Last week many classrooms are participating in the hour of code. Even Kindergarten teachers are doing the hour of code! Exposing students to programming provides them not only with a valuable skill but enhances their critical thinking skills. There are many ways you can get your students started with programming. For younger students check out the hopscotch app for iOS. Scratch provides a drag and drop interface that allows students to develop quickly. Pencilcode.net is another drag and drop interface that is great for kids. For making Android apps with a drag and drop interface check out MIT App Inventor. Code.org gets older students into learning programming languages.
I am taking a class this semester on mobile game design for education. At the beginning of the semester we had to describe the game we were going to make for our final project. I thought it would be nice to create something that went along with my dissertation topic. I am going to study the effect to student motivation when you add a progress bar and gamified levels to the progress report. So for my game I thought I would create a situation where students get homework, do the homework and level up in the class. The goal to be a certain level before the end of the semester. After describing what I was going to do I thought I had no capability of doing something that advanced. I was thrilled to not only be able to make the game in a short period of time but to find that it was fairly easy!
The platform for game design that my class used was GameSalad (http://gamesalad.com/). This platform does not require knowing code but rather works on a drag and drop interface. I was surprised how easy it was to create a game using this interface.
One of the first practice games I made was a simple platformer game. Think Super Mario. Click Here for a tutorial by Jaime Cross on creating a platform game.
Creating a game is one way that students can demonstrate their learning. The added bonus of students using games as their platform for demonstrating their understanding is that other students in the class will likely enjoy playing the games their classmates make. This gives additional practice and exposure to the content to the players.
Building games requires critical thinking skills. Having students use GameSalad is a great way to get them into the Common Core. Students need to devise a game that achieves the learning objective and they have to figure out how to make the game work.
While you may provide your students with an explicit step by step activity to get started in GameSalad, once students start making their own GameSalad games you are going to be surprised how creative they will be. Give students the learning objective and let them figure out what the game should look like. Chances are no two students games will be the same.
Very likely students will need to work together to make their games work. “Can you test out my game?” Other students in the class can act as beta testers to provide meaningful feedback for what improvements the game needs. A student will possibly get stuck on making something work that they are trying to do, encourage the students to share their challenges and have classmates suggest solutions.
Game designers do not make games for themselves, they make them for someone else to play. Tell your students that their classmates are their customer and they will need to make sure that the game appeals to those who are going to play the game. In order for an educational game to be successful it must clearly communicate the learning objective. When you have students play the games their classmates created, ask if they can identify the learning objective, if not, then it was not communicated clearly. Throughout the design process students should be communicating their ideas to classmates to ensure that the game addresses the learning objective and that it makes sense to who will ultimately be the end user.