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Summer Game Design + Local Libraries = Digital Citizenship for Middle School Youth

Summer Game Design + Local Libraries = Digital Citizenship for Middle School Youth

Sojourner House

Program Summary

This summer, Sojourner House and Providence Community Libraries will team up to help 400 Providence youth build digital citizenship, story-telling, and problem-solving skills as they create and share story-based games.

To do this, we will use “The Real Robots of Robot High,” a free game-creation tool and online community available at realrobothigh.com. The “Real Robots” storyline gets kids thinking, talking, and designing games about the intersection of digital technology and their everyday social worlds.

Since “Real Robots” launched in Fall 2012, over 242 students have created and published original games about issues such as password privacy, textual harassment and digital disrespect. These games have been played over 24,200 times by 2,300 students.

“The Real Robots of Robot High” was developed alongside youth through a partnership between healthy-relationship educators at Sojourner House and E-Line Media, the publisher of Gamestar Mechanic. Like Gamestar Mechanic, “The Real Robots” game design engine features a drag-and-drop interface, allowing students to create and publish games in an engaging, easy-to-use online environment.

Our Project:Connect summer program will recruit from the 1,000+ middle-school-aged youth who use the nine Providence Community Libraries (PCLs) for summer reading and free computer access. To meet our goal of helping approximately 400 youth gain new digital citizenship, story-telling, and problem-solving skills this summer, we will:

1) Use libraries as digital learning labs by partnering this program with PCL’s Summer Reading Program.

2) Prepare librarians and mentors from Providence’s ed-tech community to support young game-builders in-person and online.

3) Co-facilitate game-creation sessions at each library, including feedback from experts on game drafts as well as critical discussion about digital civics, using “Real Robots” and “Born Brave Bus Tour” resources.

4) Host a final city-wide game-jam where community and video-game-industry judges will give awards for games’ digital citizenship messages.


The following agenda outlines how we’ll accomplish our four major activities.

1) Use libraries as digital learning labs.

We will begin our project by publicizing this opportunity during each library’s Summer Reading launch event. Families will receive literature offering free access to “Real Robots” for middle-school youth. We’ll cross-promote “Born Brave Bus Tour” resources their children can learn from, too.

2) Prepare librarians and mentors from Providence’s ed-tech community.

In mid-July, Sojourner House, the organizers and facilitators for this program, will take the lead in preparing instructors and mentors for their roles. As one of only 11 agencies across the country named as a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation / Futures Without Violence “Start Strong” site, Sojourner House has five years of deep expertise in leading such trainings for students, teachers, parents, and community members.

We will offer a half-day, in-person librarian and mentor training on:
a) digital citizenship issues behind “The Real Robots,” including password privacy, textual harassment and digital disrespect;
b) using “Real Robots” curriculum and “Born Brave Bus Tour” resources to facilitate face-to-face discussions about digital civics;
c) using “Real Robots” curriculum, its online community, and game-based tools to support youth participants in game-play, story-telling, and game-creation;
d) and assessing and assisting young people as they seek to include digital citizenship messages in their games.

3) Co-facilitate game-creation and digital civics sessions at each library.

Over four weeks in July and August, Sojourner House–with E-Line Media support–will hold approximately 18 blended-learning sessions for youth participants at local libraries in collaboration with library staff and mentors–two sessions planned per library. We will introduce teams of youth to the game, how to play it, and how it reflects social issues they face online and in person. We will also present three game challenges for our final “game jam.” Each challenge will involve a different digital citizenship topic participants encounter in real life, in game-play, and through “Born Brave Bus Tour” resources.

Between sessions, youth participants will also have summer-long access to individualized in-person and online support from our instructors, mentors, and librarians. As they begin creating their game-jam submissions in teams or as individual game-creators, we will offer a pre-“game-jam” feedback round where judges will offer support and scaffolding.

4) Host a final city-wide game-jam with community, expert, and video-game-industry judges.

In mid-to-late August, we will co-promote our final game-jam across the city as part of Providence Community Libraries’ Summer Reading Program wrap-up event. We will also include it on the “Born Brave Bus Tour,” wherever possible, including “The Bravest Map Ever.”

The game-jam will bring in community members from PCL’s Summer Reading Program to play, comment on, and use basic rubrics to vote for a “People’s Choice” game via a quick-feedback process like text-polling. Our expert/industry judges’ three game-challenge awards will recognize games for their digital citizenship messages.

This final game-jam will allow us to offer thanks, recognition, and continued access to “Real Robots” and other resources–plus public acknowledgment of all project partners and funders.

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