Teaching Problem-Solving Skills Through Game-Design: Game-Design and Learning Courses


Games, and the game-design process, have received attention from researchers and educators due to their potential to serve as contexts to teach design and problem-solving skills for several reasons. First, games are inherently attractive for young children (Gee, 2003; Papastergiou, 2009; Prensky, 2003). The process of game-design, therefore, has a natural appeal, because the outcome of the process (i.e., the games) is meaningful and fun for the creators. This makes the process of game-design enjoyable and intrinsically motivating as the students get to work on things that they personally value. Designing learning environments to teach children digital game-design, while also aiming to teach thinking skills such as problem-solving, requires going through a rigorous process of instructional design, and integration of technology. The instructional design process requires bringing different variables together to work in harmony: theories, pedagogies, and technology (Mishra & Koehler, 2006). Integrating technology into teaching introduces an additional variable into the mix, and makes this process more complex (Koehler & Mishra, 2009). For this reason, in educational technology, “design” is front and center, requiring the process to be based on theory, grounded in data, and focused on problem-solving (Smith & Boling, 2009). In this presentation, I will present information regarding the design and implementation of a technology-rich learning environment for middle-school students: Game-design and Learning courses (GDL). Since its inception in 2011, I have offered GDL courses to more than hundred students, including students from disadvantaged backgrounds. Through GDL curriculum, students learn, in an engaging way, the basics of digital game-design, programming, and more importantly complex problem solving. In my research, I have shown how the curriculum used at the GDL courses successfully reached these outcomes. In the current paper, I detail how such a technology-rich environment can be built, giving participants some concrete examples that they can take home and use, also some instructional design concepts that they can utilize while building their own.

National Youth-At-Risk Conference