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IBM, CSTA Use Games To Educate Students About IT

IBM, CSTA Use Games To Educate Students About IT

April 13, 2006 | By Jason Dobson

IBM has partnered with the Computer Science Teachers Association (CSTA) as part of the company's IBM Academic Initiative program, which offers faculty and students a wide range of technology education benefits in order to prepare students for a more competitive IT workforce, and includes a number of video game-related exercises.

While computer science is an established discipline at the collegiate and post-graduate levels, the United States Department of Education reports that 82 percent of high school seniors are below proficient levels in science. Other major technology companies such as Microsoft are also concerned about training technically apt students, and are addressing this with game-related course material, as recently covered in a lecture at Serious Games Summit 2005.

With jobs requiring science, engineering and technical training set to increase 51 percent through 2008, programs such as the IBM Academic Initiative have begun to prepare students for work in the IT field at an earlier age, using courseware and projects that reinforce concepts taught through application.

The concepts provided by the program include the use of a version of Nolan Bushnell's classic Pong as a tool to teach object-oriented design. According to details in the courseware: “Students will design and implement the classic video game Pong using Java programming concepts. Teachers can use interactive group exercises to educate students about the core principles of object-oriented programming.” The resources for this and other included projects for use within the program were developed by IBM education consultants, working with high school computer science teachers, university professors, and CSTA, can be downloaded for free from the CSTA website.

Shane Torbert, a teacher at the Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Virginia, participated in the six-week pilot program. "The structure of the lessons encouraged students to think through the design of a computer program, from problem statement to solution," said Torbert. "I have found the design process generally hard to teach, and these lessons helped significantly ease my instruction."

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