Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Coding Opportunities-the Sky is the Limit!

      This is the second in a series of entries about the Emints conference I recently returned from and the possibilities the conference presented.

     Overall, the Emints conference was great, but there was no topic I was more interested in learning about than coding.  At the conference, I attended 2 session on this topic.  In the past, I have held a Student Digital Diner using the Hour of Code, and am currently working on designing a session for Digital Learning Day (March 13) as a follow up to the first session on coding.  The two sessions I attended at this conference were perfect stepping stones for building a coding program at Lakeside.

     The first presentation was a 2 hour session which incorporated Agent Sheets to teach more advanced coding techniques compared to Scratch and the Hour of Code.  During the session, we were given instruction to actually create a working version of the 80's classic video game Frogger.  We also reviewed the computation thinking patterns which are reinforced through game design. The session had computers around the room with Agent Sheets downloaded on to them for use to use to create our games.

     After some initial instruction on the terminology of Agent Sheets and the basics, participants were split up into small groups to craft our own version of Frogger.  This setup was ideal, and allowing us to learn from each other, and get further support from several of the presenters as needed.  Over the course of the next hour, I worked with 2 colleagues from Missouri to create a working replica of Frogger complete with moving trucks, logs and tunnels!  Besides being fun, Agent Sheets was fairly easy to learn and appears to be something that my 21st century learners at Lakeside could easily take to for the purpose of creating working games!  I left this session inspired with a "can do" approach to coding and creating games that I look forward to sharing with my students!

     The second session I attended on coding focused more on the curricular applications and theory of game design.  It was a perfect compliment to the "nuts and bolts" approach of the first coding session I attended. We delved more deeply into crafting the story of the game by writing out the agents or characters and actions of the game.  This was done by identifying the nouns (agents) and verbs (actions) of the characters.  We also got to brainstorm and gallery walk to room to add post it notes of our best ideas for the applications of game design to the  various curricular areas represented by the teachers in the room.  The presenters also gave us a chance to vote on which ideas were the best, and gave prizes to the ideas that garnered the most votes.

     I also signed up to have my students at Lakeside participate in the Scalable Game Design program through the University of Colorado. (http://www.agentsheets.com/) Through the program, my students will have access to Agent Sheets for free which will allow them to build their own games and share their handiwork through the program's arcade section.  I cannot wait to work with my students and teachers to employ the easy to use and powerful gaming design platform. Truly the sky is the limit for what students can create with Agent Sheets!

Follow Brian Johnson on Twitter @GoldenEagleLMC and @brian_librarian