M. Zeffertt, H. Thinyane, M. Halse

Rhodes University (SOUTH AFRICA)
There has been an international decline in university enrollment rates for computer science courses in recent years. There also exists a distinct gender divide in the subject, with female students exhibiting disinterest in a useful field for a wide variety of reasons. In order to try to counteract these two deficiencies in computer science, the way the subject is being taught and presented to students should be revisited and improved upon. The use of educational games to teach basic computer science skills in contextualized and interactive ways could generate enthusiasm and interest for the subject. This approach should be tailored towards a gender neutral teaching method, in order to be more inclusive and approachable. Teaching computational thinking through situational problem solving will place what the students learn in context as well as help reveal the relevance of these skills. The abstract nature of computer science causes a lot of females to avoid the field but a contextualized approach has been shown to increase students' interest and investment in subject matter, regardless of gender. Research has revealed that females feel less comfortable about interacting with computers for various reasons. By presenting these students with an easy to play game, the confidence levels amongst female students could be increased. An adventure style game was developed with increasing levels of difficulty to be used by first year computer science students during their computational thinking module. By researching teaching and game trends, the game is specifically designed to appeal to both genders. Through continuous encouragement, veiled assistance and enjoyment, computer science can hopefully be re-evaluated by students as a fascinating field that is worth becoming involved in. This paper presents a discussion of the design and development of the adventure style game for teaching computational thinking basics.