Frank Reetz

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West Jefferson Middle School Conifer, Colorado 6, 7, 8 GT English

How will I introduce Scalable Game Design in my school?

It's my intention to implement the design of games in an afterschool classroom setting. I can see effectively managing up to 12 designers, 6th, 7th, or 8th graders. Like afternoons in my classroom at WJMS, wherein three or four DI (Destination Imagination) team mates practice (like the three boys above)or NJHS (National Junior Honor Society) members congregate, a few lucky Game designers will work on lap tops to design Frogger games or Pacman games. I visualize turning model narratives into programs into games, and there are plenty of narratives in literature and relationships in written rhetoric, that we may be able to program into a model or game. I'm jazzed.

After attempting to design a basic Frogger generator and tunnel, in Cubes, I am questioning my desire to continue. It's not working too well. Quite a humbling experience, this.

Project Journal

Day 1, Monday: June 4 I came into this, as an English teacher, knowing I'd be out of my comfort zone. mhm. So by the end of the day, I am fried. I know this about myself: when sitting for hours against my computer, I fry. I need to move. It’s the same in professional development seminoferences. Confrinar? I like seminoference. So, this condition, combined with a lot of listening and logical learning lulls me to aching, my neck and eyes, and low grade headaches. Like altitude sickness. I found that I was three steps behind for most of the day. Holding what was being taught in the foreground, along with what I was trying to remember, combined with the white noise of chatter, got me behind.

I was reminded, in a friendly manner, that I need to pay attention when new information is being presented, but although I fell behind, I did finish on time, and felt accomplished. What this tells me about learners on such a steep curve is this: they need time to process. A visible time clock would benefit.

I injected a bit of cynicism into my game: overtly labeled the log agent “LOG.” In my recalcitrance, I had the frog turn into my unused and pink Wells Fargo Stage Coach when it stacked onto the pixelated mosaic turtle grotto. While in the midst of the turmoil of keepin up and keeping things straight, I labeled the Lilly Pad Generator “LPG” and the Lilly Pad Tunnel “LPT.” I believe every step has been accomplished. I believe my work yesterday, was basic. I did what I was expected to do. Learned and designed. Basic, but challenging to me.

I may have made a few people mad, by blurting out a few irrelevant comments. Aargh. (Frank, if people seemed mad, we just needed to lighten up!  Everyone handles stress differently, and I found your sarcasm/comments entertaining.  Yasko)

Day 2, Tuesday: June 5, 2012 The transit of Venus was a wash, or a blur, or a vague impression. I anticipated something cool. Some of us posed with others of us in order to remember the moment, but the moment didn’t come. Maybe I should have asked it to slow down. The detail of the dot in the face of the sun must’ve been a lot of work for those solar forces. I wonder how it can make it without being fried. Similarly, my day in game design ended in a head full. It’s the precision of condition creating that is so challenging for me. I know it’s what fries me. I tend to want to be perfect at it, to get close to it, which frustrates me. I have high expectations for myself. Specifically, the first lesson this morning went too fast. Having to listen and concentrate and change conditions correctly and understand, brought me to a point of breathlessness. Distractions and din. Rapid heart rate.I left the room to clear. Like a transit, passing closely, seeking perfection right away in the realm of something so new and out of my comfort sphere, knowing I’m being watched, I know this is a big deal.

The games that I produced were satisfying. (Am I toning down my adjectives? Am I losing my poetic sense, hanging with scientists? I’m happy they’re here for me. How in the world will I be able to manage more than five students of my own. Creating phenomena, causality, is satisfying. In my work of English instruction, writing instruction, kids thinking and applying their thinking to the writing, much of the intermediary processes are invisible, intangible. In this work, the satisfaction comes from the tangibility of the work.

I made many mistakes with the tools. I’ll remember them.

I am still very steeply oriented in the ZPD. Knowing that it takes practice to make perfect, and we already know that perfection is important for me, I foresee that I will need to practice these before I can rightfully teach/guide young people to create games. I anticipate something cool. There is much that I don’t understand. There is much that is over my head.

Day 3, Wednesday: June 6, 2012 I like the idea of using “mentor games” in order to teach examples and non-examples of effective programming. Much like literature studies and writing instruction in the middle grades in Jeffco, I see this day as a look at mentor games. We look at expert texts which show us what to cannibalize, what to use and make our own. With mentor texts, we read like writers. With mentor games, we play games like designers, looking at whole games to make decisions, looking at videos of naturally occurring computational thinking models, looking at common programming errors. I value and recognize the effectiveness of the instructional methodology. I wish I could keep up.

Day 4, Thursday: June 7, 2012 Today ended…let’s say it could’ve been the climax of a rather frustrating-gratifying-frustrating-gratifying day. Alex helped me find the missing “@” in a string of conditions that my weary eyes were too tired to see, let alone skilled enough to see. He asked me in earnest, “Really?” to another assistant’s reiteration of my statement “I am incredibly frustrated.” “Well” I thought to myself. “No, not really.” I had to pause and in three seconds compare myself to Alex: my obvious irritation to his mollifying demeanor. That moment taught me a lot. This is the journal of a novice programmer, not the hmm-haw anecdotes of an experienced STEM teacher. I did get myself into this, intentionally, in order to exceed (heck, rupture) my comfort zone.

Thinking more about yesterday’s experiment in three instructional methods: direct instruction, peer collaboration, individual inquiry, I stand by my suggestion that boys in classrooms can work effectively in the individual mode. Despite one of the female participant’s refutation, no, addendum to my theory, “Well, girls can work well by themselves, too!” I know that some boys, many, most? wanna give it a go on their own, first. Yes, first. Many boys like small groups, pairs, too. Of course all learners are going to learn best with effective and sufficient guidance (I believe that most teachers drop the ball WAY too soon, and should pay more attention to the GRADUAL release of responsibility for learning, not the IMMEDIATE or ABRUPT or CLIFFSIDE release of learning. Heck with the pace in most curricula, it’s understandable.) Just today, with Bob’s effective pace in the morning, my preference of these three modes, in this kind of intense and absolutely brand new learning, became certain for me. I couldn’t have done it on my own. My neighbor guided me through a lot, while the teacher’s direct instruction helped me see. He picked up the pace in the afternoon, however, and I was lost after ten minutes. I put my computer on stand-by, and just listened. The pace, when learners like me are moved too quickly up Bloom’s, was suddenly disappointingly fast. I had felt pretty good in the morning, kept up, but was left in the dust after lunch. I pulled up my hood, and grew anxious. I am making neurons, but I will be very aware of kids when they are on such a steep curve. I can't afford to lose even one.

The models that we learned, and the scientific concepts that we learned through models, were rich.The thinking models are pertinent in many disciplines, and are thus, helpful. I love the rope demonstrations. It’s extremely helpful for one in the weeds of learning to be made aware of the endless applications for models. My main learning today is how to develop a model through writing it out, focusing on the parts of speech, altering (or complextualating) the terms: nouns, adjectives, verbs, will be very useful for me. I think some of these pieces of my learning today can be used with early middle school kids. We’ll see.

Coming from the standpoint of a non-stem professional, I find the thinking about thinking emphasis today was in line with my strengths. Whew, a day that touched on some of those. Need--more frequent--shorter--brain breaks. If you read this, please send me an email: freetz@jeffco.k12.co.us. If you haven't, don't.

Day 5, Friday: Friday is a bit of a wash for me. The introduction to Cubes is intriguing. The time to collaborate with other professionals who have already implemented Sheets or Cubes in their schools was beneficial. I have a three-week outline.

Day 6, Saturday: At this point, I've submitted a Cubes game that isn't working. It's frustrating. I haven't had success with programming a working generator or absober, and those are the skills taught on day one.  :O(

The prospect of introducing children to this, in my current capacity, is unlikely.

Day 7, Sunday: June 10 This morning, upon reflection, I realize that much of my frustra;tion revolves around "seeing." Since my computer isn't handling Cubes, the menus (the conditions, behaviors, actions) take on bizarre backgrounds which distort the field, blur it, shade it. The agents don't appear, the arrows, the methods fields....blah.

Monday, June 11 This morning I messed around with the SIMS game and the 3D Dark Maze game. Not sure what I did, but I disabled something. I think what would help is more of a visual flow chart which shows how methods like "broadcast" and "message" work. If I want this, these are the steps to take and these are all of the places in the program that need to be considered. Hm.

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