Jun 29 2011

Video Game Design Course Supports STEM

The Buzz Blog learns about a course on designing video games that brings STEM to life.

I've learned about a full, one-year course on designing video games that looks like the coolest, most down-to-earth, student-friendly, one year (an hour per day) curriculum on this subject I've ever seen. Plus, it's all based on STEM (science, technology, engineering and math).

The creator, Michael Ploor, is a national board certified teacher, a STEM curriculum integration specialist and all-around smart guy. We spoke for nearly an hour at ISTE 2011. He originally developed the course (and still uses it) for 7th- and 8th-grade students.

Through years of experience (and by finding out what works and what doesn't), he assembled and published this 180-day curriculum as a "teacher does/students does" format. Using this format, teachers always know what they're going to do each day, and every time there is a new lesson or concept for a student, there's a lesson for the teacher! It's got everything a teacher needs to do, including STEM integrations.

The curriculum includes 230 hours of content (yup, 50 hours beyond the designated 180 hours of the course) because Michael wanted to include extension activities. "There's always that student who needed to go beyond," he said. For him, it was Ricky, so Michael calls the activities "Ricky Lessons." But everything he required Ricky to do is listed in the book under "Going Beyond."

Kids start with a base knowledge of zero to making 14 high-end video games in the course of a year. It's also cool because the course teaches the student how to make Level 1 (you know, like level one of a video game) and then lets the students make the ensuing levels any way they want to.

Each lesson introduces a new layer, or concept. By the end, students are able to make pretty much any two-dimensional game they've ever seen. For an extra $60 per workstation, there's a compiler available that can compile these products for Flash, so they can be played on the web, and even iOS, which I couldn't believe. What kid wouldn't love to have an app in the app store or playable online as a Flash game?

For $30, each student receives a copy of The Games Factory 2 software for copying at school and at home (a $60 value); and a software design guide/workbook called Video Game Design Foundations. Hardcopy textbooks are available for $49.95, and other teacher resources can be purchased as individual or site licenses.

Minimum system requirements:

  • Microsoft Windows 98, 2000, XP, Vista or 7
  • Pentium 200 MHz or higher
  • 32M of RAM (256M for XP and Vista)
  • CD-ROM drive

For more ISTE coverage, get the full picture in the ISTE 2011 Wrap-up.

Follow Buzz on Twitter: @buzzgarwood


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