Computing club

Every week after school I hold a computing club in my classroom.  In theory it’s open to anyone, but in practice I tend to get year 7 and 8 pupils coming in (11-13 year olds).  There’s a complete mix – some of the brightest kids in the school, but also those who might struggle with academic work.  A good mix of boys and girls.  They’re fairly free to choose what they want to work on, so this evening, in the midst of an OFSTED inspection, I had a couple of boys and three girls working on gamemaker projects, a couple of boys dismantling the old computer again (with less success at rebuilding it than the older students!) and one boy sitting working through a Python exercise sheet, as well as a couple of others working on various other projects.  These were kids who were all willingly staying behind after school to learn more about building their own games, programming computers and how they work.

It was the sort of scene that gives you a warm feeling inside 🙂

We do want eventually to be able to work on App Inventor, and to work properly on the lego robot in the cupboard, but for now they seem content to figure out how to make the boss die when they attack it enough, how to make the chest open when the man touches it, how to get a character to pick up a sword or simply marvel at the insides of the machine they take so much for granted these days.

Incidentally, a great introduction to game design for younger children, and a good step between playing games and using game maker, is gamestar mechanic.  In it they’re introduced to different game mechanics through a series of game challenges, starting by playing them, and building up to tweaking the settings in the games in order to fix them.  On the way they unlock features to add to their own games, and are encouraged to publish games for others to review.

One important lesson we learnt that way was not make the first level too hard – if you have stats on your game that says 200 people have played it and 2 people have completed the first level, you know you’ve started too tough!

Our year 8s were introduced to it at the end of year 7, as the final lessons of the summer term and as the end of a unit on gamemaking that saw them doing all tasks from designing graphics through programming via Scratch and eventually into level design through gamestar mechanic, and I still see several of them returning to the website as their activity of choice when given a few moments to themselves.  Indeed, some have continued on the site at home and built and published their own projects.