Today Remi Holden and I finished work at the first of two primary schools in Kingston, Jamaica, and we were quite pleased with the results.
In contrast to the schools we worked with in South Africa, where the learners ventured out into the community to gather material for their games, the learners in Kingston used information they could gather from the computer lab, much of it using DevInfo software to access data about Jamaica.
We expected this to be challenging, and it was, especially considering that DevInfo is a sophisticated tool used mostly (until now) by governments and UN agencies, and the learners are just completing grade six. The kids did a terrific job, though, and they were extremely excited about playing games made by other kids, and especially at the idea of making their own. The questions the kids came up with were important and real: Is crime in Jamaica increasing or decreasing? How much poverty is there here compared to other countries? Is there a difference between how girls and boys are doing in school? The conclusions they came to were not always what they expected at first, and with some guidance, they were able to form their findings into a game that is quite accurate, and yet entirely their own.
It was encouraging for us to see the enthusiasm that the students brought to the task -- even though most of them knew how to find Cartoon Network flash games and Justin Timberlake videos on YouTube, a game involving X's and O's and real-world human development data could still get them (literally) jumping up and down.