Our main goal is to bring computer science to middle schools with the ultimate aim of developing a larger IT workforce to address the IT crisis. Our approach, called Scalable Game Design, uniquely balances educational and motivational concerns. In their very first lesson, students make their own simple Frogger-like game, which they can publish to the Web. Students then continue gradually to learn about sophisticated topics such as Artificial Intelligence to make complex games and computational science applications.
This approach has been pioneered by AgentSheets Inc. and is now being used by the University of Colorado at Boulder in the context of iDREAMS, an ITEST project funded by the National Science Foundation. AgentSheets Inc., which is subcontractor to this $1.5 million-dollar research grant, will bring software and curriculum into middle school classrooms in diverse regions of Colorado.
Its not easy to build and design a working game from scratch. We use the psychological notion of Flow to gradually develop design skills that match design challenges. By scaffolding through game design patterns, students progress from simple arcade games to games and computational science applications that require sophisticated Artificial Intelligence. Throughout this process, students develop IT fluency based on intellectual capabilities, fundamental IT concepts and contemporary IT skills as defined by the National Academies of Sciences and computer education standards such as ISTE NETS.
AgentSheets® is the only tool that fulfills all these educational requirements necessary for Scalable Game Design:
low threshold: simple enough to make a working Frogger-like game in 3 hours or less from scratch.
high ceiling: powerful enough to enable middle school students to implement sophisticated AI algorithms e.g., to find shortest path in maze.
works for both games and computational science applications
supports the transition to traditional programming such as Java.