Archive for the ‘computer science education’ Category

Well, we’re into day 4 of our 3rd week here at TGI.  This week 30 or so 9-10 grade girls arrived for Game Camp.  They will be here through the end of next week, just like we are.

Teachers this week and next are working on a couple of things, 1 – we’ve been challenged to make a game about the upcoming presidential election and 2 – develop curriculum.  The teachers have broken into groups, during the first two weeks we were pushed to do all phases of the game development on our own, because they wanted us to exerience what our students would experience, this week we decided to cooperate and divide into groups that used all of our best skills.

My group is making a game about the 270 electoral votes needed to win the election.  There are three of us working on this game, two computer science teachers, and an art teacher.

I’ve also spent a fair amount of my time this week developing curriculum for a semester course in game developmentLiz B. Davis saw this the other day and plurked that she was so inspired by my blog on TGI, that she wanted to do this.  I’m honored that what I wrote inspired Liz!  It was interesting to watch the conversation that followed on plurk.  Many people missed the point of why this program at DU is so great!  It is not the technology that drives this program, the technology is only a tool!  This program also takes a holistic approach to game development, most that I’ve seen before concentrate on programming – the technology.

I will continue to work on this semester plan, my hope is that it will be written, and enough resources provided that someone who was not at TGI would still be able to use this curriculum.  And if I’ve set this document up correctly in Google Docs, it will re-publish as I update the file.


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This week, we’ve moved into more of a workshop mode. We had most of each day to work on producing our game. I have to say this has made me realize what a lousy programmer I am! I honestly don’t process information the way I need to, in order to be a good programmer. I know this is odd, since I’ve taught Computer Science for several years. Being able to acknowledge this I think takes me out of the competitive zone, programming teachers can get into. I’m admitting from the start, I’m not on their level, so I don’t have to prove myself with the code I write. Just going on here, probably more than needed because of some of the egos participating at TGI…..I’ll let it go now.

I do appreciate the holistic approach that DU has given us for game development. That piece is really what I’ve been looking for. This process incorporates math, writing, reading, art and programming, as well as some basic computer skills.

Over the next two weeks, while the 9th and 10th grade girls are here for Game Camp, we are to develop some curriculum for our classes, using what we’ve learned here.  For me chances are good I will not be returning to the classroom in August, and that I will be joining the Department of Online Education. I hope to translate what I’ve learned here into an online course for teachers on teaching game development, and using a more holistic approach.  To me this seems a better use of my time and approach.  However, I would admit I’m torn.

Today we also had to complete an evaluation of the Assessment Rubric, they’ve created here at DU for game development.  Here’s a link (hope it works) to the  TGI  Assessment  Rubric.  This rubric is very comprehensive, and sets out just what you could do with game development in your classroom.

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Yes, it is Saturday, and we were all here at 8:30 am. We are attending today, because this is a 10 day program, and July 4, would be our last day. This way, we will finish on July 3.


We started the morning by using forLoops to write a word on the Greenfoot world, with a small image. I was able to write the word THE using 9 for Loops. I would like to go on and add the word END below it. This will require learning how to do a diagonal line, as well, as dealing with the D somehow.


We were back in the computer lab today using the Wacom tablets…..these have got to be the coolest things. We did the perspective drawings from yesterday, using Inkscape, and we also tried the Molly Bang type drawings using Inkscape. While I might still use Fireworks in the classroom, because that software is available, and it has more tools, Inkscape will be a good solution for students who want to work at home, or have been absent, I will need to do a little experimenting to see if an exported .png file from Inkscape can be edited in Fireworks.


We started the afternoon session with a brief discussion on the final chapter in the book. Then we watched a video of Dan Pink. I’d not seen this video before and found it very interesting. I particularly enjoyed is analogy that the MFA (Master of Fine Arts degree) is the new MBA (Master of Business Administration). I picked up from the video (as I’ve not read his book, that his competencies are what he sees as important for jobs that can’t be outsourced or automated. Then we blogged some discussion questions.


We had 1/2 hour to develop our game about sad. I really struggled with this. Rafael knew I was struggling and gave me a deck of cards called “Grow a Game“. These were a big help although I still struggled. When it came time to present, I didn’t have anything I was willing to share. I listened to some of the others ideas (not everyone shared this round), and I think the issue was I felt my ideas were not formed well enough to share. In retrospect they probably were.

My idea for a game about sad, was an educational game about life at Port Arthur, Tasmania. At Port Arthur there was an island where they imprisoned young boys (you could be transported at age 8). I think this would be a board game, and the goal of the game would be to learn a skill (example: Stone Masonry) and earn your release from Port Arthur. However, bad things happened there, and you may not make it.

When you visit Port Arthur, you can get a card, with a name of a real convict on it, at the end you can find out what happened to that convict. My idea sort of grew out of this activity, it could tell the story of what happened in between.

Thoughts on the Week

When I got home tonight was very tired after 6 days at TGI. We started late (too a teacher!) but we finished late too. In some ways I felt I had no time to process what I was learning as the week progressed. However, given all that I’d still have to say this was one of the best weeks I’ve ever spent in professional development. The team at DU has kept the number of participants down, so we are a small group, and I think everyone feels safe sharing in the group. The program has gotten all of us out of our comfort zones on some level, and thinking what a great way this will be to teach students. In some ways I’m very disappointed I probably will not be returning to the classroom.

I believe that over the next four days we will be moving to more of a workshop type environment (not 4 sessions/classes per day). During this time we will need to develop a game by Thursday. I think I may go back to my Chocolate-Switzerland game for this…..although I’ve got until tomorrow morning to change my mind!

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We started the day by taking a look at collision detections in Greenfoot. I have now got my flower to moving using the arrow keys, and my bee still moves about randomly. When they intersect, the bee disappears, as the flower is now a poisonous flower.

We finished the morning session by working with a timer. I’ve got the code in, but I’m still working on some errors. Hopefully it will easy to get it going tomorrow.


We started with an introduction/review of Color Theory. While I’m familiar with some, I’m not as versed as the art teachers, and some of the programmers were less experienced than myself. Susan, talked about a book “Picture This: How Pictures Work” by Molly Bang. She really recommended this book as a good book to use to discuss shapes and colors for animations and web pages. The book discusses how to use minimal color and shapes for maximum effect.  We did one of the exercises out of this book. We were to work independently within a group to make an image, by cutting out shapes only. The theme was – A bird or birds attacking a victim– we could only use 3 colors + white, and we had to agree on these colors in our group.

During the assignment we were to discuss certain questions about what we were trying to convey within our group. We were also to go through several iterations of what this image would be prior to actually gluing. I found this difficult. Once I had placed my pieces I was unwilling to make changes….however, in the end I did, and I did like the results.


We began with some research details on female-male brain developments. Debra also discussed chapter 4 of our text. Then as an intro into Humane Game Prompts we watched a Nickelback video. The idea would be show this clip to your students to get them thinking about more humane game scenarios.  Then we were given a list of prompts for humane games (so we can get our students away from wanting to blow everything up!). And we were asked to write a few more on our blog. These will be posted on our individual blogs on the P4 server.


We spent the first part of our play time finishing our design from yesterday.  I had to make some modifications to my instructions.  I had to have someone playing the role of the algorithms that would be written for a computer game.  And I need to work with the props I had.  So my goat became a Nun that could take away your chocolate.  The Nun could move in any direction, the player could only move horizontally or vertically. 

The blue flattened marbles represent chocolate, and are positioned in various cities/towns around Switzerland. During the Play Testing, I learned a couple of things: 

  • I can allow the Nun to move in any direction, but really she should only move once for every two moves of the player. 
  • It would also be good to have the Nun speed up or slow down in some areas. 
  • Maybe have a zone around that player that might make the Nun key in on the player, and have something that might slow her down as well. 

Another great day of Game Development.  Looking forward to tomorrow.

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Morning Sessions – Programming and Pixels

Started out the morning in Programming. Today, I made my ladybug, move around the world, getting the height and width of the world as the boundaries. There wasn’t a lot more in this session today, we were waiting on other teachers to get the programming done.

Pixels – What a cool session this was today! Our human model was back. We all had huge Wacom tablets, and we had to draw our model, using the Wacom. We used Inkscape as the tool. I don’t think it would be possible to purchase the large tablets used here today, however the smaller tablets are affordable. KW the model held 4 positions for five minutes each. He was simulating a forward walk. Here’s a copy of my work, not too bad for a first attempt. Again, I think this is something I could do in my classroom, if I’m back at GM. Otherwise, I want to find a way to incorporate this into a possible online course for teachers in Jeffco. I had to be a little more coordinated to do this work today, as the computer faced away from the model.

Afternoon Sessions – Pedagogy & Play

In our Pedagogy sessions we’ve been discussing the book “How Computer Games Help Children Learn“, by David Williamson Shaffer. We’ve now discussed through chapter 3. It has been a fairly easy read, and I think a good read. Today in this session we were also asked to set up and post our first blog for the workshop. This was done by copying and pasting a long list of personal inventory items to our blog, and then answering them. We were given the option of making this blog post private, this means that only myself and the research team at DU will be able to read it.

In our Play session we “Play Tested” our games from the previous afternoon. My game “Ninja Barnyard” had a few adjustments to the rules. Seems I needed to be clear, on what skip turn meant – was it this turn or the next turn. The game could also have been better if I had taken the time to put some hazards on the spaces on the board. I had thought about this, but ran out of time, and didn’t do it as homework! At the end of the day we were given the next task/game development round. We were given the choice of a 1″ sq grid or a 1/2″ sq grid. We were given a die, and some glass and plastic tokens. We were told we didn’t have to use the tokens or we could use others. The constraint was this had to be a single-player game.

I first thought I would use the larger grid, as I would have few squares to deal with. I also struggled during this time, I didn’t pick up on the point that this game might be written/designed as a board game but would probably be taken to the computer. I thought about this as homework. I’ve got an idea in the works….having just returned from Switzerland, I think mine will be a Chocolate-Cheese game. I’ll have a map of Switzerland as the game board. Cows will appear at random cities, and remain there for a period of time, the player (I have not determined the sprite for the player) will need to make it to the cow before it disappears. The cow will randomly give the player a Chocolate or a Cheese….the goal will be to collect a certain number of chocolates in period of time. I think I could also put in a hazard…occasionally the cow could take away a chocolate.

To be continued after Day 4.

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I’ve now completed two days of the DU – Teacher Game Institute (TGI). This has already been a great experience, and I’ve got another 1.5 weeks to go! This program is giving me exactly what I’ve been looking for in my quest to teach game development at the high school level. There will also be two weeks after that spent at the camp DU hosts for 9th & 10th grade girls.

Each day is divided into 4Ps – Programming, Pixels, Pedagogy, Play. I’ve already learned in the Pixel (art) part of my day, that I actually can draw! Yesterday we did some charcoal gesture and line drawings with a model. I left my drawings on the table, and came back after lunch, and thought they were someone else’s…..I couldn’t possibly have drawn that! I was so amazed. It wasn’t incredibly hard, and I think I could teach this small bit of art involved in game development to my students.  On day one in our Pixel session, we were given about 15-20 feet of wire, various pliers were made available, and we had to create a model of something from the wire.  The rule was it couldn’t be 2D, or something that could be hung on a wall like a cookie cutter.  We had to create a 3D object…..I was almost stumped from the word go, “What do I create?” “What if it doesn’t look right?“What if I do it wrong?” I did get over these feelings, and just started creating.  I started with what I called a leg, soon that leg became 4 legs, then I was able to add a head.  At this point, I decided it was a turtle.  So I added an appropriate body.

The play portion of our day is also great fun. On the first day we played a card game, Fluxx. This was a difficult game for a lot of the AR type Computer Science teachers to play. The rules were constantly changing, as well as the goal. Having a 6 year old nephew, for me it was like playing a game with him! On the second day during our play time we completed two tasks. First we were given a sheet of paper, and told the following:

  • You have 5 minutes to design this game
  • It is a two-player game
  • You must use a body part in the game
  • There is only one rule for your game
  • Give us one Goal (condition to win)

After our 5 minutes, we tested all the games designed. As you would guess some were better than others. I wish my nephew had been with me during this part of the day, he is always creating games….when did we lose that ability, I think all of the adults in the room were stumped at first, one participant didn’t even design anything (I think for fear of failure).

Our second task was the following:

  • Two pieces of paper (1- for a playing board, 2 – to write down your rules)
  • 1 dice
  • 2 plastic tokens (I got a Ninja and a Pig, the teacher next to me got a Nun and a Dead Chicken)
  • You have 20 minutes to design the following game
  • A two-player game
  • Play of the game must be able to be completed in 10 minutes.

Today we will test these games, I’ll scan in my gameboard, for my post tonight. In the programming portion of our first two days, we have been introduced to Greenfoot. This is a free IDE that uses Java. Our class is a mixed bag, some Computer Science teachers, but we’ve also got several Art teachers, and a Language Arts teacher. I haven’t actually programmed in so long, I would put myself in the group of non-programmers.

In the last two days we’ve also written some code that has a object in a world that moves left-right, and up-down. Scott (instructor) also taped a grid on the floor, and demonstrated how the java coordinates on a grid work. He had teachers in the class get up and stand in particular x-y coordinates. This worked well, and I think is a good thing to do with students. He also went over variables. He didn’t use the term “equals“, he used “gets“. So he labeled boxes, num1 num2 num3. Then he said num1 gets 7, and put a piece of paper with 7 written on it in the box.

Josh Fishburn – a graduate student working on the P4 Games project has a much better blog about the Play portion of our day.  He is able to sit back and observe, while I’m participating. 

More tonight on today’s program, and the pedagogy.

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I am very excited about using XNA to teach some programing and game development.  And if you read my previous post, you can see I’ve got one student working on this project. I think it is exciting, but I keep running into roadblocks. I believe at this point that most of the problems are coming from either limited student rights on the lab computers (this is controlled by the district) or by the use of Deep Freeze on the computers.

I’m not sure what direction to turn.  I think the use of XNA would be a huge enrollment draw to Computer Science.  Anyone out there using it in the classroom, with limitations from their district or site techs?  Anyone know how to get past these problems?

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