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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.

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.

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.

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?

With every group of students it seems I reach a break even point. As a Computer Science teacher, I might have students in my classroom for four years. This really allows me to get to know the students, and tailor their Computer Science education to fit their needs.

So as I write this, I’ve reach the break even point with my second and third year students. This is the point where generally they become better programmers than I am. Usually, I still have a better handle on syntax and the rules of programming. I also have a good idea where they should be going. So I am still able to guide their learning.

chip.jpgThis year I’m trying something a little new with this group. They are all taking AP Computer Science next year. This means they will be programming in Java, and preparing for the exam. In my opinion this leaves little time for fun! So we’re having that fun now.

I’ve made a wiki for the class. Here each student, signed up for their topic of choice. The individual or groups then had to begin adding to the wiki. Later this week, they will all begin to set up their blogs.

I’m really interested to see how this project will run. This group of students borders on the stereotype geek. I’ve tried some Web 2.0 things with them, and most of the time, the ask me what the point is. They just don’t get social networking, and Web 2.0 at all. So here I’ve given them an authentic task, and I’m forcing them to use Web 2.0 tools to complete it.

That is the title of the conference I’ve just spent the last 4 days at.  Most attendees were college and university faculty, several industry representatives, and there were 4-6 high school teachers.  What an incredible experience this was!  

The conference was a four-day cruise out of Miami, with stops in two ports, Key West, and Cozumel.  This is was the 3rd Annual GDCSE conference.  The other two have also been cruises.  The planners, felt it was a good venue for a bunch of computer geeks.  Get them out on a boat, in the middle of the ocean, charge them $0.43/minute for wi-fi access, and even more for cell phone calls – and guess what?  You’ve got everyone’s attention for the 3-4 days.  The shore excursions provided time for making new relationships and connections with Computer Science instructors at higher ed institutions across the country, as well as industry reps from Microsoft and Entertainment Arts. 

Since completing a year as an exchange teacher in 2006, I have been working to incorporate more game development in my computer science classes.  The drop in enrollment numbers and the lack of women and other minorities that universities have seen is mirrored in high school enrollment too. 

Over the next few days I will spend some time to blog more on all of the great resources, and ideas that were presented over the last four days.  At the rate of $0.43/min (and you had to buy an $80 packages for that rate) I didn’t blog will onboard ship.  I did take copious notes, and will translate those into a blog or two….so stay tuned, more to come

Live Blogging

Yesterday, while teaching, I tried to follow Bud Hunt, as he live blogged from the Colorado Podcast Summit. This was a great experience for me. I was able to follow along, for most of the morning.

I learned about a new tool, Gcast, to take a look at. There were lots of examples of how teachers are currently using podcasting in their classroom. I need to take a look at these in the coming days. The question is how to use podcasting in my classroom.