Purpose: This paper presents a K-12 game programming course concept based on textual programming. The concept is based on an easy-to-use C# library, called Jypeli, built on top of Microsoft XNA Framework. The library tries to maintain advantages of visual programming and avoid challenges of textual programming. In particular, the library helps beginners to program their first games in a short period of time and without a heavy syntactic load. The course concept and an initial evaluation consisting of student feedback and a literature rationale are presented.
Findings: Our experiences from seven course offerings suggest that textual programming and professional tools are not insuperable obstacles for middle school students learning basic programming concepts. Based on pre and post survey results, the overall satisfaction of the course was very high with a mean of 4.71 in 2009 and 4.56 in 2010. Eighty-five percent of students would recommend this course to friends. When given the open-ended response of what was the hardest part of the course, 42% responded "learning a new language" , "writing code" ' or "language syntax." Many student students found difficult in finding the errors within the code. When ask "Programming is harder than I thought", 46% disagreed with that statement.
Recommendations: An interesting future goal would be to test this approach as a compulsory course in an authentic middle school setting. A short-term research interest for us is to observe the transition from the use of Jypeli to the traditional Java programming environment.
Sample Size: 150
Participant Type: In 2009, 45 (84%) boys and 7 (16%) girls and in 2010, 99 (94%) and 6 (6%) girls participated in the week-long programming course. The total for both years combined included 137 (91%) boys and 13 (9%) girls in the course. The median age was 14 years with a range (11-17 years).
Notes: The course was conducted at the University of Jyvaskyla in Finland.