Game Creation

We had our first session using the game making programs yesterday, we allowed the students to simply have a muck around with the three programs – Stencylworks, Game Salad and Atmosphir. Our TSSP had downloaded the games onto the lab.

Within a few minutes we were meet with some technical difficulties…of course! The students needed a game salad account but the actual site was blocked!! Grr!! So that ruled Game Salad out for the day – 1 down… Atmosphir was the next to go… we needed to download a second component so that was out… 2 down!! Oh dear! Things were looking a bit grim! However StencylWorks was the shining light in the trio!

The students were quickly able to pick it up and begin to create simple games. It was definitely challenging and pushed the students out of their comfort zone however I was still really amazed at their ability to just sit down and figure the program out!! They worked mostly in pairs and were able to create the beginnings of simple games. The most successful seemed to create little mazes with a goal to obtain at one end (e.g. a sword) and some baddies to avoid along the way (evil chickens were popular). There was also a ‘knock bricks’ out of the way game and a simple doodle jump style game. Some children did seem a bit overwhelmed with the task and didn’t achieve much in the short session however I think they just needed to see from some of the other students that it actually was achievable!!

On the technical side again we also realised that it was important to set up a space where all the work can be saved to on the server so the kids can access it from any computer and don’t need to go back to the same computer.

We tried to do a reflection after the game building and we asked the students;

  • Today I learnt how to…
  • I am having difficulty with….
  • I wonder..

I felt that the reflection at the end was a little bit rushed and the students didn’t really produce well throughout answers and they were hard to draw away from the game creating. I really wish we had a two hour block for this class as I feel we would be able to get better quality reflections. However as this is not possible we probably just need to allow more time for the reflection or perhaps we should do it at the start of the next class. Hmm…food for thought!

We have also managed to contact a parent at the school who is a game designer, he has offered us some advice and hopefully he will be able to come in a speak to the class as well. He suggested to focus on the game design aspect and really spend time setting up the narrative of the game. I think this is an excellent idea because the storyline/back story was something that all of the class deemed as really important in their criteria and it goes to support their literacy skills as well!! (so sneaky of us!!) I really liked the idea of combining some art (drawing & sculpture) into this process and music – backgrounds, sound effects. etc! I think this stuff will really value add to the project and will help to widen the project a bit more.

So here is a list of things we plan to focus on in terms of Game Design:

A main idea (e.g. alien races warring on different planets, to a frustrated
sultana trying to escape from a kids lunchbox)
Concept of what style of game they want to make, 3D, 2D, platform, 1st
Levels / Stages
Sound effects
Player controls
User Interface (Menus to get around game)
Bonus levels

Game Creation

Today I started team teaching with my colleague Kynan Robinson @kynanr based around the idea of game creation. We have 23 boys and 4 girls in a class of grade 5/6’s. These students have been selected based on their interest and aptitude in the area of ICT and gaming. We will be working with them an hour a week for the term.
We started off with the question “what makes a good game?” Students worked in groups to answer this question.  Here are the student answers to what they believe makes a good game;

  • A good game needs good graphics, regular updates, multi player and allowing the player to control where they go and what they do.
  • Good characters, good levels, new items, unlocking achievements,
  • Learning about real life, targets, relationships between characters
  • Good graphics,

An adventure, a moral to the game, and a virtual game

  • Things happen that isn’t expected. Effects, levels, different versions
  • Games that are addicting
  • Characters with personality
  • YOU choose what the character looks like.
  • Multiplayer (Games when you can verse or play with people around the world OR with a friend.)
  • Characters that you can control or use as an avatar
  • Games that get harder and more challenging as you play.
  • Games that you can learn from.

Some of their own questions that the students came up with were –
What makes games so addictive?
What makes a good character in a game?
What makes a good baddie?
What makes a good team player in a multi-player game?
What makes a game fun to play?
Why do people play games?

Our plan is for students to begin to design and create their own games. The students have had some experience with Scratch but we would like to find other platforms to design our games. I have been doing a bit of research about Game Salad and would be keen to find out if this is a worthwhile program? I have read a little about Stencyl and Game Maker however would love some more information about these programs or any that are better? Any ideas? Anyone had any experience with these programs?

Term 3 Blogging Challenge

Well with the holidays drawing to a close it is time to think about what I would like to achieve with my class this term.

I guess my main aim is to really sink our teeth into blogging! My students are very familiar with blogging and are now quite savvy with their blogging skills. To this point our blogs have been mostly “show and tell,” a place when students retell the events of their school life, share work and photos with family and friends. I would like to keep this side of blogging but would also like to take their blogs to a new level. I would like the students to move towards interest blogging; developing a more narrow focus on their blog about something they are interested in and passionate about! I think this is a more authentic blogging experience and also one which is modeling more readily in real life. I think this could also work to support a more ‘problem based learning’ experience.

Kynan Robinson @kynanr & Richard Olsen @richardolsen introduced me to this whole idea about authentic blogging. There is a great post about it on the Kynan’s blog

They have really forced to me to think about how we are getting students to connect, collaborate, communicate and act collectively through blogging.

My plan is to really get my students to think about;

  • What is the purpose of blogging?
  • Why do people blog?
  • What do people blog about?
  • What makes a good/interesting blog?
  • What can we learn from blogging and other blogs?

Students will chose a topic they are going to base their blog around and then create a mind map showing what information they will include in their blog. What will the structure of their blog be like? I want students to think about a “big question” to base their blog around. I think this might help to give their blog greater purpose, direction and longevity! Fingers crossed!

I would really like to base my reading program around blogging as well. I want my students to be reading other blogs and using these posts as models of quality writing (or maybe as examples of what not to do!). If you have any examples of great blog posts suitable for children please let me know! I would love some more examples!

Wiki Spaces – a great tool!

When I started this project I was struggled with which medium I should use to get the students to reflect on their learning. I wanted to move away from reflecting on paper but didn’t want to lose the good they came with that process. Wiki spaces was recommended to me, I had never used it before but decided that it sounded perfect for the project. I am really glad I went with Wiki Spaces. Thanks Ty for the idea!!!

It is a great tool, which allowed the students to quickly and easily set up their own page on the 5/6D Sim City Page I was able to create. Now each student has their own campaign page. I really like that the pages are all in the one place and students are able to move freely between each other’s pages and I can quickly check that they have all completed their tasks! I like that they can use the discussion function to respond and create discussion. I found that several of my boys started a discussion about strategies for playing the game without being prompted by me! I found Wiki Spaces really easy for the children to use and allowed them freedom to embed Extranormal mayor’s speech and google presentations. I will definitely continue to use Wiki Spaces and see that is a fantastic educational tool. It was worthwhile requesting the “educational upgrade” which allows you to use the multiple user creator – which saved me a lot of time and effort!

Here are some examples from our Wiki Page….

Picture 1 Picture 2 Picture 3

Hot Tip success…

We are approaching the business end of the project and I am feeling really happy with the way things are going. The hot tips posters were a great success. I handed out post-it notes to the students as they were working and if they had a good idea they wrote it down. I would then stop the game play and that student would share their idea with the class. This worked really well. On the flip side if a child had a problem or an issue we would stop the class and ask for advice about how to deal with this issue. I really liked the sharing of ideas and the sense of community that has developed! I have also spotted kids referring back to the “tips” chart during their game time when they are having trouble. ! I think the “hot tips” is a really transferable idea that would work in many tasks and I will definitely use it again.  I think it really helped kids to verbalise their strategies and their metacognition. It also acted as a model for the other kids who didn’t have a strategy and I think helped to make them more away of the notion of strategizing.  These were our first tips…

IMG_0447 IMG_0452 IMG_0451

I have also been doing mini mayor interviews during the game play time.

Sim City Update

Today we had a great session; students worked really well. I feel the children have reached a really comfortable place with the game and the learning environment I have been trying to facilitate. The constant chirping “I can’t do it” has stopped, all students playing successfully (variety of levels), are persisting with their problems and are turning to each other for help – something I have been really trying to push!!! I really wanted them to see that I didn’t have all the answers and that they would have to problem solve, read the manual and ask each other! I also wanted them to understand that failure was ok and that their city didn’t need to be perfect the first time. They were ok to start again and try new approaches!

It is so interesting to see how different students operate – some are so haphazard about their approach to building their city and if it is successful it seems purely by luck! They are unable to articulate why they made choices and what they will do next time. On the other hand there are some students who are so strategic, they have a firm plan about what they want to achieve and are able to articulate clear their reasoning and opinions. It is amazing how they can then reflect on their learning and be continuing improving on their play.

Sim City Rich Task

For anyone who is interested this is the unit we have created for our Sim City game play around. We are looking at the concepts of leadership and government. Students will run a mayor re-election campaign based on their term as mayor. Students will need to justify their leadership style, why they are a good leader, what they have done for their city and what their plans would be for their second term. We are also looking at the issues of social media in government and campaigning. Students will write press releases, speeches and twitter comments to name a few. Any ideas most welcome…

SimCity Leadership rich task

SIm City Hot Tips

In the session tomorrow I am going to give the students post it notes to use while they are playing to write down any “hot tips” they discover to share with the class! We will then put these up on to the “Hot Tips” charts which I have created and displayed. I have divided them up into 7 categories; Getting started, Safety, Traffic, Education, Land Value, Environment and Health. These are the six categories that the mayor’s approval rating is based on. I am hoping to encourage the student’s to share their strategies and improve everyone’s games in the process. Fingers crossed!!! Tomorrow I will also try and video and interview some of the students while they are working!

simcity wall

Hopefully these charts will be filled with "Hot Tips" after tomorrow!

Sim City… the beginnings…

Well, we are two weeks in to our Sim City serious games project. After a few teething problems we have settled in to a good routine. We have 27 copies of the game and have loaded it on to all of the laptops in the 5/6 area. We are then able to pool the laptops and have a 1:1 program running. All of the grade 5/6 classes have embraced the game. Our first session was somewhat experimental, we allowed students to choose if they wanted to work with a partner or not and then gave them free range on the game. In the first session we allowed students to go “crazy” with the game, getting all the UFO invasions, fires, volcanoes and general total world de-nomination out of their systems. We explained that the first session was just a trial run and we wouldn’t be saving their attempt. I was so impressed with the way the students embraced the challenge; without a lot of intro they took to the game like ducks to water. I let them know that I didn’t have all the answers about how to play the game and we would need to help each other, problem solve and READ the manual!! It was lovely to see the collaboration that took place and to see the children so engaged in the game. I think that the game has a good level of challenge – it is accessible but also quite challenging! Session two began with the hope it would be the real thing! This game would work and they would also be on their way to creating a successful city! Unfortunately most children did go bankrupt but this has been a good talking point! We will be working through these issues in our next session. We have been compiling a list of “class tips” and will spend a bit more time reading through certain sections of the manual. Looking forward to many more sessions on Sim City.

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