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!

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

#20PercentTuesday: Week 4 reflections

I wake up on Tuesdays pretty excited to see what's in store for the day.  I believe my students are also looking forward to #20PercentTuesday.  The past few weeks have been great, but it was clear that it took a little time to get into a groove.  I think we may be past that!  The kids are starting to come in ready to work on their projects.  The routine now starts with me taking attendance and asking the kids to share with me what they plan to work on.  I ask them to be specific. The answer is not just 'my 20% time project' or 'Project Spark', but rather a specific goal for their progress for the day. My intent is to help them start the period with some degree of focus.  For middle school students, taking a minute to think about what they plan to focus on is a good thing. Come to think of it, for a 46 year old teacher, taking some time at checkpoints in my day to think about what I want to focus on is a good thing.

The buzz around the room is exhilarating. I shared some tweets with the #20PercentTuesday hashtag and my wife came back with a couple of great tweets...

I think we all need some 20% Time in our lives!  The truth behind the idea is to let passion drive the learning.  Isn't that what truly inspires creativity and joy in learning?

The kids were very excited.  It was fun to walk around and see what they were doing and provide some degree of support. Quite honestly it was more about celebrating learning as I wandered around checking out what they were doing and talking with the students about their projects.

Most kids were working on the "Watch it... Build it" activity at this point.  The first task is for students to find videos or print tutorials to learn from as they get started working with the technology or tool they chose. One of our quests in 3dGameLab asks students to reflect on why they chose the particular tutorial they did.  Here are some of their responses... 
I would like to do the oculus rift and create a cool room that I can use as virtual reality. I want to use the oculus because I love virtual reality because I have seen many videos of it and I really want to experience it too. 
I chose this activity because virtual reality has become so much more popular thanks to the oculus rift. It would be very cool to experience using this because everybody has told me about it and I have seen videos of gameplay on the oculus rift and the rooms/games people create are just astonishing. I would love to create my own unique room because that would be really cool to think to yourself that you created your own virtual reality room.
I'm going to try to create quests for my game. I will use project spark to create simple quests that give small rewards when completed. I chose this activity because I will recreate a Legend of Zelda game. All Zelda games have small quests. Interacting with the players unlock quests and moves the story forward. The more quests I make, the more the story and the game structure will be similar to a Legend of Zelda game. 
The project I chose to recreate through 'watch it build it' was programming python to say me name and age in rasberry pi. I found it really cool to try and do this. I have always been interested in progamming, so this was something I could that was awesome.
I am planning to make a house that we can walk through with the oculus. I am watching videos about SketchUp and Unity to learn more about the programs to continue my mission of making a house. I chose this activity because I know im going to love it and I think it is so cool to do this too.
How to play minecraft on the oculus rift
Because playing minecraft while being inside of minecraft like its real life is the coolest thing ever
I can't think of a better way to wrap up this blog post than by sharing some pictures and video from our day.

Learning Project Spark from an online tutorial

Getting ready to apply new knowledge in Project Spark
Creating a game world in Disney Infinity
Creating a game controller with the MakeyMakey and Playdough
Working with Redstone in Minecraft
Testing the game controller with the MakeyMakey and Playdough
More Redstone in Minecraft
Further crafting the game controller design
Almost done!