My wife is a pretty amazing English teach in an amazingly deprived high school. I try and do what I can to help out when I can. I make things for school plays. I’ve painted backgrounds for show choirs. I’ve talked at career days. The thing that never fails to stun me with the students I interact with is the profane lack of technology in their education. When I talk to people who know about such things, it seems that schools either are flush with technology (eg students are issued laptops annually) or they are suffering through school with a War Games tech stack.
While I was at Southeast Linux Fest a few months ago, I saw two separate talks that led me to come up with the idea that might just help a little with this problem. The first talk was by Leslie Hawthorne about Humanitarian FOSS. One of the people at the talk mentioned a project she’d worked on with the girl scouts where each girl in the class was given a thumb drive with a a live Linux distribution on it. They would boot off of the USB drives, save their work to the USB stick, and when it was done they would take it with them.
It was as if someone had just cracked a board over the back of my head. OF COURSE. Not only are they exposed to Linux and FOSS tools, but they walk away with their OWN OPERATING SYSTEM. This was genius on every level. Even though I spoke with her later that weekend, I cannot for the life of me remember her name to give her the proper credit.
The second half of my thought came from Greg DeKoenigsberg, about FOSS and education. His talk in part was focused in on an idea he was working on where he was using an existing HTML5 gaming engine to make educational video games. He demo’d a game that had ~20 hours of effort in it at the time that was something like The Legend of Zelda meets 6th grade math. Greg’s project is on GitHub here.
The second board snapped over my large melon at this point. WHAT IF, you could hijack a programming or engineering or anything high-school level class once or twice a week for 8-10 weeks, teach the kids how to get around on a Live CD with a Fedora or Ubuntu spin on it, and have them actually MAKE THEIR OWN VIDEO GAME. This would diverge a little from the tinygames.org concept because the game itself wouldn’t have to be educational. The education would come in making the game itself.
- Analytical Thinking
- Problem Sovlving
- Basic Algorithms
- Programming Basics
- High-end technology basics
- Exposure to FOSS
- THEY MAKE THEIR OWN VIDEO GAME
- THEY HAVE THEIR OWN OPERATING SYSTEM TO RUN THEIR OWN VIDEO GAME
At the end, for the kids who finished, they could upload their game to a server of some sort to make it available if they like, or just have it on their thumb drive. It would be a stretch to do it in that timeframe, but if you had a ready-made example, and prepped examples and snippets on the thumb-drive installs of Linux before hand where they could plug and chug and spend time where it was important it could be done, I think. Maybe 12 weeks, but certainly not more than that, and that’s at 1-2 times/week.
I know it sounds cheesy, but I sincerely think that kids would definitely like even a simple 8-bit game if they made it themselves. And if they learned how to make a for loop and a while loop and how to think through a problem during the process, then all the better. And one of the best things is that it could be done in any computer lab that could boot off of a USB stick. You could even modify it to a Live CD / thumb drive combo if you had to in a pinch.
Outside of the usb drives and prep time, the total cost would be $0. We would use 100% FOSS tools to MAKE THEIR OWN VIDEO GAMES.
I think it would be amazing, and I would love to try it out sometime soon.