Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Join the fun! Designing games can be for everyone!

I thought it was about time that I introduced myself to everyone that may visit this online space. My name is Cathie Howe, and I have taught in NSWDET schools in the Northern Sydney Region for 20 years. I initially taught moderately intellectually disabled students for long time and then moved into mainstream education. Since then, I have taught parallel classes that contained a cluster gifted and talented students. For the past three years, I have taught Stage 3 classes containing the top students in the grade in English. I currently teach Year 6 three days/week at Cromer Public School, and am deployed to MacICT two days/week as the Game Design project leader. Throughout my teaching career, I have being passionate about integrating technology into teaching and learning.

I have always enjoyed playing video games. I have spent hundreds of hours in the past playing Tetris and Lemmings and other computer games. When my children began to play games, either on the computer, Wii or DS I would often join in and we would enjoy some fun family time together. Through playing games with my children and playing the occasional video game late at night, I have rediscovered the engagement and fun one can gain through games.

My interest in game based learning, and then game design, began when my son (at seven years old) told me he wanted to be a 'gamer' when he grew up. I didn't know he even knew what the word was! I observed the engagement and fun my son and daughter gained from playing video games with each other and their friends, and also the amazing problem solving skills they needed, to master the games they played. I had similar concerns as many parents do, over what benefits my children gained from playing video games and so began to read widely on the subject. My journey had begun!

World building in Kodu

Since July 2007, I have been fortunate that my boss at Cromer PS has been exceptionally supportive and allowed me to be deployed to MacICT for one day a week to research and develop projects in game design. I have taught game design using Kahootz to Stage 3 students at my school for the last three years. This year my Year 6 class and I, along with Anthony's assistance, are exploring and playing with Kodu - a visual programming language developed by Microsoft for creating games. I hope to use this software to develop another game design project.

Until this year, developing my project has been a rather solitary venture. I have been sustained by inspiring discussions, professional development and guidance from the Centre Director and my mentor, Debbie Evans, and the amazing, dedicated and diverse staff that we have had over the last 3 years at MacICT. This year, it has been fantastic to have Anthony come on board and make us a Game Design Team! His background as a gamer and experience in design has been invaluable to the continued development of the game design project.

I am excited about the wider recognition from the academic community and from educational organisations world wide of the value of game based learning, including game design, that has occurred in recent times. Game based learning has been identified by the Horizon Report (see my earlier post)as one of the key adoption areas in K-12 Education over the next 2 to 3 years. Our draft National English Curriculum has also identified multimodal text (games are a multimodal text) as a key literacy.

Through this blog, we aim to share this excitement with you, and hope, that you will also share your stories through posts to this blog as you join us on this journey.

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