Saturday, April 5, 2008

Mini-Course: Take-Home Notes

I realized that I had promised updates about my mini-course for girls (Computer Science and Games: Not Just For Boys!) as I worked on it. Progress is definitely being made as far as developing the actual course content and activities. I have been working on a detailed outline and have more than half of this done. One thing I really hope to have time to do is to create some form of 'notes' the students can take home.

My original vision was to design a set of printable notes in a magazine format that pre-teen girls would relate to. This thought came to me as I read Danica McKellar's book Math Doesn't Suck. This handy guide to middle school math was targeted at the same age group that is signed up for my course, and contains fun things like horoscopes and personality quizzes. It was printed in novel format, while I imagined a more colorful format with fewer words, but the inspiration is definitely there.

Later I decided that this might: (a) be too much work to design in the limited time I had, especially considering that I also have to make PowerPoint slides and basic handouts for activities; and (b) cost too much to print nicely enough to make it worthwhile. So back to square one.

A great idea hit me while I was working on my outline. I was noting that I wanted to show the students some open source software like Inkscape and Blender, which they could use in creating sprites for their games for example, when I realized that a CD full of useful software and a set of notes would be perfect!

I don't want to write a fancy program, but I want to make it look like I almost did. So what I'm thinking of doing is creating some simple webpages with links to the various software (latest versions on the CD), links to useful webpages for learning about computer science and games, and pages of the notes from class. But I would like to put these web pages into a Windows GUI to sort of hide the fact they are webpages. Done right, this could work very well from a visual standpoint.

Like I said, this very much depends on time constraints, because the next few weeks will be spent working on final projects and exams as well as the mini-course. But if I can pull it off, this should be a really nice souvenir for the students to take home in addition to the games they work on during the week.

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