A computer club or a game studio?

Siobhán Morgan
30th January 2017 at 17:40

Subject Genius, Siobhán Morgan, A computer club or a game studio?

If you are one of the many teachers out there who run a computer club at lunch times or after school, why not think about marketing it in a slightly different way?

I tried this with my game design club, which targeted pupils throughout the school (years 5 to 8). Although it was popular and often oversubscribed, each term it was the same pupils choosing to dedicate their lunchtimes to game design - particularly boys - and I wanted to make it more appealing to a wider audience, including girls.

I decided to change how I marketed my game design club and here are some ideas that worked for me:

It’s not a computer club, it’s a game studio!

The first thing I did was to establish that it was a ‘game studio’ and not a ‘game design club’, where its sole purpose was to create fantastic computer games. The only software available to be used at this time was Kodu or Scratch.

My studio was not a place where you came to use the computers to complete homework or surf the web.

Rebranding the club

I gave my ‘studio’ a name, came up with a logo and created brightly coloured posters with a font particular to the club to be used on its promotional material around the school. The ‘game studio’ was also advertised in year group assemblies to ensure that all pupils were aware of its existence. Not a revolutionary idea, I grant you, but it was certainly a start!

Encouraging teamwork

Pupils attending the studio were encouraged to work in groups of up to 3 members. This promoted teamwork and problem solving, whilst also creating an environment where pupils helped each other - very much like in a real game studio. Each team was encouraged to come up with its own group name for its ‘studio’ to elevate the importance of what they were doing.

Working towards a competition

I made sure that there was always a clear purpose. This was that members of our game studio were working towards developing a game for a national competition. At the time, we focused on producing games for the Kodu Kup, which ran from 2013 until 2015. This particular competition only allowed entries from teams of up to three members, which suited my previous rule of working in small groups.

Now that the Kodu Kup is no longer running, other ideas for a competition focus include BAFTA Young Game Designers or Animation17.

Promoting and ‘releasing’ games using the VLE and social media

A website on the school VLE was established to give the game studio more of a real-world feel. This was a place where groups were able to upload their games. Additionally, it doubled up as a place where members of the game studio could share their games-in-progress to ask for help and feedback, whilst also being a platform to ‘release’ completed games.

A Twitter account for the game studio was used alongside the website on the VLE to promote the games and to make the rest of the school aware of recent releases, which they had access to download and play themselves.

How could you adapt this format and make it work for you?

My club was a game studio focused entirely on gaming, but hopefully you are able to see the potential of using this structure in any type of club – particularly those with a real-world focus.

Here are some areas of computing you could focus on:

  • Graphic design
  • Web design
  • Robotics
  • TV channel
  • Radio station

Perhaps a graphic design studio could be used to produce newsletters and posters for your school, potentially removing this role from a member of staff, who is then able to complete other tasks instead. Alternatively, a web design studio could be responsible for certain elements of maintenance of either the school website or the school VLE. If your school has access to robots, perhaps a robotics club could excite your pupils. The ability to film alongside video-editing software is all you need to make a TV channel. A microphone and a site to broadcast your radio station could mean you have a school radio station up and running in no time.

These are just a handful of ideas you could consider in remarketing your club to enthuse and inspire your learners, so why not give it a go?

 

 

Siobhán Morgan is a Year 6 teacher at a Somerset middle school, where she is head of computing. She also leads computing across the West Somerset Academies Trust, from Foundation Stage to Key Stage 3.

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