Tag-Archive for ◊ game design ◊

My First Scratch
Tuesday, July 17th, 2012 | Author:

I know that this will shock many people but until about 24 hours ago, I’d never used Scratch. Never. I have seen Miles Berry present on it twice and have also worked with many others (Pete Stuart, Simon Hunt etc) who have talked about it, but I have never sat down and actually had a play. Until this morning. The reason? We were due to appear on Brazilian TV.

I got an email a few weeks back asking if I knew of any schools near London that were coding and teaching game design with primary children. I didn’t, but after a while it was decided that we were near enough London and the camera crew were coming in. On the last Tuesday afternoon of term. Hhhmmm. They were due to have a short interview with me about programming – the normal sorts of questions including:

  • Why do we teach programming?
  • Why is it important?
  • Will the Raspberry Pi change anything?
And so on. We do have a progression of skills throughout our school starting with simple Roamer/on-screen Roamer style tools to teach instructions and sequences and this then feeds into 2Do It Yourself which is an excellent tool for the basics of game design (along with Simon Widdowsden’s excellent 2DIY Archive for more advanced use including elements of coding) and then the plan is to include Scratch and Kodu for older children too. That’s the plan, but we’ve never got round to doing that bit until today.
I thought about using 2DIY with the children this afternoon but as the video was going to be shown in Brazil, and I wasn’t sure of 2Simple’s influence in South America, I thought I’d stick with a freebie program that could be available anywhere. Also, it would be great to see what my children could come up with in an hour on a tool they had never used before. Turns out that they were amazing.
We started with the video of the fish tank from Miles Berry and then we set out to replicate that. My thinking was that if we could all manage to create a fish tank with two fish in it that moved of their own accord, as well as a predator that would eat them, then we would know the basics. Then they could move on and explore further on their own. We made the fish tank in about 45minutes and then the children started adding text boxes, speech and other sorts of characters to make it more interesting and varied.

So why have I written this post? I just wanted to say that it isn’t wrong if you haven’t tried every piece of software in the world (I’ve only just started using Storybird and have never used Voicethread…in fact my first use of Sketch-up was only last year). This is normal. But these tools aren’t scary, they are simple to pick up and as I said in my interview, don’t worry if the children know more than you do. It’s great not being the expert in the classroom. Today was my first experience of that for ages and I loved having two Year 5 pupils on hand for some Scratch tips, they’d been shown it once at their secondary school transfer day last week and have since downloaded it and played with it constantly. So give it a go, watch the video below and let me know how you get on. The final piece for TV will be available in a few weeks and I will post it when I have a copy.

Miles Berry’s video is here: http://www.undertenminutes.com/?p=256 and Simon Hunt’s (@smnhunt) website about Scratch is here: learnscratch.co.uk

BBC Click (after)
Saturday, June 04th, 2011 | Author:

I wrote the previous blog post before I’d seen BBC Click so I thought it I’d blog after I’ve seen it too. I think that Peter Price (@peprice) has done an amazing job and I am very pleased with how it has come out.

The whole story is about the problem facing the gaming and programming industry. Years ago, children could learn how to program a machine like the BBC micro or their spectrum at home or in school but now computers are much more complex and coding isn’t taught in the classroom anymore. Industry legends David Braben (the man behind Elite) and Ian Livingstone (maker of Tomb Raider) give their opinions. Then it shows us.

The video talks about us ‘ripping up the curriculum’ and ‘leading a revolution’, now I know many other schools are doing similar things to us, but it’s great to hear this. I think game design is very important in the classroom. It develops thinking skills, creativity and problem solving. I want my children to pick up some software like 2Do It Yourself, try things out and be able to succeed in seconds but then when they want to make it REALLY cool, they need to learn a bit more. And then this might go horribly wrong and they break it. But then they have to learn how to fix it too. Coding is very hard to teach in the primary school. I believe that children (and teachers) want things instantly and if it is too hard they’ll give up. 2DIY offers a simple introduction to coding e.g. change this number and he jumps higher. What happens if you make it a really big number? Then when you want more, you can go to the 2diyarchive and find some great coding examples on there to copy/paste into your game.

There is also a bit on the video about Kodu and how we have started to use that as well. Now, our use of Kodu has been very limited. The way I started it was to show 2 children at a lunchbreak and ask them to play with it and see what they think. Within 3 days I have 10 children ask if they could also stay in and play and at least 5 more tell me they’d downloaded it at home. They now know much more about it than I do, but who cares? Why not let them lead the learning?

I love it when my children are shown swapping netbooks to play each others games, this happens all of the time and totally justifies the purchase of netbooks in our school.

Overall I am very pleased with the video and I think our children look fantastic on it. If you need any help or advice on gaming in the classroom, I am not an expert but I can certainly point you towards some people that might be.

The video is available here and the news story (which adds Peter Molyneux’s opinion) is here

BBC Click (before)
Friday, May 27th, 2011 | Author:

About 2 weeks ago I got a message from Mr Thorne (off of the brilliant Mr Thorne Does Phonics) asking if I would be able to speak to a journalist about programming in the classroom. Of course I would! So I had a great chat with Peter Price (@peprice) from BBC Click and it turned out, he wanted to come and film in school. Last Friday he came in and watched as some children played with Kodu in their lunchbreak and then he watched a lesson with 2Do It Yourself in Year 5-6.

Now, it could have been better. If we had been able to be in Year 3-4 we’d have probably seen game design experts, but timetables dictated we would be working with 5-6. They did well and made some suitable games and I showed them a few ways to change the code as we went along to make the character jump higher or faster. I also got a couple to play with the teleport feature too. Simon (@xannov) helped with a few ideas and I owe him a lot. To be honest, he should have had the cameras in, he does amazing things with 2DIY, so I am eternally thankful for his support. He gave me a new login to blog the finished games and I didn’t get chance, but I will add to it in future.

I was also interviewed about my thoughts on ICT and programming. I am now wondering if what I said was good enough or if it was controversial etc. I spoke about the need for us to give children exciting ICT and to make it relevant and fresh. I also spoke about the fact that often training teachers is difficult because children are coming in knowing more and more each year. It’s exciting, but it can be a challenge.

I was also asked why we teach game design and I spoke about the fact when we were younger, anyone could make a game on their spectrum or atari. Those days are gone, but using tools like Scratch, Kodu or 2DIY we can make games to share with others. Ok, so we didn’t code it all from scratch, but hey…it’s a start.

So how much will be on the show? Who knows! It goes out on Saturday at 11:30am on BBC News 24. I’ll blog about it after and will include the iplayer link too.

So a huge thank you to Mr Thorne (he doesn’t have a first name) and to Simon for their help and support. I owe you both a drink or two.

You can also find some more great Primary School Games