Press Start: Useful Websites for Game Design

Is your child at the age where all they want to do is play digital games? As educators or parents, we want to restrict this type of game-play, but that should not always be the case.  What if I told you that playing and creating digital games is a productive and educating moment for the child? Well, it is–and we want to talk to you about it.

Here at the Wonder Workshop, we want to inspire children to make their own digital games. It is a valuable outlet for them to learn more about coding, mathematics, design, planning, and creativity.

How can my child and I  create a game?

Doing so is easier nowadays with all the free resources available online (a heads-up that you might have to download some software). Below is a list of our 3 favorite websites for game making.

Sploder 

Lets you create different types of games from 8-bit arcade games and flash games such as puzzles, 3D adventures, and classic creator.  It is a drag-and drop interface, where you can drag pre-designed graphics and add pre-written coding.  It is a super easy–I created this game within 20 mins.

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If they are more confident, they can create their own graphics through the graphic editor.

The best part is that child can share their work with friends and loved ones. The platform is free on computers and laptops. However, there is a fee of $1.99 for those downloading through the App Store and Google Play Store.

TIP: There are several Youtube tutorials videos for this game creator. For example: Jaction Rowe, a kid, created this video for the Retro arcade game creator. It is easy to follow and shows how child-friendly this game creator is.

Construct 2

This HTML game creator is an easy program that lets anyone design 2D games. Here is a mini preview:

It is super easy. The drag and drop design makes it child-friendly, which makes it perfect for users who are not familiar with creating graphics for the games. You can purchase add-on graphic packages for a small fee.

The limited Construct 2 is available for Free for Windows here. If you want to create applications for Android and Apple products, you will need to purchase the download for about $129.99. Of course they have also an Education discount for educators and schools (prices vary).

If you do not know what version of the program to get, check out the Compare Features section here.

Stencyl

This drag and drop interface makes it easy for anyone to make their own 2 dimensional game. Stencyl Starter download is free for Macs, Windows and Linux computers, and laptops. If your child is very invested, you can upgrade to Indie for $99.99 per year. Here is a preview and tutorial of how to make your own game.

You can build your own apps on multiple platforms such as Android and iOS. Download Stencyl Studio for a fee of $199.99 per year.

With these tools, you and your child have an opportunity to not only create, but build confidence. It’s also an opportunity to brag about your child genius and show off their digital creations to loved ones. Of course, you can show off on this blog post, too! Please feel free to comment below with a link to your child’s creations. And don’t feel like it’s only limited to your child–we’d love for you to share your work as well! Remember, Everyone is a Maker, so even adults can create their own games and learn.


About the Author

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Maria Renteria, AmeriCorps VISTA 

 

Maria comes to us from the South Bay of Los Angeles. She has been a Maker since she can remember. She is excited to share this passion with Grass Valley Elementary students because she wants them to create their best memories of school through making like she did when she was little.
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What is Project-Based Learning and Maker Education?

All of a sudden, so it seems, the terms “Maker” and “PBL” are everywhere in the educational landscape. You may be wondering what each of these terms means, how they are related and how they differ. You are not alone. I myself wondered the same thing as I made my journey into the field of Maker Education and Project-Based Learning

Project-Based Learning and Maker Education are terms which are growing in use these days. Here are two definitions:

“Project-Based Learning is a teaching method in which students gain knowledge and skills by working for an extended period of time to investigate and respond to an engaging and complex question, problem, or challenge.” —The Buck Institute of Education

Maker Education brings the Maker movement into the school setting to provide students with hands-on learning that promotes creativity, thoughtfulness, a community of learning and sharing ideas, as well as, the idea that each person can create what they want to see or use as opposed to just buying it. Making combines new technologies with old-school arts and crafts and vocational education.

Maker Education focuses on bringing together Science, Math, Technology, Engineering, and Art in a student-centered, creative way. Often times Maker Education happens in a Maker Space:

“… [A] space where kids have the opportunity to make – a place where some tools, materials, and enough expertise can get them started.  These places, called makerspaces, share some aspects of the shop class, home economics class, the art studio and science labs.  In effect, a makerspace is a physical mash-up of different places that allows makers and projects to integrate these different kinds of skills.” –Dale Dougherty, The Maker Mindset, in Design, Make, Play

After having immersed myself in the field of Maker Education and Project-Based Learning for the past two years, my main takeaway is that they are quite similar. They both focus on the creation of projects, critical thinking and problem-solving skills, creativity and have the potential to foster empathy in students. The main difference is that Maker Education has a big emphasis on “hacking” or “tinkering” where you take something that already exists and makes it better or you make something entirely new for the fun of creating it. Maker Education also has a strong tech bent with the inclusion of coding, computer science, and engineering while Project-Based Learning can encompass any and all subject areas.

At Grass Valley, we are combining these two related approaches so that we use the best of both approaches. Our focus is hands-on, project-based learning where students create a product that they showcase at an expo. The Maker Project-Based Learning units can focus on any subject area and integrate a low or high tech component into the end product.

We invite you to check back here often to see where our journey in PBL/Maker Ed takes us.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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Paula Mitchell, Teacher on Special Assignment (TSA)
Paula is a 20+ year veteran Oakland teacher who has been crafting, designing and making since she was a little girl. She is delighted that her job as a TSA for Project-Based Learning/ Maker Ed allows her to bring more hands-on, minds-on learning to the community she loves.