA

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Wilson (with Cody)

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Eladhari (with Keith)

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Grimes (with Susan)

We've talked quite a bit about what kids can learn from playing games. And we've also touched on the "are games art" debate. While little kids still need to fingerpaint and roll clay snakes in order to explore the physical world, as they get older they will spend more and more time in a digital world.
Instead of worrying about whether kids can absorb by playing games created by adults, let's consider what can they can accomplish by creating their own media for their peers.. 
MIT's free tool Scratch is designed to get kids programming, so that they can create their own games and animations. (Watch a 5-minute intro to Scratch.)  

Kids can start out just watching cartoon characters move around, but with a little guidance, they can start adding more sophisticated controls and program complex interactions. 
  • Whether they plan to be programmers or not when they grow up, they will use computers all their lives.  Rather than let them think of what goes on inside that box as magic, or dismiss technology because "computers hate me"...
  • Scratch introduces kids to the idea that everything that happens inside a computer follows a rule, and that -- at least until the robot uprising -- those rules come from people.
Watch an Scratch Programming Session

In about 30 minutes, these videos walk you through the steps of how to build a simple Breakout game in Scratch.  In the last 2 videos, for another 15 or so minutes, I'm mostly tweaking a working demo.
How do these videos affect your thoughts on games and education, and on your own potential for creating interactive media?
I'm am not requiring you to use this tool for class, but if you like what you see....
  • I encourage you to consider using it to help present the creative part of your term project.
  • You can download it free at The web is full of sample projects and user-created tutorials; here are some Scratch tutorials recorded by kids.


Discusson Leaders: Jessie and Matt.

Games allow younger and younger people to become experts, with the careful mentoring of adults. Suggest erasing the distinction between formal and informal learning.

If you are particularly interested in games and learning, I strongly recommend Gee's What Video Games Have to Teach Us about Learning and Literacy.

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Squire and Jenkins

Harnessing the Power of Games in Education (pdf) 

(the same text is also available in HTML format)

From early flight simulators to multiplayer games like America's Army (see Figure 1), the
military has long recognized the potential for games and simulations to enable the teaching and testing of skills that could not be rehearsed in real-world environments. Ironically, these military links have been exploited by fearmongers, such as military psychologist and anti-video-game activist David Grossman, to drive a wedge between games and schools.

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Open Choice

Choose any video game, classic or new, on any platform, and present a case study. Explain why your choice is worthy of academic study. Offer supporting materials and discussion questions.

Based on class interest, in this slot, I'm going to name:

Mutual Fantasy Online: Playing with People (Mortensen)

Torill actually visited SHU several years ago, when academic blogging -- and blogging in general -- was very new.  I invited her to present on media panics and hypertext theory.

The story of how I spent a week getting a group of students to disagree with what she was posting on her blog, then asking them to consider what they would say to her if they ever met her, and then having her walk into the classroom was quite amusing.

Discussion leaders: Beth Anne and Jeremy.

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