theMolisticView

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How I used XNA Game Studio in the classroom Part 2

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This post is a little late; I was meaning to write it back in the last week of the holidays and this first term has been rather busy with a new head teacher, the rain, new junior classes and new computers to set up in my classroom.

Just to set the scene, I have two stage 5 classes, one is IST (which I had not taught before) and the other is Multimedia.  In my previous post I showed how I have been using XNA Game Studio in IST for Windows Phone 7 game development (see post here).

In multimedia I wanted something more substantial, something that like web design could be used as a means of income or personal benefit. I had been buying books, Evernoting (if that’s the term lol) every blog and article I could find on XNA to help me develop a course which would be easy enough for my students to follow and build on. In term 3 last year I used a section from an online source (which has since disappeared) with my year 11 Multimedia class so they had a base side scrolling game on which to develop from. This however turned out to be a total fail, the students simply did not understand the concepts of game making in a code based environment.

Just to be clear if you were wondering, XNA Game Studio is not a game engine like the Unreal engine or Unity 3D, it is a framework from Microsoft which uses C# as its managed language, Visual Studio as its coding environment and is simply a framework or set of API’s which are used to develop games for the Xbox, Windows and Windows Phone 7 platforms.

I was struggling for a way to in which teach to XNA with meaning and purpose. At close to the same time that Coding4Fun dropped the tower defence game for Windows Phone 7, Microsoft’s Faculty Resource Centre also dropped some XNA goodness. Now the Microsoft Faculty Resource Centre already had some XNA resources though these were aimed at university level. The new XNA resource was aimed directly at high schools. Game Development with XNA: Semester 1 – Appendix by Pat Yongpradit was what I was trying to come up with. Pat’s resource is developed using an existing Microsoft book written by Rob Miles Learn Programming with XNA (which you can download here or here for free). Pat’s course develops further the concepts found in the book and can be used with both XNA 3.0-3.1 and the newer 4.0.

At this stage sadly I have nothing in which I can show to you of what the students have learned. We started the course in term 4 last year and are only just at part 2 which involves concepts like multiplayer games, sound effects, timing, game design, reading text input from the player, object-orientated programming and two dimensional arrays.

Given how the IT situation is in our schools with software and the filter there have been a few hiccups along the way which have needed work rounds. With my school still being Windows XP at the start, we were using Visual Studio 2008 and XNA 3.0-3.1. There are extension sections built into the course to keep the gifted students challenged as well, I have 3-4 students (the class has only 15 students) really trying their hardest to complete these. The course also focuses on using the Xbox gamepad when developing games and somewhat at the expense of the keyboard and mouse. These however can be purchased off eBay fairly cheaply.

As yet Pat has not released the promised Semester 2 course. If the second course does not drop in time I will have the students take what they know and develop a game over two terms for the Xbox.

If you have any ideas on teaching for XNA Game Studio I would love to hear from you and if you would like to start using it with your classes and want some pointers drop us a line

Written by theMolisticView

March 11th, 2012 at 1:22 pm