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Gamestar Mechanic: Teaching game design in the classroom

What it is: I just love when I get lost in a bunny trail of links…you know the kind, you go hunting for something specific and click on something that looks interesting which leads you to a browser of 25 tabs open.  I had one of these serendipitous link moments today that lead me to Gamestar Mechanic.  Gamestar Mechanic is both a game and an online community that teaches kids how to design their own digital games.  In designing games, students learn systems thinking, creative problem solving, art and aesthetics, writing and storytelling, and creates a motivation for further STEM exploration.  The free version of Gamestar Mechanic is available with unlimited use for teachers who want to use it with their students.  This account option comes with 1 teacher login and 40 student logins.  A premium account offers some additional classroom goodies including: class management, the ability for students to incorporate their own custom artwork, live professional training webinars, tools for tracking student activity and assessing progress, the option of having a “walled” school community, and more. As a teacher you will find sample lessons for using Gamestar Mechanic, an introductory step-by-step guide, and a full learning guide.  Teachers can even play a short quest to learn more about how to use Gamestar Mechanic in the classroom to teach core subjects. How to integrate Gamestar Mechanic into the classroom:  There is so much to learn from digital games.  As a player, students learn to think strategically, persist through failure and experience epic wins that can translate to what they do and are willing to try out in real life.  As a designer students learn systems thinking, creative problem solving, digital art and aesthetics, and storytelling and writing.  Students love being able to bring their creations and ideas to life in the form of a game.  Gamestar Mechanic could be the key to unlocking the storytelling genius in your reluctant writers.  It has been my experience that a student faced with a blank paper and a writing assignment can be daunting.  Introduce the idea of designing their own game and suddenly a storyline pours forth.  It is pretty neat to watch! Gamestar Mechanic makes it easy for all teachers to incorporate game design into the classroom and weave it into the core subjects being taught.  You don’t have to be a tech-superstar, just create an account, read through the getting started guide and enlist the help of a student who’s passion is game design.  This type of designing and thinking is wonderful because it lays the ground work for so much other STEM thinking.  It nicely blends disciplines and helps students recognize the overlap in the learning that they do. Students can each create a game of their own in a lab setting where every student has a computer.  If you are limited on your computer options for students, create a game as a class using an interactive whiteboard or projector-connected computer.  Students can create games that incorporate other learning or research they are doing to help teach future classes or younger students.  At Anastasis, we have Crave Classes.  These are classes that the student gets to choose based on personal passions.  In the one or two computer classroom, give your students time for a Crave class where they work on Gamestar Mechanic.  Other students can follow their areas of passion…almost in a center type of a set up. Tips:  There are a variety of pricing and package options for classrooms.  If your students are really enjoying the game design process, it might be worth taking a look at the premium options available. Please leave a comment and share how you are using Gamestar Mechanic in  your classroom!

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Happiness is…

Posted by admin | Posted in General | Posted on 21-01-2013

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Believe it or not, I have a life outside of education and technology.  I know…it is shocking!  When I’m not thinking education or technology I’m a big fan of cooking, decorating, sewing, creating.  Because I can’t fully ever leave technology behind, I started a blog to contain all of these extra passions. Happiness is a Project is a blog that I started to chronicle my other passions.  Some of the posts are creations from my talented, genius of a husband.  Others are my creations.

If you find yourself occasionally needing a break from education and technology, head on over and be inspired by our passions.  We hope that it ignites your sense of creativity and connection to more.  The full blog is at http://happinessisaproject.wordpress.com  You can also find us on my Happiness is a Project Pinterest board.

We are at our happiest when we have projects.  We love to create and putz around with new ideas.  Give yourself permission to pursue passions outside of education and tech.  I find that my creativity within education and tech is spurred on when I take a break to pursue other passions!

Maybe you fall in LOVE with my husband’s projects as much as I do.  If you aren’t down for recreating your own version, Jonathan just opened an online store where you can purchase some of his creations.  Check it out at http://LegacyGoods.com  That boy I love is TALENTED!

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