Two-year Afterschool Videogame Program

[I’ve edited this page a lot, because the program and vision has changed a lot. And we’ve done a lot. At Old Orchard Junior High, I led a 7-lesson unit for Unity 3D and it went very well. Read about that here.]

But here is the overview of the concept for a multi-disciplinary extensive curriculum that specifically addresses young learners. Adults could certainly benefit from the curriculum, particularly ones who do not have a background in any of the topics we teach.

Note that this is not a simple curriculum issue, it’s a instructional design challenge to look at the larger picture of location, parent involvement, and the quickly changing disciples of computer science, STEM and the entire school system – as camps and afterschool programs are a reflection of what’s going on elsewhere at school

The videogame design program is about having a path to focus on (art or technology), but also about a willingness to cross over and learn the other side. The most important thing is that we take a step-by-step approach to slowly build pre-requisite skills. The goal is to build some competency, then allow for some controlled play and exploration. There are definitely survey aspects to the program. We’re also trying to make enjoyable videos that take some of the drudgery and dreariness out of video tutorials.

Last, we’re mixing live classroom learning with online learning. It’s a great testing ground, and tested videos are obviously much more effective. I’m also interested in curriculum-as-content, so I like highlighting other teacher’s shared materials with our audience, and work together to align with skills, standards and best practices.

Note: “Two-year program” is defined as once a week, after school, for two school years, providing sequential, cumulative learning. Video tutorials are often used in the classroom setting.

Let’s break this down.

 

Unity 3D- it’s a whole lot to learn, but it always reminds you why you’re learning Javascript.  We can do some cool things with the software without doing any code, but to make interactions, you have to work with code (Javascript/Unityscript).  That said, not fully knowing Javascript doesn’t hold us back – as we can grab some code snippets and plop them into the editor.  I feel like Unity is the ultimate way to bring Javascript to life.

3D modeling – 3D modeling – Creating digital objects is becoming increasingly important due to the prevalence 3D printing and virtual reality. It’s also the pathway to making a truly original video game and avoid using models created by other artists. Tinkercad is a good starting tool, but very limited. Transitioning to Maya, which is extremely complex, is a huge leap, so the intention is to work slowly and break down the core elements of how an object can be visually examined, and then determine an approach as to how to model the object for digital creation. So a great final challenge would be to do a “digital still life” of common objects.

Javascript – I think Code Academy is good. It would be great if there was someone standing behind the students and can immediately assist students who are stuck.  We will have additional curriculum that supplements Code Academy by breaking down their exercises and adding original learning materials.

Game Design – I’ve finally broken through with analog game design (see the Unity 3D Unit). Paper prototyping game design and game mechanics is highly effective, and treats the discipline as both an art and technical achievement. Play testing is emphasized, and fixes and revisions for the game play can be resolved before coding begins.

Production – we have successfully published our (rudimentary) projects to be played on an Oculus Rift, which was very exciting for the students. We’re also interested in exploring the Vulforia plugin for augmented reality.

See also

The mix of Unity and Javascript is explained here