There really aren’t a lot of books on XNA available yet (though some are coming) and real textbooks seem to be trailing the rest of the books. None of that is stopping the really innovative teachers though. Not in universities, not in community colleges and not even in high schools.
Brian Scarbeau has been blogging about his plans for an XNA-based high school computer science course next year. At his post you will find some discussion of scope and sequence as well as information about the resources he is using. There is a book review of one of the early XNA books as well. Brian is a real pioneer who works hard to keep up with the latest technology developments and to share them with his students.
Tom Indelicato has started experimenting with XNA with his AP CS students now that the exam is over. He and his students are learning together. He’s purchased some XBOX 360 controllers and is letting students experiment with the starter kit. They’re running into some issues with limited hardware which is disappointing but unfortunately all too typical in schools where minimal systems are often the rule. Tom is having his students keep engineering notebooks during this learning experience. The goal for Tom is to help the students learn to learn and learn to document the process. Students may think that they are learning about game development but in actual fact they will be learning a lot more than that. Games are a tool and not an end in themselves.
Last week I was at New Hampshire Technical College observing the XNA-based semester projects of students there. Those students were second semester freshmen in NHTI’s Program in Animation and Graphic Game Programming. I think this is the first program of its kind in a 2-year community college. They have an impressive curriculum, a great faculty and all the right hardware to support development, learning, and sharing what people are doing/learning.
Some of the games were pretty good especially for the short amount of time that students had to work on them. Some of the graphics were down right amazing – professional grade. It was of also pretty cool watching the demos play on a large screen being projected by an XBOX 360. The students were all highly motivated to learn new things so they could make their projects better. Caring about the results went far beyond just a grade thing. They’ve already had to learn a lot about things like matrix operations, math for physics and graphics and much much more. They also had to work out how to use the XNA libraries and development software. Most of the students told me they expected to continue to develop their games which means more to learn. I can’t wait to see the output these students produce next year as they learn more.
By the way, congratulations to Brian Scarbeau for being elected to the board of the Computer Science Teachers Association (CSTA). That’s just one way he contributes to the wider community. He’s a frequent speaker at technical events in the Orlando Florida area and beyond. I’m proud to list him among my friends.