Tuesday, December 18, 2012

My Game Maker 8.1 Resources

game maker logoGame Maker has been the cornerstone of my video game design and development instruction for some time now.  In the past, I have used it to as a tool in summer computer camps, after school programs, and a unit in our school's gifted and talented program.  Currently, it is the primary tool in the 8th grade semester long video game design and development elective at William Annin Middle School in Basking Ridge, NJ and the online game design and development course offered through the VHS Collaborative (formerly Virtual High School).  I have developed a number of resources for Game Make 8.1 and am in the process of creating new resources and converting many of my existing resources for use with Game Maker Studio.  These resources will be available here in addition to the Game Maker Teacher site and Valve's Steam for Schools Game Maker site (coming soon!)
Below is a list of existing resources that I have created.  Feel free to use them.  I just ask that you provide credit and a link back to my blog.

Game Maker 8.1 Tutorial Videos:
The Game Maker Interface: This short video will provide you with an understanding of the gamemaker environment. It will explain the different resources that are included in a game created with GameMaker. (3:23)

Creating Sprites, Objects, and Rooms: This tutorial will show you how to create sprites, objects and rooms. You will create and name your first resources using a proper naming convention. In the next lesson, we will program your objects with events and actions. (7:05)

Introducing Events and Actions: This tutorial will show you how to create events and actions for objects. Events and actions are what tell the objects what to do in a game. (1:49)

Working with Events and Actions: This tutorial will show you how to program events and actions for your objects. Events and Actions are what indicate what the objects can do in a game.  (3:46)

Creating Moving Objects: This video will assist you in creating objects that move automatically in GameMaker 8. (3:56)

Adding a background and sound: This tutorial will show you how to add sound and a background to your games in GameMaker 8. (5:38)

Mouse Events: In this tutorial, we will add obstacles to avoid in the game. We will set it up so that we can click on the obstacles with the mouse in order to get rid of them and save our main character. (4:06)

Scoring and Lives: This tutorial will show you how to add score and deal with lives based on collision with the enemies. (9:34)

Lives as a scoring mechanism: In this video, we will set it up so that your character has 3 lives and each time it collides with a bomb, your character will lose a life. (7:04)

Conditional Statements / Game Over: In this video, you will learn how to deal with the end of a game in GameMaker 8. If / Then statements are introduced to determine what to do at the conclusion of the game (if all lives are lost). Questions are also incorporated to determine if you want to try again or end the game. (4:00)

Conditional Statments / lives (another example): In this tutorial, you will learn how to use if / then statements to test conditions in a game. In this example, we will be determining what should happen when the lives are equal to 0. (5:20)

Instance Count: This GameMaker 8 tutorial will deal with checking the instance count to determine if a level has been complete based on the elimination of all enemies.  Upon completion of the level, the game will advance to the next level. (6:02)

Conditional Statements and Instance Count: In this tutorial, we will explore conditional statements further. This time, we will determine when there are no more enemies. Upon eliminating the last enemy, you will advance to the next level of the game, which will be more challenging than the first. (7:49)

Game Information: This tutorial will show you how to add game information to your GameMaker 8 game. Game information is the area where you can provide directions to the player.  I see this as the online 'game manual' and have students include important elements (storyline, characters, items, level descriptions, scoring mechanisms, winning / losing scenario, and game controls) I will also show you how to make the game information show up automatically at the start of the game. (3:37)

Shooting in a direction: This tutorial will show you how to create a main character that can shoot a projectile based on the direction he is moving. (7:38)

Shooting (another example): This video will demonstrate how to shoot projectiles in GameMaker from a given object.

Move towards an object: This video will show you how to use a step event in GameMaker 8 to create a loop that continually checks the location of an object and has another object move toward it. (3:40)

Random objects spawned from an object: This tutorial will show you how to have an enemy automatically shoot objects in a given direction.  This tutorial utilizes a step event and the random action to randomize the occurrence of the enemy projectiles. (2:23)

Spawned bullets from an object (another example): This tutorial will demonstrate how to make a non-player character automatically shoot based on randomly creating objects within a step event. (9:40)

Setting a time limit using timers: In this video, you will learn how to use timers to set a time limit for levels in your GameMaker 8 game.  The tutorial uses timers and health.  The health is continually reduced until it gets to 0. (5:03)

Platform Basics and Views: This tutorial will walk you through the basics of creating a side scrolling platform game including gravity and setting up views. (13:22)

Jumping from a platform: This video will show you how to jump only if you are on a platform. It will avoid the 'double jump' issue by first checking that you are in fact standing on something.

Game Maker 8.1 Sample 'How to' Examples
Over the years, I find that students often ask how to do 'something' specific in game maker and pulling it out of a large tutorial or trying to sift through an entire game to see the sample can be overwhelming.  I have found that by creating isolated examples, it is easier to understand the specific concepts.  Students can then take the concept and apply it to their game more easily.  Below are a number of links to .gm81 (game maker) files that you can download to analyze and learn from.

How to...

Picking up a key to open a door: This sample game involves the use of variables to determine whether or not the player has an object (key).  The player must collect the key in order to open a lock, ultimately leading to the door to advance to the next level.   

Lives and Game Over: This sample will demonstrate the use of lives as a scoring mechanism.  You can see how to set up lives, remove lives based on collision, and let the player know when the games is over and offer the opportunity to try again or quit.

Shoot in a direction (rapid fire) - This example will demonstrate how to make a playable character shoot in a given direction continuously (without a pause)

Shoot in direction (with a pause) - This example will show you how to shoot in a direction, but with a pause between shots using timers and variables.

Shoot toward the mouse - This sample game shows you how to use the global mouse settings and the move toward action in order to shoot in the direction of the mouse cursor.

Incorporate a Time Limit - This sample demonstrates the re-purposing of health as time remaining.  Timers are used to reduce the time remaining.  A message will appear when the time limit is reached and indicate that time's up and game over.

Set up a checkpoint - This example demonstrates a side scrolling platform game with a checkpoint.  Once the checkpoint is passed, the game will resume from the checkpoint location upon losing a life (rather than starting back at the beginning of the game).  Lives are not used in this example as the idea is that the player can continue to retry from the checkpoint.

Make a character change directions - This example will show you how to change the sprite of your player to face a different direction based on the direction you are moving.  The same idea could be incorporated with enemies so they change sprite when they change direction.

Boss Health: This sample game will show you how to set up lives / health for the player and for a 'boss'.  In this example, player lives (or health) are set using the built in 'lives' while the boss health (or lives) is set up using the built in 'health'.  The caption of each is changed to reflect 'player health' and 'boss health'.  When a bullet hits the boss, he loses one health and the player loses 1 health when hit by an enemy bullet.  If the boss health goes to 0 he dies, and when the player health gets to 0 he dies and prompted with a question to choose whether or not to play again.

Enemy Bullets Spawning (using timers): This example will demonstrate how to make an enemy automatically shoot based on a loop using timers.

Enemy Bullets Spawning (using random action):  This example shows how to make an enemy shoot randomly based on using a step event and the random action.

Drawing Lives as an Image: This sample will show you how to show the lives as an image on the screen using the draw event and the draw lives action.  As you lose lives, the graphic display will reflect the number of lives.

Using a sword - In this example, the player can pick up a sword.  Once the sword is picked up, the player can use the sword to attack.  The player will change into the guy with the sword for a short period (using a timer) of time when the space bar is pressed and then switch back to the player without the sword.  The player can continue to use the sword, but the timer prohibits the player from using the sword continuously.

Rotating image (sprite) using drag and drop - This example shows you how to rotate an image based on sub images and changing the value of the direction when the left or right arrow key is pressed.

Rotating image (sprite) using GML code - This example shows you how to rotate an image by using GML code to change the sub images when the left or right arrow key is pressed.

Item drop - In this example, the player must eliminate an enemy who will then drop a key needed to unlock the door to move on to the next room.  The sample uses variables to determine if the player has the key and will only allow the player to open the door if the value of the variable is 1 (indicating that the player has the key).

Gravity and Views: Vertical platformer -This is an example of a vertical platform game using gravity and views.  The view allows you to utilize a larger room and only show part of the room (following the main character)

Gravity and Views: Horizontal platformer: This is an example of a horizontal (side scrolling) platform game using gravity and views.  The view allows you to utilize a larger room and only show part of the room (following the main character)

Enemy Spawn: This example will show you how to use controller objects and the random action to spawn enemies randomly throughout the game.

Enemy moving back and forth on a platform: This example will show you how to make enemies stay on a platform by using invisible walls and the reverse horizontal direction action.

Enemy moving and shooting toward the player: This example will show you how to set up an enemy (AI) to move toward your player using the x and y coordinates and a step event.  The enemy shoots toward the player as well.  Beware!

Click here to access the google drive including all of the 'how to' examples.
Have any questions?  Is there something you would like me to demonstrate in a video or how to sample?

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Sexism in the Video Game Industry: A discussion starter

#1reasonwhy: Sexism in the Video Game Industry... A discussion starter

On Tuesday, November 27, 2012 female game developers spoke out regarding the sexism and harassment that is unfortunately rampant in the game industry.  Twitter was buzzing with tweets using the #1reasonwhy hashtag.  I was saddened and disturbed, but grateful for the many anecdotes shared to raise awareness.  Do a quick search in twitter for #1reasonwhy and it will not take long for you to understand the depth of the issue.

I am personally affected because I am a video game design and development teacher.  I teach 7th and 8th grade students.  Recently, I began work on my doctorate in educational technology and my research focus is the pedagogical benefits of game design and development, but my particular area of interest right now is increasing interest and involvement of female students in computer science by introducing the topic in an engaging manner at an early age.

I became especially interested several years ago.  I pitched the idea of offering an 8th grade elective in video game design and development and was fortunate enough to receive the support of my administration.  The course has been quite popular, but it was apparent very quickly that enrollment was dominated by male students.  I would say that in general, there were 95% male students in the course.  We offered 6 sections of the semester long course, so this meant about 114 male students and 6 female students took the course during the first year it was offered.  Shortly thereafter, we piloted 1 of 3 sections of the 7th grade cycle curriculum to offer an introduction to game design and digital storytelling.  All 7th graders take the cycle, so 1/3 of the students took this pilot course during the second year that the 8th grade elective was offered.  The cycle program in 6th and 7th grade exposes our students to the different content areas that they can then focus on at greater depth through our elective program in 8th grade.  The thought was that if we were to introduce these topics to all students, perhaps we would see an increase in female enrollment in the 8th grade elective.  There was a slight increase in enrollment after this pilot was offered.  The following year, we changed the 7th grade curriculum based on the pilot and all 7th grade students took the introduction to game design and digital storytelling.  This resulted in another slight increase in enrollment in the 8th grade course.  This has been encouraging, but nothing to hang my hat on just yet.

This brings me back to my doctoral research and ideas for increasing enrollment and interest in female students in hopes of ultimately increasing enrollment of female students in computer science and STEM related majors in college with the ultimate goal of reducing the issue of underrepresentation of women in the industry.  Research shows that students, in this case, particularly female students, formulate their self concept and confidence regarding math and science prior to entering high school (Kelleher, 2006).  Thus, many do not choose courses in STEM related areas in high school and certainly college.  It is my belief that if interest were generated through engaging activities in the younger grades we could increase interest and ultimately impact enrollment.

The #1reasonwhy discussion makes me realize that the problem is much deeper than just increasing enrollment.  I would hate to think that I was encouraging students to enter a field that would be marred by sexism, harassment, and an overall arrogant 'boys club'.  In a sense, I see wonder if this is another chicken or the egg discussion.  Is it possible that the decrease in enrollment in computer science and STEM fields contributed to creating this environment in the gaming industry?  Please understand that I am not in any way seeing this as acceptable, but wondering where the problem may have started.  Is the issue more related to the age old stereotypes - boys play with guns, girls play with barbie dolls?  It sounds like there is an overarching attitude that women are not perceived as gamers, or certainly not the 'cool hardcore gamers'.  Again, I am not supporting any of this, just posing questions.  Many of the #1reasonwhy tweets yesterday pointed out that women were definitely not taken seriously in the industry, were not considered to be interested in AAA games, but rather cutesy social games, not to mention the way women are depicted in games.

I would like to think that I am on the right track in believing that if we increase the presence of women in the game industry we can reduce this bias, but how difficult would it be to get to that point?  How many women have to suffer along the way?  Clearly, this is only one small aspect of the problem, but the problem must be addressed on a larger scale, hopefully before I succeed in sending more and more women into the industry.  I truly hope that the #1reasonwhy discussion is just a beginning (as it should be) and that the awareness raised will help.  I will certainly add a component of the sexist issue to my research as it would be important to look at that factor as it could certainly contribute to the lower enrollment which I am trying to address.

I welcome any resources that anyone can provide and was very excited to see the #1reasonmentors hashtag show up as well as I see incredible value in creating mentor / mentee relationships between my students and industry professionals.

I hereby indicate my commitment to the cause and am in full support of the #1reasonwhy movement and am entirely grateful to everyone for bringing such an important topic to light.  Quite honestly, the game industry NEEDS the diversity and cannot continue as a 'boys club'.

Kelleher, C. (2006). Motivating programming: Using storytelling to make computer programming
    attractive to middle school girls. (Doctoral dissertation, Carnegie Mellon University). ProQuest
    Dissertations and Theses, , 369-369 p. Retrieved from http://www.cs.cmu.edu/~caitlin/kelleherThesis_CSD.pdf

For more articles related to the #1reasonwhy movement, please visit:





Thursday, November 15, 2012

A Peek into my Video Game Design and Development Courses

Recently @techucation reached out to ask for some resources and ideas related to teaching Video Game Design and Development.  I responded to his inquiry and realized it would serve as a worthwhile blog post to share with the educational community.  Below is a general description of my 7th and 8th grade courses.  In 7th grade, I teach a six week introduction to video game design and digital storytelling.  In 8th grade I teach a full semester course in video game design and development.  I have also developed and teach the full semester course as an online high school course for The VHS Collaborative (http://thevhscollaborative.org/).  I hope you find the information helpful as I would love to see more courses evolve that teach important 21st century skills through game design.  

Currently, I am enrolled in the doctoral program in Educational Technology at Boise State University and the focus of my research is the pedagogical benefits of game design and development.  Some of the concepts I find most worthwhile to research further include constructionism, design based thinking, increasing female involvement in computer science, and ultimately the notion behind developing a scalable curriculum to teach game design and development from upper elementary school through high school.

Gamestar Mechanic is a great point of entry (and beyond).  My 7th graders spend about 3 weeks in a unit using Gamestar Mechanic (http://www.gamestarmechanic.com).  In that unit, I have them work through the Free Quest Line (Addison Joins the League) which takes them through the 5 episodes ending with the ability to create original games from scratch.  After that I have students create their own game.  Typically, it is a 5 level game of increasing difficulty that exemplifies good game design principles.  Prior to starting their game I have them complete a design document that is used for brainstorming / pre-writing.

For the 7th graders, I encourage them to earn some of the extra items through the workshop (i.e. the message block, etc. as I emphasize the importance of the story being told within the game (not just in the game and level descriptions).  They can also earn extra credit by doing the 2 premium quest strands (Addison Joins the Rogue and Dungeon of the Rogue).  They also benefit by earning extra items to use in their game through those quests.  Gamestar Mechanic also has a number of teacher resources including curriculum, student challenges, etc. available at http://gamestarmechanic.com/teachers/what_is_gamestar) 

I highly recommend licensing the premium quests for your class.  Gamestar recently implemented a new licensing program that costs $2 per student account and the students keep the premium account for life.  What a great way to encourage continued game design beyond the course!

Another unit in my 7th grade class involves Digital Storytelling.  I have them explore classic folk tales (http://www.aaronshep.com/stories/folk.html) and choose one to recreate as a team of 2.  Typically we have used storytelling Alice (http://www.alice.org/kelleher/storytelling/) but recently I communicated with Caitlin Kelleher (the project lead and she indicated that there is now a successor to storytelling Alice called Looking Glass (https://lookingglass.wustl.edu/).  I plan to shift to this with upcoming students or use Scratch (http://www.scratch.mit.edu/).  More likely, I will expose students to both and allow them to choose one of the tools.

My 8th graders primarily use Game Maker (http://www.yoyogames.com) and they learn the basics and create at least 4 original games (a simple maze game,  an adventure game, a platformer, and a scrolling shooter).  I offer a bonus opportunity for students to engage in reverse engineering and recreate a classic game (arcade or console).  

Some of my game maker resources can be found here:
'How to' Examples of isolated game maker tasks: https://docs.google.com/folder/d/0B01VYg6o6QuMWF9OZ0Z1ZnluWTA/edit

My final unit with my 8th graders is a project using Portal 2 and the Puzzle Maker.  You can find out more about the Teach with Portals program here: http://www.teachwithportals.com/.  My students play through a reasonable part of Portal 2 to understand the basics of the game and then create their own puzzles using the iterative design process of planning, creating, testing, and refining.  

Here are a few videos featuring my class:

Teaching with Games: Video Case Study

Teen Kids News Segment on STEM learning through Game Desgin

Friday, September 7, 2012

My Foray into Machinima

This summer I had the opportunity to learn about and create my very first Machinima during 3dGameLab's Teachercamp.  Machinima is essentially a form of film making that is often in the form of 'fan art' as it tends to be a production comprised of in game video footage or video that relates to popular characters.  Generally speaking, it consists of video footage accompanied with audio, call outs, etc.  Creating machinima utilizes video capture, sound engineering, and video editing software.

As an educator, I see great value in the use of Machinima for a number of reasons.  My appreciation became very evident as I created my own as it put me in the role of the learner and I was amazed at how much I learned in terms of technology.  This is coming from a techie who is pretty adept when it comes to the use of the associated tools. 

I worked with several classmates and guildmates.  I soon realized the great collaborative possibilities inherent in creating a Machinima.  My main partner in crime was @trishcloud (Cloudesque in WoW).  We had a lot of fun, but definitely worked hard to complete our project.  Trish and I met in WoW and started talking about ideas for collaborating on a project for the Machinima strand of our TeacherCamp.  We immediately realized that we had one thing in common when it comes to WoW.  We both seem to ALWAYS get 'lost in stormwind'.  I am notorious for my bad sense of direction and perhaps Trish has the same affliction.  We quickly realized that a Machinima called "Lost in Stormwind" was definitely our calling.  As we started talking about it in the Guild Chat a number of our Cognitive Dissonance guild mates expressed interest in helping us.  We all met in our favorite in game pub (The Pig and Whistle) and on twitter #lostinstormwind to plan our approach.  The idea evolved to having many of the guildies hanging out in the Pig And Whistle and Trish and I having a difficult time finding them.  The idea is that they would be having a jolly good time and by the time we got there the party would be breaking up as it would take us so long to find the Pig and Whistle.

So, what was involved???

We needed to determine just how we would go about recording the in game footage.  People recommended FRAPS for recording.  This product would probably have worked fine, but I believe the free version is limited to 5 minutes.  We also tried Jing and Camtasia Studio.  I am a  big fan of Screencast-o-matic and wanted to use it.  My first issue was that screencast-o-matic would not record World of WarCraft if it was in full screen mode.  I didn't realize that was the issue, so I figured screencast-o-matic wouldn't work for recording in game footage.  Fortunately, my guildmates were able to explain how I could change the screen settings.  Once I did that, it worked like a charm.  In addition to our recording, we wanted to add music and Trish found a GREAT free song on Partners In Rhyme.  She added the sound to a file in Camtasia Studio and then shared the Camtasia recording with me.  We both took a stab at creating a final product with Camtasia Studio by incorporating call outs and editing the Machinima.  Camtasia Studio is a wonderful product and I would say the best tool for the final editing job.  I was only able to use the trial version as it is not in my budget at the moment. 

Oh, you'd like to see the final productions.... But, of course :)

Machinima by @mr_isaacsMachinima by @trishcloud

Special thanks to @trishcloud, @imagiraven, #3dgamelab, The Cognitive Dissonance Guild, and all the other people who supported us in one way or another during our mis-adventures.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Gamification Continued... 3dGameLab Teacher Camp

Teacher Camp has begun and I am a happy camper!  TeacherCamp takes place within #3dGameLab, a learning management built on gamification principles.  The project was developed by Lisa Dawley (@lisadawley) and Chris Haskell (@haskell).  So, this post will discuss my experience as a student in a gamified learning environment.

3d Game Lab presents students with quests to participate in that lead to experience points (XP), badges, achievements and awards.  As you complete quests, your XP bar increases ultimately leading you to leveling up within the system.  Quest strands are designed in a manner (and the system supports this functionality) where each strand can have prerequisite quests so that students must participate in required quests before 'unlocking' additional quests in the strand.  This helps from a standpoint of not overwhelming the student with a huge list of quests.  Rather, students stay focused based on what quests have been unlocked.  Students do have choice in terms of completing any of the unlocked quests and receiving XP, and other awards based on completion.

What does this mean for the learner?  the teacher?

As a learner, I will say that I find myself looking through and choosing quests that seem 'manageable' and possibly easier to achieve quite often.  You can see how long the quests will take.  Often, I sit down with a finite amount of time available, so I might try to choose a quest that I can finish in one sitting.  This is something to be mindful of as a course designer.  I realize that I will have to scaffold quests in a way that my students won't be discouraged by how long a quest might take.  Depending on your students, this might mean having many small quests that serve as check points along the path to completing a project.  I raise this point as I can see that the gamification components of a course might lead someone to want to just 'complete quests' that can be completed easily and avoid quests that might seem too time consuming.  The fact that I see myself doing that was just a small hint :)

I am learning so much and enjoying the different strands available.  This is a definite plug for differentiated instruction within a gamified learning environment as choice really allows a student to choose a path that is of particular interest, allowing for a variety of learning opportunities.

So far, I am most engaged in the following strands:

Machinima - I hadn't heard of machinima as a term, but I guess I am not a complete stranger to the art form as it encompasses a lot of areas including video production of gameplay videos, walkthroughs, cartoons based on fan fiction, etc.  I have completed a few basic quests, but have not created my own yet.  I think that is one of those longer quests that I'm waiting for the right time to tackle.

Android App Inventor - Oh my!  I've created my first two android apps.  I must be particularly drawn to this quest strand as I have trudged through some of the quests that took quite a bit of time.  I guess creating an app and seeing it function in my phone is intrinsically motivating to me.  I see great application for my students as I teach Video Game Design and could see adding a course in app development or an optional game design project that involves students in creating a mobile game using app inventor.

Feel free to download my apps:

Minecraft - I've been hearing so much about minecraft from my students and then started following discussions related to minecraft in education .  I'm a gamer and wanted to see what all the hype is about.  I have some ideas about how I could integrate minecraft in my classes, so this has been of particular interest.  During camp, I have been able to participate in several in game sessions where I was able to learn from and discuss ideas with Lucas Gillispe (@pcstech) as well as the other participants.  I have begun the quest strand as well and REALLY enjoyed the videos that are the beginning of a documentary on Notch (Minecraft's creator) and Mojang (the company he founded).  One of the other quests had me in the game building and yet another (I haven't completed it yet, but will shortly) has you 'surviving the night'.  All in all, this has been a FUN and engaging learning opportunity and a great overview of Minecraft and how it can be used in the classroom.

Mobile Learning - Liz Kolb, author of the book (and blog), "From Toy to Tool: Cellphones in Learning" is guiding us through a strand on using mobile devices in the classroom.  We have covered polling apps and tools, wiifiti and other tools.  I was able to participate in a live session with Liz which was most helpful as well.

So, I am learning tons and enjoying the sense of 'blissful productivity' (if I could borrow the term from Jane McGonigal) that I feel with each quest completed and each level or achievement gained.  My goal is to start to schedule my time so that I can begin to tackle some of the longer quests as I do notice that I often shy away from them in favor of working on something that I can complete in one sitting.

I'm open to your thoughts on 3d Game Lab, gamification, games in learning, and differentiated instruction.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Gamification in Education - Shall we Debate?

Image from  http://www.viralblog.com/viral-games/why-theres-such-a-hype-around-gamification/ 

Gamification is everywhere.  As a gamer, I'm all for adding a gaming layer to everything.  Work, school, exercise, doing your taxes, checking in using location based social tools, etc.  I have noticed over time that there are differing views on gamifying in certain realms, education in particular.

The argument I often hear is that it is imposing extrinsic rewards as a motivator, rather than encouraging learning for the sake of learning (which should be intrinsically motivating).  These thought leads me to question what people are viewing as gamifying the classroom.  Is the definition of gamification at the root of the debate?  My inclination is to believe that nay-sayers might see gamification similar to the rewarding of tokens for good work or good behavior, like handing out M&Ms or gold stars as a reward.

Amy Jo Kim (talks about gamification, "Early-on, "gamification" meant adding simple game mechanics like points, badges and leaderboards to websites and apps.  But that's not what makes games truly compelling.  Good games take players on a journey, giving them something to learn and master.  Smart companies are creating game-like digital systems that shape real-world behavior, using a blend of intrinsic and extrinsic motivations." 

I appreciate this description of gamification as it seems to address the potential misuse as well as the potential of appropriately adding a gaming layer to class.  

Intrinsic motivation is without question a better goal than a system that merely offers external rewards in an attempt to achieve a desired behavior.  Pavlov might argue, but I believe strongly in lifelong learning and my goal as an educator is to develop a passion for learning in my students and for them to seek opportunities to learn on their own without requiring the presence of a teacher every step of the way.  My philosophy of teaching is to 'teach' the basics and encourage further exploration based on student desire to solve problems.  This philosophy works well as I teach Video Game Design and Development.  Students need to learn the basic mechanics of the tools that we use, but then it is imperative that they are encouraged to take different paths in learning in order to follow the vision for their game without being limited to the skills that were taught.  Furthermore, it is my belief that they will continue to create games and advance their skills if they experience success in learning beyond what is taught.  Basically, I want my students to know more than me about the tools we use by the end of the course.  

As far as gamification goes, I believe that adding a gaming layer can allow for many positives including differentiation of instruction. Currently,my course includes a bonus achievement system that rewards students for extending their learning beyond the course requirements.  I have added a number of bonus achievements that allow students to experience tools that we are not using in school, sharing valuable resources, creating their own resources, creating types of games other than those assigned, collaborating on the completion of challenging games, etc.  The way the system works is that everything has a number of points associated with it and students have general assignments that are required, but can either make up points, or potentially choose assignments that interest them in lieu of 'required' assignments.  Basically, it provides an opportunity for choice within the class and as mentioned, many opportunities to extend their learning.

I wanted to pose this as a debate because I know there are different thoughts on the matter.  Clearly, I am in favor of gamification, but I welcome contrary thoughts as I believe it can really create a dynamic discussion.  In all my time on twitter (@mr_isaacs) I have found that the only 'arguments' I have gotten in related to education have to do with the topic of gamification.  I have definitely encountered some opposition to the idea and quite honestly, I enjoy the debate.

In September, I begin work on my doctorate in Educational Technology at Boise State University.  I plan to do my research on an area related to Game Based Learning, and am leaning toward something related to game design and development in the classroom or something related to effective use of gamification.

I have created  a diigo group to share resources on gamification in education.  Please join and share in the constructivist learning spirit: http://groups.diigo.com/group/gamification-in-education

Please post comments to contribute to the 'debate'.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

I'm going to 3d Gamelab (Teacher) Camp!

Are you interested in Game Based Learning with a splash (or actually a lot more than a splash) of Gamification?  If so, you won't want to miss out on 3d GameLab's Teacher Camp from August 1 - 20, 2012.

Teacher Camp is fully online and offers a combination of synchronous learning opportunities in a number of exciting environments (World of WarCraft with WoW in schools founder @PeggySheehy and Second Life with Sabine Reljic, designer of ARVEL SIG) and Quest Based achievement oriented asynchronous activities.  

Level up by learning and playing!  The variety of experiential tracks include:

  • Minecraft in Schools (with Minecraft in Schools founder Lucas Gillispie @PCSTech).  
  • 21st Century Technology Integration with Computer Teacher Mark Suter
  • Mobile Learning in and out of the Classroom with author Liz Kolb (From Toys to Tools: Cellphones in the Classroom)
  • Making Machinima (animated video) with founder of Virtual Worlds Best Practices in Education, Kae Novak
  • Make Your Own App with Boise State University Professor, Yu-Chang Hsu
  • Digital Games in the Classroom with 3d GameLab co-founder Chris Haskell
  • The Academy - Educational Design Quest Bootcamp
While participating and learning participants will be immersed in the 3d GameLab environment and become part of the 3d GameLab closed beta.  As part of the program, 'campers' will receive 60 3d GameLab accounts to use with students.  3d GameLab allows you to create a Quest Based learning environment that sets up a wonderful differentiated learning experience for your students.  Students will have the opportunity to complete quests to level up and ultimately earn their grade.  This fits beautifully with my philosophy of guiding students by providing choice.  The system lends well to any curricular area and will add a gaming layer to any class.  

More details and registration information for Teacher Camp can be found at http://3dgamelab.org.shivtr.com//pages/teachercamp#

Hope to learn with you this August!

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Games in Education Symposium - August 1 & 2

On August 1st and 2d, the Esteves School of Education at Sage College in Troy New York will be hosting the Games in Education Symposium.  I am excited to share that I will be presenting a workshop on using Game Maker to teach Video Game Design and Development in Middle and High School.

The two day workshop has many wonderful speakers lined up including:

Chris Haskell is a doctoral student and special lecturer for the Educational Technology Department at Boise State University.  Chris and Lisa Dawley created 3D GameLab, a game-based / quest based Learning Management System.  Chris Haskell focuses on the incorporation of emerging technology (social media, virtual worlds, gaming, etc.) in Teacher Education.

Joel Levin, "The Minecraft Teacher" (@MinecraftTeachr) and founder of Minecraft Edu  has been teaching 1st and 2d graders using Minecraft in the classroom.  He is certainly instrumental in the movement to bring Minecraft into Education as a teaching tool.  Joel was featured in a video case study as part of the Joan Ganz Cooney Center Research on Teacher Attitudes Toward Gaming in Education conducted by Jessica Millstone and Allisyn Levy.

Speaking of Allisyn Levy (@allisyn)... she will be presenting a talk on how teachers are using video games in the classroom.  Hopefully she will be showing some of the video case studies mentioned above.  Not to add a spoiler here, but I was the teacher in one of the case studies.  Perhaps you will see it at the symposium!

Lucas Gillispie (@PCSTech), known for his involvement with Minecraft in Schools and WoW in Schools, will share his latest game-based project encouraging middle school students to explore the rich storytelling in video games on a variety of platforms.  .

Peggy Sheehey (@PeggySheehy), also known for her work with WoW in Education, will be presenting "The Game Plan: Why Education Needs to Pay Attention to Video Games!".  She will dispel the myths about gaming and show the clear connections between games and learning.  

I'm very excited to attend a conference with such a clear focus on Games in Learning.  It should be a great couple of days for sure!  Oh, and did I mention... REGISTRATION IS FREE!!!

Games and Learning...Join me on my Adventure in Game Based Learning

My name is Steve Isaacs and I am very excited about Game Based Learning, and more specifically using Game Design and Development as a Teaching / Learning tool.  I developed and teach Video Game Design and Development at William Annin Middle School in Basking Ridge, NJ.  and online for Virtual High School.  I love to facilitate the learning process and witness that spark being lit as students become excited about learning and problem solving.  I'm a true believe that providing opportunities that engage students and put them in an environment that is intrinsically motivating does more to help develop lifelong learners than anything else.  Video Game Design and Development is interdisciplinary and encourages collaboration, critical thinking, creativity, and so much more!
This fall I will begin work toward my doctorate as I was selected to be part of the inaugural cohort in the Ed.D. program in Educational Technology at Boise State university.  I will be focusing my research on Games and Learning with a focus on Game Design and Development.  Thanks for reading and contributing to my blog.