Seminars at the Faculty of Informatics

You are cordially invited to attend the PhD Dissertation Defense of Navid AHMADI on Monday, November 26th 2012 at 16h00 in room SI-008 (Informatics building)
Educational game design has been increasingly used for teaching computational thinking skills from kindergarten to college. Learners deal with concepts such as objects, instances, behavior, and interaction and gain programming skills while they are engaged in creating a video game. First, the learning activities are tied to the presence of a teacher who helps the learner to solve problems that require computational thinking. These activities often take place in an educational setting such as a classroom or after-school computer club. The learning opportunities are constrained to face-to-face communication in a physical location. Therefore, those with no access to an educational setting miss the learning opportunities. Second, Computer Science courses has been perceived as being `hard', `boring', and `asocial' among learners. Educational game design environments have employed end-user development techniques to cope with the `hardness' and put these techniques into the context of creating a game to cope with `boredom'. However, the `asocial' face of computing has been least addressed.

The World Wide Web has become a dominant platform for computer-supported cooperative work and social media. Cyberlearning platforms such as Massive Open Online Courses are increasingly employing the Web to deliver the education to hundreds of thousands of learners across the world. These platforms rely on the participative culture of the Web, user-created content, social networking applications, and other social media to achieve their educational goals. However, game design environments have not leveraged such rich media to go beyond the classroom environment.
The Web can be employed as a cyberlearning platform for educational game design. Such a platform broadens the scope of game design practices, allowing participation to those without access to a physical educational setting. Learners rely on peers and communities to gain computational thinking skills. Ultimately, such a platform can change the asocial face of computing.

In this thesis, I explore the feasibility of employing the Web as a cyberlearning platform for educational game design, in two steps: 1) by taking the game design activities to the Web. I have created an open-Web educational game design environment and demonstrated that the Web is a suitable hosting platform for game design activities including creating game objects, programming them, and designing the game scene, all with a visual interface. 2) by transferring the educational practices from the classroom to the Web. I have developed a cooperative Website around the game design environment, which allows users to share and explore games and create a community around their game design activities.

My experiment with a group of novices validates their success in using the created cyberlearning platform  to gain computational thinking skills during the game design activities, while relying on the cooperative features of the Website to gain knowledge and learn computational concepts.

Dissertation Committee:

  • Prof. Mehdi Jazayeri, Università della Svizzera italiana, Switzerland (Research Advisor)
  • Prof. Fabio Crestani, Università della Svizzera italiana, Switzerland (Internal Member)
  • Prof. Marc Langheinrich, Università della Svizzera italiana, Switzerland (Internal Member)
  • Prof. Alexander Repenning, University of Colorado at Boulder, U.S.A (External Member)
  • Prof. Mary Beth Rosson, Pennsylvania State University, U.S.A (External Member)


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