The York University Magazine

Fall 2015

The alumni magazine of York University

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ment and programming clubs, Motorola's support has allowed Jenson to target girls and underprivileged youth who might have otherwise been left out of science, technology, engineer- ing and mathematics education early on due to economics. "Girls are often the last to get access to a machine in a one-computer household," says Jenson. The so-called "digital divide" is something York education PhD candidate Kelly Bergstrom is examining as part of her dissertation. "Essentially, the question I'm asking is, if we are moving toward a game-based curriculum, how do you engage a non-gamer?" Bergstrom says. Matt Blakely, executive director of Motorola Solutions Foun - dation, applauds Kids Get Game for providing students with the opportunity to not only become users of technology, but also creators of it. "Our engineers design new products all the time, and compa- nies like Motorola Solutions are hungry to hire talented, cre- ative people," he says. "We believe these students can become the engineers of tomorrow that the world needs." For newbies like Asad, the first experience with a video game is a lot to take in. "I learned a lot," she says. "It was very inter- esting and I think it has helped me with school." For her classmate Michaela Green-Murray, who isn't a stranger to playing video games, after-school playtime these days may just include playing an original game she created with a partner. The game, Across the Town, was one of several featured at the Kids Get Game school showcase in the spring. Asked what it was like to make her own video game, Green-Murray answers, "It's fun. We spent four days building it and we made the music as well. It's not that hard." l I F YO U A S K E D S A M A N T H A A S A D at the begin- ning of the year what video games she liked to play, the Grade 6 student from Forest Manor Public School in Toronto would have given you a blank stare. That's because, contrary to popular belief that nearly every kid in North America plays them, Asad had never touched a video game console. That changed recently when Asad's class got a taste of what it's like to not only play video games, but to build them through Kids Get Game, a York University initiative generously funded by Motorola Solutions Foundation and led by Jennifer Jenson, a pedagogy and technology professor in York University's Faculty of Education and director of York's Institute for Research & Dig- ital Learning. In two years, the unique in-school project has pro- vided opportunities for about 200 students like Asad to develop necessary skills to successfully live and work in the 21st century. "In a video game age, many kids play, but fewer of them make games," says Jenson. "So we revamped the curriculum this year to explicitly make use of coding and focus on computer programming. While the odds are that most parents don't think about creativ- ity, collaboration, critical thinking and communication when it comes to their kids playing video games, Jenson says they should. A survey her group did with kids who took part in the project last year found that participants became more confident in using computers and about their abilities in general. "Their attitude toward computers and computer programming has improved," she says. "It changed who they are overall." Building on the project's more than seven years of success providing after-school and summertime digital game develop- How Grade 6 students learned valuable life skills in an online world Games Kids Play 34 The York University Magazine Fall 2015

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