Teachers Teaching Teachers: Game On

This is a video I never got around to sharing, but I had joined Paul Allison, Chris Sloan and others at Teachers Teaching Teachers webcast a few months ago (!) to talk about gaming, game design and learning a few weeks ago. Here is the video of that discussion:

Peace (in the teach),
Kevin

Argubot Academy: Using Games to Understand Argument

At the National Writing Project Annual Meeting in November (this post has been in my draft box for a bit of time), I attended a session by a representative of GlassLab Games, which has been working in a partnership with NWP folks to develop a video game app designed to teach elements of argument to middle school students.

The game is called Mars Gen One: Argubot Academy, and it is a free app from the Apple Store. Mat Frenz, of GlassLabs, was very knowledgeabout about game mechanics, and of why games are a natural way to pique the curiosity of students. He notes that good games can be an “engagement bridge” for students to learn difficult material, and the hope for Argubot Academy is that players “will master the mechanics of argument with the same passion as mastering the mechanics of Pokemon.” The game developers build some of the mechanics and look/feel/design of the game with echoes from the Pokemon universe.

Mars Gen One: Argubot Academy has a narrative of science, as the player is on a discovery mission and is forced to create “argubots” that are powered by the strands of strong argument claims and evidence. The player asks questions, explores the spaceship and then goes into “battle” against others with their argubots, seeing if their claims and evidence is strong enough to hold up to scrutiny. A teacher account allows you to track progress of students, and it charts out where strengths and weaknesses of the individual player/students are. That is all handy information.

I played the game a bit over the summer, when it was first released and promoted via NWP and Educator Innovator, and then again during the session, as Mat gave us an overview and tour of the game itself. I know a lot of teachers in the room were excited about. I have my slight reservations. First of all, my classroom does not have iPads, so for all practical purposes, the game is not in our future. I also found the game a bit too wordy, knowing my students as I do, although when I mentioned this is conversation with other teachers in the session, they disagreed with me. So, maybe it is my own perception. I am also not sure it would engage my students over multiple sessions, although Mat shared testimonials from teachers using the app, praising it as tool for engagement.

But, don’t listen to me. Give the app a try. It’s free, and a lot of thought has gone into the development. It might just work for you, particularly as we shift into higher gear away from persuasion and deep into argument. The game might be just the hook for your students.

Argubot Academy Overview from GlassLab on Vimeo.

Peace (in the app),
Kevin

 

 

A Look Inside Student Science-based Video Games

Here is a screenshot/video capture look at some of the science-based video games my students are creating, along the science-based theme of cells. You can see a bit about how they are using text and story to frame their game within a science and narrative context. The project weaves game design, science and narrative story together, and many students are now either done or finishing up.

Peace (in the cell),
Kevin

The Video Games They Play

As I was reading and assessing video game reviews by my students, I created a list of the games they chose to write about. Here is a Word Cloud of the most popular of the video games in the mix for my young writers:

Game review 2014

You’ll see that Minecraft is there, front and center. No surprise. But Trivia Crack? Lots of girls are playing the app, apparently, and if the reviews are right, it is a social game of sorts with trivia. Never heard of it. There are some games that make this list year after year, and others that come out of nowhere, depending on culture and games introducing during the year. Crossy Road … another one I had not heard of, but apparently it is a variation on Frogger.

While the game review does not have to be a video game, only one of my students chose a board game this year. All others were video games on assorted platforms.

Here is a review podcast of a student reviewing Metroid Blast:

Peace (in the game),
Kevin

 

Student Game Review: The Legend of Zelda Twilight Princess

As a companion to our game design unit, my students also write (and many podcast out) persuasive game reviews. The lesson is to integrate writing into our understanding of game design and writing with authority on a topic. Plus, I get a better sense of what games my students are playing year to year (It’s not easy to keep up).

Here is a review of The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess

Peace (in the voice),
Kevin

Video Game Design: Sara’s Into an Animal Cell Game

One of my students has published her video game that we have been working on as a collaboration between my ELA classroom and the science classroom. The topic of the game is cells, and you can tell that the mentor texts we used (Magic School Bus) had a big influence on Sara, who has emerged as one of the top video game designers in the sixth grade.

Give Inside an Animal Cell a try and see what you think.

sara Into an Animal Cell game

Peace (in the cell),
Kevin

Video Game Design: Playtesting and Feedback

Playtesting Peer Review 2014
In designing games, as in writing, a valuable step to the process is to gather feedback from someone outside of your own head. During our science-based video game design unit, we play-test each other’s games, and work on giving feedback to what is noticed. While this happens quite a bit informally (“Hey, anyone want to try my game?” – a pretty common refrain in my classroom these days), I do try to formalize it a bit. The form we use comes from a new book on systems thinking, but I also had a similar form that I had made on my own.

I like how this new form incorporates the warm/cool feedback concept, and allows for reaction notes from the game designer. Obviously, this activity began with a mini-lesson on giving constructive feedback to other game designers, and how to use warm/cool feedback on someone else’s work.

It’s still interesting how some students read and accept the feedback, and ask for clarification from the play-testers, making adjustments to their projects, while others just shrug and go on as if the process never happened. They can’t get out of their own heads, and see the game objectively (“Well, I BEAT that level. You should, too. It’s easy.” — a student said this to me the other day. Me: “Well, you BUILT that level, so you know it inside and out. It’s not easy at all if you don’t know it.”). This is part of the learning process.

Peace (in the game),
Kevin