Welcome to another post devoted to learning in the 21st Century. As you may know I have several series post I am writing at the current time. They include Digital Curriculum, Project Based Learning, and Website Evaluation. This post starts another series dedicated to Games in Education. As part of these continued series of posts I plan on a prize give away that you will be learning about in a future post. Stay tuned! This post is about more than kids playing educational games! There are a lot of great educational games and I will cover some of those in the future… with your help! In this post I am going to introduce one of at least six game creation software and sites that allow your students to create their own game! What’s cool about this… your kids get to be creators, innovators, collaborators, and contributers. Even better, it can be done in any curriculum! By the way, please take a moment to subscribe to this Blog by RSS or Email! I enjoy seeing new subscribers that I can network with! You subscriptions mean a lot to me! Also you can follow me on Twitter at mjgormans and explore my wiki of resources at 21centuryedtech.wikispaces.com. Now let’s get into the game… and have a great week! – Mike
I start this series by introducing you to a site that provides a total curriculum in game theory including design, authoring, and construction. On first visit to the site, Gamestar Mechanic may overwhelm the average educator. Keep in mind that the theory of Game Star Mechanic is to allow the teacher to facilitate. It is the students that will become the experts and collaborate with each other while providing one another with needed help. What fascinated me with this program is that it is a curriculum based on designing games as a possible career. There is also a vast amount of resources to bring Gamestar Mechanic into any curriculum. It is written for children who are in middle elementary to early high school. To get a better idea of the concepts behind Game Star Mechanic take a moment to view this informative video.
When first entering the site be sure to click on the More Information For Teachers Button (this link will bring you there). This section of the website will help you find the answers to many of your questions about how to use Gamestar in a learning environment. The site states that, “Gamestar Mechanic allows students to learn about how systems work and how they can be modified or changed. Students learn to think analytically and holistically, to experiment and test theories, and to consider other people as part of the systems they create and inhabit”. In fact you can even discover several dissertations by Ph.D by Alex Games and Ph.D by Robert Torres. Skills and concepts for student learning include:
- system-based thinking
- creative problem solving
- art and aesthetics
- writing and storytelling
- STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics)
I highly suggest that you take a moment and register yourself and your school, as I did. From there you will discover both the free services and other options available under a paid subscription. Once you are registered you can set up a class and give the URL to students so they can register (free account provides for up to 200 students). Make sure you check you school AUP before putting students online. I also noted that there was an option for teacher to sign up students with out a student email account which maybe a great idea. As you read the teachers’ resources you will learn that the program can be facilitated in several ways and that the time commitment for running a Gamestar course can range from 3 to 4 hours in a computer lab to a semester-long course. Options include:
- Self-guided activities and exploration: students follow the curriculum contained in Gamestar
- A short course or workshop: incorporating some curriculum from the Learning Guide
- A semester-long course: incorporating curriculum from the Learning Guide
The program is made up of three areas. They include the Quest. This is where students play games and learn about different components of a game. This is the starting point and certain knowledge and skills must be obtained before a student even creates that first game. Through out the Quest students earn avatars and other key objects along with the needed knowledge to build their first game. After satisfying some concept development in the Quest, students use objects earned to go to the Workshop. This is where students start experimenting with building a game. Student games can be saved and the teacher can view student progress using the class account. A third area is the Game Alley which allows students to discover games that that have been published by others. As I began my journey through the Quest I learned how even simple games are filled with challenges and critical thinking skills. It was a clear lesson in trail and error as I had to provide my own formative assessments of performance in order to find success.
What is most impressive is the Teacher Learning Guide that is provided at a comprehensive Google Site. This Learning Guide provides an amazing set of resources that allows the teacher to understand how to implement Gamestar Mechanic. That is just the beginning! Activities are provided that allow children to learn game design and story telling… and not all of them require technology! Some are just great classroom exercises allowing for communication, creativity, discussion, movement, and collaboration! Don’t stop there because some of the best is yet to come. Make sure you look at the Field Guide which is inside the Teacher learning Guide. This is the place where gaming connects across the entire curriculum. A few activities include; House on Mango Street, Ancient Blueprints, An Escher Encounter, The Great Tile Wall, The Water Cycle, Laws of the Jungle, The Slopes of Mount Everest, A Fine Balance , and They’re Quite a Pair which is an exercise in Mitosis! This is only a sample of some awesome lessons connecting gaming to the curriculum!
In conclusion, Gamestar Mechanic was created by a public-private partnership that crosses leading foundations, non-profits, academia and the game industry. It is currently supported by a partnership between the Institute of Play and E-Line Media. The game was originally developed by Gamelab in partnership with the Institute of Play and the Academic Advanced Distributed Learning Co-Lab (AADLC) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Initial funding for the game and companion learning guides came from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. I first learned about it from a session presented by another partner, the AMD Foundation. The design of this unique program is based on research by Katie Salen (Executive Director of the Institute of Play and curriculum author for the New York City Public School Quest To Learn) and James Paul Gee (author of What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Learning and Literacy).
I hope you enjoyed this first in a series of posts based on Gaming In Education. Make sure you learn about the other great gaming finds along with keeping up with my continuing series that cover Project Based Learning, Web Evaluation,and Digital Curriculum. Plus, I am always sharing new finds in Web 2.0, STEM, and 21st Century Learning! Did I mention an up and coming give away? Take a moment to subscribe to this Blog by RSS of Email and follow me on twitter at mjgormans! It really is time you joined the game as we all provide the 21st century road that allows our student to become stars… Gamestars that is! Have a great week! – Mike