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Fourth-graders help beta-test video games developed by high school students

When students in Cathy Arvantides’ video development class at Marcellus High School needed testers to evaluate their educational gaming projects, they didn’t have to look far.  Just two buildings away, in fact, to Katrina Ercole’s fourth-grade class at Driver Middle School.

Since April, the younger students have been testing iterations of six educational video games under development by 10th, 11th and 12th grade students in Ms. Arvantides’ class, and then offering feedback via weekly video conference chats. Armed with the fourth-graders’ constructive criticism, the high schoolers returned to the drawing board to tweak, fine-tune, debug and repeat.  Ms. Arvantides found that the students worked extra hard because they knew their “clients” had high expectations for the final product.

“The fourth-graders are acting as the clients, and the high school students are acting as the programmers tasked with providing a service,” Marcellus Technology Director Elena Drescher explained.

While the older students gained the valuable perspective of their target audience, the younger set honed their communication skills by providing feedback – in person, via webcam and through shared Google documents, Ms. Ercole said.

The moment of truth arrived June 10, when the DMS students walked up to the high school to play the games while the teen developers’ nervously looked on, and then rendered their final appraisal. 

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