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Showing posts from 2013

Gamestar + Gamekit Beta = Awesome

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21st Century Skills... why game design? I've been using game design for the last couple of years to increase the application of "21st Century Skills" in my class. The actual curriculum of my course is focused on the ISTE NETS, my official standards, and the Pennsylvania Computer Information Technology Standards for grades 6-8. My goal in teaching and assessing those skills, though, is to provide a context including as much STE[A]M focused content as possible and as many opportunities as I can for students to practice the 21st Century Skills.

Game Design is concerned with studying the concepts behind the basic elements of a game, and how the balance of fun and challenge in games creates flow. It is also concerned with the iteration feedback loop and how games are a complex system designed around creating a satisfying user experience. Game design is a great jumping off point for introducing STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math) learning through the lens o…

Leveling up: Best beginner tools for taking game design to the next level in the classroom?

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This is not a guide. This is a conversation. Hopefully the comments on this post will be more useful than my ramblings. With that said, let me hit you with the premise.

The PremiseGame design is a great jumping off point for introducing STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) learning through the lens of systems-thinking and user-centered design while stopping short of providing any real foundation in coding, programming, or engineering, areas covered in the realm of game development. I would like to find a way to begin the transition from game design to game development in my classroom, in order to move from STEM theory (ideas and concepts) to STEM skills (concrete practice).

Game Design is concerned with studying the concepts behind the basic elements of a game, and how the balance of fun and challenge in games creates flow. It is also concerned with the iteration feedback loop and how games are a complex system designed around creating a satisfying user experience.Game deve…

Teachers, Let's fix this PowerPoint thing

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“PowerPoint doesn’t kill meetings. People kill meetings. But using PowerPoint is like having a loaded AK-47 on the table: You can do very bad things with it.”
Peter Norvig, Google Director of Research I'm going to take a break from talking about games and project-based learning and focus instead today on design. Specifically, I want to talk about a tool that is in most of our boxes these days: presentation software. You know, PowerPoint, Google Presentation, Impress, Keynote, Empressr, etc. We all use it to teach. Many of us use it as a tool for student projects. Most of us love it and hate it. In most circumstances, presentations are fun to make, awkward to give, and terrible to watch. What's going on?

Show & Tell The main key here is Show & Tell. The presentation tool shows and you tell.

I often illustrate this point by having my students access prior knowledge of Show & Tell with a think-pair-share. Students are encouraged to re-live their favorite Show & Te…

Hey, Computer Teachers, stop wasting students' time! (Part 2)

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In my previous post, I argued that mandatory computer courses, particularly on the secondary level (7th grade and beyond) should move beyond a myopic focus on keyboarding and Microsoft Office.  I did note that a curriculum steeped in keyboarding and productivity applications is quite appropriate and often essential at the 2nd through 5th or even 6th grade levels. By grade 7, though, if we're not moving students forward and addressing the actual standards for our grade level, rather than reiterating elementary school, we're doing our students a serious disservice. In that post, I promised a Part 2 that would share ways that you can "transform your computer classroom into a relevant, standards-compliant, juggernaut of 21st Century STE[A]M-tastic awesomeness." Talk about over-promising! Okay, I'll do my best. On to glory...


Beginning with the end in mind. If you don't know where you're going, you'll never get there. This is why we have objectives and sta…

Hey, Computer Teachers, stop wasting students' time! (Part 1)

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Despite increased globalization; despite the need to prepare students to access, evaluate, synthesize, and build upon information and media; and despite the drive to promote Creativity, Innovation, Critical Thinking, Problem Solving, Communication, and Collaboration, the curriculum of many schools' secondary Computer Information Technology programs tends to hinge on keyboarding and Microsoft Office. Let me explain, for those who are not already with me, why this is a waste of our students' time and our parents' taxpayer dollars. There are a growing number of voices clamoring to get rid of the "Computer Teacher", arguing that in today's atmosphere of integrated technology we are irrelevant and redundant. If we're teaching 7th to 12th graders Keyboarding and MS Office classes, that is 100% true. Don't get me wrong, a curriculum steeped in keyboarding and productivity applications is quite appropriate and often essential at the 2nd through 5th or even 6…

Why learn game design?

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See also:
Designing Fun: There’s more to game design than programming - on The Gamestar Mechanic Teacher Blog.

The context Why are we learning game design? I asked my seventh grade students this question last week. On page 61 of "The Framework for Teaching Evaluation Instrument", it is noted that in a classroom that reflects distinguished instruction, students should be able to identify what is going on and why. "If asked, students are able to explain what they are learning and where it fits into the larger curriculum context" (Danielson, 2013). I provide some context for this on a regular basis by reviewing objectives and broader essential questions and standards.


My students, though, are thinkers. I'm trying to foster that. They really want to know, "why are we learning game design". Many of them did exactly what I would want them to do when given a discussion question like this. They Googled it. The results of their search were less than stellar. Th…

A Review - "Learning Stencyl 3.x Game Development: Beginner's Guide"

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The following review deals with a book about Stencyl. Stencyl is "a drag-and-drop gameplay designer" (Stencyl), modeled after the MIT Scratch project. Basically, it's blocks-based programming made specifically for game design. The sweet part for teachers is that it is free. Now, on to the book review...

Have a Go, Hero... I've spent some enjoyable moments over the last two weeks working through Packt Publishing's "Learning Stencyl 3.x Game Development: Beginner's Guide", by Innes Borkwood. This is a great book for teachers who want to do more with game design and development in their classroom, but aren't that well versed with coding and programming.

I've been using Stencyl, off and on, with students for two years now. It has still managed to elude me up to this point. I had done the crash course and watched plenty of YouTube Videos. None of it helped. My students would ask me questions, and I would feel clueless. I think that they were s…

Awesome videos to inspire epic classrooms

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Okay, so I realize that everyone and their sister, at this point, has posted their own curated roundup of videos on Game Based Learning and Gamification in the classroom. I'm certainly not doing anything new here. Occasionally, though, I want to share with a colleague or fifty, during workshops or conferences, my cannon of inspirational videos of gaming goodness. It's just more simple to put them all in one place, so here they are.

Ultimately, these videos speak for themselves. I'll keep my commentary to a minimum. I will say that these videos actually started me down the path of actually taking games and game design seriously in my classroom. If I hadn't seen Chellman & Mcgonigal's TED talks one fateful day in 2011, I never would have attended break out sessions on games and gamification with Jeff Mummert at the first Tech.it.u or taken an online course called, "Simulations and Gaming Technologies for the Classroom". I certainly wouldn't be as p…

Is Twitter Keeping you down?

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Back on October 17 of 2011, I posted a bit of a guide for my tweeps and colleagues on building your PLN. In that guide, I shared Jeff Dunn's post from earlier in the month, The A-Z Dictionary of Educational Twitter Hashtags, that shared some general points about hash tags that I've applied myself and shared with most of my friends and colleagues over the years. Some of that information is no longer true. Mainly, I want to look at this quote from Dunn's post:
The # symbol, called a hashtag, is used to mark keyword or topic in a Tweet. Any Twitter user can categorize or follow topics with hashtags.Those hashtags (usually) mean something and are a great way to get a tweet to appear in search results or discussion monitoring. (Dunn 2011, emphasis mine) Hashtags & Top Tweets In order to follow a hashtag, users must complete a search, then save it (typically using a thrird party app, like Hootsuite). This used to provide users with a running timeline of everything anyone pos…

Games, Fun Failure, and the Learning Process

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Last week, Dr. mentioned on Twitter that this coming week's #GBLFriday topic would be, How Games Help Students Learn Failure. Failure is a topic I've been thinking a lot about lately and hitting on in previous posts. Alas, I have decided to to tackle this topic a bit here and put in my two cents worth...

Failure shouldn't be fatal
There are a lot of popular articles out there that say students should be failing regularly in school and activities (just Google "failure good for kids" or something similar), that point to various studies into the benefits of failure. My conservative crotchety old windbag friends love these articles. The driving idea is that children benefit from plenty of experiences with frustration, failure and defeat.
Without a doubt, this will motivate them to "pull themselves up by their bootstraps" and try even harder the next time. It will give them grit and prepare them for the "Real World". Clearly, today&…

Scaffolding Portal 2 for Game Design Thinking.

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As mentioned in earlier posts, I've been using Gamestar Mechanic to facilitate technology fluency and systems based thinking in my Computer Information Technology class. Gamestar Mechanic is an online tool from my heroes over at the Institute of Play, that gamifies the process of game design, which is essentially game based learning (for more on those terms click here). Game design is just as it sounds. It's is the process of planning the components, goals, mechanics, environment, and rules of a game, as well as considerations, in many cases, of storyline and characters. Its the consideration of user interaction with your design. It is the process of responding to user feedback and creating iterations on your design. [Video] Game design can also include coding, programming, and digital art, but in this case, I'm simply focusing on game mechanics and user experience.

At the 2012 Tech.it.u, Jeff Mummert introduced me to Teach with Portals, an initiative of Steam for Sc…

Gaming the System & The Epic Quest for Professional Development

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This month, I am re-reading What Video Games Have to Teach Us about Learning and Literacy, by James Paul Gee and Reality is Brokenby Jane McGonigal. As a result, I've been thinking a lot about the current state of affairs in my classroom and beyond. This post is a rambling mess of junk that's going through my mind. I'm wrestling with these ideas. I invite you to join me. I need feedback, comments, arguments, and ideas. Heck, I need help. I also think that we (the community of educators who see the value of real game based learning and gamification strategies in the classroom) need to band together and find a way to provide some hard core professional development for each other beyond the ubiquitous Minecraft & Warcraft articles we all trade on Twitter. 


Gee, McGonigal, and big ideas 
Seriously, If you haven't read What Video Games Have to Teach Us about Learning and Literacy, by James Paul Gee and Reality is Brokenby Jane McGonigal, you should. Both of these books ar…

New Project in Process: Coding & Programming

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I'm working on a two new posts dealing with my Game Design, Game Based Learning, & Gamification Adventures. They should be rolling out next week. Meanwhile, I've been thinking a lot about Coding & Programming thanks to this video:


As a result, I developed the project below for my classes. I could use ideas or feedback on:
Adding more Gamification elements.Scope and Sequence issues.Providing better resources. Also, I would like to offer it up to any other CIT teachers out there who are interested. Come along for the ride. We can try this together.
Project Wiki (feel free to contact me about joining).Edmodo Group for this project (Send me a message if you send a join request)My Class Website (if you're interested in stealing ideas from my other projects) Hope to hear from you soon.

Game Based Learning, Gamification, & Game Design: A n00bs guide.

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Lately, I've been doing a lot with games in my classroom. I've also been teaching other educators about ways they can use games and game design in their classroom. One thing that often frustrates and confuses newcomers to this discussion is the differences between Game Based Learning (#GBL), Gamification (#Gamification), and Game Design. Often the lines between these three distinct fields are blurred in conversation as well as practice. This isn't a good or bad thing; it just is. Sometimes though, it is helpful to make a distinction. For example, If I'm telling someone how successful Game Based Learning or Game design has been in my classroom only to have them ask questions about Gamification, the whole conversation can get confusing. Don't get me wrong, Gamification is awesome, and I use it to an extent, but it is not Game Based Learning or Game design. As a n00b* myself, I'm creating this n00b's guide to help clear up these topics and how they apply to ou…

Grades: Gamification, ABI, & PBL

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Thoughts on learning, grading, gamification, and motivation from a n00b. I'm just wrestling with these ideas. Conversation is more than welcome.

Games & Gamification: Addictive vs. Additive  When the concept of Gamification is mentioned to most teachers, the reaction is neutral at best. I'm sure many people are visualizing trying to turn their subject matter, which they take very seriously, into something resembling Dungeons & Dragons meets Angry Birds. I'm not saying that's good bad or indifferent (See my earlier posts on games). There are others who would (legitimately so) argue that great games function a lot like great teaching. Therefore, Gamification is just a gimmick and really just good teaching. For an example, see the below graphs on "Flow" (a key concept in game design) and Vygotsky's Zone of Proximal Development (educational psychology).

Flow: A key Concept in Game DesignZone of Proximal Development: A key concept in scope & Sequen…

Epic Tale or Epic Fail: Designing User-centric narrative experiences in Gamestar Mechanic

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As mentioned in earlier posts, I've been using Gamestar Mechanic to facilitate technology fluency and systems based thinking in my Computer Information Technology class.
Game Design, GBL, & Teaching with PortalsProjects, Paradigms, Preconceptions & Survival?? The following activity, developed with the help of several of my students, is appropriate for lessons
in game design, plot development, user-centric design, and creative writing, among other things.

As mentioned in earlier posts, designing a balanced game, one with flow, involves system-based thinking, problem solving, collaboration, art, storytelling, and digital media literacy. It involves "Systems-Thinking" and "User-Centered Design". To develop even a simple game, a student must act as sociotechnical engineer, thinking about how people will interact with a system and how said systems shape both competitive and collaborative social interaction. This is the 21st Century Story Tellers Art. This is …

Game Design, Game Based Learning, & Teaching with Portals

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Getting there (a not-so-brief introduction) About two years ago now, I started down the path of actually taking games and game design seriously in my classroom. This is a topic, I've been thinking about since 2008, when I read Dennis Southwood’s article, “It's Not Just a Game—It's Skills for Life” from Educators' eZine. From 2008 to to 2011 I built a CIT class around the idea of Applying computer skills in Project Based Learning. It was marginally successful, but I still wasn't getting the results I wanted with at least half of my students, in terms of
engagement,deep thinking,& over technology fluency. In 2011, I attended the first Tech.it.u, spending a lot of time in break out sessions with Game Based Learning & Gamification expert, Jeff Mummert. I also took a course from PLS called, "Simulations and Gaming Technologies for the Classroom™ Online". During this time I read What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Learning and Literacy, by James P…