Cootie Catcher

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At She’s Geeky last weekend, I put up a sign to propose a talk: “Cootie Catcher, Games for Girls.”

I was running late from other sessions and ran over the semi-circle of chairs and a white board in the center of the room. There I noticed 4 or so girls that had been waiting for about 20 minutes. Ranging in ages from 12 to 7 roughly. It wasn’t the only girl-oriented program on the board, but it might have been at that hour. One of the girls was already making a cootie catcher. I asked her to tell the grown-ups how to make them.

That was great, because 15 minutes later the grown-ups were still trying to make them. I was really winging it, and in the next bit asked the girls the rules for the game, and wrote them on the board. Much discussion over what was a Cootie Catcher, versus a Fortune Teller. The girl-teacher made a simple one with only fleas and no-fleas, and they called that a cootie catcher, but the one that the adults knew as a cootie catcher was what the girls called a “Fortune Teller.”

OK at this point you’re like, why are you writing about this? Or teaching it?

I attended a talk by my friend Sarah Mei on “Teaching Ruby to High School Girls” at SF-Ruby Meet-up a month or so ago. There was a discussion afterwards that was very inspiring- what was it that got women individually into programming. For me, I had access to a computer, was taught through various channels programming concepts at a young age, and due to my Mom, always had access to fun narrative, puzzle-ish games on the computer.

A study group I’m in wanted a project, and during Christmas it was Santa wheel, then I proposed we turn a game that is very popular with girls *already* into a computer game to instruct them on the basics of software development. Using test-driven development, and behavior-driven-development, as well as pair programming, which works great with girls, setup some instructions into how to learn about cmoputers by creating a simple game.

The more I thought of it, the more things started to make sense. Games are great introductions into programming, as they’re fun and interesting, interactive, and a great career option. Anything that shows the “genie behind the curtain” is useful, but games where the overall architecture and construct is simple and well-known helps. The girls told me the rules quickly and easily, almost as if I was stupid.

I’m getting some criticism that this is too complex- and also got some great advice from Sarah Mei the other day to make the application in a few different flavors and iterations before making one that you will teach.

The class at She’s Geeky basically dissolved after we wrote the rules and I told them, “This is all you need to make a computer game, this list of rules.” But I wasn’t disheartened as I’d learned from another teacher that kids at that age basically need instruction in 5 to 10-minute increments. The rest of the class involved the adults getting together talking about how we were going to do this, Sprites and JavaScript, Rails, Objective-C, mobile. Two girls ran around asking each woman individually to play the game, while we were discussing it (ah, multi-tasking.) The teacher-girl and I had this conversation near the end:

her: “Are you going to make this a web site?”
me: “Yes. Would you play it?”
her: “Yes!”
me: “Would you play it with other friends?”
her: “Yes! Can you give my mom the ….” (blank look as she trying to remember the word…)
me: “Url? Sure.”

I didn’t quite get across the idea that she could *make* the game herself. But, this was my first time talking to actual girls about the idea. I have a few other guinea pigs I’ve lined up, for next time.

10 Comments »

  1. Comment by mejarc

    Posted on February 4, 2010 at 3:07 pm

    What impressed me about those girls is that they were still young enough to be playing the game with their friends, and just old enough to know how how to break down the instructions into steps. I think we need to let them know that making an electronic game of this will be as interactive and gregarious an activity as making the paper version.

  2. Comment by banane

    Posted on February 7, 2010 at 8:07 pm

    Yeah it's interesting- for me, teaching this game is all about the technical environment, which I'm not sure will prove itself until teaching the game a zillion times. I was stumped on Friday with caching on Ruby on Rails. I never thought I would say this- but JavaScript might be the answer, ha.

  3. Pingback by banane » Blog Archive » Cootie Version 0.02beta

    Posted on February 7, 2010 at 9:02 pm

    […] There was an 0.01 but it never made it off my local system. SO … here is a working version! . Enjoy and please offer feedback. More info on what this is about, here. […]

  4. Comment by banane

    Posted on February 8, 2010 at 4:07 am

    Yeah it's interesting- for me, teaching this game is all about the technical environment, which I'm not sure will prove itself until teaching the game a zillion times. I was stumped on Friday with caching on Ruby on Rails. I never thought I would say this- but JavaScript might be the answer, ha.

  5. Pingback by banane » Blog Archive » Very Simple Animated iPhone App

    Posted on February 26, 2010 at 6:56 pm

    […] am chugging right along on this application- and, you guessed it, a cootie catcher. The next step is to create a simple animation of the paper toy opening and closing (based on user […]

  6. Comment by hospitalmobility

    Posted on March 24, 2010 at 9:23 pm

    I am little impressed with your views. I want to also include my points that if you like to get medical computer carts and other cabinets for keeping essential things. Then you can move to medical workstation for fulfilling your need. I have taken and used their services. I am showing you because I impressed with them.

  7. Pingback by Amazing She’s Geeky #5! Bay Area #3. »

    Posted on August 31, 2010 at 12:54 pm

    […] Cootie Catcher by banane: The more I thought of it, the more things started to make sense. Games are great introductions into programming, as they’re fun and interesting, interactive, and a great career option. Anything that shows the “genie behind the curtain” is useful, but games where the overall architecture and construct is simple and well-known helps. The girls told me the rules quickly and easily, almost as if I was stupid. […]

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    Posted on August 4, 2011 at 1:12 am

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  10. Trackback by Tower Games

    Posted on November 29, 2011 at 4:17 pm

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