Talking With Kids on Game Design, Computer Programming, and Taking Over the World With Dragons

Computer programming is among the most in-demand skillsets of the 21st Century. Unfortunately, many K-12 schools are unable to offer classes on computer programming due to lack of resources or qualified staff and because of the strong emphasis placed on curricula that adhere to Common Core standards. After-school programs that focus on game design to engage students in introductory programming and computational thinking skills have emerged as a popular alternative to formal classes during the school day. This paper examines one of these afterschool groups. Called the Cyberlearning Club, students at a rural middle school in the Midwest design games and practice programming using programs like Scratch, Kodu, and Code Academy. This research explores how middle school students in an informal after-school programming and game design club think about their game projects, their ability to learn programming, and their trajectories as future designers. In this paper, we report on the results of semi-structured qualitative interviews conducted with students and outline profiles of students who exhibit distinct goals and trajectories for learning programming.

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