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Gaming workshops lead to ‘aha’ moments and engage kids with technology

Gaming workshops lead to ‘aha’ moments and engage kids with technology
AN NZCER evaluation has found a recent pilot project that offered gaming workshops in seven public libraries around New Zealand boosted young people’s interest in science and technology and inspired them towards a career in gaming, programming and/or coding.

At the workshops held in late 2015 and early 2016, participants were taken step by step through the process of creating their own simple 2D videogame, learning the basics of coding, computational thinking, and digital game design. The workshops were free and drew 426 people from across the seven locations – 336 of whom were under 18 years of age.

The project was funded through the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s Unlocking Curious Minds fund and developed through a partnership between Public Libraries of New Zealand, Gamelab, Hutt City Council and public libraries in Dunedin, Timaru, Nelson, Hutt City, Gisborne, Porirua and Wellington. The Gamefroot platform, publically accessible at make.gamefroot.com, was used to create the games.

Public Libraries of New Zealand Executive Director Tim Antric said it was fantastic to see young people engaging with science and technology via public libraries.
“Some young people travelled for more than three hours to attend their nearest workshop, and the evaluation shows many of them learned more about being creative and solving problems. This is really pleasing and is exactly what public libraries are for.”

The evaluation also showed that participants thought the workshops had helped them learn to think strategically, had demystified computers for them and had taught them more about themselves and others. Most said they had experienced at least one ‘aha’ moment during the course of the day.

Most adults who attended the workshops were there to support young people to learn coding or design, and a just under a third were primary school teachers. Teachers taking part in the evaluation said the workshops had been useful for their professional development and that they were better able to talk about coding with their pupils. 

In response to this feedback, Gamelab has decided to extend the workshops from one to one-and-a-half days and to create supporting resources for teachers to use in their classrooms. Antric says improvements will also be made to make the workshops more engaging for female, Māori and Pasifika students.

The NZCER evaluation report by Rachel Bolstad is available at www.nzcer.org.nz/research/publications/game-coding-workshops-new-zealand-public-libraries-0. 


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