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Well today is the last day of 4 weeks at University of Denver.  It has been a great professional development experience, even though the last week has been tough (simply because it is the last week).

For the last two weeks we were challenged to create game about the political environment here in the US.  My group chose to make a game about the 270 Electoral Votes needed to win the election.  A couple of things to note about our game.  When you open it up and look at the map (game board) you’ll notice the states are not all sized to the same scale.  Our group made a design decision to scale up those states with more electoral votes, and downsize those with fewer electoral votes.  We also used the 270 to Win website for a lot of our research. From this site we gathered lots of information regarding past voting in each state for the last 10 presidential elections, as well as what the current leanings of the state are.

I’ve posted  a zipped version of our game here, http://www.p4games.org/node/699 .  You will need to have Greenfoot downloaded and installed on your computer to run the game.  Also on the DU-Blog post above I also tried an export to HTML from Greenfoot.  At this time I’m on a lab computer and can’t make changes, so I’m unable to troubleshoot why that export isn’t working.

I spent a fair amount of time the last two weeks working on curriculum for a semester class in game development.  I’m still not done with this project, but here is a link to what I’ve got so far.  At this point I’m to week 12 in an 18 week semester.  My thought was to plan 16 – 17 weeks.  This would leave room for adjustment during the semester, and allow for missed days such as Pep Assembly days, etc.  Also at this point (Week 12) my plan is to move into a major project, and have the students develop a Humane Game that will require research and most of their class time for the remainder of the semester.

If you’re interested in this program, please feel free to ask me questions, or check out the University of Denver, Teacher Game Institute web pages, off of this page you can link to examples used during the Teacher portion of the program, and if you follow the links to Game Camp, you’ll see all the great things they did with the 9th and 10th grade girls who participated.  If you have a chance to participate I encourage you to do so.  The team here at DU has been fantastic.  My niece, who was a Game Camp participant, has informed me it was great fun.

This morning, Collen McCreary from EA games, will be in to speak to the girls about all of the different careers available in the game industry.  I’m really looking forward to this talk too!  It should be a good close to this program.

I am now looking forward to about 2.5 weeks of holiday until I report back on August 6 or 7.  I’m still not certain I’ve got a new position, although I’ve been told to hang in there, they are still waiting on the paperwork from the US Department of Education….so I am trying to be patient, and wait!

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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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We began the morning with a programming session. Most of it was demonstration, we didn’t have a great deal of time to work on any code. The bulk of my day was spent working on graphics for the game we need to complete by Thursday.

I’m going with my Swiss Chocolate game, Rafael has told us there should be joy in game play. I think there is some joy in collecting chocolate! The player will be a tourist, and I drew my own today – I decided to go for comic, not good. I plan on working to animate is legs – so he will be animated, but it will hopefully be minimal programming. I also got my goat drawn, the goat will have patrolling characteristics, and then possibly will ‘heat seek’ when within a certain range of the tourist.

I haven’t decided exactly what will happen to the Chocolate or the Tourist, if the goat runs into them. I would like to have the tourist lose chocolate, instead of the game ending.

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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.

Programming

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.

Pixels

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.

Pedagogy

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.

Play

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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Programming

I was in early to work on some errors I had in my code from yesterday. Problem solved. Need a background image for my timer. Each time the timer puts up a new number it was writing it over the old number. With a background it throws that up first, then writes the new number. Spent our time this morning using a forloop to create more than one bee on the game. And I corrected many errors….with help. In some ways the programming I’ve been doing for years, is starting to make sense, with a little formal training(doh!)

Pixels

Today was perspective day. We learned how to draw boxes above and below our eye level. We started with some basics in 2D. Even drawing a room that looked as if there was door at the far end of the room, and a road that went off into the distance between a row of trees, I got fancy and put a hill in mine! Then we went to the drawing horses, and drew boxes that were stacked. Will try to get a photo of my work posted. The point is, that again this was basic stuff. Stuff that I can remember, and teach to my class. I can see the importance of pulling the kids off of the computer and doing this.

Pedagogy

We watched the abbreviated version of “The Last Lecture” by Randy Pausch. Then went through some expanded points from his book, by the same title. I met Randy last summer in July, before he gave this lecture. I was sitting in the Computer Science lab at Carnegie Mellon at the Alice Summer Workshop, listening to Randy talk about the development of Alice. I decided to take a look at his web page, as I’d done with all of the other people involved in the workshop. I discovered on his website, that Randy had pancreatic cancer, and had been fighting it. From that moment on, I’ve had a great respect for Randy, because he came in to talk to us about Alice, not about his cancer! When I saw “The Last Lecture” just a few weeks later, it was very difficult to watch, yet inspiring. I had some of the same emotions yesterday. But the abbreviated version, is not near as good or moving as the entire lecture (It is worth the watch). We discussed Chapter 5 in our text book, and then answered some journal questions. I am going to complete these later….I don’t think I did them justice in class…..I need to ponder for longer than 20 minutes, to answer these.

Play

Today in play we looked at some games that are probably quite controversial, and some were disturbing. I’ll try to get the links in here, but know ahead of time some of these deal with very controversial topics. Rafael was trying to get us set up for thinking about Humane Games.

We started out with a game titled September 12th, the author doesn’t refer to this as a game, but as a toy, because its not win able. I just don’t even know if I can begin to describe this game…Another game at the same location was titled, Madrid. This game is a little easier to describe.  The image was several people wearing t-shirts that said I Love _______ (here you could fill in the blank of any city where terrorist actions have happened).  Each person is holding a candle, the player must go around and click on the candles to keep the candles burning bright.  This game was very thought provoking, and we had some good discussion in class regarding all of the symbolism.

After that we took a look at the Free Rice game.  I had seen this game before, as my sister-in-law plays it.  The next game was Darfur is Dying, This was actually a fairly disturbing game.  You’re given a family unit (parent and six children) and your first task is to forage for water.  We tried choosing the father, but the game told us that adult males don’t forage for water, so we had to choose another family member.  We had the mother go and forage for water.  In the game she must run across the desert to get the water, and avoid the military patrols.  She was captured.  So when we were given our next task, we no longer had the mother as part of our family unit.

Our assignment was to think of a game that had to do with sad.  So I gave this some thought after class.  I have a couple of ideas, but I’m not sure how they will work.  Are they too controversial, or too close to home?  I’ve got some more time today to continue thinking about this.

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Programming

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.

Pixels

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.

Pedagogy

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.

Play

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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