Windowsill is a point and click game that is available as part of the current humble bundle.

Windowsill - now where can I find that pesky cube?

I really enjoyed playing windowsill. Your goal seems to be to guide a small toy train of some sort through a set of ten or so puzzle style levels. In each puzzle you enter on the left, and need to find a small pink cube somewhere in the world that acts as a key for the door on the right. The game has been put together really well, and is very enjoyable – but it reminded me of something I’ve seen students do sometimes.

Throughout the game each level feels pretty random. I experiment, I mess around and eventually I get the result I want – but I haven’t learnt anything expect how to complete that level. Contrast that with a game like Cogs – as I was playing through cogs I felt like I was improving, learning patterns and developing skills – albeit skills that were only really useful within the game, but I feel like if I had been given the last level of Cogs at the beginning I wouldn’t be equipped for it.

Sometimes students start to program in the same way. They are given a task to complete, and may want to implement some functionality as part of that task. They experiment until they get that functionality and then they stop. The problem is that what they think they wanted isn’t actually what they wanted. They wanted to learn how to program generally. What they have achieved is the ability to program a specific problem. This is where the students who are more reflective, and start asking awkward questions like “was that the best way to implement that” start to separate themselves.

If you buy the humble bundle and play through windowsill, then at the end think to yourself whether if there were another level you would feel any more equipped to complete it than when you started. Then (if you’re a student) think about the last lecture, or a lab, or a piece of coursework you completed. Are you any more equipped now to complete the next lecture, lab or coursework that you attempt than you were before?

If not, why not?

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