Make Computer Science Part of Your Professional Learning

Over the next few months, we will be sharing all kinds of resources related to Computer Science Professional Development — from stories by teachers and Computer Science Professional Development experts to podcasts, graphics, Facebook Live events, and other fun surprises ;).

This is a conversation and we would love to hear your ideas and feedback along the way! Is there anything in particular about Computer Science (CS) that you’d like to hear about?

We are exploring the intersection of Computer Science and Professional Development to champion CS education and the teachers who bring it to life and to support the launch of our own CS professional learning opportunity.

Computer Science and Game Design for Teachers

From its inception, Zulama has been committed to helping teachers become life-changing mentors to their students and providing teachers with personalized, fun, and rigorous learning opportunities. To that end, we’re SO excited about the launch of our Computer Science and Game Design Professional Development Course and Certificate, created in partnership with the Computer Science Teachers Association.

With the rapid growth of CS-related careers, we want to give all teachers a chance to learn how to bring engaging CS experiences to their students. Our self-paced, interactive course will do just that, and this year we’re aiming to teach 2,000 teachers across the country about the joys of CS and Game Design.

A Bit More about the Course

Our 30-hour professional development course is designed for K-12 Teachers, experienced coders and novices alike. This online course is fun and highly interactive while also being rigorous enough to align with the K-12 CS Framework and the CSTA standards. In the course, teachers will:

  • learn and apply game design principles and programming skills.
  • use industry-standard tools to design and code an original video game and showcase it in their own digital portfolio.
  • interact with other teachers who are learning about and teaching CS.
  • receive a Computer Science and Game Design Certificate, upon completion of the course.

You can learn more about the course and register for it here.

Why CS Matters: The State of CS Education

  • Over 7.7 million Americans use computers in complex ways in their jobs (Change the Equation, 2015).
  • Nearly half of those 7.7 million work in fields that are not directly tied to science, technology, engineering, and math (Change the Equation, 2015).
  • Fewer than half of K–12 schools offer computer science courses with programming included (Google & Gallup, 2016).

Engaging Students Using Game Design

Guest Post by Brian Wetzel, Zulama Certified Trainer and Star Teacher

pic04Who is not interested in games? Games build relationships, teach the concept of rules, and, in serious games, promote the idea of consequences in choices we make. Most games also provide the opportunity to spark creativity in style, gameplay, and strategy. Creating them utilizes a multitude of skills, including elements of STEAM, and other 21st century skills, such as problem-solving and collaboration.

As a game designer, one must consider all these factors when brainstorming the creation of the next big game. Whether that game is a board game, card game, or video game is irrelevant. Game designers must make their games easy to learn, hard to master, and adaptable to different styles and preferences, among other characteristics. Otherwise, a game can be doomed from the beginning.

pic07As a teacher of game design, I make every attempt to ensure my students understand these characteristics and plan for them at the beginning. Elements of STEAM present themselves instantaneously and consistently throughout the process. In the early phases of design, artistic elements are used when drawing and designing graphics that will be used in the game. Engineering skills such as 3D modeling are often considered for game pieces and/or characters. Mathematics is constantly used when deciding proper size and proportions as well as distances that are necessary to be traveled for game sprites. Finally, in most cases, technology is used for the creation of each of these pieces.

As I continue to help my students in their quests to become game designers, I hope to see consistent progression of these skills. While I do not teach traditional courses like science and math, I have already witnessed progress in the areas of curiosity and creativity. My students are growing into young adults who are more curious about their mistakes and why they are occurring. They don’t rely on me as much to explain the problem(s), but rather take it upon themselves to explore what they have done to create the problem. Most importantly, they don’t see their mistakes as failure, but rather learning experiences.

BxL9r4VIYAA9gJ6As I continue to help create the gamemakers of tomorrow, I hope to get feedback of the same fashion from their other teachers. I hope this curiosity spreads to other areas of their lives. I am sure it will. In my opinion, this growing sense of motivation and curiosity is not a switch they can turn off. It will become habit in all areas of their lives. They will continue to seek understanding rather than just ask for answers. And although they will continue to make mistakes, to them, it will only translate to more learning.

Brian Wetzel

Upon completing his undergraduate work, Brian began teaching in 2005. For the first seven years of his career, he served as a 7th grade mathematics teacher for the Licking Heights Local School District. During this time, he saw the value of technology in education and decided to pursue this interest by earning his Master’s degree in Educational Technology. Upon completing his graduate degree, Brian transitioned into teaching technology-related courses at the high school level for Centerburg Local Schools. As he continues his career, Brian plans to help students enhance their technology skills as well as help other educators learn ways to integrate technology into their curricula.

It’s Jam Time!

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by Bev Vaillancourt, Editorial Director

On the heels of a very successful climate game jam held last September, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is planning another game jam for April 15 – April 24, 2016. The theme is “Water”! While game jams usually are “jammed” into a 48-hour time period with no breaks, the Spring game jam has a much different structure.

In order to accommodate school schedules, the NOAA’s Spring game jam will span 10 days, with a total of 48 hours dedicated to designing a game within the 10 days. This allows teachers and community groups a lot of flexibility. An entire school day can be dedicated to the game jam, with time spent on following days to improve the game. Teachers also could opt to restrict the game jam one concentrated time period with follow up iteration before the prototype is ready for review.

Four age categories have been established for the Spring Game Jam:

  • K-5
  • 6-8
  • 9-12
  • 13-16

A variety of game development tools will be allowed, from basic paper prototypes to Scratch to GameSalad to Unity. Individuals will be competing for top game design honors within their age group and within their game design tool category.

Specific science categories related to water have been identified, as well. Game Designers will be able to choose from several important water related topics including including Changing Precipitation Patterns to Marine Biodiversity to Polar Issues, and much more. The Spring game jam offers a very unique opportunity for students to work as design teams, learn a lot of science facts, consider very important and timely environmental issues, and have a lot of fun building a game that can be used to teach others about water issues.

Interested in learning more? If you are wondering how to organize and conduct a game jam, stay tuned. Zulama will be providing you with “how to” information in mid-March. More to come soon on the NOAA website, as well! Take a break with your students and enjoy creating a game for NOAA. Who knows? You may join the September game design team from Elizabeth Forward High School and have your game showcased on the NOAA website!

Hot Off the Presses!

A recent study published in the journal Psychological Science and reported in Education Week (Volume 35, No. 21) highlights that showcasing exceptional work has a negative impact on struggling students. Researchers Todd Rogers of Harvard University and Avi Feller of the University of California found that when all students attempt similar assignments, struggling students quickly size up the possibility of generating work of equal quality to high functioning students and lose interest in the assignment. The results of this important study underscores the value of students working in design teams where each member of the team brings his or her strengths to the project. It’s not that students should be shielded from comparison of student accomplishments. Rather it is students learning that measuring up really means setting personal goals for achievement and helping others build their skills in a collaborative way. It’s the power of game design in every Zulama classroom.

The Growing Impact of Game Design Programs

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Ed Games Expo, held at 1776, Washington, D.C., December 9, 2015

Bev Vaillancourt, M.Ed.

Educator, Editorial Director for Zulama

The Higher Education Video Game Alliance (HEVGA) is a “professional organization of video game scholars and programs at universities across the county and internationally.” Attending the 2015 HEVGA mid-December conference at the Wilson Center in Washington, D.C., was inspiring and enlightening. It simply was delightful being part of an environment inclusive of incredibly bright individuals who not only believe in the value of game design, but work hard to foster growth of game design programs and game-based learning for all ages.

According to the Entertainment Software Association (ESA), today there are fully 496 post secondary game design programs found in colleges and universities across the county, including Hawaii and Alaska. Students graduating from these programs have high paying jobs waiting for them as they navigate over 1,640 game design companies just in the United States.

With consumers in the United States spending upwards of $23B on the game design industry, opportunities abound for qualified and talented game designers and programmers. As one game design company executive told me at the Ed Games Expo, “Send us your students. We start at $65K per year.” Zulama is proud of its contribution in addressing the ever-expanding need within the game design industry for talented and highly skilled individuals who understand the design process and know how to work within a design team environment.

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Texas A & M University presenting a student-designed art history game at the HEVGA conference, December 10, 2015.

As I listened to professors at the HEVGA conference share their game design curriculums and student projects found at their universities and colleges, I felt more and more proud to be part of all that Zulama does to bring those same experiences to students in grades 6 – 12. “Work in design teams to create a game.” – our Zulama students do that. “Develop content driven games.” – Zulama students do that. “Work in Unity” – Yes. “Have internship opportunities.” – That, too! Zulama offers a four-year game design, programming, and 3D modeling standards-based curriculum to high school students, opening a wide horizon of college and career opportunities. As Zulama’s founder and CEO, Nikki Navta’s vision of creating a game design curriculum for high school students just a handful of years ago truly was visionary, and today a vibrant reality.

“It’s not the facts that matter, it’s the connections between the facts that matter.” —Dave Rejeski, Wilson Center, Washington, D.C.

It is a joy for me to meet Zulama students in their classrooms and hear their enthusiasm for learning and for game design. It is refreshing to see so many engaged school administrators and teachers dedicated to remaking learning for their students, with an eye to the future rather than being tethered to tried and failed educational systems of the past.

The collaborative social space of game design is seen in every Zulama classroom, and certainly powered every conversation at the 2015 HEVGA conference. To think analytically, collaboratively, and creatively builds agency for critical thinking and innovation. This is game design at its core. From computer science programs for young children to the Zulama Entertainment Technology Curriculum through the myriad of higher education game design program offerings, the future is bright and the horizons wide for future game designers and the limitless and collective ability to “connect the facts” they bring to the global learning network.

Reinventing Learning Using Games – Part 2

Ryan Schaaf (@RyanLSchaaf), Jackie Gerstein (@jackiegerstein), and Jodi Asbell-Clarke (@Asbellcl) join in to discuss the shift towards using games in the classroom. We’ll cover the best ways to use games to redefine failure, work through the iterative process, and reignite student engagement!

#RMLHangout, #GBL, #GameBasedLearning

Part 2 of 2