Free Cool Online Tool: Gamestar Mechanic

Some of you may know that I have spent the past year on a vision quest: wondering as a woman with an academic background in religion and a professional background in adult education and non-profit consulting, how can I best equip myself to enter the fields of elearning and educational technology?  In this way, I have become the consummate non-traditional adult learner: with only one undergraduate class in computer science ten years ago, and no clear professional development not designed for those already in the field, I am wondering where I should possibly begin to scale the mountain of nerd-dom with enough technical skills to be competitive?

Some people have even told me they don’t see how it is possible if you start in computer science after college. On top of that I find myself (unfortunately) trying to break into a male-dominated field. For example, looking at the roles of women working for Khan Academy, women are mostly in administrative and coordination roles…very few developers there. While those coordinating roles are necessary, and quite frankly would fit my existing skills, I have finally decided at 30 years old that I’m not going to settle for the pink ghetto any more, especially in my professional life. I’ve realized that technical skills are the way to break that barrier. I honestly have no love for programming languages, but do have a vision and passion for educational technology targeting non-traditional adult literacy learners, so have been seeking less code-heavy methods for designing learning objects, just to get started.

I may have found a starting place with Gamestar Mechanic, a curriculum designed to help elementary school kids learn the fundamentals of video game design by “leveling up from player to designer.” I was excited to read the following in Education Week’s Digital Directions: “the website features a free basic level that any teacher–or even student–can access, and an even more elaborate for-pay model.”

Gamestar Mechanic: Empowering youth through game design

I was further encouraged by this review from STEM Challenge which states the product serves not only school teachers, but also librarians and parents. Gamestar Mechanic’s website boasts individual and family pricing plans, as well as the opportunity to learn from industry professionals.

Like most non-traditional adult learners, I’m now faced with difficult questions: Do I suck it up and sign up to learn at the level of (and possibly right along with) elementary school kids? Will the money, time, and potential skills be worth it to invest? Gamestar Mechanic looks like the solution I’ve been hoping for, but will I actually sign up?

Gamestar’s page for parents on “Who is Gamestar Mechanic for?” may have me sold:

GameStar Mechanic is designed for 7- to 14-year-olds but is open to everyone. In fact, we strongly encourage intergenerational gameplay: parents playing with kids, older siblings playing with younger siblings, even getting the grandparents involved!

Although playing and making games tends to appeal to young boys more than young girls, we have been careful to design the characters, narrative and gameplay to appeal to both boys and girls.”

What do you think? Should I sign up? Do you want to play along with me? Subscribe to the blog or connect with me on Twitter or Facebook to find out my next steps in escaping the pink ghetto.

4 thoughts on “Free Cool Online Tool: Gamestar Mechanic

Add yours

  1. There are certainly computer science and programming courses at community colleges or through university extension courses. But, if you aren’t excited about those topics, then perhaps you could instead look to play a design, rather than an implementation role in creating learning activities. You might try doing a search on “instructional design.”

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