WORKSHOP: Fostering CT in Middle Schools Through Empathic Gameplay

WORKSHOP: Fostering CT in Middle Schools Through Empathic Gameplay

Dorothy Bennett, Director of Creative Pedagogy, New York Hall of Science; Nicholas Hartmann, Research Assistant, NYSCITrack 4 GAMES IN K-12

Dorothy Bennett
Director of Creative Pedagogy
New York Hall of Science
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Nicholas Hartmann
Research Assistant
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Discover inclusive approaches for supporting middle schoolers' development of computational thinking (CT) skills through an exploratory open-world game.

Drawing on lessons learned from a large scale study with NYC teachers, participants will learn how to leverage middle schoolers' exploratory gameplay to build foundational CT concepts and practices specifically related to algorithmic thinking — what it takes to develop, apply, and adapt algorithms - a set of step-by-step instructions that people create to solve a problem or complete a task.

Supporting CT and algorithmic thinking in particular is critical for younger students, as it expands their capacity to become active participants in shaping, creating, and testing solutions to real world problems and to participate in STEM more broadly. Yet most programs designed for young learners narrowly focus on programming, excluding many learners, and girls in particular, who tend to be weakly engaged by coding for coding's sake.

In this workshop, attendees will examine prevailing notions of what CT can look like in a dynamic open-world game, playtest gameplay challenges focused on CT practices, and gain insights into the strategies and challenges encountered in using exploratory games to foster computational thinking for different kinds of game players and learners.

Developed by NYSCI and Design I/O, attendees will have the chance to explore the Pack program, an open-world digital game where players gather resources to attract creatures with differing functions and combine them into computational sequences to tackle problems encountered in a fictional changing ecosystem. Through hands-on gameplay and offline activities, attendees will gain insights into how computational thinking is not highly technical or specialized, but a powerful approach children can use to systematically solve problems they care about. Takeaways from this workshop include frameworks for understanding children's different ways of playing games (e.g., focus on narrative, focus on logic, or focus on winning) and how these approaches can help them build foundational computational concepts. We will also share gameplay templates that enable middle schoolers to reflect on how they solve problems and create algorithms, and online and offline activities that support children in seeing the value and importance of algorithms in everyday life. Participants will be provided with one of NYSCI's twelve challenges developed for the Pack's implementation, and will explore how this challenge embodies NYSCI's strategy of scaffolding this game supports CT, algorithmic thinking, and critical thinking for diverse learners.

Thu 12:00 am - 12:00 am