Been a while since I have posted and trying to get back into it again so thought I’d start by sharing a Sway of what I got up to in work last week it definitely wasn’t an average week thats for sure.
I posted a short reply to a post on facebook earlier by David Renton on how to get more women into games courses and wanted to compose this post in order to elaborate further. So how do we solve the problem then of getting more girls into games or even computing in an ideal world we stop genderising things whether they are toys, jobs even hobbies. It won’t happen overnight or even at all however it’s a start right?
OK so it’s not the ideal world how can we help change the notion that Computing & Games are for boys. I’m using these since that’s my specific area however I’m sure there will more subject examples dominated by one or the other gender and seen to be girly/boyish. Education I believe plays a part in this and helping demystify some stereotypes. I have for 6 years been researching in primary schools and I firmly believe this is where we need to start. Children learn from an early age and they learn from us. It’s our responsibility as adults to show them the opportunities out there and to show that no matter their gender they can do anything. So why don’t we teach them then how to make games in schools (yes it’s part of our Scottish school curriculum from Primary 5 onwards) and it’s been on my radar for the past 6 years. I’ve been trying on my own to get more children in Glasgow (there are other folk doing fab things across the country) into games by teaching them how to make games using Scratch – in school lessons I should add. My research focused on working with nearly 400 children between the ages of 8-11 and teaching them and their teachers how to make games. The children worked in pairs and not once did I ever hear/see anything gender related towards the games that were produced. The only gender issue I encountered was a couple of P6 or 7 classes who when told they would be working in mixed gender pairs gave the ever so awkward pre-teen look of how can I work with a boy/girl but after 2 minutes that was forgotten about and awesome games were soon made.
Primary is a very important stage of education as it forms children’s opinions on subjects they like and dislike. By giving children positive experiences of games construction & computing in general. However this then needs to be reinforced throughout secondary school also and children need to be able to have the opportunity to carry on seamlessly from primary to secondary. This is where I had the idea of an event that lets primary and secondary schools work together. A Mini Game Jam – a game jam is where folk get together for 48 hours in the one space and form a team and well, make a game. My idea was shrunk down for the school day. I envisaged that after teaching the children during my research they would have some game making knowledge – enough to make a small game – to be able to work in a team and have some fun while doing so. Hence the Mini Game Jam was born. I am now into year 4 of the event which schools are now starting to see the benefits of. Last year I worked with 300 children over 6 events to spend a day working on a game based on a given theme. By putting the children into mixed teams and not making a fuss about it they worked together side by side as it should be. By showing primary and secondary schools how both can work together for one little part of the curriculum it might help sow some seeds.
Given what I’ve seen during my years of research in schools I don’t believe solely in “women into x, y or z” events. However they may be a short term fix but we need to think long term for these ideas to stick. Also OK why not women only classes for getting more women thinking about the subject I dont mean full on the whole 4 years or that but getting an introduction would maybe be helpful. I chose my subject at university knowing that yes it would probably be male dominated but at the end of the day my choice was based on what I wanted to learn not the male/female ratio in the class.
There isn’t an overnight “Women into “ course and suddenly uptake of FE/HE even Nationals/Highers goes through the roof, no this is a long road and we all must be in it together to work and change attitudes from early years onwards otherwise we will still be having this same old conversation in 20-30 years time.
I know I’m working at it are you?
Finally time for the final. 13 teams from 17 schools across Glasgow (& 1 team from Fife) gathered at Glasgow Clyde College on the 17th June 2015 to participate in the jam final. After a brief introduction the children moved into the design room – a room we set up so that the children could focus on getting their ideas down on paper before moving to the computer room. The children had been told beforehand what the theme was going to be for the jam – Glasgow City of Science. So that they could do some research and get ideas for their games. This meant that when they got into their teams they could share what they had brought with them and together come up with their game ideas. The children spent around 30 minutes planning their games before we moved into the computing room.
The bonus of being in the college was we had use of a large lab which meant all teams got to be in the same room. It meant they weren’t split across rooms and it was easy for the helpers to then see everyone during the day. The room was buzzing with excited children working hard on their games and discussing their plans. Some teams were heard having discussions about the use of imported images with one of them telling their team members they felt that it was wrong to be using other pictures and that they should be creating their own for their games. This is something I do try and encourage children when using Scratch be creative don’t just simply use the standard images or download pictures – make your own, put your stamp on your game.
After the lunch break the race was on for teams to get their games finished and working. Sometimes this was the frustrating part for teams they’d get one thing working and break something else however persistence pays off for those who keep on trying. In the end the team of judges had to work hard to decide who was going to win. The games were judged on how relevant to the theme they were, complexity and functionality. We still looked at how teams worked as well overall. Both the teams who were runner up and winning had great dynamics within their teams and that showed all day.
The winning team was a team of 3 from Rosshall Academy and Sandwood Primary their game is about Clyde collecting science items (though he has to avoid the Bunsen burners) and can be played here.
The runners up game was created by a team of 4 from Alexandra Parade Primary and Sunnyside Primary. Their game is about a mouse in a lab and you have to navigate the mouse through the lab to get the cheese and can be played here.
Well done to everyone who participated on the day though they all put in a great amount of effort and made it hard to make that final choice.
With thanks to Chihiro Yamada, Sean Ward, Alex Malcolm, Stephen McArthur , Connor Johnston, IGDA Scotland, Class teachers and Pupil support assistants who accompanied their children, David Moffat, Susan Grant, Caledonian Club, The NoPills Project and John Lawson.
Extra special thanks to Kate Farrell for all your support, Computing at School Scotland for all the help, School of Computing at Glasgow Clyde College in particular Morag Roberston, Kevin MacLean and Iain Shand for all the help and support with the final.
Most importantly thanks to all the head teachers who have supported me by wanting their schools to take part in the Mini Game Jams. The children were amazing and you should be extremely proud of them all.
During May 2015 306 children from 22 schools across Glasgow participated in a series of Mini Game Jam events. The Mini Game Jam is an event for children who are in P6/7 & S1/2 and it involves schools within the same learning community getting their classes of P6 or 7 together and heading to the local secondary school to work with a class of S1 or S2 there to make a game using Scratch. The children are put into teams with children from the other schools in order to give a transition style event as well. While the main aim of the day is to create a game based on the theme given at the start of the day it’s about a little more than that. It’s about training teachers beforehand to give their classes scratch lessons so they are able to have an idea of how to create a game. It’s about giving the teachers confidence in their own abilities to teach games design/construction to their classes in school. It’s about encouraging children to work in teams and learn from each other. It’s about getting the schools in a learning community to undertake similar Computing work at the same time. It’s about showing children then can be the creators of their own games and not just consumers. It’s about letting children see there are careers available to them in the games industry (I am lucky enough to get volunteers to help and encourage the children on the day who are involved in games either as students/lecturers or who work for a games company). Most importantly it’s about the children having a FUN day while making new friends and being part of a team that’s created a cool game within the space of 3 or 4 hours.
The first event kicked off in the Smithycroft learning community with 118 children from 5 schools taking part. This event was by far the biggest of all jams. Partially down to the fact that it’s been within the LC that I’ve been helping out and undertaking my research, and from their enthusiasm more schools have heard about it. The event was held at Smithycroft Secondary school and the children were put into their teams split over 5 rooms in the school. Once the theme was announced at the start of the day the children moved to their rooms and began planning their games. Which were to be based on Space. Some teams more enthusiastic than others to get started. However after 30 minutes all teams were talking to each other and working on their ideas.
By lunchtime a lot of teams were finalising their games which left them time after lunch to test and refine their game. After lunch all teams quickly got back into putting those finishing touches to their games and worked hard on testing them out before we finally finished for the day. While the games were being judged the children were given a fantastic talk by Chihiro Yamada about how he got into the games industry and what he does now.
Next the Mini Jam headed to Rosshall Academy. The teams were split over 3 rooms though some rooms needed more encouragement than others to get chatting to each other however once they overcame their shyness the ideas started flowing. It’s great watching the ideas being brought to the screen and children realising they can make their games just like they thought.
At the end of the day another fab presentation by Chihiro to the children while the games were judged.
The 3rd Jam was held at Holyrood Secondary with 2 classes being utilised for the teams who were participating. It’s the first time I had to give a room of children into trouble for NOT talking. However the children eventually got into it and were soon coming up with some brilliant ideas.
Again by lunch time the children had the best part of their games done and it left them time after lunch to test their games and polish them up. The children were given a talk today by Alex Macolm and Sean Ward both students at Glasgow Caledonian University and they spoke of how they got into games and also of their experiences of the big Game Jam event which they have both participated in.
Jam number 4 was run in conjunction with the Caledonian Club/NoPIlls Project from Glasgow Caledonian University. 50 children from Elmvale primary participated in a day of game making and getting the chance to visit the labs in the University where the NoPills Researchers work. It was a fun day for all involved.
The very last jam was held at Bannerman High School. Every single school in the learning community had sent a team of children along. One of the purposes of the jam is for the children to meet with others within their learning community and this was a great example of all schools embracing that and taking part. Spread over 2 rooms the children once they eventually started talking to each other started to come up with their game ideas and before long they were onto the computers making these ideas a reality.
Thanks to all schools who participated in the local events and to Smithycroft Secondary, Rosshall Academy, Holyrood Secondary, Bannerman High School and Glasgow Caledonian University for hosting these events. Big thanks also to those who helped me out on the days of the events: Kate Farrell, Chihiro Yamada, Sean Ward, Alex Malcolm and Stephen McArthur.