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The Treasure Hunt and Gun Game have been designed and created by four Junior High students at Campbell Hall School. The games were created as part of a computer science game design course using Macromedia’s Director. The course focused on introducing programming skills by assigning game design challenges that increase in complexity and sophistication as students advance in the course. General programming concepts were introduced initially and afterwards students were encouraged to delve into Lingo’s (Director’s programming environment) manual, as well as look at programming examples to address their programming needs. My role was to guide them to the right resources, programming examples, and explanations of difficult concepts and commands. Students worked in teams of two and divided the work to reflect each member’s talent and inclination to do either graphics or programming. Some of the most successful games came out of teams that one member showed a real talent for art while the other demonstrated strength in programming. Those that assumed the programming roles collaborated with programmers from other teams and a lively conversation became part of the course routine. Students enjoyed the class so much that they had difficulty quitting and going home (it was scheduled as the last class of the day). As their appetite for creating games grew, they suggested their own games and were ready to handle any level of programming complexity to accomplish their goals. The Gun game was suggested by students after they have seen a similar game published in the “ South Park” website.
The games presented here are formidable examples of graphics design and programming accomplishments. Feeling as a team of professional programmers who can design almost any game they desired, encouraged students to learn complex programming skills in order to fulfill the challenges they set on for themselves. Such a game is Fallout, which demonstrates sophistication and programming mastery in a level that is hard to achieve in a common programming class. Student proved to me again that a real-life goal and proficiency with a professional tool can turn them into efficient learners and serious candidates for becoming part of the adult world. Students concentrating on the graphic arts end made similar achievements in their field. The graphics that students designed were amazing and could easily be included in a real game or animation. As I witnessed the amount of learning that happened while students worked in my computer programming class, I often thought of the benefits of employing similar methods in other subjects. I had the honor of collaborating with a Biology teacher, who felt that these methods can help her students understand the process of “DNA Replication”. After a short introduction to Director, her students were on their way to create an animated representation of the subject. I can’t forget the enthusiasm with which they approached a subject that otherwise produces feelings of frustration and boredom. Students’ declarations, such as: “Now I get it!” or “I finally understand how this works!” provided us with the best evidence for this program’s success.
I would like to be able to repeat these successful learning practices to teach different subjects. I believe that the benefits for learning are so big that using these technologies should be part of students’ daily learning.