Last year, I had the opportunity to visit a campus in Silicon Valley. I was highly impressed with the opportunities their school provided for students to learn about careers in technology and entrepreneurship. Like most of us, even if I wasn’t homeschooling my children, I would not have the tens of thousands of dollars a year for tuition this school charges. So, when I found out that students could get many of the same benefits from an online game design course, and it was free to the first ten students per session, I thought it might be too good to be true. SPOILER ALERT: It was all true. The program was enabled through funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture
This is why I was so excited about the game design course from 7 Generation Games
This is not a class on coding but rather, what comes before the code is written. Students learn about story line, art, sound and online collaboration tools. At the end of the two-week class, they pitch their ideas in a game design meeting with the actual game developers. The sessions mainly focus on designing educational games to teach math and social studies, so as an added bonus, players review their math skills. Each course includes one or two games on decision-making as well, that discusses high-risk situations from fighting in the home to substance abuse.
What did you know about careers when you were a kid?
Maybe you are fortunate and had a lot of resources around you. As for me, I knew what a doctor and nurse did. I knew teachers, police officers, farmers and people who worked in a factory. That’s it. I had no idea what those people did who worked in offices on the 12th floor of skyscrapers downtown or in fancy corporate headquarters out in the suburbs.
The game design course starts with building vocabulary – what is a genre or an asset, in terms of game development. The ‘players’ in developing game design are introduced. Today we’ll be testers. Tomorrow, we are the UX/UI designer, giving feedback on how the game should be done better. Next week, we’ll meet with the developers and CEO. In between, students login to a daily one hour meeting where they watch videos, play games and have live presentations on creating games.
With the explosion of Zoom, WebEx, Microsoft Teams, Google Meet and every other type of online software your children are probably familiar with web meeting software. If not, here is an easy introduction.
They also learn to share files and edit documents using either Google apps or Office 365 and OneDrive. They’ll edit photos and videos, create a slide presentation, work in a team in shared documents.
Students are grouped by age in classes of no more than 10 per teacher
The first two sessions begin June 22, with classes for age 11-12 and for ages 13-14.
The next sessions begin July 23 and have a little wider age range, age 11-13 and age 13-15. When asked why, the instructor, Dr. AnnMaria De Mars, commented.
We believe that parents know their children best. Some kids need a little more time to learn, whether it is fractions or what to do when you are at a party and find out there is no adult supervision. Other students are able to handle more mature material at a younger age. We provide all the information we can about our courses, and our software, and let parents make the choice. Our original plan was to only have children aged 11-14 but we had some very interested 15-year-olds so we added one more option.
I also asked how it was possible for this course, and most of their software, to be offered for free.
Much of our funding originally came from grants from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, supporting rural development. We know that many homeschoolers are living in rural communities where they don’t have a game development company students can visit. This is our chance to give back to the community. With so many other options for learning shut down due to the Coronavirus pandemic, we wanted to make this opportunity available. We are a small company and we don’t have unlimited time or funds, so it’s only possible for us to offer this for a limited time, but we’re trying to do what we can.
In so many ways, we are living in challenging times.
“Doing what we can to help,” describes our philosophy at homeschool-curriculum.org , not only to make our society better but as our children’s first role models.