Open Journal Systems
Learning to program with Game Maker
Game Maker is widely used in UK secondary schools, yet under-researched in that context. This paper presents the findings of a qualitative case study that explores how authoring computer games using Game Maker can support the learning of basic programming concepts in a mainstream UK secondary setting. The research draws on the learning theory of constructionism, which asserts the importance of pupils using computers as ‘building material’ to create digital artefacts (Papert, 1980; Harel and Papert, 1991), and considers the extent to which a constructionist approach is suitable for introducing basic programming concepts within a contemporary, game authoring context. The research was conducted in a high achieving comprehensive school in South East England. Twenty-two pupils (12 boys; 10 girls; 13-14 years old) completed a unit of work in computer game authoring over an eight-week (16 x 50 minute lessons) period. In planning and developing their games, they worked in self-selected pairs, apart from two pupils (one boy and one girl) who worked alone, by choice. Nine of the ten pairs were the same gender. Data were collected in planning documents, journals and the games pupils made, in recordings of their working conversations, and in pair, group and artefact-based interviews. Findings indicate that as well as learning some basic programming concepts, pupils enjoyed the constructionist-designed activity, demonstrated positive attitudes to their work, and felt a sense of achievement in creating a complex artefact that had personal and cultural significance for them. However, the findings also suggest that the constructionist approach adopted in the research did not effectively support the learning of programming concepts for all pupils. This research arises out of a perceived need to develop accessible, extended units of work to implement aspects of the Computing curriculum in England. It suggests that using Game Maker may offer a viable entry, and identifies the programming concepts and practices which pupils encountered, the difficulties they experienced, and the errors they made when authoring computer games. It also offers recommendations to increase the readiness with which students engage with key programming concepts and practices when using this visual programming software. In so doing it makes a practical contribution to the field of qualitative research in secondary computing education.
Baytak, a. & Land, S. 2010. ‘A case study of educational game design by kids and for kids.’ Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences, 2 (2), 5242-5246.
Baytak, A., Land, S. & Smith, B. 2011. ‘Children as educational computer game designers: an exploratory study.’ The Turkish Online Journal of Educational Technology, 10 (4), 84-92.
Baytak, A., Land, S., Smith, B. & Park, S. 2008. ‘An exploratory study of kids as educational game designers.’ In: Simonson, M. (ed.) Proceedings of the 31st Annual Convention of the Association for Educational Communications and Technology. Orlando, USA, 6-9 November. Bloomington, USA: AECT Publications. 39-47.
Beavis, C. & O'mara, J. 2010. ‘Computer games - pushing at the boundaries of literacy.’ Australian Journal of Language and Literacy, 33 (1), 65-76.
Beavis, C., O'mara, J. & Mcneice, L. (eds.) 2012. Digital games: literacy in action. Kent Town, Australia: Wakefield Press.
Ben-Ari, M. 2001. ‘Constructivism in computer science education.’ Journal of Computers in Mathematics and Science Teaching, 20 (1), 45-73.
Beynon, M. & Harfield, A. 2010. ‘Constructionism through construal by computer.’ Paper presented at Constructionism 2010. Paris, France, 16-21 August.
Beynon, M. & Roe, C. 2004. ‘Computer support for constructionism in context.’ In: LOOI, C., SUTINEN, E., Sampson, D., Aedo, I., Uden, L. & Kahkonen, E. (eds.) Proceedings of the International Conference on Advanced Learning Technologies. Joensuu, Finland, 30 August-1 September. Los Alamitos, USA: IEEE. 216-220.
Bruckman, A., Edwards, E., Elliott, J., Jensen, C. 2000. ‘Uneven achievement in a constructionist learning environment.’ In: Fishman, B. & O'connor-Divelbiss, S. (eds.) Proceedings of the 4th International Conference of the Learning Sciences. Ann Arbor, USA, 14-17 June. Mahwah, USA: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. 157-163.
Carbonaro, M., Szafron, D., Cutumisu, M. & Schaeffer, J. 2010. ‘Computer-game construction: a gender-neutral attractor to Computing Science.’ Computers & Education, 55 (3), 1098-1111.
CAS, 2012. Computer Science: a curriculum for schools. CAS.
CAS, 2015. Closing the gap to achieve a world class computing teaching workforce. BCS. [Online]. Available: http://academy.bcs.org/sites/academy.bcs.org/files/Computing%20At%20School%20-%20Closing%20the%20Gap%202015.pdf [Accessed 14/06/16].
Chamillard, A. 2006. ‘Introductory game creation: no programming required.’ In: Baldwin, D., Tymann, P., Haller, S. & Russell, I. (eds.) Proceedings of the SIGSCE Technical Symposium on Computer Science Education. Houston, USA, 1-5 March. New York, USA: ACM. 515-519.
Dalal, N., Dalal, P., Kak, S., Antonenko, P. & Stansberry, S. 2009. ‘Rapid digital game creation for broadening participation in computing and fostering crucial thinking skills.’ International Journal of Social and Humanistic Computing, 1 (2), 123-137.
Dalal, N., Kak, S. & Sohoni, S. 2012. ‘Rapid digital game creation for learning object-oriented concepts.’ In: Cohen, E. & Boyd, E. (eds.) Proceedings of Informing Science & IT Education Conference. Montreal, Canada, 22-27 June. Santa Rosa, USA: Informing Science Institute. 237-247.
Daly, T. 2009. ‘Using introductory programming tools to teach programming concepts: a literature review.’ The Journal for Computing Teachers. Autumn issue. 1-6. ISTE.
Denner, J., Werner, L. & Ortiz, E. 2012. ‘Computer games created by middle school girls: can they be used to measure understanding of computer science concepts?’ Computers & Education, 58 (1), 240–249.
DFE 2013. The National Curriculum in England: Computing - programmes of study - Key Stages 3 and 4. DfE.
Doran, K., Boyce, A., Finkelstein, S. & Barnes, T. 2012. ‘Outreach for improved student performance: a game design and development curriculum.’ Proceedings of the 17th Annual Conference on Innovation and Technology in Computer Science Education. Haifa, Israel, 3-5 July. New York, USA: ACM. 209-214.
Du Boulay, B. 1986. ‘Some difficulties of learning to program.’ Journal of Educational Computing Research, 2 (1), 57-73.
Edexcel 2012. GCSE Computer Science specification. Edexcel.
Eow, Y., Wan Ali, W., Mahmud, R. & Baki, R. 2010. ‘Computer games development and the appreciative learning approach in enhancing students’ creative perception.’ Computers & Education, 54 (1), 146-161.
Fluck, A. & Meijers, M. 2006. ‘Game making for students and teachers from isolated areas’ [Online]. Available: http://www.une.edu.au/simerr/pages/projects/79gamemaking.php. [Accessed 05/08/13].
Giles, J., Beard, S. & Street, S. 2008. ICT 4 life. Harlow: Pearson Education Ltd.
Good, J. 2011. ‘Learners at the wheel: novice programming environments come of age.’ International Journal of People-Oriented Programming, 1 (1), 1-24.
Grover, S. 2011. ‘Robotics and engineering for middle and high school students to develop computational thinking.’ Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association, New Orleans, USA, 7-11 April.
Guimaraes, M. & Murray, M. 2008. ‘An exploratory overview of teaching computer game development.’ Journal of Computing Sciences in Colleges, 24 (1), 144-149.
Guzdial, M. 2009. ‘Question everything: how we teach intro CS is wrong.’ Computing Education Blog [Online]. Available: http://computinged.wordpress.com/2009/10/02/question-everything-how-we-teach-intro-cs-is-wrong/ [Accessed 07/0716].
Harel, I. & Papert, S. (eds.) 1991. Constructionism: research reports and essays 1985-1990. Norwood, USA: Ablex.
Hayes, E. & Games, I. 2008. ‘Making computer games and design thinking.’ Games and Culture, 3 (3-4), 309-332.
Hernandez, C., Silva, L., Segura, R., Schimiguel, J., Ledon, M., Bezerra, L. & Silveira, I. 2010. ‘Teaching programming principles through a game engine.’ CLEI Electronic Journal, 13 (2), 1-8.
Howland, K., Good, J., & Du Boulay, B. 2013. ‘Narrative Threads: a tool to support young people in creating their own narrative-based computer games.’ In: Pan, Z., Cheok, A., Muller, W., Iurgel, I., Petta, P., Urban, B. (eds.) Transactions on edutainment X: lecture notes on computer science Vol. 7775. Heidelberg, Germany: Springer. 122-145.
Jenson, J. & Droumeva, M. 2015. ‘Making games with Game Maker: A computational thinking curriculum case study.’ In: Munkvold, R. & Kolås, L. (eds.) Proceedings of the 9th European Conference on Games Based Learning. Steinkjer, Norway, 8-9 October. Reading, UK: Academic Conferences and Publishing Limited. 260-268.
Johnson, C. 2014. ‘I liked it but it made you think too much’: a case study of computer game authoring in the Key Stage 3 ICT curriculum. PhD thesis, University of East Anglia, UK. [Onine]. Available: https://ueaeprints.uea.ac.uk/53381/1/2014JohnsonCPhD.pdf [Accessed 12/07/16].
Jones, D. & Wilson, D. 2008. Pixel8 Game Maker tutorials. teach-ict.com Ltd.
Kafai, Y. & Resnick, M. 1996. ‘Introduction.’ In: Kafai, Y. & Resnick, M. (eds.) Constructionism in practice: designing, thinking and learning in a digital world. Mahwah, USA: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Kelleher, C. & Pausch, R. 2007. ‘Using storytelling to motivate programming.’ Communications of the ACM, 50 (7), 58-64.
Koh, K., Basawapatna, A., Bennett, V. & Repenning, A. 2010. ‘Towards the automatic recognition of computational thinking for adaptive visual language learning.’ In: Hundhausen, C., Pietriga, E., Díaz, P. & Rosson, M. (eds.) Proceedings of the IEEE Symposium on Visual Languages and Human-Centric Computing. Madrid, Spain, 21-25 September. Los Alamitos, USA: IEEE. 59-66.
Kurland, M., Clement, C., Mawby, R. & Pea, R. 1987. ‘Mapping the cognitive demands of learning to program.’ In: Perkins, D., Lochead, J. & Bishop, J. (eds.) Thinking: progress in research and teaching. Hillsdale, USA: Lawrence Erlbaum. 333-358.
Kuruvada, P., Asamoah, A., Dalal, N. & Kak, S. 2010a. ‘Learning computational thinking from rapid digital game creation.’ Proceedings of the 2nd Annual Conference on Theoretical and Applied Computer Science. Stillwater, USA, 5 November. Stillwater: Oklahoma State University. 31-36.
Kuruvada, P., Asamoah, A., Dalal, N. & Kak, S. 2010b. ‘The use of rapid game creation to learn computational thinking.’ [Online]. Available: http://arxiv.org/ftp/arxiv/papers/1011/1011.4093.pdf [Accessed 14/06/16].
Lavonen, J., Meisalo, V., Lattu, M. & Sutinen, E. 2003. ‘Concretising the programming task: a case study in a secondary school.’ Computers & Education, 40 (2), 115-135.
Madill, L. & Sanford, K. 2009. ‘Video-game creation as a learning experience for teachers and students.’ In: Ferdig, R. (ed.) Handbook of research on effective electronic gaming in education. Hershey, USA: Information Science Reference. 1257-1272.
Maloney, J., Peppler, K., Kafai, Y., Resnick, M. & Rusk, N. 2008. ‘Programming by choice: urban youth learning programming with Scratch.’ In: Dougherty, J., Rodger, S., Fitzgerald, S. & Guzdial, M. (eds.) Proceedings of the 39th SIGCSE Technical Symposium on Computer Science Education. Portland, USA,12-15 March. New York, USA: ACM. 367-371.
Mcdougall, A. & Boyle, M. 2004. ‘Student strategies for learning computer programming: implications for pedagogy in informatics.’ Education and Information Technologies, 9 (2), 109-116.
Meerbaum-Salant, O., Armoni, M. & Ben-Ari, M. 2011. ‘Habits Of Programming In Scratch.’ In: Rößling, G., Naps, T. & Spannagel, C. (eds.) Proceedings of the Conference on Innovation and Technology in Computer Science Education. Darmstadt, Germany, 27-29 June. New York, USA: ACM. 168-172.
NAACE 2012. Draft Naace curriculum framework: Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Key Stage 3. NAACE.
NESTA 2014. ‘How can teachers prepare for the new computing curriculum?’ [Online]. Available: http://www.nesta.org.uk/blog/how-can-teachers-prepare-new-computing-curriculum [Accessed 29/07/14].
OCR 2011. GCSE in Computing specification. 2nd edition. OCR.
O'mara, J. & Richards, J. 2012. ‘A blank slate: using Game Maker to create computer games.’ In: BEAVIS, C., O'mara, J. & Mcneice, L. (eds.) Digital games: literacy in action. Kent Town, Australia: Wakefield Press. 57-64.
Overmars, M. 2003. Game Maker Community forum [Online]. Available: http://gmc.yoyogames.com/ [Accessed 14/07/16].
Papert, S. 1980. Mindstorms - children, computers, and powerful ideas. New York, USA: Basic Books.
Papert, S. 1999. ‘Eight big ideas behind the Constructionist Learning Lab.’ [Online]. Available: http://stager.org/articles/8bigideas.pdf [Accessed 16/01/15].
Pea, R. 1986. ‘Language-independent conceptual “bugs” in novice programming.’ Journal of Educational Computing Research, 2 (1) 25-36.
Pea, R. & Kurland, M. 1984. ‘On the cognitive effects of learning computer programming.’ New Ideas in Psychology, 2 (2), 137-168.
Pg Online, 2013. Introduction to Python. PG Online Ltd.
Pg Online, 2014. Programming with Game Maker. PG Online Ltd.
Redfield, C. & Uhlig, P. 2012. ‘Game development class in 6 weeks.’ In: RESTA, P. (ed.) Proceedings of Society for Information Technology & Teacher Education International Conference. Austin, Texas, USA, 5-9 March. Chesapeake, VA: Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education. 2612-2617
Reeves, B. 2008. ICT Interact for KS3: pupil’s book 3. London: Hodder Education.
Roffey, C. 2013a. Python Basics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Roffey, C. 2013b. Python: Next Steps. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Saeli, M., Perrenet, J., Jochems, W. & Zwaneveld, B. 2012. ‘Programming: teachers and pedagogical content knowledge in the Netherlands.’ Informatics in Education, 11 (1), 81-114.
Sanford, K. & Madill, L. 2007. ‘Recognising new literacies: teachers and students negotiating the creation of video games in school.’ Proceedings of the Digital Games Research Association Conference. Tokyo, Japan, 24-28 September. DiGRA. 583-589.
Schelhowe, H. 2010. ‘Using construction kits: just learning how to program a computer - or is there more educational benefit?’ Paper presented at the Digital Media and Learning Conference, La Jolla, USA, 18-20 February.
Seaborn, K., Seif El-Nasr, M., Milam, D. & Yung, D. 2012. ‘Programming, PWNed: Using digital game development to enhance learners’ competency and self-efficacy in a high school Computing Science course.’ In: Smith King, L., Musicant, D., Camp, T. & Tymann, P. (eds.) Proceedings of the 43rd ACM technical symposium on Computer Science Education, Raleigh, North Carolina, USA February 29 - March 3. New York, USA: ACM. 93-98.
Seehorn, D., Carey, S., Fuschetto, B., Lee, I., Moix, D., O'grady-Cunniff, D., Boucher Owens, B., Stephenson, C. & Verno, A. 2011. CSTA K-12 Computer Science standards. ACM.
Spohrer, J. & Soloway, E. 1989. ‘Novice mistakes: are the folk wisdoms correct?’ In: Soloway, E. & Spohrer, J. (eds.) Studying the novice programmer. Hillsdale, USA: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. 401-416.
Stiller, E. 2009. ‘Teaching programming using bricolage.’ Journal of Computing Sciences in Colleges, 24 (6), 35-42.
Waller, D. 2009. Basic projects: Game Maker. Oxford: Payne-Gallway.
Wilson, A., Hainey, T. & Connolly, T. 2012. ‘Evaluation of computer games developed by primary school children to gauge understanding of programming concepts.’ In FELICIA, P. (ed.) Proceedings of the 6th European Conference on Games Based Learning. Cork, Ireland, 4-5 October. Reading: Academic Publishing International Ltd. 549-558.
Yoyo Games 2007. Game Maker 7. [Computer program]. YoYo Games Ltd.
- There are currently no refbacks.
Copyright (c) 2017 Claire Johnson