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Computer Games Created by Middle School Girls, Essay Example

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Essay

The study “Computer games created by middle school girls: Can they be sued to measure understanding of computer science concepts” by Jill Denner, Linda Werner, and Eloy Ortiz takes a look at an interesting subject matter in precollege students.  Looking at the educational value of computer programming, Denner and others shed some light on the usability and overall value of this subject.  While it is not without a number of critical errors, which is perhaps not too much for such a novel subject, the study certainly confirms suspicions previously held by the researchers.

Benefits of Computer Game Creation

There are a number of possible educational benefits listed by the researchers.  Initially, the item of computing can be seen as an interesting item in itself.  However, the benefits are found in the dynamics within computing and computer programming, specifically.  There is a great deal of algorithmic thinking, logic skills, documentation and information organization, and usability.

A number of these benefits and dynamics are quite deep in themselves.  For instance, usability alone can lead to a number of practical and educational benefits within problem solving and logic.  Creating a computer game with usability in mind could develop the student’s creative prowess, introduce him or her to narrative dynamics, and develop consideration for how a player will interact with the game.  Hence, it is easy to see how these items can become a gateway for powerful learning opportunities.

The researchers note that computer game creation is increasingly used to educate students.  No longer used for users of computers alone, novice programming languages have emerged as a way to bring these values to the average student.  A noticeable increase has been seen at the high school level.  The researchers note that literature points to the many benefits of computer game creation for students.  Programming can help students cultivate these important skills that are particularly wide-reaching and valuable.

Details of the Study

While a great deal of time won’t be spent reiterating each detail of the study, it is interesting to look at some facts and ideas that went into the study.  The study was made up of 59 middle school-aged girls, of which a great deal were from low income families.  Over a period of 14 months, each student “programmed several games.”  Meeting twice a week – and every day for three weeks in the summer – the students were exposed to a great deal of computer programming and related items.  One to two teachers were available at every class, according to the researchers.

The students were introduced to the program by built-in tutorials with a partner.  Relating the rules of the program to the student, they were able to learn how certain aspect – stages, doors, variables, and character creation – can come into play for the game in question.  As the program of learning took place, each student eventually created five games of four different genres – maze, maze with an astrobiology focus, action, trivia, and finally with adventure.

The results can be said to be varied.  There were a number of items that can be pointed out from the games that did not meet high expectations; for instance, 18 percent of games did not contain functional interaction.  Also, there were “modest levels of usability.”  However, the researchers were quick to relate their findings to the students’ background – which is found in them having “no programming experience in the kinds of thinking and problem solving that will prepare them for computing intensive classes and careers.”

A Critical Look at Certain Dynamics

A resounding question must be asked: Does this study truly relate the power of computer programming to educate students?  Within the territory of the study, which the researchers do admit, there are some drawbacks that can confuse the clarity of the results.  Most notable is the lack of measurable results.  For instance, the study did not integrate specific tasks that would allow for a clear look into how successful the student was in that task.  Rather, the results were less measurable and more generalized – and, to the latter term, the “take away points” from the researchers were still rather basic.  In other words, the researchers tended to reiterate what they – and anyone else – would expect from such a study (the generalized benefits of this type of a study).

Of course, this study is not without its rightful merit.  It certainly echoes the sentiments that are clear when the benefits of computer programming are considered.  However, further studies will need to hone in on these areas.  For instance, it would be beneficial to have students try to carry out a well-defined task that concentrated on a certain benefit of computer program (i.e. usability).

A number of other changes would easily increase the meaning of similar or different studies in computer programming.  The current study was notably limited in terms of population – 59 girls from a low-income family with no background in computers.  More participants of both genders, from a variety of socioeconomic backgrounds, and varying backgrounds in terms of computer proficiency – these variables could certainly provide more insight into the dynamics and educational benefits taught by computer programming.

There is also another important variable that could increase the educational benefits of computer programming.  The researchers note that there were only one or two teachers in each session (for 59 individuals).  However, more resounding is the fact that the teachers did not have any experience in the program.  With teachers/mentors that are proficient in computer programming and the program of choice, such an educational program could have a more powerful impact on the student.  Along with gender, age, background, and population size, the individuals who are leading these students could once again play a pivotal role in the overall value of such a computer programming setting.

Potentially, there may be various approaches taken to measure the impact of such educational programs on the students.  For instance, perhaps another computer programming task could be utilized to measure a student’s proficiency at a certain area.  Or, taking it another direction, how did the chosen student population compare to others who did not have such an experience in test scores?  From IQ tests to more, there may be some ways to look at how the logic-based concepts from computer programming are translated to other areas.

Conclusion

The chosen study provided interesting assertions to the value of computer programming for precollege students.  Confirming basic suspicions to this value, the researchers found that students were greatly impacted by their time in the program.  Not only can it prepare them for further computer-related activities, but it can help reinforce certain types of thinking that will help them further.

Future studies have a great deal of room to teach the public about the value of computer programming for precollege students.  Comparative studies that look at different environments are mentioned by the researchers.  From different programs, student populations, and evaluative tools to more, there is certainly a great deal to learn from programs like the one in this study.

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