Gaming the System demonstrates the nature of games as systems, how game designers need to think in terms of complex interactions of game elements and rules, and how to identify systems concepts in the design process. The activities use Gamestar Mechanic, an online game design environment with a systems thinking focus.
Script Changers shows the ways that stories offer a lens for seeing the world as a series of systems. It provides opportunities for students to create interactive and animated stories about creating positive change in their communities. These projects utilize the Scratch visual programming environment.
Short Circuits offers students opportunities to undertake physical computing projects, providing tools and methods for creating electronic puppets. Students learn how to incorporate microprocessors into everyday materials and use them to enhance their language and writing skills with shadow puppet shows featuring their own DIY flashlights.
Soft Circuits introduces students to the world of wearable technology. Using Modkit, an accessible DIY electronics toolkit, students learn to create e-textile cuffs, “electrici-tee” shirts, and solar-powered backpacks. Students also learn the importance of one component to the whole—how, for example, changing the structure of LED connections immediately affects the number of LEDs that light up.
Coding, once considered an arcane craft practiced by solitary techies, is now recognized by educators and theorists as a crucial skill, even a new literacy, for all children. Programming is often promoted in K-12 schools as a way to encourage “computational thinking”—which has now become the umbrella term for understanding what computer science has to contribute to reasoning and communicating in an ever-increasingly digital world.
In Phantasmal Media, D. Fox Harrell considers the expressive power of computational media. He argues, forcefully and persuasively, that the great expressive potential of computational media comes from the ability to construct and reveal phantasms—blends of cultural ideas and sensory imagination. These ubiquitous and often-unseen phantasms—cognitive phenomena that include sense of self, metaphors, social categories, narrative, and poetic thinking—influence almost all our everyday experiences.
Millions of children visit virtual worlds every day. In such virtual play spaces as Habbo Hotel, Toontown, and Whyville, kids chat with friends from school, meet new people, construct avatars, and earn and spend virtual currency. In Connected Play, Yasmin Kafai and Deborah Fields investigate what happens when kids play in virtual worlds, how this matters for their offline lives, and what this means for the design of educational opportunities in digital worlds.
If a fundamental goal of education is to prepare students to act independently in the world—in other words, to make good choices—an ideal educational assessment would measure how well we are preparing students to do so. Current assessments, however, focus almost exclusively on how much knowledge students have accrued and can retrieve. In Measuring What Matters Most, Daniel Schwartz and Dylan Arena argue that choice should be the interpretive framework within which learning assessments are organized.
Schools do not define education, and they are not the only institutions in which learning takes place. After-school programs, music lessons, Scouts, summer camps, on-the-job training, and home activities all offer out-of-school educational experiences. In Learning at Not-School, Julian Sefton-Green explores studies and scholarly research on out-of-school learning, investigating just what it is that is distinctive about the quality of learning in these “not-school” settings.
To succeed in today’s interconnected and complex world, workers need to be able to think systemically, creatively, and critically. Equipping K-16 students with these twenty-first-century competencies requires new thinking not only about what should be taught in school but also about how to develop valid assessments to measure and support these competencies. In Stealth Assessment, Valerie Shute and Matthew Ventura investigate an approach that embeds performance-based assessments in digital games.