Teachers play video games for science

4:52 PM, Jun 12, 2011   |    comments
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The thing is, Wilder is not a kid. She's a teacher enrolled in the Scalable Game Design Summer Institute at the University of Colorado.

"To get students motivated, doing something interesting like games is what they really enjoy doing," Wilder, a teacher at the Aspen Creek K-8 School in Broomfield, said.

The National Science Foundation funded a project called iDreams at CU. The Scalable Game Design Summer Institute is part of the iDreams effort. Teachers learn how to program their own video games, so they can pass the information along to their students.

"To actually create a program or to build anything, [students] usually don't have the skills at all," Dr. Alexander Repenning, a professor of computer sciences at CU, said. "They don't have the skills, or not even the interest."

Repenning is the director of the iDreams project. He says it was designed to find ways to get more kids interested in going into computer sciences.

"There are more and more jobs, but the interest is actually going down and the interest of women in these kinds of jobs is going down even faster," Repenning said.

Wilder just gave birth less than a month ago, but she felt so strongly about learning these skills that she took her newborn along to the classes.

"Once you mention 'game' in class, then they're immediately hooked," Wilder said.

Repenning says if kids are excited to learn how to program video games, then they've started into a field that most kids initially think is boring.

"That's that hardest step. How can [we] actually teach our students to make their own games and learn something from that," Repenning said. "Now, that you can make a video game, can you also make a science simulation?"

Repenning believes training the teachers is the key, especially for those who have a little to no experience with video games.

"Then, I throw out something like, 'Hey, let's program an ant foraging simulation' then they're stoked," Wilder said. "They want to do it. They're ready for the challenge."

As teachers like Wilder spend their summer playing video games, they actually have a purpose.

"Within games, you could teach all kinds of interesting computational-thinking skills," Wilder said.

(KUSA-TV © 2011 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

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