I’m constantly impressed by the work teachers are doing in their classes using Gamestar Mechanic. In Michigan, Mike Petty is working on a project that ties game design to learning about ecosystems. Even better, he’s documenting the process to share with other teachers! Check it out here.
You might recognize Mike from as one of the teachers whose lesson plan is featured on our teacher site. In his posts about his class’ project, Mike includes many more lessons and worksheets that he’s used with his students. The resources on his site link to activities in Gamestar, worksheets and journal prompts on games and ecosystems, and even a Glogster assignment on the Scientific method.
One of my favorite parts of Mike’s project is that he builds off of and links to the game design project site by Kevin Hodgson (featured in the blog previously). This is a super example of teachers sharing knowledge around game design and iterating and customization each other’s ideas. I know not every teacher is a gamer or game designer, but it’s interactions like these that make me excited about the prospect of all different kinds of teachers sharing knowledge to make game design work in their classrooms.
I’ve talked to a lot of teachers about their experiences using Gamestar in the classroom. We’ve emailed, chatted, Skyped, called, and spoken in person. I’ve read blog posts, comments, tweets, Edmodo and Facebook posts, and reviews. Yet today was a first for me; I played a game by teacher describing his experience teaching Gamestar!
The GSM Experience is a quick and easy game, and, while it’s very funny, it touches on some important issues in the game design classroom. Mr. Gramlich starts by tackling the problems of using Gamestar in schools:
Level 1 – get over technology hurdles
Level 2 – Try with all your might to get kids to read the instructions in games!
Level 3 – Watch kids make games that are supposedly “challenging,” but in essence provide a whole mess of enemies, but no real challenge or fun gameplay.
Level 4 – Play your kids’ games that are chalk full of sprites. A crowded game doesn’t necessarily mean the “best game ever!”
Level 5 – After enduring the struggles of setting up technology, going over game protocol, and learning how to design games that don’t just rely on tons of enemy sprites, Mr. Gramlich gets to the very best part of using Gamestar in the classroom: playing awesome games that the students make.
This playable experience shows that with perseverance, teachers and kids really can get past the initial issues of using game design in the classroom to get to something that, in Mr. Gramlich’s words, “makes all the trouble worth it!”
Sample student storyboard from Kevin's site
Kevin Hodgson is a teacher in western Massachusetts (my home!) who uses game design in his sixth grade classroom. Kevin has done a lot of work with game design in general and Gamestar specifically. In fact, we’ve showcased one of his lessons as an example lesson on our teacher site.
Now Kevin has set up a site of his own documenting his classes use of Gamestar Mechanic for a science video game project. This site is simple, thorough, and packed with games and videos about his students’ work. Kevin says:
My hope is that my own sharing out of our science-based video game design project will inspire you to consider doing the same for your students, moving them from the role of “player” into the role of “creator.”
This site takes you through the process from brainstorming to collaborative design to game reviews. He even speaks to using game design as a catalyst for reluctant writers.
I’m super impressed with this site and I hope it inspires other teachers to present their work in such an exciting and accessible way. This is something that both student and teacher should be proud of.
Thanks for sharing, Kevin!