Yes, Fornite in the Classroom
Guest blog post by Steve Isaacs
There’s no doubt that Fortnite is relevant to our students. It’s received plenty of press, both good and bad. At the core, Fortnite is a first person shooter that falls into the Battle Royale genre of games. Players are dropped into a world with 99 other players with the goal of being the last player standing. Strategy involves a mix of shooting your opponents, building with resources to create barricades and structures that help you to take out your adversaries and of course, like me, hiding and hoping to last as long as you can without being killed. The battle royale game at it’s core is incredibly popular, but we may be hard pressed to see the value of the game in education. With competitive gaming on the rise, there’s certainly a place for Fortnite Battle Royale as an esport, especially when we consider the team based modes of duos (two player teams) and squads (4 player teams).
So, where might Fortnite find it’s home in education?
Recently, Epic Games came out with a mode for Fortnite called Creative Mode where players can build their own worlds in the Fortnite universe.
This provides a sandbox mode with a huge variety of resources for players to place in their world. I teach game design and development, so I was instantly intrigued by the possibilities. For the final project in my class, students develop a complete game using a tool of their choice. They start by writing a design document including the storyline, character descriptions, detailed level descriptions, objects, perceived challenges, plan for automation, etc. After the design document students begin to develop their game and go through several phases of design (alpha, beta, playable prototype). At each of these checkpoints they have their peers play and evaluate their games to provide feedback to help make their game better. The entire project follows the iterative design framework regardless of the tool the students choose to use.
This semester, I had a number of students ask if they could use Fortnite Creative to create their game. I loved the idea but was unsure if it would be ok due to the stigma around games that are primarily thought of as first person shooters. I suggested that my students write a letter to our principal to receive approval and offer to create a permission slip so that students using Fortnite had parent permission. They received approval based on their commitment to create games that were appropriate for school. Once approved they began to work incredibly hard to create great games. One of the nice things about Fortnite is that it is available on many platforms (PC, Xbox, Switch, PS4, and even the phone) allowing students to work in and outside of class easily and the level of collaboration was wonderful to see. They are putting finishing touches on their games now and they did a phenomenal job.
In Fortnite Creative, students can bring in a variety of ‘prefab’ sets of resources to use in their game. This view shows some of these items. Now, players will use them as part of their game and generally delete them from the world after they have used them.
Students can select from a large variety of prefab buildings and other resources to use as assets in their game.
Sample game level from student game. The player has to navigate the ice and avoid the obstacles. No need for gratuitous violence here!
While I teach game design, I have been in touch with educators from other content areas who have also used Fortnite Creative for students to build digital worlds to demonstrate their knowledge in a variety of areas.
About Steve Isaacs
Steve Isaacs is an educator with over 25 years of experience. He began his career teaching students with developmental disabilities in Montclair, NJ. After six years in Montclair, Steve moved to Bernards Township Public Schools to teach technology courses. He is an EdTech influencer, community builder, and leader in the areas of game-based learning, esports in education, and teaching Game Design and Development. Steve is committed to creating opportunities for all students through his personalized choice / quest based learning environment. Steve has been part of a wide scale research study on VR in the classroom with foundry10, a research organization in Seattle. He has also been actively involved with the XR4Change community as an XR4C ambassador. Steve was honored as the ISTE Outstanding Educator in 2016. In addition to teaching, Steve is the lead content producer for Minefaire, a massive Minecraft fan experience.
Twitter: https://twitter.com/mr_isaacs \
Website / blog: http://gamesandlearning1.blogspot.com