Sunday, October 31, 2010

Reflections: Student as Designers Showcase

Last Thursday, Macquarie ICT Innovations Centre hosted as 'Students as Designers Showcase' where Department of Education teachers and Macquarie University academic staff participated in sessions led by Year 5 and 6 students from Cromer Public School on students as game designers and participative narratives, and Year 11 Caringbah High School students on Learning Design using LAMS. What an incredible job all the students did!

During our Game Design session, five Cromer Public School students talked about their journey as designers and what they learned from this experience. In the guise of investigators, the teachers and University staff then sat with the student game designers, talking to them about their games, what they liked best about their games, how they could improve them and what they learned from designing and building computer games.
We were also very excited to have Sam Doust, Creative Director, Strategic Development at ABC Innovation talk to the students and adults about the augmented reality drama, Bluebird, that he helped write and produce which is set around the leak of Bluebird, a clandestine geo-engineering initiative created by eco-billionaire Harrison Wyld. This presentation highlighted some of the exciting developments in the way we see digital narratives and games in literacy. The possibilities this type of narrative brings to students designing their own interactive narratives, and the depth of learning that would occur, has captured the imaginations of the staff at MacICT.

The hit of the day with the students (and many of the adults present) was the visit from ABC's Good Game hosts Bajo and Hex (aka Steven O'Donnell and Stephanie Bendixen). To the absolute delight of the students, Bajo and Hex mingled with them, chatted about the games the students had made and played some of them. They also talked to the students and adults for 40 minutes about what they like about games, what makes a good game from a player's perspective, how to make a game enjoyable and answered many questions from students and adults. Afterwards, Bajo and Hex stayed around and mixed with the students and were swamped with more and more questions about games and their jobs. This was certainly an experience many students claim has been a highlight of their year!

At both Sam, and Bajo and Hex's session, we had teachers and students from various schools join with us via video conference!

Students and adults also had the opportunity to participate together on an interactive adventure and explore a narrative that Anthony and I wrote with collaboration from my Year 6 students at Cromer Public School. Real and fiction were blended together in this participative narrative that invited the readers to be a part of the story.

When we reflect on what occurred during the sessions we saw, collaboration, cooperation, creativity, innovation, great discussions, teamwork and, we can't forget... some fun thrown in! Thank you to the teachers and academic staff who joined us on this fabulous day and, most importantly, a HUGE congratulations to all the students who, despite some feeling a little anxious, willingly shared with the adults present, their journey into game design. You guys are simply awesome!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

On Our Way...

Hi my name is Laura and I am a year 5 teacher at Collaroy Plateau PS. After attending the TPL at MacICT I decided to go ahead with the Game Design Project. It was a full-on day of learning and I came away enthused but also a little apprehensive, wondering whether I would be able to teach Kahootz well enough to my students for them to be able to understand the basics in order to create a game. I shouldn't have worried - not because I was spectacular at teaching it but because they have no fear and just jumped right in and went for it.

The students have really enjoyed the training phase and many of them go to the library at lunchtime and continually create or update their expressions. We are about to start the written phase of the project and are scheduled to have our VC with Anthony next week. So it will be interesting to see how the students actually move from 'mucking around' with Kahootz to actually creating a game. They will be working in pairs, and the game will be loosely based on our HSIE unit 'Gold!'.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Student Experience - Gladesville PS

Our Kahootz experience was enjoyable but there were a few minor problems along the way. We discovered very early on in our Kahootz experience that some of the effects didn’t work and it was very difficult to use some of the worlds and objects. Even though we had some problems we still all managed to finish our games. Our games were all based on the theme gold, which is what we have been learning about.

I would recommend this program to Year 5 and above as it is quite complicated to use, sometimes it quit unexpectedly and it was frustrating. No one in our class had ever used Kahootz before so we all learnt how to use the software. We also learnt a lot more about animation and game design as we completed the game. We were so proud of our games. It was a real accomplishment.

Chloe Year 5

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Beginnings at Calare PS

Hi I am Julie and I teach a Year 6 class at Calare Public School. The class is full of 32 students ready for High School.

I decided to take the project on with Rob, our computer wiz. I thought it would be an activity that would help keep them focused in their final term of primary school.

After talking to the students in my class, there was a lot of excitement with the prospect of creating their own game.

For the past few weeks we have been running though the learning phase of Kahootz. We dedicate 2 hours a week to Kahootz. Rob has been leading the lessons and I have been the extra set of hands in the lab. Team teaching allows us to get to each student group in the class.

During these first few weeks we have encountered some difficulties when saving. Students were losing their work – disappearing into server space. With a more time consuming method, we have been able now to save the students work, in their own directory, so they don’t have to use the same computer each time.

Each student keeps a Kahootz journal where they can record their thoughts, their initial ideas and any information that they need to remember, for example, where to find a particular scene or object they like.

We are now getting reading for the planning phase and the “Good Game Design” VC with Anthony.

Hi, I’m Rob, our school’s computer coordinator. It’s a joy to be involved in the Game Design Project. What a fantastic opportunity!
Julie and I are really looking forward to the next phase of the project (not to mention the students!)
Our team teaching approach is working well and after overcoming some technical hitches, the students are almost ready to attack the game design task. Bring it on!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

First Post :)

Hi Everyone,

My name is Sally and I teach a very mixed ability 5/6 at Greenwich Public School. We recently spent the better part of a day at MacICT "cramming" the first few hours of the project into one day (due to time and technology restraints). The day went really well and the kids were all extremely engaged and were all super keen to get started. However, that was last term and I'm sure they have forgotten most of it, but once we get back into it I'm hoping it will all come rushing back (time will tell!).

I was impressed how most of the kids who picked things up really fast were willing to help their friends and teach each other, that made my job 1000 times easier!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Starting our game design project at West Pymble

Hi everyone, my name is Lisa Gielis and I am a Year 5/6 teacher at West Pymble Public school. My class is full of very bright students who are always up for a challenge so I figured I would sign us up for this project! We are studying The Hobbit at the moment and I also felt that was a great tie-in for a role playing game and another great way to explore narratives.

The class is just about to start storyboarding and designing their games after spending the past 7 weeks or so exploring Kahootz. Some students are fairly tentative, many are happily animating and keypointing away and a few are really roaring ahead - one student has already designed a game and it works quite well! Everyone is enjoying Kahootz and a session in the lab is always loud and engaging. Many students are working at a level that exceeds my own but I encourage them to team up and work things through and usually they come up with a solution (excellent higher order thinking here!). Although, Anthony, I am encouraging them to keep a list of questions for you for our first VC!

I'm looking forward to seeing how the students go with the pen and paper work and I'm not really sure whether to make them fully complete this section before they can create in Kahootz or whether to work a scene or section at a time?

Anyway, it's all systems go at West Pymble and we are really enjoying the project so far.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Game Design Project

I am a Year 4 teacher at Allambie Heights PS and have just started using Kahootz this year. One afternoon a week I work with a Year 4 and 5 Enrichment Group as part of our Gifted and Talented program. The students have been participating in different projects with me this year, but Kahootz is definitely their favourite.
Kahootz is brand new to our school so it has been a learning experience for everyone. While I think I am up to date with technology I have discovered there is so much more to learn.
The group has finished the training stage of Kahootz and have proved to be very fast learners. Initially the children were blown away by the software and what they could do. Most of the children are very confident in using computers and love exploring the new software.
The theme for our game design project is based on an environmental theme. This links to a previous project, Murder Under the Microscope. The children are currently working on their storyboards, but can't wait to get back on the computers to actually start creating their games.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Along for the Ride

I have just got back from attending the Australian Council of Educational Leaders Conference where I was presented with the Microsoft NSW Innovative Teachers Award for 2010. I received this award for work I have done in the area of game design both with my own class at Cromer Public School, and with my MacICT project, Engaging Students as Game Designers, including the new work we are doing with Kodu.

I met with the other State winners, a group of amazing innovative teachers, who are all doing incredible projects in their classrooms and across their regions. What a privilege it was to spend time with such a diverse group of teachers and, after bonding very quickly, we are all looking forward to getting together next March.

Next March I will be off to Phuket, Thailand to participate in the Regional Microsoft Innovative Teachers Awards. I will be presented with many new experiences including working in cross cultural teams on different challenges. What an opportunity and what a journey I've been on. I'm definitely along for the ride and who knows where it will take me!

The huge screen at the Awards ceremony.

This award reflects the combined efforts of the amazing team I work with, particularly my immediate team, Anthony and Simon, and also all my colleagues at MacICT where we have the opportunity to collaborate around ideas, share intelligent conversations, debate and spark off one another. All the projects developed at MacICT are what they are because of the leadership of the Director (and my mentor) Debbie Evans whose leadership at the Centre promotes the process of innovation and creates incentives through giving project teams autonomy, the freedom to strive for mastery and a purpose for what we are doing. While perfection may not be attainable, the culture at MacICT is to chase perfection through repeated iterations of our projects and in chasing perfection, hopefully, we can catch excellence! (Vince Lombardi, American Football Coach)

In addition to this award, two students in my Year 6 class won first and second place in Australia in Kodu Kup, a game design skill competition aimed to recognise students who demonstrate excellence in a diverse range of technical, creative and game play depth and design in the use of Kodu Games Lab. What a fantastic achievement by these two students. I am one very proud teacher!