Games for Change Lunch & Learn Conclusion!

The Games for Change Lunch & Learn, featuring Nikki Navta and Todd Keruskin, generated quite a buzz at the Sprout offices. Participants were still deep in discussion on educational gaming as they walked out the door!

Nikki Navta of Zulama and Todd Keruskin of Elizabeth Forward School District spoke at a lunch & learn at Sprout offices today about their experience at the Games for Change Festival earlier this summer. Nikki and Todd were able to gain insight to share with those interested in game development and education gaming in the Pittsburgh region. Todd approached the G4C Festival from an educator’s perspective, while Nikki focused on the development side, offering a well-rounded presentation to lunch & learn audience members.

During the presentation, Todd and Nikki discussed several key online resources that educators could implement into their classrooms as soon as tomorrow! Best part? They’re all free!

  • GameStar Mechanics – Serving as a platform for third and fourth graders interested in game design, this site provides tutorials on creating simple game structures that encourage strategic play and critical thinking.
  • Kodu – This Microsoft platform is suitable for youth in fourth through sixth grade. Essentially, it introduces children to the very beginning of programming. Creating a virtual world through the site allows those of all interest to get involved, whether artist, creative mind, or gamer.
  • Game Salad – This platform serves as an avenue for online game and application creation. If starting from scratch seems too daunting, Game Salad provides templates that users can modify and apply to their needs.

Another significant idea that was discussed during the lunch & learn was that of transforming old-fashioned, unused planetariums into “immersive gaming” environments for students. This would make gaming more of an experience, rather than a task. Students would have the opportunity to bond with what they were doing. This act would be more than instruction, a true connection.

“The days of teaching Microsoft Word and Powerpoint and keyboarding at the high school level are over.” – Todd Keruskin, Elizabeth Forward School District

Todd points out that the focus isn’t on teaching the kids how to develop online games and applications- that’s not the point. The goal is to use this technology as an educational tool. “It’s all about getting kids excited about learning,” he says. Nikki, coming from the development piece of puzzle, can’t agree more with the purpose of educational gaming.

The two stressed the importance of moving with the times to adapt to the users of gaming technology. It’s an ever-changing process to constantly try to identify and appeal to what the audience is looking for, while still creating a site that is simplistic enough for easy use.

Addressing several of audience members’ concerns for education game development, the presenters spoke about establishing learning objectives for these activities and concluded that there needs to be an established purpose in order to measure the effectiveness of this as a classroom practice. In addition to objectives, Todd and Nikki agreed that game development needs to be segmented to grade levels. While it is vital that children are introduced to this digital world and all of its technologies at earlier ages, that introduction needs to be tailored to the stage the children are at in order to generate a genuine interest in the activity.

Audience members were still buzzing on the topic on their way out the door- there’s plenty of conversation to be had about educational game development. Check out the events and opportunities page for chances to further the discussion and to get involved with upcoming lunch & learns!

Published July 23, 2012