App Review: Sketch Nation Studio (for gaming)

I’ve been intrigued by Apps that provide the tools for the users to create their own video games. Sketch Nation Studio is a free app that does just that. The platform allows you to create and play original games, by using either artwork that you draw right in the app, or artwork that comes off your device, or art that you draw on paper and then take an image and import into the game.

There are several variations of platform-style games, and while the end result is not nearly as sophisticated as some of the apps you might buy for your device, it provides enough creative outlet to feel as if you have, indeed, created your own app game.  You can set the style of game, add energy boosts and enemies, adjust gravity, create backgrounds, and more.

And did I mention that the Sketch Nation Studio App is free? I don’t see any advertising on the app, in case you are wondering .


iPhone Screenshot 1
There are also options to publish the game onto the iTunes store (and the company promises to share in the profits from any sale of the game app, so I guess your game funnels through their publishing system). I’m not sure if that would actually work (yet I may give it a try just to see what happens), nor if the game app provides enough variation to actually create a game that would sell, but even sharing a game via iTunes is pretty interesting. And, therefore, I am intrigued by the potential of that opportunity for creating and publishing for my students. And I am now wondering if using this app on our school’s iPods wouldn’t be a neat end-of-year activity to tie into our earlier Game Design Unit.
Hmmm …
Peace (in the app),
PS — here is a video overview of the app

Progress Made by Young Writers, or Looking at Data

Since the start of the year, I have been tracking data regarding my students’ progress on open response questions. It’s a little convoluted because of our standards-based reporting, but there is a rubric that I developed and use all year, with a “grade” of M (meeting expectations), P (progressing towards expectations), B (beginning to show expectations), and N (not meeting expectations). I shared some mid-year data here before, and I guess I should state: the data here is only one tool that I use, and it does not address how I work individually with my students as writers, who do more than take open response assessments for me.

Anyway, here is what the data looked like in September, when very few were meeting the expectations of sixth grade. Most students, in fact, were in that progressing range, which is natural.
Literature Open Response Sept11

Here are the results of an open response from two weeks ago. Notice the large shift in categories. I also notice that I still have a chunk of kids in the lower categories, and not much time left.
Open Response may 2012

Peace (in the data),


A Nice Write-up of our Video Game Design Site

One of the curators at the National Writing Project’s Digital Is site did a “review” of our website that was a reflection for a science-based video game design project.

The scaffolded nature of the website reflects the attention that the teacher team paid to the structure of the project itself.  Students reflected about the principles of video game design (both good and bad), blogged about the big ideas from their science class that would become the content world of their game (layers of the earth, mountains, volcanoes), and focused on the writing process. The multi-modal design of the site – with student and teacher videos, text, and student work examples – also reflects the teachers’ commitment to the importance of teaching and learning with a range of tools. — Kate Leuschhke Blinn

You can access our Video Game Design site here.


Peace (in the sharing),


DVD Review: Rush – Beyond the Lighted Stage

“We were always overreaching.” — Geddy Lee

I can’t say that I grew up a huge Rush fan, but I had plenty of friends who were, and who would listen to 2112 religiously, and even had a bass playing friend who took on the task of learning as many Rush songs as possible. (It turned out … not too many … have you ever listened to Geddy Lee?) I am, however, a fan of rock and roll documentaries, so I took a chance on Beyond the Lighted Stage, which showcases the band through the years and how their individualism and musicianship stood them well in the face of a music industry that, as one band member say, “didn’t know what to do with us.”

There’s something to be said for bands that refuse to kowtow to a record label. I don’t know if there are enough of them anymore, although maybe the shakeup of the industry is finally leveling the field a bit. Maybe there are more bands that can tell a record company where to go when they say “we need a hit” and still survive by carving out an audience. I sure hope so.

After watching Beyond the Lighted Stage, you have come away with admiration for the three members of Rush (OK, so if you listen to them and think, that’s only three guys? That still remains an eye-opener for me. Or ear-opener.) Their musicianship remains impeccable, their ability to weave narrative and story into songs is a worthy goal (even if they do, in fact, overreach), and their friendship through the years is something that I find admirable. One storyline of drummer Neil Peart (who is sort of a god-like drummer to most of my drummer friends and also the main lyricist for the band) is particularly wrenching, as Peart loses his daughter and his wife within a short period of time, and in a bit of escapism from the world, hops on a motorcycle for a year of traveling and reflecting. The band came to a halt, as his bandmates worried about him. The movie shows Peart’s re-entry into the life, and into music, with the help of Rush.

Watching the documentary reminded me of a webcomic I created around a bass player in a band. The main character — Bassman — considers Geddy Lee to be a god, and starts a viral compaign to get Rush into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I think that Geddy Lee reference comes from memories of my friends, and the fanatical view of Lee as a bassman extraordinaire.


Peace (in the bass and beyond),


Choice Literacy Podcast 2: Teachers as Writers in the Digital Age

Choice literacy interview wordle

The second part of a podcast interview with Franki Sibberson for Choice Literacy is now online. In it, Franki and I chatted about the ways in which teachers can begin to make the shift into the world of digital writing …. themselves. The word cloud above captures the text of my responses, and I am happy that I talked about “think”ing and “writing” so much. I do believe that if our students and schools are going to make a solid shift into understanding technology as part of learning, then teachers need to be exploring and playing with it themselves, so that they can understand the possibilities.

Listen to the podcast with Franki at Choice Literacy: Teachers Writing in the Digital Age

And the first part of our interview was posted a few weeks ago, but it focused in on what writing in the classroom is looking like as we bring more technology into the mix, and recognize the authentic literacies of our students.

Listen to the podcast: Writing Workshop in the Digital Age

Peace (in the reflection),

PS — all Choice Literacy podcasts are also available at the iTunes store.