At a South by Southwest education panel at the Hilton Austin on March 5, Joe Gonzales, superintendent of East Austin College Prep Academy, discussed the school's implementation of a program that allows students to learn through gaming.
The panel, Preparing High-Tech Innovators Through Game Design, focused on innovative modes of learning, including a system called Globaloria, the first social learning network where students can learn about science, technology, engineering and math through game design and digital literacy.
“What I like about Globaloria is that every kid is into the lesson,” Gonzales said.
Gonzales said the school has expanded the program to about 700 students. Programs like Globaloria and AMD's Changing the Game are focused on engaging students through video games and other digital tools, and preparing them for careers in STEM.
“I think this will help our kids have a better life," he said.
Anne Fertitta, Global Community Affairs Manager for AMD, said these types of programs teach students how to write, draw, code and be creative, which ultimately makes students more well-rounded.
Fertitta said that AMD's programs have reached more than 213,000 students globally and that they are reaching out to many partners, including the Austin Independent School District.
Jennifer Bergland, director of government relations and member services for TCEA, said that by 2018, there will be an even greater need than we have today for people in STEM professions and that currently the U.S. is being threatened as the leader in these fields. Recent statistics showed that only 1.46 percent of ninth- through 12th-graders in Texas were taking a computer science course, compared to the 2 percent nationally, she said.
Bergland stressed the importance of teaching students computer science earlier than high school and said many ninth-graders may be too intimidated by the subject, which deters them from enrolling.
She said the computational thinking methodology of computer science could also be integrated into other subjects and curriculum, as that type of problem-solving is beneficial for students. TCEA recommends students be taught computer science literacy much earlier than high school.