Why should you get involved – teachers perspectives.
Two teachers who have been involved with the jams for a while kindly gave their feedback to share and encourage others as to why they should take part in the jams.
Stephen Gallagher is a music teacher and has been involved with the jams for over 5 years now. When he was teaching at Smithycroft Secondary School he undertook CPD so that he could then go on and teach Games design with Scratch to his 1st and 2nd year pupils during their elective period. This meant that the Secondary school also had a class of pupils to be put into teams with the primary pupils and worked really well. He felt that by taking part in the jam the pupils develop creativity and learn to work collegiality, as team members. The pupils also learn about the Games industry and get a chance to work with industry insiders. As we have had each year volunteers from the games industry and academia taking part to help the pupils. For teachers he seen it as an opportunity for them to learn about career paths and the games industry.
Angela Martin is a teacher at Alexandra Parade Primary and has been involved for the past couple of years with her classes and now getting prepared for this years event. She enjoys bringing them along and beforehand works with the class on their Scratch skills. She feels that the jam increases children’s motivation to learn and be involved with coding. Never a bad thing! By taking part she feels that she’s also learning from the children and is amazed at how quickly they pick up skills.
Why do the jams work?
Now that you know a little more about the Mini Jams I thought it would be useful to have teachers who’ve participated in the jams share their experience. Over the next few days I’ll share posts from 4 teachers 3 of whom have participated and one who is going to be leading an event this year.
Simon Kelly is the Head Teacher at Alexandra Parade Primary School and has been involved with the Mini Game Jam since the idea came about. Previously when he was at Royston Primary I approached in early 2013 with my idea for getting the P7’s of Royston & Carntyne together to have an event to celebrate the fact that my research had finished and they’d been working hard on making their own games throughout the research. After a lot of organisation the day of the event came and it was a fab day the kids had a ball and made some cool games in Scratch. Once that event had finished preperations began for the following year with the whole Smithycroft learning community taking part (once they’d heard how good it was). Now heading into the 7th event since that first one on 19th June 2013 I asked why his school is still participating which he has said that “it is a great way of engaging children in technology and coding in particular”.
The first Game Jam Winners June 2013
For him he sees the benefits for pupils as being “teamwork, being creative and working with technology, which helps them with their future employment skills”. While for staff, “it is a key element of the curriculum but also allows them to be creative in engaging children in their learning, as it can be used as part of IDL work in class”.
In 2016 we co-authored a paper that was presented at the European Conference for Games Based Learning to discuss how the Mini Jam was used as a transition event and it can be found here for those wishing to read further. Using Game Jams as a School Transition Event
About Mini Game Jam
Mini Game Jam is a yearly games event for P7’s in schools where they spend a day working together in teams to create their own game in Scratch based on a theme given to them that day.
The event has been running since 2013 and was devised by Dr Amanda Ford. After spending a lot of time in class teaching children from P4-P7 about creating their own games using Scratch I wanted to celebrate the end of research with an event for the children. After hearing so much about the Global Game Jam I thought this would be a great idea for kids to work together from the two schools that I had been researching in that year. However it was scaled back to just a school day and not a full weekend. After lots of organising between myself, the two schools and the Computing Dept at UWS the very first Mini Game Jam was held in the games lab at UWS on the June 2013 and ever since then it has been growing ever since with over 1000 children across Glasgow & Renfrewshire having taken part to date.