Friday, March 19, 2010

Kodu Game Development

I have been introduced to a neat new project - Kodu! No, I am not congratulating you - that is the name of the program you use to develop this amazing new world!

What is Kodu?
Kodu (originally named Boku) is a visual programming environment tool designed to be accessible for children and enjoyable for anyone.
Kodu is available to download as an Xbox 360 Indie Game. There is also a PC version in an open beta which is available to anyone at their website.Kodu is different from other projects in several key ways:
•It avoids typing code by having a user construct programs using visual elements with a game controller
•Rather than a bitmapped or 2D display, programs are executed in a 3D simulation environment, similar to Alice (another program you can use)

Information borrowed from

It is downloadable to your PC and it allows you to create Kodu characters and your own Kodu world! You are given a blank world, and you choose your terrain, landscape, objects, etc. to create games, simulations, and many other possible things. It is like a virtual world - you give your Kodu character an action, and when you run it, the Kodu does the action. Basically it is a program where your students can create games - which can be uploaded to their XBox 360!

I have found (with the help of my learning technologist) where to download it (we already have gotten approval and have it installed in our school), a bunch of resources and tutorials both in print and video format for students to teach themselves or you to teach yourself, and have put them all on my wikispace. I developed a page on my wikispace for Kodu Game Development, and have created a 18 class period mini-unit, complete with assignments for a CPT 30 student. I would not recommend giving this project to a student in a lower skill level, or a lower class stage because it takes some real ingenuity, creativity, and computer smarts to figure out some of the stuff. Of course some younger students could do this as a modified project yes, but what I have developed will be aimed expectation-wise for a student in grade 12.

Check it out - and please comment on my blog because I want to hear your thoughts!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Giving students all the answers...

Why is it that students want the answers put right in front of their face? Is it that they are lazy? Unambitious? Do they just want the easy route? Many of you may think that these assumptions are true, and in a few cases it may be just that. But what about those other students? Those who actually are trying and those who are willing to put in the time. It seems hard to swallow sometimes when we sit in our classrooms and see those students (there may be lots of them), that just get frustrated with you when they don't have the answer given to them in the notes or once they watch a video. I had an experience like that today in my social studies 9/10 class.

I was quite happy to be presenting a video about "The Great Age of Exploration (1400-1550)" to my students. I think to myself, 'Hey, it sure beats having to read the textbook or do notes. They will love this.' Little did I realize that not all students agree. Once the video was done, there were 10 discussion questions for them to complete and hand in. They loosely fit the video, but were also a source of critical thinking for the students to evaluate what the explorers actually did for the world. Boy oh boy, I tell you, there were about 3/4 of my class that hated that assignment. They were grumbling, talking back, talking under their breath about how I am '"not teaching them what they need for this assignment", or they are "not sure how they are supposed to remember all that happened in the video to answer these questions", or how "it would be nice to be able to have an example". I get increasingly frustrated myself (inside), and tell my students "these are critical thinking questions, and you need to relate the information you saw in the video to what is being asked in the question. The answers will not always be given to you word by word. Sometimes you have to dig deep and use some common sense and prior knowledge to help answer the questions." They were not impressed with me. So, I gave them one answer I had to one of the questions. It didn't seem to help their attitude, but I at that point was not concerned with those that "have to have it their way all the time", and focused my effort on those that did want to try. Because as teachers, we are there for those who want to learn, and those who want to push themselves to succeed and try new things. Critical thinking skills are extremely important, and I think we need to push our students to try and to develop those skills.

Success and life is not handed out on a platter, and neither should the answers. Make them work for it, otherwise we are doing a grave injustice to our future citizens. What do you think?

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Update and idea?

Hey fellow listeners! It has been waaay too long! What have I been up to? TOO MUCH!

I have been super crazy busy with my CPT 10/20/30 students, who were working on Swedes of movies. If you don't know what a Swede is, you better rent the movie "Be Kind, Rewind". It stars Jack Black and it is about how he becomes magnatized and erases a bunch of VHS tapes in his friend's movie rental store. They are eventually left to their own devices about how to fix the problem, so they decide to remake the movies using something called "swede" which is short for Swedish (don't ask me)! Basically they are hilarious remakes of movies such as Ghost Busters and Men In Black (just to name a few). This becomes really popular and people really like their remakes.
I have checked out Youtube and it seems as though this is a phenomenon that is/was sweeping the globe. Many countries such as the UK have had competitions about who makes the best swede of movies. I thought "what a great project for my students!" So, we came together as a split class (had to all work together), and chose some blockbusters to remake. We chose Star Wars -Episode 4; Step Brothers; Marley and Me; Fast and the Furious; Transformers and; Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone. They are just finished - it took forever because we have so little of students, and we needed many actors! But, I think most of them turned out great. I will be posting them as soon as I get them marked, on our school's project showcase wikispace
What took the most amount of time for this project was the organization, which incidentally is the part that the students dislike the most as well. It is like pulling teeth to get students to plan the projects they are going to do, no matter how many times I tell them that it's worth marks, or it makes a better project, etc. all they want to do is film it. Getting the props and improvising the ones we could not get was tricky as well. The point of the swede was not to make it look really professional, and with limited resources and time, we did what we could. I would definitely do this project again some year but I would cut down the number of movies and make it a larger group project and just tackle 2-3 movies.

One of my students asked me for a hard CPT 30 project - and I am still thinking about one. Does anyone have an idea - either audio or video (1-2 students), that would work? Comment and let me know!

I would love to hear from you!!!! Until next time, keep that camera rolling!