Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Student Voice: A Published Author!

GameMaker Programming by Example available
on Amazon and through PACKT Publishing
Last year I was approached by Packt Publishing, a publisher of technology books to author a step by step guide to learning the GameMaker Language (GML). GML is a programming language that is used to program games using the GameMaker development environment.  GameMaker has a drag n' drop approach to creating games as well as a robust language that can be used to program. Programming with GML provides incredible flexibility over the drag n' drop approach. I teach video game design and development to 8th graders. Generally speaking, instruction focuses on the drag n' drop approach as it is a great way to introduce computational thinking and GameMaker is great for learning syntax through the visual approach which translates well to learning coding.

I always encourage students to learn GML on their own and support them the best I can. I am not an expert and definitely do not claim to be. As a result, I was inclined to turn down the offer to write the book. Fortunately, it occurred to me that one of my students took immediately to the language and essentially taught himself as part of our 20% time project. I approached the publisher and asked if they would be open to me co-authoring the book with my 8th grade student. I was clear that he was the expert and I would support him in the process. 

Brian - published author at age 15
The writing process began while Brian was in 8th grade and he wrote through the summer and into the Fall to complete the book. I assumed the role of editor as Brian truly was the brains behind the project. I am so proud of his accomplishment. He was extremely organized through the process and demonstrated great responsibility in terms of ensuring the content was accurate and the directions to the reader were clear. I am proud of the final product which is now available from Amazon and Packt Publishing in paperback and kindle. I'm 47 and this is my first published book. I can only imagine what Brian's future has in store!

I am a firm believer that students need to create content and publish to an authentic audience. In my class, students are active bloggers, write step by step tutorials, and publish videos to youtube. I was very pleased to see that there is a strong emphasis on student voice in the new ISTE student standards. It is so important to empower our students to contribute to a global audience and be active members of the educational community.