Monday, February 25, 2013

Gamestar Mechanic

I just don't like the exhibits at a conference.  I used to really like them a lot -- see the latest and greatest, get free stuff, and buy new books or whatnot.  Over the years, I've come to realize that I don't have any buying power or I don't have any buying capital or that I'd rather spend my free time between sessions sipping coffee or hanging out with friends.  I've also realized that wandering up and down the aisles can be scary.  Don't look too long at any one booth or you'll be sucked in for a two hour demo.  

No, sir.  When I went to the eTech conference earlier this month I avoided the exhibit hall like the plague and did a good job of it till I started texting a colleague who was subbing for my middle school class.  "Anything I can find for you while I'm here?"  "I would love a math app for Algebra 2."  Ugh!  I had to delve into the exhibit hall after all.  I literally walked the entire hall and came up empty for her (though Twitter came through for me, and someone suggested something profitable -- can't remember what).  However, I struck pay dirt for myself.

If you've been hanging around this blog for long, you know that I push technology for creation's sake, not consumption.  If a student is going to play a game, there has to be critical thinking involved, but I would much rather use our resources to write, draw, blog, create stories, something where we can end with a product the student made.  

When I saw Gamestar Mechanic's booth, I did something extremely out of character for myself.  I walked right up to the rep and started asking questions.  "Sell me!"  I could tell from their display that it was what I've been looking for, and so far I'm not disappointed.

My 6th and 7th graders are playing the game now, and they love it.  The game sinks you into a story about an up and coming game developer who is learning the trade.  Gamers take on the role of Addison (boy or girl) and learn the aspects of a good game board, eventually learning how to edit, then build their own games.  As the sessions go on, they can share their games with peers and can even be used to reinforce other disciplines.  (An example is given of a game board that represents the water cycle.) 

Regardless of their gaming background, all students were engaged and into it.  At times the volume got a loud, but I tried to ignore it, especially when I realized a lot of it was collaboration. Kids were getting up and showing other kids tips and tricks and asking advice.  I'm told that there are allusions to other, more famous games, in the opening rounds. (I wouldn't know.  I recently realized that I can't pass the first round of Mario Bros on my Wii.)  

Gamestar Mechanic is purely drag and drop and is geared toward 4th through 9th graders.  While they do have hopes of publishing a code-writing version in the future, for now they recommend programs to help students learn to code once they have reached the end of Gamestar Mechanic.  My school is currently using the free version.  There is an option to upgrade, but I'm not sure what that gets you.  (I do know that the upgrade costs $2 per student, and they have an account for life.) 

Let me warn you.  It's addicting.  As soon as I publish this post, I'm going back to try to finalize my first game board.  Maybe I'll see you there sometime.  My username is cncdky. 

I sure am glad I wandered into the exhibit hall...

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