gamestar mechanic

KidsCollege is a Go!

After a 5 day weekend thanks to snow days, the district finally returns to school. Based on how things look outside, you wouldn’t have ever guessed we were just off for inclement weather. First it was snow, but then it was all the leftover ice. Warm weather came through and now there’s really nothing but random piles of dirty snow.

One thing I did accomplish though was a phone conversation with PVCC about KidsCollege. It’s a program offered in the area for students. It does cost, but they attend either an AM or PM academy to learn a new skill. They are also free to attend both if their parents so choose. The activities are hands-on and in a workshop format. Instructors suggest the classes they would like to teach, and they are able to earn $487 per Academy, a little more than 16 hours a week.

I will admit, I loved the idea of being paid for teaching on a topic I loved. With a wedding coming up, I want to be able to pay off some of my bills and so I am working all 4 Academies, as long as students register for them. I don’t usually do a summer job of any kind, but this is more like being able to have fun with groups of students.

I will be doing my 4 sessions on:

  • Minecraft Makershop – Rising 6th-9th Graders. This will be very similar to the Makershop I ran last summer, except now I have things to change and take out based on how the first one went.
  • Coding Through Minecraft – Rising 6th-9th Graders. This will use the LearntoMod software. Students will learn some of the basics of blockly coding and how this code can be used to create mods for Minecraft.
  • Game Design 101 – Rising 6th – 9th Graders. This will utilize Gamestar Mechanic and incorporate many of the same elements that we have completed in the Fluco Game Designers club that I run for this age group.
  • Lil’ Minecrafters: Making and Building Exploration – Rising 1st-2nd Graders. This will be similar to my Makershop for the older students, but scaled down to meet the needs of 1st and 2nd grade students. We will do a lot more focus on building, shapes, placing shapes together, and textures.

Right now, the titles for all of the sessions are temporary and not final. I know Minecraft Makershop will stay the same, but not sure about the others. I’ll need to spend time hashing out my activity guides for each day, and I want each class to have a final project as well, since they have to have something to share on the very last day of the Academy. It will definitely be a challenge, but worth it in the end.

I am pretty excited to see how it turns out though, and depending on how I feel, may use some of the sessions for a presentation idea at WVSTC. I’m not entirely sure yet though.


#IMMOOC: Empowerment & Fluco Game Designers


“Our job as educators and leaders is not to control others but to bring out the best in them.” – Innovator’s Mindset, pg 98

As I have mentioned before, I recently started a game design club at the middle school where I work. I ended up with a large group of kids. I am supposed to have 66 if all kids show, and I had 55 last week at the first meeting. I’m crazy and nuts for keeping my group so large, but I do have 2 parent volunteers and as long as the behavior is good, we’ll keep the large group.

Keeping so large a group is a tricky little beast. The students meet in the library and are seated at tables that hold 5. I use one particular tool for most of my management, and that’s so I can get the students’ attention quickly and easily when I need to give guidance on the next topic. If you’ve heard of Kagan strategies, then you know about high five. Basically, the teacher holds up a hand, says “high five!”, and the student response is to hold up a hand in return, mouths closed. A bit of compliance, yes, but simply so the group can regroup and move forward.

The goal of the club is to teach game design, and a lot of that is done through quests (via Gamestar Mechanic) and then the students’ own projects. I want the focus of the club mostly on student designing, so I am carefully scouring the lesson plans provided by Gamestar and using that to create my own. I set up the week’s plans via Google Classroom so that all of the students can be on the same page. Gamestar uses 5 simple lessons to get things started, and then students can branch from there. The basic 5 lessons are meant to teach basic concepts. Once that’s done, there are many routes to take.

For example, this week, students focus on the elements of game design, the big backbone for all of their future work. Every game designed always features the 5 elements- mechanics, components, space, goals, and rules. I want to make sure to hit this one on the head, but I don’t want to make it all lecture. That’s boring and the students don’t get to do much with that route. The lesson I found details it as where I introduce it, then the students complete episodes 3 and 4 to play games that utilize it, and then we come back together for discussion.

Because this lesson is so important to game design in general, I want to add in some empowerment, and may extend the lesson further into the next week. I’m thinking of having the students first focus on one particular element and create a game in their workshop focused around that, asking them to blatantly ignore all other elements in their design process. Then I want them to design a game where they focus on all 5 equally. Since they won’t have finished the first quest in its entirety yet, they won’t have all the sprites from it, but they can still use what they  have to make something. I need to mull it over and put it into my plans.

Looking toward the future in the group, I want to have a lot more projects where students are given the basic parameters and then set free to create while I work on facilitating. It will help prepare them for the STEM Video Game Design Challenge in the spring. I also want to borrow the idea of an Identity Day for game design. I want to see what games students identify with and are passionate about, what their influences might be when it comes to their games that they’ll design. Influences are important, no matter what field, and I already know this crew loves talking about their favorite games.

I used to think engagement was key back when I was in the classroom. Oh, I was good at getting the students’ attention all right. I loved being a goofball, and using that to design lessons that grabbed the students’ attention, such as my Power Rangers Rock Cycle demonstration. Looking back now, that wasn’t all I needed to do. I should have engaged, yes, because that got their attention initially. What I failed to do was take that interest from being engaged and use it to empower the students to take control of their learning, which is what I should have been doing. I know better now. Engage first, but empower more than anything. I’m going to demonstrate that with Fluco Game Designers. I can’t wait!

Fluco Game Designers


In my new district, I was asked to start a STEM club of some kind at the middle school back when I interviewed and was hired. I was happy to do this, as I did want to try something new. I eventually decided on game design after having taken the Coding, App, and Game Design I training earlier in the summer. The training was meant to be used at the high school level, but I figured I could easily rework some of it to be used at the middle school level.

It took me some time to come up with my ideas on how to proceed. Unlike with previous clubs, I wanted a neat timeline of events for working with the students. I decided to use 3 different tools- Gamestar Mechanic, Minecraft, and Construct 2. I also want to have students review different games based on gameplay. I wanted there to be an end goal for the year for students as well, so I’m going to have each of them participate in the STEM National Video Game Design Challenge. I believe this will be a good way for them to put their skills to the test.

The basic idea is that students will learn gameplay mechanics by using Gamestar.

After some back and forth with the principal where we worked out details on dates and meetings, forms got sent home with student progress reports. This was probably not the best of ideas, even though it did expose the club to everyone. I ended up becoming more popular than I could have imagined.

Within the next few days, I had over 40 responses. I had to cap the numbers on the club, and in the end I ended up with 66 students. I have to split the group into two groups so that they meet every other week. I also needed volunteers, and so have ended up with 3 potential parent volunteers. Great, I was off to a good start.

Some time passed and I had to set aside my planning for a little bit due to other obligations. The week of the first meeting I began doing my final preparation. I focused on Gamestar and used their resources and lessons to design my own. I knew I needed to be prepared with so large of a group. I also began setting up Google Classroom for my group as well. I knew it would be a big help in getting information to the students. Finally, I set up the Facebook page and Twitter account for our club.

Thursday, October 6 was our first meeting. In the end I had 55 of 66 students show up. We worked in the library. Two parent volunteers showed up as well and they were a huge help in getting materials to students, as well as helping me observe and keep them on track. I could not have done it without them.

For our first meeting, we got things set up. Students completed a game designer profile I had created, and then they joined the Google Classroom and Gamestar Mechanic. We completed the first lesson on the parts of a game and they also completed episodes 1 and 2 of the first quest. We then played a match game based on the parts of a game before wrapping up and dismissing the students.

Overall I was really pleased, and so were the remarks I heard from parents as well. We’re going to meet as a whole group until behaviors keep us from doing the planned materials. They did well so far, so until something keeps us from accomplishing our goals, we’ll keep meeting in a large group.

Looking forward to the next meeting!

Positive Post Friday: 10/7/16

It’s Friday and that means it’s time for another Positive Post Friday! I didn’t post one last week because things got hectic at work and my parents visited that weekend so I was kept very busy.

Fridays mark the end of the work week. Fridays mark the start of the weekend. Fridays should end the week on a positive note. Therefore, I’m going to share 5 positive things that happened this week:

  1. Thursday was the first of Fluco Game Designers, the new club that I started at the middle school. I had 66 kids signed up before I capped club off. I had 55 kids show up yesterday and despite a few issues with pickup at the end, we had a great time! I had 2 great parent volunteers to help me out and we got a lot accomplished on Gamestar Mechanic. Ready for next week’s meeting!
  2. Social media is starting to really take off in our district. I have worked this week to gather the rest of the accounts that staff members run for clubs, activities, and the schools in general. I have a good list, so now it’s time to plan my next steps, which will include meeting with each person who manages an account.
  3. #IMMOOC has been a great activity for me, and I have loved participating with everyone on both Facebook and Twitter. I don’t always get my readings done in time, but I do try post each week. I have had some great revelations this week, and I’m so glad the book has given me so many opportunities to reflect!
  4. Today I had training on Classflow, and even got to try a Promethean board for the first time. The main part of the training was on Classflow, but we did take time to look and explore a Promethean board. I have further training on it on the 18th, so I hope to learn a lot more.
  5. #wvedchat had another successful chat group this week, this time on growth mindset. I decided we needed to do something fun with the group, and so took the idea of doing a meme challenge from #IMMOOC and applied it to our chat. I decided to do a book giveaway as well. We have had some wonderful responses, and I cannot wait to sit down and judge them all.

Your turn: Share your Positive Post Friday.

Until next Friday! Have a great weekend!

Positive Post Friday: 9/23/16

It’s Friday and that means it’s time for another Positive Post Friday!

Fridays mark the end of the work week. Fridays mark the start of the weekend. Fridays should end the week on a positive note. Therefore, I’m going to share 5 positive things that happened this week:

1. Today I am at a training for NWEA-MAP. We are ready to learn more about effective uses of the program. It really makes the training better when you have colleagues with you who are excited and love to share and discuss.

2. I met with more teachers who are part of my Connected Educator team this week. Both of them were interested in blogging and ready to learn how to share their stories. I really cannot wait to see where this professional development leads.

3. This week began participation in #IMMOOC, which is this massive book study group reading and responding to George Couros’ Innovator’s Mindset. Each week begins with a Youtube Live video, required reading, and possible ways to respond to the material, including quick video reflection. I was a little late in getting started, so I didn’t get my stuff finished until Wednesday night. I can’t wait to read more blogs and see what others thought.

4. I hosted #wvedchat’s biweekly chat this week and had a blast. I got a lot of comments and remarks about the topic. It was very fast paced, but oh so worth it. I love being able to host things like that.

5. I spent two days this week helping a MS student during Genius Hour with his project. He did his on video games and wanted to make his own game. His teacher contacted me and asked for help. He and I have been discussing his plans, as well as working on Gamestar Mechanic. He’s excited and eager ot figure out the program!

Your turn: Share your Positive Post Friday.

Until next Friday! Have a great weekend!