Creating a Culture of Critical Game Designers in Elementary Classrooms and Clubs

Kylie Peppler · Alicia Diazgranados · Deborah Fields · Yasmin Kafai

Our prior work in informal settings explored game design and, more generally, creative production as a pathway to critical reflection (Peppler & Kafai, 2007a/b). One of the benefits of informal learning spaces is that youth can explore their interests in a lengthy, uninterrupted span of time. During this time, youth begin to creatively explore their ideas. As they make decisions to refine their work, they begin to critically engage in new media and begin to question some of the rules and norms (Peppler & Kafai, 2007a). Prior work in the arts demonstrates that this time for critique is imperative to help youth develop their lenses as critical and creative producers (Winner & Hetland, 2007). In this symposium, we present two different spaces, formal and informal, in which we used different strategies to establish a culture of critical game design among elementary age students within Scratch. We will use the final minutes to synthesize our findings from these cross-country, formal/informal studies before the question and answer period.

The Role of a Social Networking Site (Scratchr) in Supporting Reflection on Design in an Afterschool Technology Club (Fields, Kafai)

During the past year the new social networking site Scratchr has made sharing game and animation designs possible between youth across the world. In this study of an after school technology club where fourth through sixth grade youth spent six weeks playing on Scratch, we analyze the role that the online site had on stimulating critique and generation of designs in an unstructured setting. Initial analyses demonstrate the stages club members went through in utilizing the site and the ways that it dramatically impacted members’ personal Scratch game designs.

Developing Critical Reflections With Scratch in a Second Grade Math Classroom (Peppler, Diazgranados)

As game design is adapted in the classroom setting, there is a potentially stronger opportunity to reflect on youth and professional work, make systematic evaluations, share opinions, and develop general logic and reasoning skills important to other subject areas like math. In this case we used Scratch in a classroom setting as tool for critical discourse. Our analysis draws from a year long study documenting youth designing games with Scratch by collecting observations, game designs, log files, and interviews with second grade math students in an urban school. Using the Senteo interactive response system, students and instructors posed criteria related to good game design, usability, and aesthetics and had students evaluate professional games as well as games made by themselves and their peers in Scratch. Results from early pilot work indicate that this system of evaluation prompted students to use vocabulary relevant to game design and computer programming as well as to develop the ability to make choices and defend a key standard in elementary math curriculum that is oftentimes overlooked.