Let Them Loose

Gaming in education has long been a passion of mine. I presented this at the EdTechSA conference in July 2013, and since then have thoroughly enjoyed teaching the fundamentals of this to my year 6/7 students. There have been many occasions where I thought to myself why don’t I just let them play the games? I knew there would be light at the end of this tunnel. We have spent the last 10 weeks looking at the elements of a game, analyzing games for educational value and the tools available to make games.

I linked the elements of a game to a narrative story using “Wreck It Ralph” the movie to tell a story within a game. I asked students to plan their ideal game. To think about their favourite games and pick out the best bits and remix them together to create their game story.

Here are some outlines of just a few of the games. You will agree the ideas are fantastic and as we continue the development I will share the final products.

Idea 1 by Mitchell:

Speedy joe is trying to reach the generator that frees only the town from pixelation. The disaster of the game is that if you lose the game major mayhem takes over the world. The only resolution to the game is if speedy joe reaches the generator and saves everyone in the town. Sworn enemies major mayhem and sneaky steve form a relationship and become ultimate allies of evil. The final twist is when you complete the game speedy joe meets a guardian that grants him ever lasting power.

Idea 2 by Madison:

This game is about a hero who gets cursed by an evil wizard.You must go through all the levels and collect the golden Crystal at the end of each level. There is 5 level with 4 chapters, once you have completed the levels and obtained all the crystals you power-

Screen Capture of Sploder game Maker platforms

Screen Capture of Sploder game Maker platforms

up and the curse will be dropped.However at the last level you must defeat the wizard,there will also be different bad guys to fight on the way.

Idea 3 by Josh and Maureen

It is just a normal day and the henchmen come and randomly start attacking the kingdom and people in the village. Tulio has to get out of the kingdom and  try to find the dragon who started all of this with his partner Kevin. On his journey he bumps into the king who pretends to be good but is an evil Cat King from Outer Space name Monty. Monty joins forces with Melvin who is the dragon and Tulio including Kevin must stop them before it’s too late. So the player will have to try to succeed levels to stop Melvin the dragon and Monty the evil cat king.

Idea 4 by Jessica:

What happens is that you have to build a massive hotel and celebrities come to live in your hotel but you have to answer the fact right for them to stay in your hotel.If you get the facts wrong you will get another change in 5 hours time. Once you finish a level you will get 2000 coins to build a new floor. The next level comes when all the celebrities are in your hotel also before you level up you must do a quiz on the celebs fact.When you level up you will move on to a different category like animals.

Idea 5 by Tegan and Kate:

A boy/girl is kidnapped and put onto a large ship. The boy/girl is then pushed rather roughly onto a beach. A guy/girl is stuck in on mystery island and is trying to find food to survive BUT she or he comes across angry monsters and robots. She or he needs to find their way back home before these angry villains steal her food. She/he will need to fight the angry villains to survive.

NB. I have requested permission to share these ideas from the students.

Another game from Sploder game maker

Another game from Sploder game maker

As you can see the ideas really did run wild when I set them loose to explore and imaging. Now to the development stage…I am not from any coding or computer science background so it was necessary for me to develop some skills on this. I spent some time playing in Scratch, which I found quite easy to control and thought the students would pick it up easily. When we had some practice using this tool, I was unfortunately mistaken and the students found it quite hard  to ‘program’. So I was challenged to find another tool that would give instant results with little programming.

I put the question out to my professional network an were supported with a number of links including ‘Gamestar Mechanic‘ and ‘Sploder‘. These both fulfilled the request. I had already had Minecraft installed on out computers as this is a huge draw-card for many of these students. Now is th time to see how their creativity and ingenuity can create these games.

Minecraft

Minecraft

I look forward to sharing these and more completed games.

Please support my students in their game making by writing comments of encouragement and feedback  that I can pass on to them.

Rachael

Lessons, Lessons, Lessons

Upon the resumption of the final school term I was asked by our Principal to read a very concerning email that had been sent into our school via our website. This was a notification to the school about some undesirable behaviour by students of our school on a page naming our school, on Facebook. The author of the letter also expressed her concern about this online behaviour as the company she works  for actively seeks information online about prospective employees and the behaviour of these students will reduce their chances of being employed by some companies.

Through further investigation we found that there were quite a few schools (approximately 30) across the state who had  similar pages. The major concern for us as educators is that of the future of our students. We recognize this digital association will remain attached to their names indefinitely.

The analogy was recently made that the decisions and posts we make online should have more consideration that the decisions of a tattoo. A tattoo will go to the grave with the individual but the posts online will remain in cyber-space forever.

The following is an Info-graphic about employers screening employee candidates, from How Recruiters Use Social Networks to Screen Candidates [INFOGRAPHIC], By 

How-Recruiters-Screen-Candiates-Using-Social-Media infograph

I would like to know how you teach socially appropriate behaviour for students’ future?  And what action your school takes with socially unacceptable behaviour online when it is posted out side of school hours?

Breaking the mold – Who’s teaching the Teachers?

It is often said that the new pre-service teachers are coming into the education system with the passion and desire to be fantastic innovative teachers, as we all were when we began our teaching careers. We were fresh, excited and keen to prove our worth. Many of us worked extremely long hours to provide the opportunities for the students that came naturally to the teachers with may more years experience.

When I started teaching back in 2007 I found myself doubting my ability to keep up the motivation to return every day. I soon became exhausted and contacting my university lecturers & colleagues for support. I was wondering how I could ever come into such an important role in society feeling so under prepared. I still reflect upon this when I am working with new teachers. I wonder if they also feel so under prepared.

I was having a conversation about this with a pre-service teacher recently who was on her final placement before graduating. We had worked together for several weeks and developed a great rapport. We were talking about the lecturers at her University and compared them to the Lecturers who were teaching when I went through Uni. Although we studied in different states and about 13 years after my graduation the feeling between us was the same.

“How can anyone know what we need to teach students for their future? Our world is changing too fast and we can only guess what the students’ will need to know and hope the skills of learning to learn are embedded along the way to ensure they can find the most accurate and appropriate information when they need it.” 

The lecturers of today must instill this in pre-service teachers. I have always had the belief that to teach someone you must have a sound grasp of the concept yourself first. Thus, with all due respect and admiration for our universities and the lecturers, I believe we must reinvigorate teaching and learning at the university level by developing more diverse and innovative delivery methods to encompass the modern learner and future students.

I believe that the vast majority of University lecturers for education have not taught at the primary or secondary level for quite some years and have, to some degree misunderstand how current students learn and interact, with each other, their learning, the environment, and their teachers. This is supported in Dan Haesler’s 2011 report quoting Steve Biddulph‘s remarks that

According to a federal government report in 2008, the average age of teachers in Australia is 43. A professor of teacher education at the University of Sydney, Robyn Ewing, believes this is a barrier to the effective use of technology in education.

 My concern is that if so many university lecturers are struggling to bring themselves into the modern day of technology, social networking and learning. How can our pre-service teachers present this and the teach students to learn through the progressive processes of technology, interactive, online networking, world wide collaboration, and filtering accurate information?

Until the change can be made completely and thoroughly at the higher education level, pre-service courses are rewritten to accommodate the new way of learning, and the recognition of need for new teaching methodologies eventuates, we will continue to provide a disservice to our students and young people. I am not saying at all that University lecturers are all behind the times and need to change, just that teaching today is different to teaching 10, 15, 20 years ago. We need to realise technology has a vital role to play in education, for both students and teachers. Innovative university lecturers like Alec Couros who encourage the use of new technologies and social media and networking, is only one such example of many. i’m sure who do integrate these technologies into their courses. The unfortunate fact is that these innovators are few and far between.

It is unfortunate that in our world of networks, connectivity and mobility that students in the primary and secondary environments are restricted to the theory of teaching from decades before.

  • How can we embrace the knowledge of our more senior University lecturers whilst developing innovative teachers and learning in our schools?