This ongoing program, funded since 2013-14 for a total of $166,800, delivers after school programming to three neighborhood schools, engaging approximately 60 students as well as two teachers, teacher candidates and other technology experts, each year. Building on proven curriculum, this work involves after school and lunch hour sessions from October to May each year in small groups of 10 students for 10 weeks.
This project addresses a number of well documented needs for girls and boys in low income schools and communities. Namely, this project responds directly to the following needs and problems:
- The inequitable access to technological resources for girls and boys in low-income schools;
- The ongoing gender divisions among you people relating to access and training in technology generally, leaving girls and woman marginalized from STEM fields;
- The lack of technology training for teachers;
- The inadequate training of teachers and students around game-making design and development, documented as strong tools for media literacy in a prolific mass and popular culture digital media field; and
- Better integration of game-based learning into education broadly, noted in educational theory as an important aspect of learning and development across the ages that is inadequately reflected in more often prescriptive educational norms in schools.
Training the teachers at the schools and collaborating on the development of the curriculum is a key component of the program and supports future initiatives by imparting game development and technology skills to leaders who will remains in their communities after the project. Team leaders are selected from among the faculty’s teacher education program and a pool of other young adults who have participated in Dr. Jenson’s PLAY:CES research projects. The near-peers will provide: exposure to post-secondary education and career opportunities to students; learning support; and learning opportunities for teachers and team leaders. Additional support will be provided by York University’s Advanced Broadband Enabled Learning program (ABEL), a network of teachers committed to the sustained and supported use of technology in the classroom. Teachers and teachers-in-training can connect on discussion boards and access multimedia resources, increasing technology skills and addressing technology problems.
Students will create a marketing campaign, researching the game development business, and prepare advertising strategies and materials to turn their game and game concept into a potential entrepreneurial endeavour. At the end of their game development, students will host a game-concept and testing show with their peers, further modelling the entrepreneurial component of working in game development and giving other students in the school a chance to engage with student productions and ask questions about their game design experience.