The Role of Game Jams in developing Informal Learning of Computational Thinking: a cross-European Case Study

Reference Format: BOULTON, H., SPIELER, B., PETRI, A., SLANY, W., SCHINDLER, C., AND BELTRÀN, M.E. 2016. The role of game jams in developing informal learning of computational thinking: a cross-European case study. In Proceedings of the 8th International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies. Barcelona, Spain. July 4-6, 2016, p. 7034-7044. doi: 10.21125/edulearn.2016

Boulton, B. Spieler, A. Petri, C. Schindler, W. Slany, ME. Beltran


This paper will present a cross-European experience of game jams as part of a Horizon 2020 funded project: No-one Left Behind (NOLB). The NOLB project was created to unlock inclusive gaming creation and experiences in formal learning situations from primary to secondary level, particularly for children at risk of social exclusion. The project has engendered the concept of game jams, events organised with the aim of designing and creating small games in a short time-frame around a central theme. Game jams can support engagement with informal learning beyond schools across a range of disciplines, resulting in an exciting experience associated with strong, positive emotions which can significantly support learning goals. This paper will disseminate experience of two cross-European game jams; the first a pilot and the second having over 95 submissions from countries across Europe, America, Canada, Egypt, the Philippians and India. Data collected through these games jams supports that coding, designing, reflection, analysing, creating, debugging, persevering and application, as well as developing computational thinking concepts such as decomposition, using patterns, abstraction and evaluation. The notion of Ggame Jjams provides a paradigm for creating both formal and informal learning experiences such as directed learning experience, problem-solving, hands-on projects, working collaboratively, and creative invention, within a learner-centred learning environment where children are creators of their own knowledge and learning material. This paper explores the use of a mobile app, Pocket Code, in schools across Europe in two game jams during the academic year 2015-16 with children aged 11-18. Pocket Code provides an environment which supports learners in easily creating apps directly on their smart-phones and tablets through a visual Lego®-style programming language where users can put code bricks together to form scripts. We draw on a range of data to support how game jams can be used as a design research method to observe the creation of knowledge in fast-paced, collaborative environments across a range of disciplines. Our data evidences that learners can be more motivated through game jams and that learners who are less likely to create games are nevertheless more engaged in a game jam setting. We will also present the frameworks for 3 games from different disciplines: Chemistry, Languages, and Mathematics.

Boulton, B. Spieler, A. Petri, C. Schindler, W. Slany, ME. Beltran

Nottingham Trent University (UNITED KINGDOM)

Graz University of Technology (AUSTRIA)

Inmark Europa (SPAIN)


Game Jams, Pocket Code, computational thinking, secondary school, mobile technology.