Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Student Reimagined Fairy Tales - Game Design and Digital Storytelling

I am Isabella Masiero and I am interning for Mr.Isaacs in his game design and development class. This cycle I have been able to work with games that the students created on Minecraft. These games stood out to me more than others...

Click the game title link to download and try the game! These games were created using Minecraft: Education Edition. You will need M:EE to play them.

Hansel and Gretel  

     The first game that I chose was a game created by Alex. He created his own interpretation of the fairy tale Hansel and Gretel. You begin in Hansel's home where you discover that she has been taken by the evil witch. In the image above you can see where the adventures of the game begin and you enter the witches home. As you progress through the levels they increase in difficulty, and the addition of the story line aspect that gets revealed as you keep completing the levels keeps you on the edge of your seat and wanting more. After completing a number of levels you encounter "the witch" which is a wither that you must summon then defeat. The game ends when you encounter Hansel and free her from her prison.

The Three Llama

       The Three Llamas is a spin off of the three little pigs created by Sydney and Alyssa. Throughout the game you venture from home to home as you complete missions that are meant to keep the llamas safe from the storm that is soon to come. The different missions increase in difficulty as you progress from llama house to llama house which in a way could be considered the different levels in the game. Along with getting harder as you complete the missions more of the map is accessible to you and you are allowed to continue through the story line. The game includes many parkour courses and an intricate underground maze. Once you complete the game the llamas will be safe from the storm and live happily ever after.

       Ryan, Tommy, and Dylan created an adventure game that they names Sleeping Bu. This game consists of may levels that increase in difficulty as you progress through the game. There are levels that are parkour based such as the one seen above and others that are more geared towards memory, or the ability to make it though a complicated maze. The final goal of the game is to retrieve the princess that has been kidnapped and is stuck in a tower. There is a guide, Rylic, that help carry along the story line as you complete levels. The addition of this guide adds a very nice story aspect to the levels that are looped together by the task of retrieving the princess.

       Beauty and the Beast is one of my all time favorite fairy tales so I was very exited to play this game, created by Mimi and Natalie, once I saw the title, and my expectations were quite high. I am happy to report that this game did not disappoint in the slightest and lived up to my fairy tale dreams. Each level of the game connected to the story in a very clear and throughout out way such as Lumiere's Lava Parkour featured above. This game is centered around the story line that Belle and the Beast are trapped in the castle by the towns people and you need to help them escape by making it through mazes, parkour courses and guessing games. This game is not only well though out but also is very well built and visually appealing. 

       In Rapunzel's Rescue, created by Stella and Sidney, the player takes on the roll of Rapunzel. The mission you are given is to rescue your friends that your parents have deemed "bad influences" and have trapped in a tower. As you progress though the game there are different levels to test you princess ability's such as the horse back riding course, a maze with many doors, and a tower you need to climb. This game was very fun to play and challenging at points. After reaching the tower you can save your princess friends and return to live your normal life. This game is extremely well built and is really well thought out. 


Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Legends of Learning: An Ambitious Game Based Learning Platform for Science Education

Note: This is a sponsored blog post for Legends of Learning.

I've been following the work of Legends of Learning from the start. They have developed a very interesting ecosystem (no pun intended) for Games to teach Science concepts. Legends of Learning essentially opened up their platform for developers to create and publish science games to teach to specific science standards. Games can be reviewed and rated by both Students and Teachers. I love this idea as it provides an opportunity for good games to rise to the top while not so good games won't survive. I suppose we could teach Darwinism through this vetting process.

Anyone who knows me knows that I am a strong proponent of game based learning and a critic of game based learning done poorly. I tend to favor the use of commercial games in school but would definitely LOVE to see more commercial quality games that are intended for learning. Often, however, games for learning often fall victim to the over used "chocolate covered broccoli" fate and serve more as a digital worksheet than a game.

There are certainly games for learning that are quite promising in terms of maintaining the balance of commercial quality and impact for learning. One prime example is Eco, by StrangeLoop Games.

Eco was built from the ground up as a commercial (AAA) quality game intended for use in the classroom (and beyond). Eco is a multiplayer game that tasks you with maintaining a sustainable environment while achieving the goal of saving the world from being destroyed. This destruction would be the fault of the humans (the players of the game). Sounds like a worthwhile objective to me! The game is a Global Survival Game that involves the players in gathering resources, building, farming, hunting, etc. There is a political element as well where players can propose laws and the other players vote to pass or deny the laws, further impacting the game-play. 

Back to Legends of Learning. I love that the Legends team has recruited educators and students to help inform the process through the rating system and their ambassador program. There is a very active community of educators that participate in the forums and provide feedback to the team and directly to the developers. Most of the educators are Science Teachers. Some are game based learning enthusiasts while others are new to game based learning and being introduced to GBL through the Legends of Learning platform. This comes with it's pluses and minuses. On one hand, educators are bringing games into the classroom which is wonderful. On another hand, some may be happy bringing a 'game' that plays like a quiz with a mini game as a reward and assuming this is a good example of game based learning. This begs an important question. Is a quiz based game that teaches a concept followed by a mini game that allows the player to run and jump in a short mario type level better (or more engaging) than learning from a text book? Perhaps, but should we expect more? The argument most GBL purists would raise is that the learning should be embedded in the game play. Many games that are created for learning serve more like a digital worksheet and from a Game Based Learning standpoint there is a very significant difference. 

Legends of Learning is working hard to create a niche in terms of bite size games that teach isolated concepts based on Science standards.This is a noble effort and hopefully it will be successful over time. The clear benefit is that teachers can pick and choose activities that aim to address specific learning outcomes. Within the platform, teachers can see the ratings, game description, and the type of game (quiz, instructional game, simulation, etc.). Teachers can create playlists to provide a number of games for their students to play through. The system collects data based on student performance. All of these elements speak well to the educator trying to bring games into their classroom while feeling confident that the game is covering the intended learning outcome. 

I've played many of the games and some have merit as a game to teach the concept while others feel very much like a quiz followed by an unrelated minigame as a reward. My hope is that educators and students will continue to examine the games on the platform with a critical eye to ensure that truly meaningful games rise to the top. I will say that I've heard from many educators that they have enjoyed bringing the Legends of Learning games into their classroom. Likewise, the games have been met with a shared enthusiasm by the students. I would love to try some of the games that have been highly regarded. 

Earlier this year I began an effort focusing on the theme "What Kids Say About Games...And Can We Listen" based on the #SXSWEdu session I was presenting with Matthew Farber, Susanna Pollock, and Louise Dube. It has been a great project and I plan to continue having students exercise Student Voice through Game Reviews.  Who better to speak to the quality of these games than students, right? I teach game design and development so my students look at games through the lens of a beta tester / game developer. They have been taught to analyze games based on the merits of commercial games. As such, there can certainly be a bit of a bias as they are playing commercial games and comparing these games to those. While that may be a bias, I think it is valid that they should demand a level of quality from the games that are brought into their learning environment. 

On to some of the student Reviews. 

Rebecca, an 8th grader in my Game Design and Development course reviewed Angry Contraptions:
Today we played games from Legends of Learning and they were very educational. 
Storyline/Engaging:There wasn't really a storyline for the games. More of just a hit the target games but it was very addicting and I wanted to keep playing until I beat the level. I probably would not play it outside of school though. 
Learning:The goal of the game is to teach students about the laws of motion in a fun yet educational way. There are questions along the way to engage the mind and retain knowledge. 
Fun Factor:The game was lacking a bit of the fun meter. I felt like I was learning a lot more than most games and the game was also frustrating when the balls would stop moving just before the level would have been completed 
Overall:The game was a very simple and educational game and I think it would be useful for those who are just learning this topic
Seamus shared his thoughts on Tower Puzzle:

        In Legends of learning, the mini game I was playing was Tower Puzzle. It was my favorite out of all of the games, because I liked the feature of when the player completes the questions, and get to try to get the ball to reach the bottom. There is no story line for this game, the premise is just answer the questions to get coins, and get the ball to the bottom.         For the entertaining part, I would not play it outside of school, because my type of games do not fit into the category of education, and was not having fun while playing this game. It is a good learning game for kids though, and I support it. I also think that this mini game is about learning and not about coins, and by that I mean that there is some though provoking questions that influence the education part. 
Andrew had some interesting thoughts on playing through Selective Farming, a game that has elements of a money management game mixed with learning about genetics:

I found the game very fun, breeding animals to get better traits while also trying to earn a certain amount of money. The game would've been a lot better in my opinion if you could continue playing after you reach your goal. You start your farm with some cows and cauliflower, you can breed these to get better traits so they are worth more money to sell. You can also buy more things to breed so they can be sold to get out of debt.

The game teaches players about genetics and artificial selection through the tutorial. It then lets them experiment with this and do it themselves in a simulation to see the potential benefits and consequences.

Anthony also shares his thoughts on Selective Farming:

Legends of Learning Review

In the past I have always enjoyed learning from games rather then using a textbook. "Legends of Learning" gives children the opportunity to learn via computer games.
In the first game, I was tasked with creating a profitable farm in order to pay off my Grandfathers debt. Their were message boxes to explain cross-breeding which was the lesson. My farm started with 2 cows and a garden of cauliflower. I had to breed the cows in order to make a better one. Then I could sell one of the original cows. Repeating this process over time increased my profit and price per bucket of milk. The same concept applies to the cauliflower.

Overall I really enjoyed learning this way. I felt I really understood the lesson being taught. I would definitely love to learn using games in the future.

Kieren writes a very thoughtful review about Selective Farming as well. Definitely worth the read!

Another one of my 8th graders, Sophia, shares her thoughts about the game Selective Farming. It is interesting to see her perspective regarding the gameplay not really teaching any content and her feelings about the game in general.

To read more of my student's game reviews, please check out the Legends of Learning Game Review Pinterest board.

To provide a little more context, I chose a different science standard for each of my three 8th grade game development classes and created a playlist based on the standard. I would like to see more flexibility in the play list feature as I did find that I wanted to add games from different learning objectives and would have liked for students to have the ability to move around through the play list on their own or even explore the games on the platform without needing them to be 'prescribed' by the teacher.

I hope you enjoy the student reviews. I really think we owe it to the children we serve to embrace their feedback and listen to them. I hope the developers of these games and Legends of Learning see this as valuable feedback to incorporate moving forward. 

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

An UPDATED peek into my Game Design and Development Program

A number of years ago a member of my PLN, Justin (@techucation on twitter), had a few questions about my Game Design and Development class. I took it as an opportunity to share what I've been up to with a global audience in the initial "Peek into my Video Game Design and Development Program" post. Looking back, I see that I posted that in 2012. Now, several years and several iterations of the course later, a similar question was raised. This time it was fellow educator, David W. Deeds (@dwdeeds on twitter). Take a look at the initial post. This post will reiterate on some, but otherwise take off from where the last post left off.

David asked about my curriculum as well as a list of products / resources I have available for my students. I will start by saying that my class as well as my epic learning space has evolved over a number (ten plus) years. I believe it could serve as a great model for others interested in creating a similar program and I am happy to chat as I believe there should be more opportunities for kids to learn based on their interest / passion and for many games is at the center of their universe. Furthermore, the game design industry is HUGE and rivals (perhaps has even surpassed) the movie industry. There are many opportunities for students to pursue a career in game design and development. The roles within the industry are quite diverse including graphic design and animation, programming, 3d modeling, sound engineering, storytelling, marketing, advertising, game testing, and so much more. My goal has been to provide a choice (Quest) based learning environment modeled after a game studio in order to allow students to find and nurture their niche within a game design team. The blog post, "Evolution of a Game Design Studio" will provide some insight into the ideas related to the learning space as well as the resources that we have brought into the space to provide many options for students to take learning into their own hands.

For a number of years I used 3dgamelab (http://www.3dgamelab.org) as my quest based learning management system. Within 3dgamelab you can create quest lines for students to pursue and set prerequisites needed to unlock other quests / quest lines. Students earn XP for successfully completing quests. Once submitted, I review their quest and either approve it or provide feedback so that they can improve upon it and resubmit it. I have coined the phrase "iterative grading" for this model. The beauty is that it provides a great vehicle to create a valuable feedback loop between the student and the teacher. From a philosophical standpoint, I value learning, not grades, so for me allowing a student to keep improving until they are successful is much more effective than accepting something, giving a grade (whether or not the child can demonstrate their learning) and moving on. The choice based model lends well to this because I am not trying to wrangle an entire class through a curriculum that is time sensitive or group paced. In the end, grades (again, not a fan really) are based on student accomplishments related directly to the quests they complete.

Recently, I moved over to ClassCraft (http://www.classcraft.com). I love the classcraft team and have been hassling Devin to add a quest based component to the platform as that is without question the most important aspect of gamification to me. I love the idea of earning XP and all of the other elements that turn the class into a game, but choice based learning is at the center of my course, so this was a must. Devin and I had met a few times and his team recently launched a beta of the integration of Quests and they did a beautiful job incorporating quests into the platform.

Teacher view of the quest building area within ClassCraft. When Kids enter any quest line, fog of war is in effect so students can only see the quests available to them (i.e. they may just see the starting quest and once complete other quest(s) are unlocked and they can see them. This works great in terms of ensuring that the view is not overwhelming for the student.
ClassCraft allows you to share your quest lines and I am happy to share so essentially all of my lesson plans are available for others to import and use as is or 'remix'.

Here are links to my current quest lines in ClassCraft. I am interested to see if the links automatically update as I add quests to each quest area as my course is always evolving with additional learning opportunities for students. In fact, I still need to import quite a bit from 3dgamelab so that all my quests are available to my students in ClassCraft:

  • Journey to the Center of the Game:
    This quest line has students explore a variety of game genres and write game reviews to analyze game mechanics, storyline, and other game elements as they start to learn about game design experientially. These quests lead to opportunities for students to create games based on the genres being explored, thus containing much of the real meat of the course.
  • To the Mines:
    This quest line focuses on quests involving Minecraft (primarily Minecraft: Education Edition). Students explore tools within the game, design and build redstone contraptions, and create games using Minecraft.
  • Real, Virtual, or Virtually Real:
    This quest line will grow quite a bit, but it coincides with research on VR in the classroom that my class is participating in with foundry10, an education foundation in Seattle that is researching non-traditional approaches to learning. With regards to VR, my students explore VR on the HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, and PlaystationVR. They write game reviews and create content for others to explore in Virtual Reaality.
  • If you think it, you can code it:
    I love to present kids with opportunities to learn to code and there are so many avenues they can take in a self paced manner. This quest line features code.org, Codecademy, and Codebuilder for #MinecraftEdu currently. This will expand greatly as I import quests related to Code Kingdom, Khan Academy, and further develop the Code Builder opportunities. Interestingly, the codecademy quset line has grown primarily because one student keeps plowing through the quests and moves on independently and then provides me with the content I should include to add the new quests. Nothing like students co-creating lessons!!
As I mentioned, there will be additional quests added as I fully move over to ClassCraft, but the new quest lines are growing organically as the kids are ready for new content.

Following is a list of resources I have made available to my students. Special thanks to our school PTO for their contributions of the large flat screen TVs and the yogibo furniture! Many of the other resources came from crowd funding (donors choose), foundry 10 (as part of the VR research) and activity funds from our game club. In addition to my courses, I am the adviser for a VERY active after school game club. That's another conversation entirely but we are looking to bring casual and competitive gaming into more schools and create an exciting program that can connect schools for multiplayer gaming, tournaments, leagues, etc.

Resources (hardware and software used):

  • HTC Vive
  • Oculus Rift
  • PlaystationVR
  • Sony Playstation 4 with a variety of VR games
  • Xbox 360
  • Xbox One
  • Nintendo WiiU
  • Nintendo Switch
  • 3 large flat screen TVs (2 mounted on back wall, 1 mounted on front wall)
  • Blue Yeti Microphone and Logitech Webcam (for class and game club youtube channel)
  • Steam with a library of games for game club and VR games for the VR research
  • GameMaker Studio 2.0
  • Gamestar Mechanic
  • Minecraft
  • RPG Maker (XV Ace and MV)
  • Mario Maker (for WiiU)
  • Portal 2 with level editor
  • Starcraft with level editor (completely FREE now) 
  • Twine - great for writing Interactive Fiction / Text Based Adventures
  • Codecademy
  • code.org
  • Code Combat
  • Unity 3d - FREE for education!
  • and so much more (including whatever else the kids bring to the mix)

Please check out our Game Design WAMS class youtube channel (hit that subscribe button while you're there!) and our showcase of student work on pinterest. You will find many games created by students, redstone contraptions, tutorials, game walk-throughs, reviews, and much more!

Thanks for reading :)

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Minefaire and Minecraft Education Edition: Perfect Together!

Minefaire, Philly took place on October 14-15 at the Greater Philadelphia Expo Center in Oaks, PA. Before the general public (over 13,000 in total) arrived, the first day of the event kicked off with a special three hour event exclusively for educators. This FREE event was co-sponsored by the Minecraft Education Edition team and included breakfast for attendees and three hours of learning about how Minecraft is (and can be) used in Education.

The idea behind the event was to bring educators together to connect and learn together while growing the community of educators interested in using Minecraft in Schools. Over 30 attendees and 6 global minecraft mentors participated. The participants were able to meet mentors from around the world including Marco Vigelini (all the way from Italy!), Ben Spieldenner from Ohio, Sean Arnold from New York, and Mark Grundel, Steve Isaacs, and Cathy Cheo-Isaacs all hailing from New Jersey. Educators were able to hear from each of the mentors who led the three hour event. Steve  introduced Minecraft Education Edition, Mark taught the educators how to play, Ben took the educators through a sample lesson that he created and Cathy introduced the new code builder for Minecraft. The other mentors as well as a number of students and other educators supported the event to help the educators and answer questions about the value of Minecraft in Education.

Mentor Ben Spieldenner shared, "The Minefaire PD was empowering for teachers and for Mentors. It was exciting to have conversations about creating immersive educational experiences".  And to go a bit cooler yet, Ben's daughter Bella who was one of the kids who was happy to help the teachers learn commented, "I actually got to interact WITH teachers...that never happens!" There's nothing we love more than having kids help out in the learning lab. Anyone who has ever played Minecraft knows that they are the experts and best teachers!

Justin Aglio, Director of Innovation (K-12) for the Montour School District in Pittsburgh shared, "As a school administrator, I left Pittsburgh at 3:00 AM on Saturday morning to attend the Educator event and volunteer at Minefaire, Philly. I arrived in Philadelphia at 8:00 am and entered Minefaire. By 5:00 PM I realized that I did not eat or drink anything since I left Pittsburgh because I was so engaged with the learning culture of MinecraftEdu, Overall, I was not only impressed with the learning potentioal of MinecraftEDU, but I was more impressed with the people including the Minecraft Mentors' enthusiasm of unlocking brilliance for all children." We are happy to report that Justin did not suffer from dehydration nor starve to death. We did make sure to keep him fed and hydrated on day 2 of Minefaire :)

Michelle King also made the road trip from Pittsburgh. Michelle participated in the educator event and stuck around to help out in the learning lab for the entire weekend. Michelle is an incredible educator and an even more incredible human being. It was wonderful to have her join us for the weekend! She shared, "Minefaire has captured the essence of what's beautiful about humanity -- a reminder that we love to be in community and sharing what we love." I love this quote as it speaks directly to the vision of creating a space for educators to come and spend time together while learning with and from one another. Not to mention the amazing bond found among game based learning and in this case more specifically Minecraft educators.

Marco Vigelini from Italy was able to present at the event and also took to the diamond stage to share a new Minecraft map of Florence, Italy. It's a beautiful map that you can check out here:

Marco added, "It was a way to learn easily and deeper from each other" to reflect on his thoughts on the Minefaire Experience.

Educators who attended this free event were invited to stay to take in all that Minefaire has to offer as our guests for the day. It became pretty clear to the attendees what a true phenomenon Minecraft is as they witnessed the droves of people entering the Expo Center as those with VIP passes entered followed by those with General Admission.

The learning opportunities did not end with the 3 hour workshop. The entire weekend featured:
  • hands on workshops in the learning lab
  • 20 minute presentations on the Inspiration Stage
  • Build Battles
  • YouTube Q&A panels throughout the day
  • A costume contest on the Diamond Stage
  • YouTube Meet and Greets. 
  • A cardboard challenge where attendees built a huge physical minecraft world with cardboard
  • learning how to code in Python and other languages in Minecraft
  • and so much more!

Monday, June 12, 2017

Guest Blog Post: Grounds of Grey Completed Game Reflection

The levels increase in difficulty so that there are not too many levels that are easy. It's interesting to see how people react to some of the more difficult parts and then how they react when they get past it. My intention from creating the game was to make people want to keep playing and finish the game. IT has been an interesting experience to be able to do just that.

Click here to play my game: https://gamestarmechanic.com/game/player/7275675

Sunday, March 5, 2017

#EdTechBridge Done Right: Legends of Learning

I've been interested in working with EdTech companies for years. I have always appreciated the EdTech companies that seek and value teacher and student input when it comes to product development. This passion led me to working with Katya Hott from E-Line Media and then Brainpop, two companies that I have had wonderful experiences collaborating wit /h. Together we founded #EdTechBridge to address the important issue of the culture gap that appeared to exist among EdTech stakeholders. It was apparent that Educators wanted to work with EdTech companies and vice versa, but these groups often had trouble developing and nurturing relationships. Our goal was to build and facilitate a community that set out to help bridge this gap.

In many cases these relationships formed and often this leads to the development of ambassador programs that provide opportunities for educators and edtech companies to really deepen these opportunities to work together. The best case studies start with authentic relationships. A few  successful ambassador programs that immediately come to mind include the Brainpop Certified Educator Program, Common Sense Media: EdTech Mentors and the Minecraft Mentor Program.

Along comes Legends of Learning...

Over the past year or so I got to know Aryah Fradkin. We developed a relationship as I like to... through twitter chats. Aryah became a regular in both the #EdTechBridge and #Games4Ed chats, the two chats I am most involved in. The thing I like most about twitter and twitter chats is that we start to find like minded people and develop true friendships through interactions. Aryah and I quickly became friends as we have many common interests and very aligned ideas regarding education and EdTech. As is often the case, our conversations went from online interaction to emails, phone calls, and more.

I met with Aryah and Legends of Learning CMO, Geoff Livingston. We discussed the idea of involving teachers in the process. I am always sure to impress upon the importance of ensuring that educators feel valued in the process. It quickly became apparent that Aryah and Geoff completely understood this.

As we talked, Aryah and Geoff shared the vision of Vadim, the CEO and founder of Legends of Learning. Vadim is a research scientist by training and brings great experiences to the development space in terms of iterative design, and often building by trial and error. He has a solid background in using data to improve a hyptothesis and make it stick.

Dr. Vadim Polikov recently founded and is serving as CEO of Legends of Learning, a game-based learning company dedicated to improving the way we learn to function in the technologically driven society of the future. He started Legends of Learning to create solutions to the current education challenges facing the United States.
Prior to starting Legends of Learning, Vadim started and sold two companies for more than $50 million each. Vadim received a B.S. and a PhD in Biomedical Engineering from Duke University. He has two boys and one girl, and his favorite superhero is Batman. 

Initially, I had no idea how expansive their vision was! I figured they were planning on putting out a few science games and wanted to reach out to several teachers for feedback. Early on, Aryah asked if I had some science teachers in mind. I gladly connected him with a few great science teachers in my building.

Well... clearly the Legends of Learning team had much bigger plans than I imagined! One day I received an email inviting educators to get involved and become ambassadors. The email indicated that Legends of Learning was going to take 50 (yes you read that right) ambassadors to ISTE in San Antonio as a thank you for their hard work and involvement in helping to shape the development of Science games to positively impact learning.

Legends of Learning is creating an amazing ambassador program, including educators in every
step of the process. If that wasn't enough... they're bringing 50 ambassadors to ISTE in San Antonio
This was interesting because often ambassador programs look for educators already actively using the product. Legends of Learning took a very different approach. They understood that they needed to recruit educators from the very beginning. They created a program including hundreds of educators spanning every area of the science curriculum. In addition, they contracted a number of game developers to create games based on suggestions and feedback from the educators. When I first entered the Ambassador community I was overwhelmed initially. There were discussions based on hundreds of different learning objectives that Legends of Learning is aiming to hit through their vast selection of games being developed. The overall idea is to create a repository of science games that are bite sized and teach to specific learning objectives. This will allow educators to build playlists of games and integrate them within the existing curriculum. This addresses an age old issue in game based learning where games often are seen as taking away from valuable teaching time as teachers race to complete the curriculum. The Legends of Learning approach addresses this issue beautifully.

If you are an ambassador you know that the discussion boards are quite active and the direct interaction with the developers has been a key component from the start. Games are starting to launch in beta which will continue to allow educators to further shape the development through continuous feedback and iteration.

I am so happy to see this authentic approach to EdTechBridge collaboration by bringing educators, students, and developers together from the beginning and through every phase of development.

Kudos to the Legends of Learning team. You've demonstrated #EdTechBridge done right!

Aryah and Geoff will be co-moderating the #EdTechBridge chat on March 29th at 7pm ET. We hope you can join us!

For more information, please check out the following:

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Leveraging Student Voice: Showcasing student work to an authentic audience

Our goal for students is for them to demonstrate their learning. Student expertise should be celebrated and shared. I have become increasingly interested in how students learn in informal settings. Minecraft serves as a perfect example. The game comes with no instruction manual. Who knew how brilliant that would be! Essentially, all of the content for this game is user generated.
The official minecraft wiki contains over 5,000 articles and close to 11,000 files all contributed by members of the minecraft user community. When you do a youtube search with the query minecraft it yields a modest 147,000,000 results. Other sites like Instructables, Snapguide, and Pinterest will prove my point further regarding the plethora of user generated minecraft content out there. 

I believe strongly in student voice, student choice, constructivist and constructionist learning. I am committed to providing opportunities for my students to contribute to this growing knowledge base around the game. It allows them to demonstrate their understanding while writing or producing for an authentic audience. It is safe to say that our students perform better when they know their work is out there and available to the public. They typically take more pride in their work when this is the case.

In this blog post, I will share my approach to showcasing student work and making the meaning relevant to them and the global minecraft community. 

My game design and development course is choice / quest based. I use 3dgamelab and students choose the quest lines that appeal to them. Quests revolve around many learning pathways including coding, analyzing and reviewing games, writing step by step tutorials, learning skills related to game design, and of course creating their own games. Many of the quests are submitted in a public manner so they can be shared with the world,

We have a class YouTube channel. Student projects are showcased throughout the channel. Currently, my 7th grader cycle class is working on a project where they are using Minecraft to Reimagine Timeless Fairy Tales We have started to post walk through videos of the stories as well as 8th graders games in progress:

A while back, we created a number of redstone tutorials to demonstrate the use of redstone when it was released in the Windows10 Version of Minecraft. Microsoft featured these videos on the Minecraft in Education Blog :) My students were super psyched to create these knowing they would be available on youtube. They came in for many lunch periods as well as before and after school  to record and edit their videos.

We have a number of other Minecraft related videos on our YouTube channel. One of my favorites (I apologize for the poor video quality) is a walk through of the student created mini game Cart Wreck. It includes a conversation I had with the students about the development of the game. I'm blown away every time I watch this. The thought and planning that went into this is amazing and it is a great demonstration of student expertise.

A few years ago I was introduced to Snapguide and Instructables, two DIY sites designed for users to create step by step tutorials complete with images and text. I love this as a way for students to teach others while demonstrating their understanding. If they can write a guide that others can replicate from their directions, it is quite evident that they understand what they are explaining. This activity is a quest that repeats as I am happy to have students submit multiple tutorials and receive credit for them. When they are completed and worthy of sharing, I pin them on one of my class showcase pinterest boards. One board is dedicated to Minecraft Tutorials and Videos and is full of great snapguide tutorials.

This particular snapguide tutorial teaches you how to use noteblocks in Minecraft to play the Mario theme. I especially loved this one as I sat with the student for him to explain the process to me and was thrilled to learn how to do this. Hearing his explanation was great as it served as a terrific authentic assessment and opportunity to hear how enthusiastic he was to share his work :) 

I love the way the completed tutorials come out and really love sharing them with the world!

The process of sharing student work has become a natural part of my workflow. I use the pinterest chrome extension and while evaluating student work, if it is worthy of publishing to a wider audience, I simply click the extension and add it to the appropriate board. It's been fun to see the showcase evolve as I currently have close to 300 student projects shared.

I hope you will share my enthusiasm for student choice and student voice as we can really amplify the great work our students are doing.