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My Rant…

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Today I received an email asking me to basically hand over everything I know and have done in teaching my students how to produce mobile phone applications. This blatant forced robbery of intellectual property drives me crazy. What makes matters worse in my opinion is that I have already provided these people with a clear outline as to what is required and the substantial costs involved in delivering such exciting learning outcomes for students which go far above those required by any current syllabus in NSW.

Obviously I understand that as an employee all works I create for my job belong to my employer however, in this case I say no! Why? The cost incurred by me to deliver this content for my students, which I am happy to absorb for them to have a better education. There is no way known to me that my employer would pay the money required to teach just 20 stage 5 students how to develop mobile phone apps on just one platform yet alone all three. On top this there is the fact that to do any mobile phone development you have obfuscate the school internet connection.

I won’t list the reasons why you wouldn’t use Google’s Android as I am sure even @Benpaddlejones would admit how hard that is to implement as a school teacher in our system, so i’ll just demonstrate the cost per school for iOS iPhone development.

  1. 13″ Macbook Pro $1,349.
  2. Current iPhone $799
  3. Developer account $99 USD (to unlock the phone so as to test applications on the device)
  4. Developer tools free

note: before anyone says you can just use the free tools and the phone emulator, yes you can however the emulators have restrictions and are not as authentic or as valuable to students when they actually run their own app on a phone or device.

So if you want my stuff for mobile phone development for stage 5, remburse me a little and I’ll help out, until then use Google search and see if you can afford to offer this across the states high schools.

Written by theMolisticView

June 14th, 2012 at 5:15 pm

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

How I used XNA Game Studio in the classroom Part 1

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The last term was an extremely busy time, the last 9 weeks of year 9 IST was no different. I was originally planning to have the class start on Lego NXT Robotics having purchased 3 kits in late term 3 however there was a delivery issue with the battery charger for the kits. So I had a choice to make, move on with the basics of Lego robotics or try something else. At around the same time in which I was making my this decision I visited the Microsoft Channel 9 Coding4fun website. Released earlier in the year was Script TD, a simple tower defense game for Windows Phone 7. Script TD is a simple tower defense game which uses XML as the format to easily change gameplay and based on an open source, perfect for IST.

ScriptTD Home screen

So if you have been following along this year, you would already realise that developing for Windows Phone requires Vista or Windows 7 based computers. My school has yet to come into this decade re operating systems being stuck on XP. Luckily for my students I have 4 laptops for them to use running Windows 7 along with all the typical designer software. Other then needing Windows 7 (who really still uses Vista?) there are no other required pieces of hardware, you can do all the work in the phone emulator with no need for a phone. I have 2 HTC HD7 Windows Phones so I chose to go a little further.

To complicate things a little further, I was asked to head my schools participation in the DEC’s Google Apps trial. A little unprepared for this I chose to throw Google Apps into the mix for term also. My immediate use for Google Apps with this project would be the collaborative abilities of docs and the ease of use of Google Sites so each of the 4 groups in the class could have a site designed specifically around their tower defense game.

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Written by theMolisticView

December 22nd, 2011 at 2:11 am

The click and drag problem

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Something which has been bothering me a lot in recent weeks is what I term the click and drag syndrome.

I currently have two senior multimedia classes, one of which is near the end. Both however have lead to make the following assumption, they cannot produce their own content because they cannot think for themselves. Broad assumption I know, my thoughts on how i reached this conclusion are way to long for a blog post.

I include as much subject material as possibly can be used in the restrictive three terms provided to us in the preliminary year. I do however concentrate on HTML, CSS for building websites, in recent years Flash and this year I have moved in to game making with Microsoft XNA Game Studio.

Now the four technologies listed above are all code intensive and require their user to have knowledge of the basic building blocks. Once you have this basic knowledge you can go forth and produce amazing things, your imagination and own personal knowledge are the only draw backs.

More so this year then last year the students struggle with the basic concepts of the underlying languages. Even when all they have to do is copy out what is provided to them they struggle. The easiest way to make a web page in my classroom is to use Adobe Fireworks. I provide my students with the print outs from the fireworks for der wiki I set up last year which demonstrates how to make a web page or site in this brilliant graphical editor. Only six students in my class could achieve this, the same ones who can write code as turns out.

Late last term we turned early and started on the game making, this was the thing more than any other section of the subject they all wanted to learn. To best start them off I thought some normal Windows programming would be best. Making simple Windows forms a web browser and a weather application, simple small introductory steps to a bigger picture. This is where I got the drag and drop phrase from. When you produce applications using Visual Studio you are presented with a canvas of a Windows application window. You drag and drop the visual elements (UI, user interface) on to the canvas, drag them to where they look best for your users, then you code the behind files as they are known to make the application come to life. The drag and droppers could not do it, simply to hard. They had to think about it, they had to write code from their own knowledge.  As soon as the drag and droppers hit an obstacle they stop as if they have run head on into a wall.

To keep pace I moved them on to XNA and game making, the discussions were excellent, idea generation etc. were all top notch. Again they were guided through the fundamentals shown examples and provided with reusable code (pieces for movement, detecting screen size and algorithms for collision detection). As soon as they had to work it out and produce their own they hit the wall. XNA and most game making software does not have a drag n drop interface. All the work is completed through code, hand writing code which you have to make.

Within a week we were back at the wall, attendance raised its head, work was not handed in and on the syndrome goes. I asked them to provide alternatives, everyone who brought something in brought in a cheesy drag and drop interface where the software did all the work, all the user had to do is drag and drop. I’m sorry but Scratch may be a handy tool to learn with, much like stickman is for animation but you cannot make a HSC assessable product with it.

They are all now 17. Do I have to hold their hand through the HSC?

How did it get this way? I have never taught copy and paste answers, do others? Do other teachers teach only the drag and drop?

I’m bumfuddled to say the least…

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August 6th, 2011 at 7:54 pm

Mobile Phone Application Challenge

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PBL in Metalwork has not been my only foray into Project Based Learning. Now I do not profess that what I have been using is strictly PBL or the Apple version CBL.

So what came after the Metalwork attempt, the mobile phone app challenge. In the last weeks of term 1 this year I introduced this concept to my year 9 IST class. We spent 75 minutes discussing what was expected.

The next lesson they all lined up outside before coming into the room and selecting their chosen mobile platform. There were three platforms for them to choose from: Apple’s iOS, Android and Windows Phone 7.

The 24 students that we started the term with (several students have since left the school), separated perfectly into the three groups. They were all provided with their platforms device so they could start their research. The questions of inquiring minds came thick and fast and we ran out of time in the lesson.

Basically I asked the students to develop a concept of a mobile application from which they would then produce and deploy to a device within a ten week period (turned out to be 11 weeks). The application had to follow the given platforms requirements and be suitable for submission to the platforms appstore. There would be two presentations, one at week five and the final “Keynote” where they would launch their application to the world. This final presentation was to be delivered in-front of the Principal. Each group was also to provide detail information of their progress with lesson by lesson updates on a group posterous account. These updates were intended to be reinforcements of the students individual KWL (What I KNOW, What I WANT to KNOW, What I LEARNED), forms from each lesson. In the final week each student had to present their own one page reflection and working timeline in a spreadsheet.
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Written by theMolisticView

August 1st, 2011 at 2:18 pm