Aha! Short Reflections on the Partners in Learning 2012 US Forum

A guest post by Allyson Knox, Academic Program Manager, Microsoft Partners in Learning on her visit to the Forum.

The 2012 US Forum kicked-off with a bang in Redmond. 100 teachers presented 73 projects to judges, educators, and guests.  My goal?  Talk to as many teachers as possible.  My “aha” moment?  More teachers are charged up about getting students to not just be users of technology but creators of it.    

Traditionally the Forum highlights powerful learning fueled by technology and now – I realized – 7 projects were all about what it takes to make the actual technology a reality. When I talked with the teachers of these projects our conversations were filled with issues and questions like, “How is logic used in programming?  How is logic used in other subject areas?  What is an algorithm and how is it used in programming?  Are algorithms used in industries other than software design like banking or engineering?  How can educators engage more female and minority students to take computer science courses?  Is designing online games the best way to hook students to computer science?”  Just take a look at the types of projects below featured at the US Forum:  

· 3D Game Design with Kodu

· Hide and Seek – Kodu Style!

· STEM Gaming Challenge

· Shapes, Letters, and Numbers:  XNA Games for the next generation

· Kinect-the Dots Motion Capture for 3D Animation

· Exploration of Computer Science on Smartphones

· Xbox 360: the iConnect Project

No question – most students get excited to create a real game involving challenges, missions, mazes, points, and trial and error.  By leveraging game-creating software like Kodu – teachers are tapping into students’ existing enthusiasm, exposing them to potential career paths, and are often shocked just at how much time students put into creating a game.  I think the trend I experienced today at the forum might be indicative of a trend in the US and I’m hoping we see more and more computer science taught in the context of other subjects so that it is no longer seen as an elective course but as an embedded part of many academic subjects.  After speaking with these teachers – I think this might become reality!

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