Game Design: Day 2 of ISTE 2012

Day 2 of ISTE 2012 was much more eventful than the first. 

I first started the day with the Teaching Your Students Game Design in One Week session presented by Alexander Repenning. Alexander Repenning has developed an educational program called AgentSheets that can be used to create Web-based simulation games. This program is very similar to Scratch and Alice, which teaches students programming through game design. 

Prior to the session, we were instructed in an email to download a trial version of AgentSheets. There is a Mac OSX and Windows version of the program. 

Alexander Repenning’s goal of creating AgentSheet was to help public schools effectively teach computational thinking. The approach in teaching computational thinking must start  by motivating students to take IT courses, especially in middle school. Many middle school students currently take mind-numbing keyboarding or PowerPoint courses. Instead, schools should be providing stimulating courses that provide STEM simulations or sophisticated games.

Repenning feels that the idea of “Programming is hard and boring” will continue to linger if students are not provided with intriguing programming activities that they are able to conduct. For female students, there is less motivation when direct instruction is provided. Guided inquiry based learning actually motivates students the most. Thus, the perfect amount of motivation and scaffolding will increase participation in programming courses. Repenning hopes that AgentSheets is the program that can motivate students in getting interested in programming.

Here is what AgentSheets looks like. Repenning wanted us to recreate the classic game Frogger

First we created the different agents (objects) of the game: Truck, Frog, and Road. For each agent, we needed to make a depiction by clicking on New Depiction. Here is the depiction I created for the frog in the short period of time we had.

 We then placed the agents into the Worksheet window, which mine was called Level 1. 

Each agent was then given specific behaviors. Below is the window where you can place conditions and actions. For my frog, I indicated that if the frog “sees” a car then the scream sound would occur and my frog’s depiction would change into a dead frog. 

I am really excited to try this software in my computer classroom. Hopefully I could have some of the teachers integrate this software into their curriculum to have their students improve their critical thinking, collaborating, and problem-solving skills. 

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