Game Design Encourages Computer Science for All

While computer games are still anathema at some schools, Porter-Gaud School embraces them as deep learning activities for every high school student. In their required ninth-grade computer science course and in an array of electives, Porter-Gaud students experience a “multimedia, multitasking, total immersion in technology.” A high point of the ninth-grade course is the game design project, where students spend six weeks creating games based on their personal interests and individual research, with topics that have ranged from the NSA to anorexia. “I believe in serious games,” says computer science chair Doug Bergman. “They’re ways for kids to explore thoughts around some serious issues, and to teach about them. Give 14-year-olds a chance, and they really have something to say. It becomes a learning experience, with the game in the middle.” Seniors move on to the design of XBox games; even a Monopoly-type game, says Bergman, requires “just about every kind of computer science skill you need.” A third of Porter-Gaud seniors have taken multiple courses beyond the requirement, Bergman adds. “I don’t have to try to hook the techy kids—they’re going to enroll anyway. But we’re excited about the next twenty to thirty percent, the kids who are going to be historians and zoologists. We’re giving them the skills to use technology in their fields and even design and build new tools so that they can go and do great things in those fields.”

Does your school do something similar?

Add a comment