“This is the most fun I’ve had all year!” and “I love this! It’s so cool,” are just a few of the exclamations Forest Vista Elementary students in Laura Lane’s Gifted and Talented (GT) class were saying after a engaging lesson about making video games taught by Flower Mound 9th Grade Campus student Michael Schott.
When Lane learned about Pixel Press Floors – an application that allows users to create video games by simply using an iPad or pencil their game on special graph paper downloaded from its website – she knew it would ignite student excitement and engagement, but needed someone to help her test it out first. Therefore, she decided to pitch it to a FM 9 student.
Once Schott explored the application, he prepared a lesson with the intent of not only sharing the “how to” of Pixel Press Floors, but also modeling the “how to teach others.”
“Michael’s positive communication skills had students excited from the very beginning,” Lane said. “His quick engagement brought to mind an opportunity for both new technology skills and peer modeling/coaching.”
Using district-issued iPads, thanks to LISD’s 1:X initiative, students created and played their own games with the application.
“I love the fact that when things don’t work as planned, students have to find the problem, redesign and test their version again,” Lane said.
This also correlates with how Lane has been teaching students the design process: find the problem; generate ideas, select a solution; build; test/evaluate; and potentially redesign. The process not only forces students to work at a higher level but encourages intense collaboration. In addition, this year Forest Vista has taken on the challenge of learning the basics of computer science and coding through the Hour of Code and other coding websites and apps including Scratch, Tynker, Hopscotch and Stencyl.
According to Lane, current research states that in three years, there will be three times the number of jobs for qualified computer software applicants.
“Learning code is an essential skill for our students,” Lane said. “A plus is that students just think they are having fun.”
And students agree.
“This mechanism of using your imagination to create a game is awesome,” 5th grader Kevin Miao said.
Fellow classmate Scott Barker enjoyed testing his game.
“I wanted to get going testing the level of the game, as soon as possible,” Barker said. “The experience was fund and amazing.”
The next step for Lane’s students will be to take on the role as facilitators and share their knowledge with students in their class.
“This will allow these students to take their knowledge and incorporate it with their developing presentation and communication skills, which will result in the enhancement of the lives of their own classmates,” Lane said. “I feel there will be a strong ‘trickle down’ effect once they have this opportunity and expect Pixel Press Floors to expand well beyond the GT classroom.”
Elizabeth Haas is part of the public relations team at the Lewisville Independent School District.