Making games in the classroom

I’m particularly pleased with the work produced by my KS3 students in ICT this term.

Many of my key stage 3 students focused on making platform games. We looked at a variety of different platform games old and new. We started some of the games that I grew up with – Chuckie Egg, Manic Miner (got to love that 8-bit music) and Donkey Kong. We talked about how games have changed over the years as technology gets better and cheaper. We looked at some modern platform games (Sonic the Hedgehog, Tomb Raider, Super Mario 3D). We discussed what has changed – the graphics have improved, the environments are often 3D etc. What do they think games will look like in 25 years time? Exciting, isn’t it?

However, we identified common themes for platform games – baddies, collectibles and, of course, platforms. The students then sketched out designs for their games on paper. Once their ideas started to form we started work at the computers. Using 2DIY we designed our game environment. Most of the learners designed their characters in 2Paint a Picture or Dazzle, although some chose to find and alter images they found on the internet. Once we had designed the platform layout in 2DIY and had imported our characters we play-tested the games to ensure that our characters could reach all parts of the play area.

We designed our baddies and imported them into DIY, choosing how we wanted them to move around the play area.  After adding collectibles to the game we added sounds. We used Audacity to record and edit sounds for the elements of the game and wrote instructions.

At each stage of the process we play-tested each others games, suggesting ways that they could be improved. Sometimes we did it verbally in the class. Sometimes I uploaded their unfinished games to the ICT Gallery, and had the students play the games and leave helpful feedback in the comments field (being careful to use pseudonyms – an essential e-safety strategy for the students to learn). We’ve been working with the students to help them critically evaluate their work, and I was very impressed by their taking ownership of their games and commitment to making them as good as possible. It is very easy to export 2DIY to Flash files, and therefore embed them into webpages. Because their games were to be posted online it really gave the students a sense of audience and a commitment to making their work as good as possible.

I was delighted with the results. This game was created by a KS3 student who is profoundly autistic and difficult to engage. The work was almost entirely independent. This game was created by another student with Downs and ASD who is largely non-verbal.  We’ve never seen him so focused at school as when he was creating it. Have a look at Riverside’s ICT Gallery to see other examples,

What have we learnt?

  • to use the most appropriate software to achieve a task, and to combine ICT tools
  • to critically evaluate our own work and the work of others in order to make improvements
  • to exchange information with orhers using digital communication
  • to understand the benefits of online communication and to manage some of the risks associated with the digital environment through the use of pseudonyms
  • to understand that work can be saved and retrieved, and that mistakes can be easily rectified by saving our work as we go along and using the “undo” button.

Kids love games (so do I, as it happens). I am convinced that games present fantastic learning opportunities for all kids, but especially those who are “hard to reach”. So often students work is being produced for an audience of one, the teacher. By posting their work online (via the school blog, Facebook and Twitter feeds) it gives their work a context and utility. The learners are often more tech-savvy than their parents. Parents of SEN students are used to seeing low quality work, it was lovely to see parents genuinely delighted at seeing their children developing skills that they themselves don’t have.

The experience has been positive for me, and I am determined to integrate games further into the ICT curriculum. Minecraft is incredibly popular amongst many of our learners. MinecraftEdu is a mod which is designed for classroom use. There seems to be an active online community of educationalists who are developing educational resources for the game, and I really look forward to seeing how I can apply it in my own SEN setting.