Sunday, July 01, 2007

Serious Games and Play As A New Context For Learning

Serious Games challenging us to play new ways of thinking


Gamelab Institute of Play leverages game design and its associated literacies as a necessary foundation for learning, innovation, and change.

By bringing non-traditional audiences of all ages into the innovative space of game production and play, their design for the school will explore new ways of thinking, acting, and speaking through playing and making games in a social world. Students call themselves writers, designers, readers, performers, teachers, and students. The Institute calls them gamers.


This means learning to think about the world as a set of in interconnected systems that can be affected or changed through action and choice, the ability to navigate complex information networks, the power to build worlds and tell stories, to see collaboration in competition, and communicate across diverse social spaces. It means that students and teachers will engage in their own learning in powerful ways.

Stratolab provides after-school and summer courses on video game programming, robotics, and other computer related subjects. Stratolab uses video games to teach basic thinking skills like math, problem solving, and creative writing. But more important than individual skills, they foster a love of learning so students enjoy their education and work to build their future.


Math, Writing, Critical Thinking

Stratolab's video game programming course teaches math and problem solving.


Computer graphics is all about numbers such as point scores, X-Y coordinates, and frames per second. A child excited about graphics soon learns that math is actually useful, and wants to learn more.

Similarly, our comic storytelling workshop, makes writing relevant to kids and their peers in a way that book reports will never be. Instead of writing for the teacher, they are describing their dream worlds and showing it to their friends. Meanwhile they learn creative thinking techniques like brainstorming and taking criticism.

Most students won't become game programmers or comic artists, but in this new century, the critical skills will be mental skills like creativity and imagination, critical thinking and problem solving.

Video Game Programming for New York Kids
Location: Repair station Alpha, Moon


You are in the control room of the Luna Amalgamated Rocket Foundry (LARF) overlooking the massive shipyards. You see columns of steam rising up under the glaring lunar sun and explosions of sparks from the numerically controlled cutter-welders showering down upon the insect-like robotic manipulators meandering below. This is largest rocket shipyard this side of Ursa Minor, where merchant vessels and luxury space yachts alike are built and repaired. Someone dressed in overalls approaches.

"Hi, I've been expecting you. I'm Chief Robotician here at LARF, I'm glad you signed on. You know, we need good programmer apprentices like yourself. All those modern rocket building machines you see down there do all the heavy lifting nowadays, but we still need smart young people to learn how to program them and keep them running. And you're in for a treat this week. The famous Mr. Rocketfeller's luxury space schooner the S.S. Matildé was hit last night, seems he wasn't watching the road and swerved into the asteroid belt. We don't get to work on a beauty like her every day. Anyway, the Matildé is a good opportunity to learn the trade, and when you've done that, you can build your own ship. Our team is going on a Sunday cruise next weekend and you should build your own ship to run with us."

Although the workshop is set in fantasy, the programming you learn is real. This course teaches the basics of computer programming using the Scratch system and the Python language. Topics include algorithms, decision logic, variables, loops, and functions. You learn cartesian (X-Y) coordinates and simple algebra to draw shapes and make things move.
Finally, a reason to learn math.