According to the Gamestar Mechanic
guide, users engage in “system-based
thinking, creative problem solving,
collaboration, art and aesthetics,
writing and storytelling, interactive
design, and digital media literacy. The
game designer must also be a socio-technical engineer, thinking about
how people will interact with the
game and how the game will shape
both competitive and collaborative social interaction.” All of these activities
include digital skills that students will
need to become successful in almost
any future profession.
We observed evidence of these skills
as students created their own games.
Fifth grader Christian explains the
premise of his game, which he hopes
to enter into the STEM Video Game
Challenge, a national youth video
game competition. He designed a
multilevel game called Coral Reef, in
which players must maneuver past the
ocean junk that lines the colorful reef
to earn points by cleaning up oil and
other pollution. Nichole and Courtney
worked together to design a game that
follows a Greek mythology storyline.
First they researched which Greek
characters would be worthy of
Although the goal of Saturday
School was not to produce polished
games for the competition, we encouraged students to give it a shot.
Most students merely enjoyed creating games and having fun with like-minded students.
Students learned that games require
a story line as well as engaging characters and themes. But they also learned
how to design dynamic systems and
seek and provide critical feedback that’s
essential for their games to improve.
Gamestar’s focus is geared toward the
essential elements of game design and
does not include actual programming
to make things work. It is a pathway
to programming-focused applications,
such as Scratch or GameMaker.
Rave Reviews for Saturday School
We invited parents to attend the final
Saturday School session to view the
games that students had designed
and listen as their children explained
how they created them. The consensus
from both students and parents about
this program was overwhelmingly
positive. One parent said, “I think
it’s a great opportunity for the kids
to learn things and have fun.”
Another remarked, “It is excellent.
My kids were excited to come and
enjoyed what they were doing.”
To see a video of the kids talking
about their game designs, go to
Since the first Saturday School ended,
Ercole has added project-based learning to her classroom, including a data
and statistics unit where students
become forensic investigators to solve
murder mysteries. She is always looking for opportunities to bring project-based learning ideas to members of
her middle school team.
As students shut down their computers and said their goodbyes, Alex
was asked if she would do this again.
She replied, “Yes, definitely, only next
time maybe it could start a little later
in the day so I can sleep in some.”
—Elizabeth R. McCarthy is a technology integration specialist for the Washington Central
Supervisory Union in Vermont, USA. She is an
aspiring poet and lives in an old farmhouse with
her husband, cat, and young adult children.
Drag and Drop Your Way to
an Appealing Presentation
Problem: Your students need a free
alternative to PowerPoint to share their
Here’s a solution: Simplebooklet.com
is a free online tool for constructing
interactive, media-rich booklets of any
size imaginable. After signing up for a
new account, click to start a creation
and drag the bottom right-hand corner
to adjust the size of the booklet. The
user-friendly interface allows teachers
and students to focus on content
while developing an eye-catching
presentation. On each page, drag and
drop images, videos, audio files, text,
and other customizable elements.
Choose a background from a library
of funky and fresh themes. Turn pages
by clicking on the top right-hand
corner. With Plus accounts (free for
teachers, $10 a year for all others),
students can also collaborate on
their web booklets by adding editing
permissions. You can easily share
and embed web booklets on class
Hannah Walden is a high school English teacher at Calvary Christian Academy in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA. In
addition to teaching, Walden helps her
coworkers integrate technology into
their various disciplines. Explore her
class projects at http://techielit.com
and follow her on Twitter @techielit.
Scan this QR code to submit your own class- room technology tips on L&L’s group page on the ISTE Community Ning ( www.iste-community.org/
group/landl). You can also post tips on the discussion forum titled “Classroom Technology Tips
for L&L” on the L&L group page of the Ning or
email it to firstname.lastname@example.org.