App of the Week: A game that teaches game design

Ed. note: App of the Week picks are now being curated with help from the editors of Graphite.org, a free service from Common Sense Education. Click here to read the full app review.
Update: Microsoft is shuttering Project Spark. It is no longer available for download and online services for existing players will end Aug. 12.

Project Spark

What’s It Like? Project Spark is a digital game creator that lets students build their own games. Students can browse, play, and learn from other community-designed games and from plenty of genres: action/adventure, first-person shooter, arcade, puzzle, strategy, and platformer. Students will build 2-D or 3-D environments, write dialogue and scripts for their characters and stories, and execute complex lines of logic. This “kode,” as Project Spark calls it, dictates what the game world, objects, and characters will do and how they will behave. Once finished, students can upload their creations for others to play and/or remix.

Price: Free

Rating: 4/5…Read More

7 reasons why your school should teach robotics and game design

One teacher describes the big impact robotics, coding, and STEM has had on her students

robotics-stem

I love every aspect of programming—the frustration, the creativity, everything. I taught myself and now I’m lucky enough to teach students how to code, build robots, and design mobile apps. I’m there to guide them, but the students, like me, are really learning these skills through their own hard work.

I think everyone should learn how to program and of course I’m no exception. My transformation from librarian-turned-tech facilitator to coding teacher started with a back room full of old busted computers. My school didn’t know what to do with them so I decided to fix them up and make them useful. Then I started thinking, “What else can I do?” I read something about Arduino and soon I was tinkering with parts, building, and programming anything I could get my hands on. It became a hobby.

When I moved to Plaquemine High School, near Baton Rouge, our principal had just written a big grant for the Dow Corp. to create a STEM program featuring elective classes in robotics and game design for 9-12th graders. When we got it, he asked me to design the curriculum, attend trainings, and teach the courses. It was a dream come true. Now I get to help students develop the creativity, logic, critical thinking, and career skills they need for the future. Here are seven reasons why every school should consider doing the same.…Read More