Monday, 30 July 2018

Coding Our Own Computer Games

Nothing makes me feel more proud than when I see my students happily showing off their hard work to an audience. What makes it better is when these kids have never done anything like it before and have developed a love for it. This is how coding went down with my Year 4 students this year when they presented their first ever GameCon.

Coding has only been introduced this year at my school and when I was developing the curriculum for them, I was conscious that I didn't want to make it too simple. I decided on using an app called Hopscotch with them. There were a few reasons for this:
  • It is block code based. The graphical nature of it is a great introduction to coding for this age group
  • They have some fantastic, easy to follow tutorials to get started creating a game
  • The app is free (you can pay extra for premium features but we didn't need them)
  • Students can share their games to a global library of games. Likewise, they can view other games
  • Because of the game library, when students get stuck on a problem, they can look at the code for similar games to help their problem solving

 Make your own version of Crossy Road. Videos like this were an invaluable learning tool for our students whilst making their games. 

We spent the first term slowly introducing coding vocabulary and concepts to the students. It was important to use real world examples to help them understand. This included some simple unplugged games to get their head around things. There was also a lot of practical 'digital sandbox' time to try new things out and explore what is possible with the app.

After the introductions, we introduced the engineering design process to the students and they followed this to create their own computer games. They spent a lot of time planning their game before they began developing it. There was a great deal of testing and re-designing - real, authentic problem solving was happening. We developed experts who gained enough knowledge on their own that could now help others. We ended up with experts for many things such as lives, scoring systems, creating levels, changing backgrounds, controllers, movements and actions and graphics.

One of the best things about this process was the collaboration that happened incidentally. Our lessons became so student driven that by the end of the unit, we were merely back seat drivers observing the greatness unfolding. We were always hearing great things like "Can you please help me with this?", "Wow! That is awesome, can you show me how to do that?", "What do you think I could do better?". With our experts, students were no longer asking the teachers for much help.
The students hard work culminated in our first ever GameCon where we invited teachers, other students and family members into our classroom to play the games and hear about the process of creating them. The atmosphere was euphoric and you could not wipe the smiles off of everyone's faces. GameCon was a success and now we bring on our next group of Year 4 students to see what amazing things they can create.

Have you had similar success with something like this? How are you using game creation to challenge your students?

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