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Learning to code like a pro

Public libraries from Dunedin to Gisborne held workshops to teach students and teachers how to code using free online software.

Public libraries from Dunedin to Gisborne were the venue for workshops to teach students and teachers how to code using free online software.

Those who went along created their own Tappy Plane computer game, where a little plane flies through a mountain landscape, gaining points along the way.

Tim Antric, Executive Director, Public Libraries of New Zealand, says the workshops were a great success.

“By learning how to make the game, people were introduced to key concepts in computer programming – and in the process learned about computer science, game mechanics, maths and physics. Many people said that the workshops helped demystify computer programming for them.”

Gamefroot mimics industry

The workshops used Gamefroot software to teach the new skills. This programme was built in partnership with educators, researchers the gaming industry, and replicates the processes used by industry professionals to make and publish a game.

"Gamefroot delivered a great product. It's easy to use and teaches the fundamentals of coding. It was great to be able to provide an authentic experience for young people so they could gain industry knowledge and see pathways to careers involving coding and game design."

Game showcase

The day-long workshops were open to 10–18 year olds and teachers over a week in Dunedin, Timaru, Nelson, Hutt City, Porirua, Wellington City and Gisborne.

At the end of each week, the games made during the workshops were showcased. Participants saw the range of work and heard a short introduction about the gaming industry, as well as its future potential as part of New Zealand’s knowledge economy.

“Those who came along were genuinely engaged and excited about science and technology”, says Tim. “The partnership with the public libraries was very successful too. It fitted well with their desire to be leaders in the digital space in New Zealand.”

Comments and feedback

56 percent of participants said they had never made a digital game before, while 36 percent said they had never done any kind of coding or programming prior to the workshop. Many participants said that learning to code had supported them to think creatively, critically and logically and had helped develop transferable skills including planning, strategic thinking, problem-solving, persistence and collaboration.

One 12-year-old commented, “I have learnt how to make a game and how to use scripts properly to control the player and any objects. I also have learnt that coding could help me in life and I could also teach other people how to code in the future.”

An 11-year-old said, “I ako ahau te whakamahi Gamefroot me te whakamahi te rorohiko notemea kaore au he maha o te maramatanga I roto te mahi rorohiko.” (I learned to use Gamefroot and use the computer since I didn’t have much understanding of how to do computer work.)

Adult participants commented, “This is a great way to enter a sometimes intimidating area of learning,” and “Great to have an opportunity for both adults and kids to do these workshops free of charge. A great first exposure to both game creation and coding.  I hope there will be more opportunities like this in future.  Many thanks!!”

About the workshops

This project was funded by the Unlocking Curious Minds contestable fund. An evaluation of the workshops identified some preliminary impacts and provided some suggestions for improvement.

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Unlocking Curious Minds

Unlocking Curious Minds supports projects that excite and engage New Zealanders who have fewer opportunities to experience and connect with science and technology.

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