Games Pod

Posted on 14/03/2011

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I have been bleating on (tweeting on?) about Games Pod on Twitter for the last week or so now and some have asked for the details behind it all. Now it’s all over I feel ready to write about it!

It all came about because my school is taking part in a project to get boys into writing. The idea was to create a whole school event that aimed to do this and also left a legacy of some sort. With that in mind, this year’s book week got completely turned on its head. In KS2, it was decided that we would give the  children the opportunity to take part in ‘experiences’ and then report on them at the end of the week. Each KS2 teacher was asked to think up an ‘experience’ or workshop they would like to run. We would run the same workshop three times over on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday with a different group each day and get our classes back on Thursday and Friday to create reports. The work shop itself would last for about an hour and 40 minutes and in the afternoons, after the workshops, each group would stay with the teacher running that workshop and compile notes and pictures to help them with their report creating later in the week. Here’s the ‘experiences’ we came up with:

  • designing and making computer games using 2DIY (aka Games Pod)
  • science lab
  • non-alcoholic cocktail making  and testing
  • drama
  • cheesecake making  and testing
  • film making
  • handmade book making
  • creating an alphabet mural with illuminated letters

Years 4 and 6 paired up together as did years 3 and 5 so there would be a mixture of ages in each group. Children in years 4 (my year) and 6 were offered Games Pod, drama, non-alcoholic cocktail making and science lab. We asked them all to select a first choice and promised that they would definitely get to do that on one of the work shop days. On the other two days, they would two of the other three workshops. So each child got to do three out of the four workshops over Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. To keep them on their toes, I only revealed what workshops each group would be doing on that day. Added to the excitement!

As I said, each workshop group was a mixture of years 4 and 6, which was quite an enjoyable if slightly exhausting shake up. Games Pod was the most popular first choice so I did feel under pressure to live up to expectations! I decided to focus on just two types of game to start with: a catching game and a platform game. I wanted a more simple and more complex option to be on offer to cater for all the ages and abilities in each group. I promised them that by the end of the workshop they would have created a computer game and for the most part they did. I started off by sharing some of 2Simple’s brilliantly short ‘how to’ videos. I also asked the children to think up a theme or a story to base their game on. This seemed to help most of them get started. I demonstrated a few things such as how to make the background transparent and then they were off. Except one or two, it was the first time any of them had used 2DIY and so I was keen to let them explore the program. We had a bit of Daft Punk and the Editors playing in the background and I can honestly say that the atmosphere in the ICT suite over those three days was just fantastic. Creative and buzzing. What really pleased me was when some of my girls, who hadn’t chosen Games Pod as their first choice, told me they couldn’t believe how much fun making a computer game had been.

To top off our games designing, I also managed to organise two CoverItLive interviews with the deputy editor of PC Gamer magazine and staff writer from The Official XBox 360 magazine. This just rounded off the experience perfectly.

On Thursday and Friday, everyone went back to their class teachers and were given the task of reporting on their favourite experience. I gave my class complete freedom to report on it in any way they wanted to. I made suggestions such as a scrapbook, podcast, film, blog post, comic strip, poem, song and newspaper report. Most children chose to make scrapbooks, a few did comic strips and blog posts and one made a video.  Whatever mode of output they chose, the feedback seemed to be very positive! For the children who made scrapbooks about Games Pod, I also introduced QR codes. They made QR codes that linked to their games  and the interviews with the journalists online and stuck them in their scrapbooks.

All in all, I absolutely loved my Games Pod experience. The legacy it has left behind is that games the children created are available here for all the world to play and very shortly a Games Pod club may begin! We merely scratched the surface of 2DIY in our 1 hour and 40 minutes session and many children have expressed the desire to carry on exploring and creating. Who can blame them?

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