Globaloria: Students Designing Educational Games (Case Study 7)

An Engaging Way to Introduce Computing

Connecting computing to social issues and “real-world” problems is important for increasing all students’ interest, but especially girls’ interest, in computing education and careers. Globaloria, created in 2006 by the World Wide Workshop, builds on this principle by involving students in collaborative teams that create video games around important educational and social issues. The program, operating in several states, is the country’s largest social learning network of schools and community centers using a game design curriculum to develop students’ digital literacies, computing knowledge, and global citizenship skills. Generally, students’ participation in Globaloria ranges from three to five times per week, for 60-90 minutes per session, over two semesters. In Austin, Texas, one school has implemented Globaloria into its core curriculum for all students from 6th to 12th grade.

EVIDENCE-BASED PRINCIPLES FOR CURRICULUM.

Grounded in constructionist learning theories, Globaloria employs the following key elements necessary for successfully engaging students in introductory computing:

  • Using active, hands-on, creative, and open-ended learning activities
  • Making explicit connections between computing and social issues
  • Promoting collaborative teamwork and opportunities for student interaction
  • Allowing ample opportunity for student self-reflection on accomplishments and future learning
  • Providing students with opportunities to learn and gain feedback from experts

EVALUATION: INCREASING FEMALE ENROLLMENT AND HOME COMPUTING ACTIVITY.

Based on a study of West Virginia classrooms, Globaloria has demonstrated initial successes when it comes to girls’ involvement in computing courses. Female enrollment in Globaloria elective classes reached 33% in 2010-2011 and 37% in 2011-2012, exceeding the national average for computing courses (20-25%). In addition, initial pre- and posttest analysis revealed that participation in Globaloria classes increased middle and high school girls’ home computing activities; importantly, many of these activities involved creating and adapting technologies. For middle school girls, it also decreased the gender gap in “thinking up an idea for a technology project” and “making computer games.” These trends in home computing experience may be especially important given research showing that, while girls and boys have similar access to computers and computing at school, girls have less access at home than boys.

To what extent these increases in girls’ computing activities translate to increased interest in or plans to pursue computing requires further research, but initial feedback from participating girls is encouraging. Consider the following comments from middle and high school girls in the program:

“I thought this class was only for boys; I thought geeks only used computers, but then I really got to see the neat things about it…It’s not like boys get to do this or girls get to do this; it’s whoever puts their mind to it, their heart to it, and their time, they can do anything.”
(middle school female participant)

“Globaloria is…letting girls have an opportunity to have a career and make computer games.”
(middle school female participant)

“I do consider ourselves innovators…at 15-years-old Globaloria has given me a chance to learn computer science and be a computer scientist.”
(high school female participant)

Future research is being conducted to determine the pervasiveness of these trends and how girls’ interest in and plans to pursue computing education and careers change over time. Because some Globaloria sites involve students in the curriculum over the course of several years, these sites offer particularly promising opportunities for exploring longitudinal trends.


Resources

  • For more information on Globaloria see www.worldwideworkshop.org/programs/globaloria and www.worldwideworkshop.org/reports
  • Ashcraft, C., Eger, E., & Friend, M. (2012). Girls in IT: The Facts. National Center for Women & Information Technology.
  • Wu, Z., Ashcraft, C., DuBow, W., & Reynolds, R. (2012). Assessing Girls’ Interest, Confidence, and Participation in Computing Activities: Results for Globaloria in West Virginia. National Center for Women & IT.

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Author: Catherine Ashcraft