Sunday, February 19, 2017

Did you try Bloxels yet?

Have you heard of a hands-on game for kids to experiment, build, and learn through video game creation and at the same time acquire computer science skills?  Bloxels will provide all of these experiences for students.  While students are creating their own video games, they are engaged, collaborating, and acquiring crucial skills that will help them be successful in their future.

Bloxels is a game that uses a game board and the Bloxels app, which can be found at the Apple Store, or Google Play store.  It will allow students to build, capture, design, play and share their video games. Additionally, students can create a game or room layouts, pixel art, animations, backgrounds, and characters.  Bloxels is considered to be a  platformer game which similar to Mario Brothers by Nintendo.

This game will expose students to many computer science concepts such as coding, problem solving, critical thinking, logical thinking, creativity, collaboration, communication, and provide them with innovative opportunities. Applying these skills are very important in today's society and will be beneficial throughout their lives, especially in the job market when they graduate from school.

What's included in the box set?

The game board is a physical board that has 13 rows x 13 columns, for a total of 169 boxes or rooms.  It also comes with 9 different colored cubes where each color represents a different purpose.  See the chart below.

Create an Account

In order for students to utilize this platform, they will need to download the app to their device and create an account.  I recommend that the students create an account so that they can save their progress.  The teacher or parent will receive an email to confirm the account.  Once this is completed, students can save their progress to their account.  If an account is not created, the students can still create and build, however they will be in guest mode, where the progress is not saved.

Let's Get Started
I would recommend that students work in small groups of 2-3 and each group should have their own Bloxels Set.  Students can work together on creating characters, backgrounds, layouts, and animations.  This is possible because the app can capture what is completed on the physical board using the device's camera, while a student uses the app to create.

For example, student A can create a character on the physical board, and student B can create a room layout in the app.  Student A simply captures the character layout on the physical board using the device's camera.  Now, the group has 1 character and 1 room layout completed.
My Experience
I found students who used Bloxels were completely engaged!  They worked well together to complete their game.  They used problem solving and critical thinking skills to connect and layout the rooms, animate the characters, provide dialog and rewards, and plan for enemies.
I am new to this game and I used it with ten 8th grade STEM students. They were able to navigate the interface easily and teach me more about the game.  They were able to complete many rooms and characters, create checkpoints in rooms, create power-ups and animations, and plan for enemy attacks.  
I explained to them that Computer Science is logical thinking and that it is a repetitive process.  In order for the game to be successful, they needed to create the layout, test the layout, and fix any problems with the layout.  This is a process that all programmers or coders use on a daily basis.  In addition, they needed to portray patience, and that failure is an opportunity to learn.
Here is a short slideshow of some pictures I took during class.

What's next?  STEM, STEAM implementation
I plan on using Bloxels with students in all subjects, especially in science, math, and art class.  This game portrays digital storytelling and can be used at any grade level in any subject area.  

Here are a few examples:  

Students can create a game to replicate a scene from the Civil War that includes soldiers, and enemy characters, and a scene.  

Assign a numerical value to each color cube and have students create a game and have them write and solve the equation.  

Students can create a game to replicate the effects of global warming, storms, volcanoes, states of matter.

Language Arts
Students can create a game to show the journey of a character in a novel. 

Students can create a game to show different concepts of Art through a specific time period.
The possibilities are endless!

My Recommendation

I would highly recommend trying this game.  I was able to get 4 sets of the game by creating a Donors Choose project.  My project was fully funded by strangers from around the country.  I was truly amazed with people's generosity and at the same time, very thankful.  Donors Choose sent me the materials within 2 weeks of my project being funded. It was an easy process and I would do it again!

Check out the process on creating a project on Donors Choose by visiting their website.  It is definitely worth a try!  

In Conclusion
By allowing students to take control of their learning, they will take ownership in their assignments, become student leaders and have a sense of pride in their assignment. This game and technology allows students to be successful and allows them to utilize 21st century skills that will help them be successful lifelong learners.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

GSfE Update: Link to Cell Ranges in Google Sheets

Google release a new feature of Google Sheets that will allow you to link to cell ranges.  This is a great new feature if you have large spreadsheets and need to go to a specific area in a sheet or to a different sheet.

I create an animation on linking to cell ranges in Google Sheets.

You can also read more about it on the G Suite Update blog.


Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Customize Digital Badges

I provide a lot of professional development to staff at my school district throughout the year. While other facilitators may provide treats or other types of rewards for their attendees, instead, I reward them with a customized digital badge.

Last year, I started to distribute digital badges for all of the attendees in my professional development sessions.  Although I received little feedback from them, I still sent it out.  I felt they deserved it and can proudly display their badge and brag about it.  

So how did I do it? First, I used a Google Form to collect their information, including their name, and email address and all of the responses get recorded into a Google Spreadsheet.  

Then, I used the Bitmoji extension to create my avatar. This extension can be found on the Chrome Web store.  I created a new Google document and activated the extension in the browser.  I searched the library to find a Bitmoji that had a positive message or emotion.  There are tons to choose from.   

Once you choose your category, pick the specific Bitmoji from the category by dragging it into the Google document.  Capture it using a screen capturing tool such as Windows Snipit, Jing, Nimbus or Snagit and be sure to save the file to your device or to Google Drive.

Finally, I used Credly to create the customized badge. This application gives you the option to customize the badge shape, icon, text, border and colors.  I found this tool to be user friendly and quick to learn.  I would highly recommend that you try it by creating a free account.

After you create your badge, it is time to give credit it to the attendees or students in your class via email.  Simply go to 'Give' from the menu, select 'Choose an Existing Credit', fill in the recipient's first and last names and email address as shown below.  Once completed, simply click 'Send Credit'. The recipient will receive your digital badge.


Once you start creating badges, you will get addicted! I use them all the time to reward teachers, and students on their accomplishments in my class or professional development sessions. 

Here is a short animation on using Bitmoji and Credly to create customized digital badges.