Monday, December 14, 2015

Student Guest Blog Post: #20PercentTuesday reflection - Oculus Rift and Sketchup

Hi there! My name is Sophie and today I am sharing my #20PercentTuesday experience so far. Before I decided to pick my option in this Mr Isaacs asked the class if any one wanted to play the Oculus Rift. As soon as he said that my hand went straight up! I always see famous youtubers use it and it looked so cool and awesome! After I played a game in it, the game was that you could go around a detailed house in virtual reality! After I tried that game, I knew my choice and was definitely to work with the Oculus Rift, it was so cool that I could see my potential with virtual reality.

My friend and I were thinking what we would make to play in the virtual reality object. We decided to make an idea off the first game I played on the Oculus Rift, we want to make a house with objects inside that you have to find. We looked up some youtube videos that went through the process of making the house and saw that we have to go to the system called SketchUp. In SketchUp we would make our house with a bunch of specific tools.

After we make our house we will put it into Unity. Unity is the program where the Oculus Rift plays its games. So far through my experience I have really learned the basics in making my game in SketchUp. I have gone through all of the tools in order to make all the specific measures and basics of the house. The progress we have been making is very good so far, we have made a mini version of the house to see what we know so far in SketchUp. Since we know a lot now about it, we plan to move forward in making the base of the real house. In this whole experience it's just crazy and amazing to imagine me walking through my own game and creation using the Oculus Rift.

Here is another game called MushroomVR Ball that I played where you have to collect coins without falling out of the world.
Here is a game on the Oculus Rift called Don't Let Go that you can play virtually. In this game you cannot let go of the computer while scary things challenge you. I played this too and it was great.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Student Guest Blog Post: #20PercentTuesday: Getting Started with Unreal Engine

In Game design and development we are allowed to do 20% time , and for that i am using Oculus rift and recreate a house in Colonial Williamsburg that people could explore in Virtual Reality with Oculus rift.

So far i have done some tutorials while i am working with Unreal engine 4.  I got inspired to do this by visiting Colonial Williamsburg, and this is a town that shows you how it was lived during the Civil War.  I think it is important to know how people lived back then so we appreciate how we live better.  I have learned to create a project and create a blank
My next steps are to create a room like this one and sort of create a game out of it.

I wanted to use the oculus rift rather than Virtual Reality because i like how you can physically pretend that you are actually experiencing the home.  I am going to recreate a Colonial style mini town and the main focus are in a couple of forms.  I like that the room i am going to create is going to allow you to interact with the technology and people and hoe the daily life was back then

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

The Whitehouse #CSEdWeek Computer Science Tech Jam Recap

A little over a week ago I was doing homework with my kids with my phone close at hand as usual.  I tend to obsessively check email and often think to myself, Why am I doing this?  Do I think I'm going to get that email that says I won the lottery or was being invited to an event at the Whitehouse or something? Well, low and behold, I glance down and see an email with the subject line: 
Invitation: Whitehouse CS Tech Jam - December 7, 2015
You could say that it caught my eye.  I opened the email and was presented with the following:

I was a bit excited, in a little bit of disbelief, and certainly honored.

As the day approached, I became aware of some of the other dyamic people that would be there and was excited to find out that a number of friends that I have a great deal of respect and admiration for would be there.  This list included Lucas Gillispie (@lucasgillispie) was also attending. In addition, friends including Rafranz Davis (@rafranzdavis), Mark Deloura (@markdeloura), Deidre Quarnstrom (@Deidre206) along with Robin, Jason, and Michelle from the #Minecraft team, Erik Martin (@Eriklaes), Jed Dearbury (@mrdearbury1), Tammi Schrader (@TammiSchrader), Kara Chesal (@KCintheNYC), Katrina Stevens (@KatrinaStevens1) and others.  In addition,  members of the google classroom team, Magic Leap, Sphero, and Raspberry Pi, Glass Lab, and a number of amazing educators from around the country would be in attendance. I was very excited to collaborate with such an amazing and resourceful group.

Sunday was a great day in the city as Lucas and I spent a beautiful day strolling around the Capital hacking portals and making the city a safer place for the Resistence team in Ingress.  Sorry, that's a lot of geek talk for we walked around and played the location based game, Ingress in the area around the Whitehouse.
The before picture - when the 'enlightened'
still controlled the White House
The after picture - Peace of mind is restored as
the Resistence has regained control of the Whitehouse

We awoke early on Monday as we needed to arrive at the Whitehouse by 7:15 am to ensure there were no hold ups with our security clearance.  We were quite early and it was beautiful to see the Whitehouse and the surrounding area as the sun was rising and the moon was still in plain view.

Early morning view of the WhiteH
The Eisenhower Executive Office Building at the Whitehouse - our office for the day.
We made it through security and then Lucas and I found ourselves alone and a bit lost in the Eisenhower building.  There was a sign that indicated that the Truman Bowling Alley was located in the basement.  Very tempting... We wandered around the entire first floor before running into some other participants and realizing that we needed to make it to the 4th floor :)  

We entered and were greeted with breakfast and the opportunity to spend some time interacting with the other invited guests.  It was great to reconnect with Jed Dearbury who I had met in Seattle a few weeks prior.  He's a rock star in terms of Skype in the Classroom.  His presentation at the #redefinelearn event was one of the highlights.  I realized Tammi Schrader, who I have been friends with online for some time and have been waiting to meet was also at our table.  It was great to meet her in person (finally!). Then, as the talking continued, I realized that next to me was Greg Zecchini from the Google Classroom team.  I was on the lookout for him and others from the team based on Jonathon Rochelle's alert that they would be there.  

The Welcoming remarks were kicked off by Danielle Carnival, Assistant Director, Education and Learning Science, from the Whitehouse Office of Science and Technology Policy (@whitehouseOSTP).  Danielle had been the one communicating with us prior to the event.  She was followed by Megan Smith, CTO from the OSTP.  Megan brought a great energy and passion to the discussion as she framed the day of a day for us to be inspired and create projects that will inspire others.  

Megan Smith brought Pikachu and other toys along to help inspire creativity for the day

Next up was Richard Culatta (@rec54).  I have always been a fan of Richard and his leadership as the Director at the Office of EdTech.  Richard has a game design background and totally believes in and supports the value of games in learning.  He is helping to push the needle and move the discussion forward in a significant way. My favorite Richard Culatta quote remains, "Learning is Fun.  We need to stop making it boring."  Yep, that about sums it up!

"Learning is Fun.  We have to stop making it boring." ~@rec54

Other speakers included Janice Cuny, the Program Director for Computing Education at NSF, Gretchen Achenback, Research Scientist from NCWIT (National Center for Women and Information Technology.  Rafranz Davis closed out the house in her typical awesome fashion.  

Rafranz Davis, amazing educator and advocate for equity in education

Now it was time to get to work.  The day was structured as a hack-a-thon, termed a Tech Jam with the goal of solving problems and generating opportunities around bringing computer science to elementary school.  Mark DeLoura kicked off the working session by setting the stage for our teams to solve problems and CREATE.  

We had six hours to develop something as a team of 5 to 6 people to showcase during the Expo at the end of the day.  Groups were made up of educators, developers, and other industry professionals.

Ideas included:

CodeQuest, monthly coding challenge in a box, created by my group.  Our idea was modeled after the Loot Crate idea and would be a subscription based service where each month the teacher / facilitator would receive a box with a new tool (i.e. MakeMakey, Sphero, Little Bits kit, Arduino board, Raspberry Pi, etc.).  The module would include a series of one sheet cards to explain the technology, teach a coding concept, share a 'watch it - code it' activity where students would follow a step by step tutorial to create something based on the tool and the coding activity.  The next step would be a 'Mod it' step where a series of design challenges would be provided to allow the student to modify the project and thus extend their learning.  Finally, they would be presented with choice of Quest Cards that provide a real world problem to solve using the contents of the monthly kit and the coding knowledge the students have to date.  

Lucas 'pitching' CodeQuest during the Tech Jam Expo

CodeaGram might have been my favorite product as it was modeled after Instagram (talk about meeting the kids where they are!) and users could code something (a small app or program) and upload the program to the service. The code would be available by clicking a button on the app and the user could download the code right from the app.  What a great way to have coders showcase their work and be part of a larger coding community. 

Wowwing me with the prototype (pretty close to being ready to launch!) of CodeaGram

There were many other great ideas for sure.  I would need to write a series of posts to cover all of them!

Closing remarks were provided by John King, Delegated Deputy Secretary, Department of Education.  He spoke of the importance of making opportunities accessible to everyone and shared stories of him being the person to represent any form of diversity on occasion.  We need to create products and opportunities that meet the diverse needs of all learners.  

The day was amazing in so many ways and as is the case often, the people really made it the tremendous experience it was.  Thanks to Erik Martin for thinking of me when it came to invitations and the OSTP staff, the awesome interns who organized the day's events, and everyone who participated and made it possible.  What a day!

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Guest Blog Post: Student Reflection on 20%Time with Disney Infinity

For my 20% time, I am working on the Disney Infinity on the PS4. So far, my partner and I have been working on a battle arena to fight monsters, as well as a parkour map. Through this experience, I have learned how to use a PS4 controller (being a PC gamer), and how to design cool things in Disney Infinity. I think the next step would be to continue working on the parkour, and create cool jumps and obstacles. But overall, I am excited about playing Disney infinity :D

In this image, you can see the parkour that my partner and I  have made. One of us built the parkour map, and the other tested to make sure it was possible to  complete all the jumps and  rolls. The farther you go down the parkour, the harder it will be. As we developed the map, some slight changes were made in order to make the parkour possible.

In this image, you see the battle arena (w/o the enemies). Normally, this big structure would be packed with monsters. But in order to take the picture, we made sure there was no monsters to mess up the shot. Over to the left you can see the  ramp which leads to the exit of the arena, once you fight you way through all the monsters, In order to work in the game, the arena usually has about 50ish monsters, Once all the monsters are defeated you could even fight against your ally! Our next steps might be to make a scoring mechanism, and to make a monster spawner.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

20PercentTime for Teachers

I have come to believe that it is important to surround yourself with the people you want to be around. For me, those people are others passionate about playing, tinkering, and continually learning based on their interests. Might sound a lot like my approach to teaching, but I suppose that makes good sense.

As you may know, my students have been involved in a project called #20PercentTuesday where they pursue passion based projects. Well, us teachers need some of that time to dedicate to learning about what excites us as well. This past weekend we did just that, in fact on two occasions. On Friday, Kevin Jarrett (@kjarrett) hosted a group of us in his awesome learning space at the Northfield Community School (@ncsnj). We had a blast working on our own projects and sharing what we were doing. Here are some highlights:

Sarah receiving some help to use the Oculus Rift

Rurik (@ruriknackeraud ) flying a plane (a little better than Sarah aka #croptopknitter @artdabbler13)
Leila (@leilaboo215) editing her vlog alongside an oculus rifter
My lovely wife, Cathy (@iwearthecrowns) trying to configure the @littlebits cloudbit to work with #minecraft BitCraft mod
Every school needs an awesome studio for their daily news show!

Kevin Jarrett (@kjarrett) trying his hand at the Oculus.  The play by play provided was priceless.

Please check out Meredith Martin's (@geekyteach) Black Friday maker Day post for a great run down of the day's festivities!

So that was Friday. Fast forward to Sundat, quite possible our most fun #coffeeEduNJ to date. More playing and exploring cool stuff. Jonathan Rochelle (@jrochelle) brought the google expedition kit and took our caffeinated group on a few great journeys including the great barrier reef and some amazing waterfalls.

To stay with the virtual reality theme I brought the oculus rift out for a spin. People played mushroom ball VR, a fun VR 3D platformer and our goto horror experience "don't let go". One great quote of the day came from the son of Chris Harris (@principal_H) who stated emphatically, "this is the most fun I've ever had at a coffee shop". 

Jonathan Rochelle (@jrochelle) guiding an excited group through #googleexpeditions.  I spy @mzgrz and @keith_guarino)

Wait... Is that Barry Saide (@barrykid1) and his lovely wife jessica (@jazica30) at a #coffeeEduNJ?

Principal Harris (@Principal_H) watching as his son explores virtual reality with the oculus rift.

Our coffeeEdu group has become a family affair and adults and kids in attendance were wowed by the virtual reality experiences. Definitely made for rich discussion and excitement about what's possible. 

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Global Skype-a-Thon: Promoting Education without Borders

Join the Global Skype-a-Thon on December 3 and 4, 2015.  

Have you used Skype in the Classroom?  There are so many wonderful opportunities to get involved and bring amazing learning opportunities to your students.  A few weeks ago I participated in the #RedefineLearn event at the Microsoft campus in Redmond.  One of my key takeaways was how amazing the Skype in the Classroom program is.  The Skype-a-thon is a great way to get you started with using Skype with your students.  Getting started is easy and the resources available through Microsoft make it easy to get involved.

I encourage you to sign up now.  The easiest ways to get involved:

Mystery Skype connects you with another class somewhere in the world.  Both teams ask yes/no questions in an attempt to figure out where the other class is from.

Guest Speakers are available and willing to meet with your class. You can also sign up to be a guest speaker.  The Skype in the Classroom program has a wide array of speakers on many different topics.  From my experience, experts are very willing to take some time to visit your class, so if there is someone specific you would like as a visitor, I strongly encourage you to reach out directly.  Twitter is a great starting point to make the connection.

Virtual Field Trips are a way to bring your students anywhere in the world from the comfort of your classroom.  At the #redefinelearn event we met with someone from the Museum of Science in Raleigh who shared 'the unhuggables' with us.

How I've been connecting globally:

I have been using Skype and Google Hangout to connect my students with game developers.  I find it incredibly valuable to provide students with access to industry professionals who can share ideas, tips, and even guide my students to follow their passion through our interactions.  Some of the experts we met with so far include:

Caro Williams Pierce (@therealcaro).  Caro is a doctoral student who created a game for her dissertation using Little Big Planet 3.  I have students working with LBP3 so it was great to get a first hand account as well as a walkthrough of the game including how it was developed. 
Rahul Banerjee, the creator of met with our class four weeks in a row.  It started with a guided tutorial to show my students how to use the 'no-code' game development environment. Rahul met with two of my classes each week and as we progressed it was evident that the input from my students was as valuable to Rahul as his instruction was to them. My students provided feedback, asked questions, and contributed ideas to features that are now in the program. Rahul was even kind enough to meet with one student from a different class who really wanted to meet him.  When they met, the first words out of my student's mouth were, "I can't believe I'm really getting to meet you!".  They were able to meet one on one on several occasions.  Rahul is pretty awesome and my students love when he visits!
John Day, one of the developers who worked on Disney Infinity met with us to discuss his career as a game designer and specifically ideas about working with Disney Infinity, one of the tools my students use to create games.  
Mike Watanabee, creative director (and voice of Tim!) from Brainpop (@brainpop) was kind enough to meet us from his home in Hawaii. In order to do so, he had to get up at 4am. The kids were super excited to meet with him and talk about brainpop, the process of developing the videos, and of course roared when he addressed us as Tim :)  
We've had other visitors and I plan to continue develop these connections and allow my students to communicate directly with the experts. In fact, I have a commitments from some very exciting people in the game development industry.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

#20PercentTuesday Week 7 Reflection

The excitement around #20PercentTuesday continues to grow.  I am thrilled to watch the proejcts evolve and watch the students enter the class every Tuesday eager to get right to work.

There are so many projects happening and they cover a wide variety of tools, technologies, and innovative ideas. I truly believe this is the way to encourage students to discover a passion for learning and areas they may not have known they were interested in.  If I can provide that opportunity for my students, I feel I have done good by them!

Below are some images of what you would see happening if you walked around my room on any given #20PercentTuesday (or lunch period for that matter)

Creating a racing game in Disney Infinity

Demonstrating the Go-Dough game controller in Action

Student created @snapguide #minecraft tutorial

Learning to use MIT App Inventor from a YouTube tutorial: "Watch it...Build it"

Installing Unreal Engine!  Almost time to start building a Virtual World to explore with the Oculus Rift!

Sketch of house that will be built in Sketch Up and Explored with the Oculus Rift!

Programming the "brain" of a character in Project Spark

Creating a Text based Adventure using Twine

Getting started with SketchUp

Programming Command Blocks in Minecraft

There was much more happening, but this gives a nice idea of the kinds of projects students have been working on this week. 

Here are a few student reflections from the week:

1. My partner and I are working with the Oculus Rift

2. So far we have learned the basics of what SketchUp and Unity and how they work, we are still looking at vdeos of how to and good ways to make a basic house 
3. The progress we have made is, we made on a piece of paper the house and items and downloaded sketchup but we still are watching and looking at videos to get a good hold of what we are going to do

4.Next steps: Hopefully starting the basics of the house then advancing to the hard details of the house.
5. Honestly I feel the nerves and excitement thinking about the day we get to play it and thats my real aha moment just seeing that day

1. The tool that I am working with is twine to create a text based adventure. 
2. So far, I have learned to code a text based adventure and do it fast. I have also learned how to organize and create a text based adventure game. 
3. My progress so far is I created the outline or brainstorm in popplet. I have also began programming my actual game in twine. Yesterday in class, I continued programming and making my game. I am about halfway done with making my game. 
4. Moving Foward, I plan on just finishing my original game. I will then ask for feedback and make corrections to the game accordingly. Once my game is revised and finished, I will publish it for the class to play. 
5. One aha moment that I have had was when I realized I had to become fast at coding each individual part in my story. Another aha moment I had was when I realized that I needed to learn how to save and upload my story to google drive so that I could do additional work at home.

At this point, students are at different phases of their projects. It is awesome to see them taking ownership of their learning.  I am constantly reminded of how kids learn in informal learning spaces (youtube, tutorials, wikis, peers, etc.). The 20%Time Passion Project model is one of the best ways to nurture authentic student learning.  Stay tuned for more reflections and student blog posts.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

#20PercentTuesday: Week 5 reflections

During week 5 my class was on their own for #20PercentTuesday as I was at #iNACOL presenting on Building Bridges in the EdTech Ecosystem representing #EdTechBridge and Teacher voice along with Katrina Stevens (@katranistevens1) and Kara Chesal (@KCintheNYC).  The conference was great but I was eager to see how my kids did as they moved forward on their Passion Projects.


Since I was absent it occurred to me that I should create a way for students to reflect weekly as a means of documenting their learning and also focusing their efforts as time management for long term projects (especially for middle school students) can be very challenging.

I created a quest in 3dGameLab (now Rezzly) that repeats each week for these reflections.  I am asking students to either share their thoughts in a simple quest submission or as a blog post.  I would love for students to start blogging about this experience but don't want to require that right now as I want to respect their work flow.  I did offer extra XP for blog posts however :)

As a guide for their reflection, I offered the following ideas (they don't have to stick to these but it provides a guide as they start their weekly reflections:

  1. What product / tool are you working with?
  2. Share what you have learned so far through the experience.
  3. What progres have you made so far?
  4. What is your plan for moving forward (next steps and big plan)?
  5. interesting a ha moments you have had through the experience of taking ownership of your learning.
You've heard enough from me.  Here are a selection of student responses: #stuvoice FTW!

I am working with the raspberry pi, and so far throughout my experience I've learned about syntax and coding in python, and how to turn it on. So far we have turned on the computer and have begun working with circuits. Our next steps will be using the circuits to connect and turn on an LED light through the raspberry pi. My first and only aha moment so far was when I was able to turn on the pi through moving the plug from one outlet to another. ~ yes - first rule of tech support... check all connections!

Raspberry Pi
I have learned how to use scratch and python to perform tasks.
I have completed my watch it build and have started to plan my original robot.
I will finish my plan by this week, and then continue.
When I finally built my tower using minecraft pi, that took me 1 hour, I felt really happy.

I am working with Project Spark. I have leaned how to program enemies and characters and also how to place objects down. We have placed many enemies down and built an arena. Our next plan is to build a tower for the main character to climb. Our biggest aha moment was when we learned how to program enemies! 
We are working with project spark on the xbox one. I have learned that coding is important because every little detail is important to the game. Chris and I have been able to create a world with an enemy that tries to kill us. Our next step is creating castles for the setting. I have realized that this could potentially become a popular game if we do it correctly.
I am working with project spark.  I have learned how to use the tools and add characters and enemies to fight.  Also i learned how to pick up a bow and shoot at enemies.  So far Max and I have created a forest and are beginning to make enemies to fight against.  Moving forward we are planning on creating levels and more enemies to have to fight as we go on.  Also we would like to go on with our story line.  So far an Aha moment that i had was when Max and i did not know why the enemies were not fighting back but it was because they had not been programmed yet.
Well for starters i am working with Project Spark. I have learned how to program my characters to do unique things all from scratch. John and I have made very good progress in our own game. We are still planning the storyline a bit but we are starting to program things now. Our plan moving forward is to complete our game or at least a prototype. One aha moment that i have had so far is programing an enemy from scartch and how many coding things you need to put into him.

The tool that i am working with is Disney Infinity, during this experience i have learned a lot like how to make a race track and how to build a pyramid and much other things. We have almost finished the outer part of the pyramid and we are going to make a interior, we have also built a couple small racetracks. Like i said we plan on making a complicated interior with a tomb to be decorative. We at first had no idea how to delete stuff and place stuff down correctly but now we have figured that out.
Bloggin' With Ryan-----Disney Infinity!Today I would like to talk about one of my favorite times of the week; 20% Tuesday! 20% time is a time in class that we have to try different things, such as using the Makey Makey, Rasberry Pi, Project Spark, etc. The one I chose to use is Disney Infinity. For those of you that don't know about the Infinity, it is basically a Disney game where you have the ability to create almost whatever you want, or you can follow a story. Start by simply placing one of the many heroes onto the base and watch the hero appear on the screen. I decided to make a motorcycle race track with unique obstacles and cool scenery. So far during this experience I have learned a ton about the frustration and concentration it takes to make a large build like this. If you are not focused it will drastically slow you down, and when you don't have enough time to do what you want, it can get frustrating. So far I have made the outline, and now I am starting to add in obstacles and different types of terrain such as loops, things blocking the way, and more. The next thing I plan to do is add in a section where you must get off your bike and run through a maze. Along the way you will encounter many challenges that I have not decided on yet. Most important of all, fun will be scattered throughout the whole map. One interesting experience I have encountered so far is realizing that just because it is on a track doesn't mean it has to be just a race... As you can tell by my big plan I have already deeply thought about this. I know that this is going to be a long journey, but in the end it will be totally worth it.

The product that i am working with is the Text Based Adventure, and the tool i am using is Twinery. I have learned that the computer takes everything literally and thast you have to be very careful what you program because it might interperet it differently than what what you want because it takes everything literally. The progres i have made so far is that i have completed my story and have made it visable to the public. My plan for moving forward is that i might start with the Oculus rift and create my own personilized room of the civil war explaining what it was like to live back then. Some aha moments i have had with twine is that you can tell it to do something and then when you play it it can show up with something differne tot make the story telling more realistic. Also i experienced that you have to name your boxes different or else it will think that everything is connected to that boss, when really you want to connect it to a different one. If you don't do this then the game won't work

Thomas and I are working with the Oculus Rift. So far we have learned how to use the Oculus and how start out our house to make our game with youtube videos. So far we have designed the game that you can play in the house and the sketch of the house on paper. We are next planning to start making the house in SketchUp! What has been most intresting is playing the Oculus and seeing how the Virtual Reality is, it was really cool and fun to see and experience. It was also pretty intresting to see how people make these awesome houses, when I was watching their videos on youtube. It was really crazy to see that you can make a house and be able to go in it, on a computer!