A new journey in education

Archive for the ‘PBL’ tag

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

PBL in Metalwork… continued

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Well today was the first real lesson this term of year 10 Metalwork, the class I started my PBL journey with last term. So time for a progress report.

I have set every group up with a folder containing all examples, project outline and other useful resources. Every student has their own folder with the project outline and KWL sheets for every lesson. They are expected to complete these every lesson and hand the folders back in so as to achieve weekly XP on top of the finished project XP.

To date each of the groups of around 8 students have had 2 to 3 in the group who have lead and collected all the information they need to make their final project. Unfortunately the other 5 or so students per group have not been so diligent in their work. This in a normal class would be a problem, though for this group of young men it is actually an improvement. I can have them engaged for close to 30 minutes which is 30 minutes longer then it has been previously. Along with this extra engagement, there has been an extreme reduction in whole class disturbances which previously were a real issue.

There are 2 boy’s who are loner’s, nerds if you will. They have no want to be in Metalwork, it was what was left available to them on subject selection night. I have to connect with these boy’s who sit quietly and work through improving their Minecraft worlds having finished the minimum work required. So today I quickly asked around those in the know on Minecraft to see if they could build a Blacksmith’s workshop inside their Minecraft worlds. It turns out they can, so in 2 weeks time that is what I will charge them with for their project.

Now no videos have been developed or produced, though 2 groups actually started looking at which camera to use for their project. So many would say it hasn’t worked, I would say progress is slow, many small milestones have been met and there are many more to come.  This class of disturbed boy’s from the western suburbs needs more time, time they don’t have. They have not been taught to learn, they have been taught to follow this, produce that and this your mark A, B, C, D, E. They just need more time.

I should reaffirm that I only have this class for one period out of their allocated four per two week cycle. I have zero control or influence over what happens in the weeks between. This also makes this particular lesson tougher.

Written by themolisticview

May 17th, 2011 at 4:44 am

My first Project Based Learning adventure – Part 4 – Reflection

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Reflection. In all seriousness it is more than likely to early to say this first foray into Project Based Learning was a raging success or even close. However given my experience for the first 9 weeks of this term with this class it was a raging success. Whether that was because they were given something different to the normal research, writing mode or they were actually interested and engaged I cannot say.

Not everyone was fully engaged, this I was expecting; these are hard nuts and they will be harder to crack. Again though there is the however, there was no outright “I’m not doing this”. Instead of having to chase one incident after another around the classroom there were only a handful of times I had to question what a student was doing off task.

I allowed the students to choose their groups given that I set an exact task around a question. This is not true PBL. The groups went closely to what I expected, both the large groups have a god mix of doers and watchers as I call them. One group though thanks to a student who is normally a watcher has collected all the information his group needs about the Milling machine. This student was so pumped at the end of lesson he hung around for nearly half of recess to talk to me further about the project.

The idea of XP, Levelling Up and Prestige struck a cord with these students, many of who play Call of Duty the popular video game. Plus the knowledge that if they participate, contribute and explain what they did each lesson via their KWL they would earn an easy 10XP made sense to them.

I have to keep relating everything I know of this class to five lessons over this first term, only five. Of that five, four were hell one was acceptable.

So yes I am excited, yes I know it can all change next term. If I can catch 12 to 14 students with this change in this class, that will be success. As Dean and Bianca have been explaining to me, it is hard to drop everything and run with PBL and it is also hard to change 10 years of ROTE style teaching to which these students have become acclimatised to.

I am sure I have missed out plenty of information. It has been a very busy couple of days as you can see and so close to holidays I am feeling a little spent tonight.

Written by themolisticview

April 6th, 2011 at 11:40 am

My first Project Based Learning adventure – Part 3

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As promised my actual delivered project is in here. Before going into the delivery of the project I did something I have never done before, I had the work the students were originally asked to complete up on the board and I asked them a question: “In three words describe what you think of this” Their answer were as expected, some however realised that they needed to learn the content; they were just bored with the delivery.

Milling Machine Animated Video

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My first Project Based Learning adventure – Part 1

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Before I go into the meat of my first venture in to Project Based Learning, I feel there is a need for some background to my choice.

Firstly my school like many in Western Sydney is a PBL school. Huh! I hear you say, “the school is already a PBL school, what is he on about?” Well this PBL actually means Positive Behaviour for Learning. This type of PBL is intended to focus on student’s behaviour and not actively on their engagement in learning.

Secondly and the real reason for trying this freaky new teaching method called Project Based Learning.

Last year during the ups and downs of the timetabling process, I had a choice of teaching out of faculty for two periods a cycle or taking two periods a cycle of Stage 5 Industrial Technology Metalwork across both years 9 and 10. So I choose wisely and stayed in faculty. The actual teacher of these classes around the same time chose to move to a four-day week. This then made an issue for my HT with the lines of the timetable, either I had to go out of faculty or go from Metalwork practical over each cycle to Metalwork theory.

He chose theory. This choice at the time was intended for me to influence other teachers in my faculty, not just the Metalwork teacher as a “technology leader”. With this choice the HT made it clear that I would only deliver the work set and not impact in anyway on the topics and assessable work set by the class’s teacher. I was more than fine with this, as I had embarked on a new path with my junior IST and Multimedia classes.

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Written by themolisticview

April 5th, 2011 at 11:57 am