Bringing SGD to Your District

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Scalable Game Design Project is currently the largest National Science Foundation computer science education project, teaching computational thinking and programming skills to over 12,000 students, focused on the middle school level, participating from inner city to remote rural and even Native American communities.


Through research tested, highly engaging and motivating curricula and activities, students learn computational thinking, develop problem solving literacy, and learn to program by designing and creating video games and complex simulations that require sophisticated Artificial Intelligence.


Scalable Game Design Project effectively leads students from creating games to programming advanced simulations.

Check out the 1 Page Scalable Game Design Summary


Why bring Scalable Game Design to your district and schools? Experts agree that in the United States there is a high demand in the technology industry for creative minds. At this time, American colleges and universities are not turning out enough qualified candidates to fill these positions, and minority students and women are severely underrepresented in computer science classes and jobs. Scalable Game Design (SGD) project is proven to engage a diverse group of students in meaningful learning experiences that will inspire them to pursue computer science-related courses and careers.


Learn more about the project from our classroom teachers


What Your District and Schools Receive from Scalable Game Design Research Team (SGD)


The University of Colorado School of Education and the Stanford University School of Education have tested our software and curricula in classrooms for usability and efficacy. Well over 18,000 students have demonstrated that Computational Thinking – that is, the logic underlying all computer programming– improves with use of our products to build games and scientific simulations. Computational thinking is also used in describing and solving problems and relates to STEM through the application of critical thinking and problem solving techniques.


Results also show that kids across the board – girls, boys, underrepresented minorities, inner city, suburban, rural – are motivated by classes using our curricula. The curriculum's software is used with students from elementary school to postgraduate studies. NASA scientists have used our software to put simulations on a Space Shuttle mission, and entire school districts and large federally funded university projects are using our software to engage, motivate, and create innovative thinkers and users of technology.


  • Revolutionary computer science educational tools and curricula, proven to be effective through rigorous research
  • Research tested, highly engaging and motivating curricula and activities that teach students computational thinking, problem solving literacy, and programming by designing and creating video games and complex simulations that require sophisticated Artificial Intelligence.
  • AgentSheets 4.0 is a design and programming tool that utilizes drag-and-drop programming pioneered by the founder of SGD Project. Unique to AgentSheets 4.0 is that students can see JAVA code embedding the easy to use drag-and-drop interface.
  • Initial professional training by the original research team (see below "What SGD Teachers Learn...")
  • Follow up technical support by experts in the curricula
  • Assistance in creating strategies to utilize SGD in multiple classroom over multiple grades in a single school
  • Quantitative assessment of actual computing skills demonstrated by students available
  • The Computational Thinking Patterns Analysis (CTPA) framework provides a means to gauge which computational thinking tools a students used to complete a specific project
  • Allows the collection of a personal inventory of computational thinking patterns by documenting potential design trajectories that would allow a cyberlearning system to answer which kind of project, with the necessary support, an individual could master next
  • Learning community of more than 300 teachers in 100 schools in 45 district, in 20 states as well as 6 countries
  • Additional training in intermediate and advanced levels of game design, STEM simulation design and use, and 3 dimensional game and simulation design and use is also available


What SGD Teachers Learn at the Summer Professional Development Training

Participants who attend SGD Institutes attend a 3 day exemplar training in a game design curriculum with a track record of high success. Over 300 teachers impacting more than 18,000 students of all abilities and demographics have been part of the project.


SGD Institutes are hands on, with the teacher becoming the student for the duration of the Institute. Content is presented by both the original developers of the project as well as classroom teachers with in-the-trenches experience teaching game design to students. Peer leadership and mentoring successfully motivates new teachers, who in turn gets students in school interested in computer science and game design, advanced game design (such as Sokoban, Pacman and Space Invaders), and computational science (building scientific simulations and using them to collect and analyze data). Throughout the Institute, teachers learn about effective pedagogy, how to create lesson plans, and create a supportive network with colleagues. SGD Institutes also instruct each teacher on the "how-to"'s of conducting research data collection in their classes, adding to a critical body of knowledge that has far-reaching national and international impact on education.


  • Game design immersion experience for 4 days: using AgentSheets software and creating original games and how to teach this to students in a fast-paced, hands-on training
  • How to teach computational thinking (CT) concepts and processes and assessing this knowledge, and the value of CT and game design beyond computer science
  • How pedagogy impacts student learning, engagement and motivation
  • How creating 2D games leads directly to creation of STEM simulations
  • How to teach Scalable Game Design to your students: lesson plans, embedding the curriculum into an existing class, creating a new course
  • Advantages of working in teams and building a teacher support system and community


Learn more at Teachers as Research Partners

What Support SGD Teachers Receive After the Summer Training

  • Curricular and classroom resources and tools available on the Scalable Game Design wiki website to develop lesson plans, handouts, assist themselves and students, learn about research, expand knowledge and understanding
  • Technical support
  • Teacher learning community
  • Optional training in intermediate and advanced game and simulation design


What your Students Learn from SGD Project

  • Drag-and-drop game design programming and coding, with transference to JAVA
  • Computational thinking and problem solving literacy
  • Design process
  • Creative solution making, independently, in pairs, and in teams
  • Computational thinking patterns through creating a series of games
  • How to apply computational thinking patterns in a broader context by creating STEAM (STEM plus Art) simulations
  • Begin learning the manipulation of data in simulations by collecting simulation data and analyzing it
  • Receive knowledge directly related to current and upcoming educational standards
  • Confidence, competence, engagement, and motivation in computer science and computational thinking, which are critical 21st century learner skills


What the SGD District Commits To

Generally, Districts will be active partners in the school-year implementation of curricula by generating school administrator and technology support for teachers, providing in-district support activities to be defined by the district, and as available, opportunities for training new teachers, and providing refresher and additional training to existing project teachers. Once basic support has been defined and implemented, it is highly recommended that districts begin creating an in-district teacher trainer program for scaling up the curriculum in the future, systemically integrating the idea of computational thinking into Art + STEM = STEAM through use of Scalable Game Design project into a variety of classrooms, and plot out a K12 and beyond pipeline to increase participation in post-secondary education and careers related to computer science and STEM.


Specifically, each participating District initially commits to:

  • Communicate its commitment and general participation plans to the SGD project team via email or letter
  • Recruit computer science, technology, digital/design technology and STEM teachers to attend a Scalable Game Design professional development 4-day training
  • Encourage current project teachers to receive further training through CU Boulder's Summer Institute Intermediate and Advanced level PD
  • Invite current project teachers to be leaders and mentors to work with new project teachers
  • Work closely with school administrators so that teacher and project support exists at the school level
  • Provide technical support to schools and teachers to install and test software for student use
  • Support teachers and schools to include SGD in their current class or create new scheduled courses as needed
  • Provide opportunities for in-district project teachers to build a learning community/communities of practice
  • Some Districts have created monthly SGD teacher support meetings, online support communities, or more casual gatherings of SGD teachers to share knowledge and problem solve together
  • Provide as available, financial and personnel commitments to support teacher implementations and teacher learning communities
  • Some Districts provide travel mileage to attend training, teacher work days, PD days, substitutes, comp days for teachers to assist another teacher in a classroom, attend in-district SGD teacher support groups, attend additional training, technology coaches
  • Provide as available, ongoing teacher training including tech and pedagogical support
  • Maintain visibility and awareness of SGD Project activities to constituents such as:
1. Parents, teachers in the school, teachers outside the school, community leaders and groups of interest
2. Suggestions for ways to maintain visibility:
  1. Writing and issuing press releases and information letters
  2. Recording and publishing videos of teachers and students in the classroom
  3. Conducting Student Showcase events
  4. Sharing success stories and testimonials in-district and with the Project team for publication on the website
  • Consider the benefits of systemically integrating computational thinking activities more broadly into schools
  • Consider developing teacher training opportunities within the District to leverage experts within the District



What the SGD School Commits To

Each participating school commits to provide:


A new scheduled course and/or an existing technology or computer science course to embed the curriculum

1. 6th - 12th grade level
  • For existing courses
Eight to ten 45 to 55 minute class periods (typically done in 2 to 3 weeks)
  • For a new scheduled course
Minimum of one quarter in length (8 weeks) up to a semester in length
2. Implementation of curriculum at least once during the school year


Teacher selection

1. First choice:
  • At least 2 years teaching experience in computer science or technology
  • Experienced with project-based and inquiry-based pedagogy
2. Second choice:
  • At least 3 years teaching experience in a STEM field
  • Self-identifies as highly confident in computer usage
  • Experienced with project-based and inquiry-based pedagogy
  • CS and programming experience is preferred but not required
  • Interest and experience in playing or creating video games is helpful


Teacher support: each school and principal will

1. Confirm that the teacher receiving the PD will teach SGD curriculum in the classroom
2. Support the teacher in gaining permission to load software onto school computers and facilitate work with IT
3. Support the teacher as the interest in SGD grows and additional implementation becomes feasible


Hardware, internet access, and computer use access meeting the minimum project requirements

1. The school is responsible for ensuring adequate computer access to the teacher for the duration of the implementation


Visibility and awareness: communicate SGD Project activities to constituents including

1. Parents, teachers in the school, teachers outside the school, school and district administrators and leaders, community leaders and groups of interest by:
  1. Writing and issuing press releases and information letters
  2. Recording and publishing videos of teachers and students in the classroom
  3. Conducting Student Showcase events
  4. Sharing success stories and testimonials with the Project team for publication on the website
  5. Letter of Commitment: each school principal will issue a letter to the SGD Project expressing their commitment to participate, indicating their agreement to the above 5 provisions (finding a course to implement SGD, help recruit teachers, support teaches, tech support, build awareness and communicate).


What the SGD Teacher Commits To

  • Attend the summer Professional Development training for 4 days in Boulder, Colorado
  • 2015 dates: June 8 - 11, optional open creation lab on the 12th
  • Be familiar with the classroom implementation process of SGD
  • Consult with the school IT department to install software
  • Teach students using the curriculum materials taught during the summer training
  • One to eight week unit or class on game-design
  • Administer online motivational questionnaires and computational thinking surveys to students
  • Help students upload their games and simulations to the Scalable Game Design Arcade
  • Collect and turn in all necessary research participation forms
  • Communicate regularly with the SGD team