Minds in Play: Computer Game Design as a Context for Children's Learning

Synopsis

Video games more than any other media have brought technology into children's homes and hearts. Educators, psychologists, and parents are struck by the quality of engagement that stands in stark contrast to children's usual interest in school homework and other activities. Whereas most research efforts have concentrated on discussing the effects of game playing, this book takes a different stance. It takes a close look at games as a context for learning by placing children in the roles of producers rather than consumers of games.

Kafai presents a constructionist vision of computer-based learning activities in schools. She follows a class of sixteen fourth-grade students from an inner-city public elementary school as they were programming games in Logo to teach fractions to third graders. The children transformed their classroom into a game design studio for six months, learning programming, writing stories and dialogues, constructing representations of fractions, creating package designs and advertisements, considering interface design issues, and devising teaching strategies. In this context, programming became a medium for children's personal and creative expression; in the design of their games children engaged their fantasies and built relationships with other pockets of reality that went beyond traditional school approaches.

The ideas and discussions presented in this book address educators, researchers, and software and curriculum designers interested in children's learning and thinking with educational technologies.