Last trimester, my kiddos created their own vocabulary games with my Vocabulary Game Creation Project to work on key math vocabulary. My oldest son is a major techie and really wanted to create a video game. I feel that it is super important for young students to be exposed to the basics of coding, so that they are continually realizing that they are in control of the computer and not the other way around. Learning the basics of coding teaches students:
- trouble shooting skills (which we call critical thinking when applied to a math problem)
- logical thinking (also a math concept)
- cause and effect (literacy and science concept)
- patience and persistence (life skills)
- application and creativity
So when he asked to play around with creating a video game, we downloaded an app onto our iPad called Game Press, which he used to create his video games. The app itself is free, but with the free version, you only have three possible levels to your game. Each level is quite short, so this makes for very short games. We chose to upgrade for $1.99 and give him access to unlimited levels.
Within the create mode, students design a background and add characters.
Then, students can assign movements to characters and create simple “if…then” statements in relation to the characters, which will dictate the movement of the characters when someone plays the game. These “if…then” statements are created by simply drawing lines between two or more behaviors.
At any moment, students can play their own games, giving them a chance to see how their actions will play out in their game. This try and check process is key to learning how to use any new piece of technology – and is conveniently an important skill in both math and science.
In today’s society, students need to learn not just how to use technology, but how to be in control of programming new technology. Apps like Game Press help students begin to understand the concepts of coding without having to use a programming language. This app would make a great addition to an after school coding class or an enrichment program, but it could also be used in a general education classroom. Here are a few helpful hints if you plan to use it in your general classroom:
1.) Model the basics for your students. Project from your iPad if possible, or simply work on the iPad in front of the students. This will help students know where to get started when they begin.
2.) Allow students to work in groups. This helps make the most of limited resources and allows students with more technology experience to become the “experts” who help the group.
3.) Give early finishers a chance to use “play around” with Game Press and build their expertise.
4.) Ask students to create a slide by slide plan for their game before they begin creating.
5.) Set specific guidelines on what MUST be included in a completed game.
6.) Make the first game an ongoing project or a quarter or semester long project, so that students won’t feel rushed and will be encouraged to try new things, even if it means failing the first few times.
How could you use Game Press in your classroom?