Category Archives: Interesting for Families

Mark Chen’s Game Making Tools Round-up

If you want to build a game but you or your students are not programmer’s check out Mark Chen round-up of Game Making Tools. Mark summarizes each tool so it’s fast to get the gist of what that tool offers. E.g.:

Name CraftStudio
Dev Platforms Windows, Mac, Linux
Target Platforms Windows, Mac, Linux, HTML5
Genres / types of games 3D games
Issues and Notes Both visual and Lua text scripting options. Building blocks. CraftStudio is relatively unique in that it allows for multiple users to manipulate the same project at the same time (like Google Docs). The fact that designers can work on the same project live, without having to worry about versioning, checking assets in and out, etc. makes this definitely one to watch, especially for group-based classroom use.


Electropocalypse at The Tech—Saturday April 26

250x250-open-makeThe Tech Museum in San Jose on Saturday April 26 is having an Open Make event on electricity and we’ll be showing our game there. It sounds like a fun day of electricity with a bunch of groups showing off their electrical projects, including the Young Makers who are preparing for the big Maker Faire in San Mateo next month.

Here is more information:

Play Long-distance Hangman

I’ve had the pleasure of working on Scoot-n-Doodle for the past few months and you must try it, it’s so much fun.

Scoot-n-doodle is video conferencing plus a drawing pad with games for families. Have you ever tried talking on the phone with your young nephew–a one minute conversation is about all you can hope for. It’s so hard to keep them in one place and there is not really much to talk about. With Scoot-n-doodle, you can play hangman, tag, or other games from your childhood. I’ll often play with my nephew for an hour at a stretch—what a difference between a painful 60 seconds of strained conversation to an hour of fun drawing crazy dragons or games of tic-tac-toe.

If you want to play with your relatives but they are far away, try  Scoot-n-Doodle. It’s part of Google Hangouts so you’ll need a Google Plus account.


Prototyping for Pixar’s movie UP

My friend Najeeb pointed me to the blog of Lou Romano, one of the artists who worked on the movie UP. He shows samples and writes about his prototyping process for the film. The samples are describe as tests to pin down the art style, experiment with lighting, composing, etc.

Prototypes are a huge part of our game design process and its exciting to read about other people’s methods.

Immersyve’s list of Intrinsic Motivations

I heard through the Games 4 Change mailing list about this article on motivations in gaming:

They talk about extrinsic rewards versus intrinsic, and they identify three intrinsic motivations that I quite like:

  1. Autonomy — We like to have meaningful choices and don’t like it when we cannot choose. We also feel satisfied when we are endorsing and valuing our current activity.
  2. Mastery — We enjoy the feeling of gaining skill in an area that has value.
  3. Relatedness — We have a basic need to relate and interact with others in ways that we feel matter. We want to be feel supported and valued by those around us.

Those sound like great goals for developing productive and happy people. I suppose promoting those goals through educational games would count as Relatedness.

How to Teach Fact Fluency

My friend Catherine at Tom Snyder Productions showed me this video lecture of Ted Hasselbring talking about the research behind FASTT Math.

His basic points are: (1) one needs to memorize basic math facts (addition and multiplication tables) in order to do higher order math. The reason is to free up working memory for the higher order concepts. If you need to calculate the multiplication, you don’t have any working memory left over to do more complicated things. (2) Practice such as flash cards are good to increase memory recall speed and strengthen the memorization, but they don’t work unless the student has already memorized the fact. He mentions an astounding experiment—a group of kids played a math game for 10 minutes a day for a semester, all about multiplication facts. They loved this game, you couldn’t tear the kids away. At the end of the semester, their math fact memorization had not improved at all. They were just much faster at counting on their fingers. The problems was trying to develop speed before establishing the fact into working memory. (3) To get facts into working memory, you need to repeat a small set of facts–two or three. (4) You can assess fluency by measuring the time to answer a math problem. They use 0.8 seconds. Don’t forget to subtract out overhead such as keyboarding time. (5) It’s important to measure each math fact rather than the average because kids have an easy time with facts involving 0, 1, 2, 3, and doubling. If you measure the average, a student who is very fast at the easy facts can mask that they are slow with the other facts. (6) So FASTTMath will work on just two math facts, measuring response time until they are memorized, and the let the student proceed to a flash-card type game to speed up their recall time.

The overall process for learning fluency is: (1) Understand the concept. (2) Move a few facts into working memory — memorize two or three pieces of info. (3) Move the fact into long term memory—practice known facts with a longer and longer gap between recalls, i.e. 1 sec, 2, 4, 8 sec, etc. FASTTMath fills the gaps with practice on older, established facts to do two things at once. This is okay because the older established facts to not put a load on working memory. (4) Repeat with more bits of info.

I remember when I was learning math—I hated memorization and indeed to this day I do poorly on the math portions of Brain Age. At the time I felt memorization was not a useful skill and my time would be better spent on learning general concepts. This talk has convinced me otherwise. Although I have to say, I’m still reluctant to take the time to memorize my math facts even today. Old habits die hard.

Joe Renzulli’s Three-Ring Concept of Giftedness

I’ve been reading a bit about Joe Renzulli and I like his Three Ring concept of Giftedness. According to Renzulli, there are three important factors for the development of gifted behaviour: Above average ability, creativity, and task commitment.

Joe Renzulli's Three Ring Concept of Giftedness

Renzulli defines Creativity as the fluency, flexibility, and originality of thought, an openness to experience, sensitivity to stimulations, and a willingness to take risks. Task Committment is motivation turned into action (like perseverance, endurance, hard work, but also self-confidence, perceptiveness and a special fascination with a special subject). Renzulli argues that without task commitment high achievement is simply not possible.

I like how he has identified these three aspects. One thing I wonder about though, is ability innate or is it learned? I like to think that almost anybody can learn to do almost anything, if they have the perseverance.

Teaching Copyright and Fair Use

teachingcopyright_orgThe Electronic Frontier Foundation has a very useful website for Teaching Copyright issues. It is an excellent resource for teachers on a tricky subject. The website covers the issues in a balanced way I feel—it clearly states downloading copyrighted music without permission is illegal. However many of the subtle areas of fair use are discussed which are the important parts. I used their first lesson plan today and while the kids loved the Copy Quiz Game Show, I had some suggestions overall. I emailed them, but I thought I’d post them here too for others.

First of all, I made the mistake of jumping right in and not setting the context—why should my students care about copyright and fair use? I found my students took a while to focus and I think an introduction on the value of the lesson would help.

Second, some of the questions in the Copy Quiz Game Show are somewhat difficult to interpret when said out-loud. E.g. question 8: “Kathy downloads a few photos of local organic farms from… She follows the rules of the photographer’s specific CC license… That’s OK.” The true/false question hinges on just the last sentence and it is unnecessarily hard to parse when spoken aloud. Which “that” is ok? Also, in some of the questions, the teacher reads out statements which are false, such as “Paula wants to use a short quote from the Titanic in her school paper. That’s copyright infringement.” This statement is false, but in the confusion of the game, that is too easily lost. The students remember what the teacher said, but the true/false part is overwhelmed in the player’s run for a chair and the ensuing struggle. I recommend the questions be rephrased as situations, and the chairs are labeled as Legal and Illegal. That way students are concentrating on the situation and if it is legal or not. Rather than the specific phrasing of the last tricky sentence.