“walk throughs” are our reflections on video game design
This is an important time for creative teachers – we have maker classrooms, steam classrooms, and now, we have the multimedia classroom. We have the technology in our hands to employ media rich lessons in the classroom, and to allow students to gain experiences in creating these multimedia platforms as well. The latter is crucial: as media rich deployment tactics become more prevalent in the everyday workplace and in fields of innovation such as scientific research, technology, and education, students must be equipped with the knowledge to use these tools in effective, meaningful ways.
I recently posted a podcast reflection with students who had completed designing a video game using RPG Maker. Utilizing the podcast reflection vs. a written reflection for students, I facilitated a way for students to critically reflect on their work, while also providing them with a rich media experience in audio production and sharing with their listener community. Their reflections, shared here and on the sound sharing platform Soundcloud.com, no longer lay dormant on the teacher desk with red ink marking it, but are available and accessible to the world to inform and respond to, modeled after the modern platform of social and shareable information. Their experience in this medium will be invaluable, as they will now have the tools and the simple yet profound understanding that knowledge is social, and knowledge is also media rich.
To create podcasts for your classroom, here are some steps:
1. Script your questions and have your students write their responses down in a general outline (Yes! They still utilize their writing skills as well)
2. Utilize the voice recorder app on your phone, or the web-based speakpipe.com to record your conversation.
3. Upload your sounds to an account that you create on soundcloud.com
4. Share your sound on your class website, blog, or social media.
6.*If you really want to get fancy: Have them mix their podcast with intro music and fade out the sound at the end. You can use simple software like Garage Band on ios or soundation.com
“The Ryki Plague” and “The Quest” are captivating top-down RPGs (role playing game) that lead you on a journey through fantastical lands, in search of the key ingredients to cure the deadly ailment that has stricken the entire world. On your quest for the cure, you will encounter endless mazes, dangerous swamps, and greedy merchants. All in all, these games will challenge your wits and problem-solving skills to achieve the end goal: saving the world.
Oh, and also, they were designed by Phil and Abbie, who are both in 7th grade.
Students in my class (like Phil and Abbie) learned to create these fantasy-laden adventures by learning how to utilize the scripting, mapping, dialogue, and event creation tools on RPG Maker VX Ace. These games were laid out through planning sessions and tutorial sessions on how to design the events to shape each student’s storyline. My students, who are used to being on the “player side” of the game, all of a sudden were thrust into the designer’s seat, where they had to think of every possible contingency, choice, and chance event that the player could encounter.
Reflecting on her experience as the designer, Abbie notes that the most challenging thing was “…programming all of the events.” But Abbie also notes that this experience in programming is what will help her in her future, as she plans on learning to code and becoming a computer engineer in the future. No easy feat, as that many times leads to having to comb over thousands of lines of code to find one single error. Like Abbie, Phil says that as the designer “You gotta take a lot more things into consideration… you have to actually think about balancing. (If you’re a designer), you actually have to make sure that it is fair and you have to work through all that stuff instead of complaining.”
If you want to create video games with your class, and want to know how to start, you can check out my video game resource to begin. RPG Maker can be found here .
Check out Phil’s RPG Maker reflection:
Check out Abbie’s RPG Maker reflection:
Kid coding is a real thing. And with tools like MIT’s brilliant web-based software, Scratch, it’s more accessible and easy to understand than ever. Scratch is a programming tool where kids can learn to program animated stories, video games, and interactive art projects that use “code blocks” to provide commands and sequences to animated sprites. On top of that, by using Scratch, kids (and anyone really) also learn systematic reasoning and sequencing to creatively build and design their animations.
My 6th graders customized their Scratch animations by creating their own sprites and costumes with photography, a little Photoshop work, and the costume ungroup tool. The process looked like this:
1. Take photos in front of a green screen in three different poses.
2. Import the photos into Photoshop. Erase the background. (Yay eraser tool!)
3. Import the new, background-less photos into Scratch.
4. Animate yourself and your friends.
Most of the animations consisted of crazy dance parties, and sometimes, a date with Ariana Grande (trust me, they got very creative with the costume and custom sprite tools). Their coding became more and more involved as they wanted to add more sprites into their stories, which resulted in them writing lines of code that revealed a budding understanding of logic and sequencing.
Learning to code right now should be just as ubiquitous in the classroom as learning fractions or prepositions. Thankfully, with Scratch, it can be.
Check out more at: http://www.scratch.mit.edu
Recently I switched from mrevearittart.com over to beholdcreators.wordpress.com. A number of factors led to this decision, and having a landing page for my expansion from art education to educational technology was just the beginning of it (another post altogether). But the primary decision for my move was based on the premise that students and teachers need clean, modern, navigable web designs.
I thought about my webpage like it was my classroom: the physical space for my students has to be designed in such a way that cleanly and clearly facilitates and maximizes interaction between my students, myself, the lessons, and the content. That can’t happen in a poorly designed classroom, and it can’t happen on a poorly designed teacher website either. I had to ask myself, is the content on my page responsive? Does the sidebar really need to be there? My web space had to be like my physical space: It has to be welcoming. It has to be modern. It has to be designed with the user in mind. It has to inspire.
Old vs. New
I looked at my old design, where the font was Times New Roman, the sidebar had a sea of links, an ongoing and unsightly ‘Google doc’ for my updates, and the header and general content looked like a webpage from 1998. I had a calendar embedded somewhere in there that served no purpose at all. Looking at creating a new design, I explored WordPress.com’s themes as templates, and decided on a minimalist design, with a clean, modern look and a simple navigation menu in lieu of the sidebar and multi-tabbed menu. The sleek look and the minimalist features of this site accomplish vastly more good than my old website. By creating posts that can be categorized in the menu bar, I have a landing page where all my content goes to live, and my students can respond and utilize the content they need and find it simply by looking at their destination on the menu bar. Goodbye sidebar, calendar, and Google doc “updater”.
You may be hesitant to get rid of some of the “content” on your old page, but slimming down the design and giving it a minimalist, modern overhaul will greatly increase the usability and investment from your students. Is your workspace clean? Does it interface well with your kids? Is it navigable, or will they get lost in a sea of links and words? These are the deciding factors into whether in your web space is successful or not with your students.