I started teaching game development with the Unity engine last year with Year 10 and Year 11 students. Unity is a great tool that includes excellent resources, tutorials and informative user forums. One of the best parts about starting out with Unity is the massive range of free asset import downloads available.
Before lessons began I developed some fundamental 3D World creation tutorials and created lesson plans that linked to online resources freely available on the Unity website. I taught the basics of turning flat terrains into great looking 3D worlds, including water features, trees and animals. I also taught an introduction to Object-oriented programming (OOP) with C#.
TIPS for teaching Game Dev with Unity:
- Consider limiting students to only develop 2D or 3D. This will help you focus your teaching energies to only one type of game development.
- Explicitly teach how to only import parts of an asset download. This will help reduce file size and game play lag.
- If a game does not open easily due to different Unity versions, delete the Libraries folder and then open in Unity. This will force the new version of Unity to create the Libraries folder and will likely result in no errors; however, it will take longer to open.
- ALWAYS insist that students submit a video demo of their game play, video explanation of what/how they created their game and a compiled executable of their game. This helps to grade their work appropriately on the occasions when you simply can’t open their projects.
Big Data, Data Analytics, Digital Data, Data Mining, Data Science, Machine Learning, and the list goes on! We hear a lot about data today. I think analysing data, finding statistical trends and making predictions from data is useful (and fun!). Of course, we also need to educate ourselves about how data is used and the ethical issues around data use. We need to question who, how & why is the data being collected and how is it being analysed. I actually am fascinated about the IPO (input-process-output) of algorithms, APIs and machine learning that develop predictions about people based on their data.
Some of my current results are posted below. I find the ‘Psychological Gender’ differences between Facebook data and Twitter data particularly interesting. I believe the difference in my predicted gender highlights social stereotypes (this makes sense if you understand that their dataset comes from a large survey of people that live in our society and the majority obviously ‘live’ and perpetuate these stereotypes). On Facebook I post mainly about my family but I use Twitter as my professional learning network (PLN) so I tweet a lot about gaming, robots, IT, coding (all viewed as belonging to the male domain!). Is it ethically OK to use these predictions to then directly market things that align to my digital footprint? How much better might my online experience be if it was built with this data? Might this further perpetuate social stereotypes? How can we ensure it doesn’t and still use this data in a beneficial way? Fascinating stuff!
Based on FB Likes, the program finds it difficult to determine my psychological gender. I liked Minecraft (more masculine) and The Cure (more feminine).
Based on FB Posts, my age prediction and psychological gender is closer to my real age and gender. Likely because on FB I post mainly about my kids; I wonder if men who post mainly about their kids on FB get a high female ‘Psychological Gender’…oooh, I hope not but I can’t help but wonder…
Based on my tweets I am predicted to be much younger and also male! Must be because of all those tweets about gaming and robots.
LinkedIn has an interesting Social Selling Index (SSI) which I discovered today via a LinkedIn connection. Below is some data retrieved from my SSI today. I’d love to know more about how the Industry SSI Rank works. I’m in the top 2% of the Sales professionals in the Education Management industry and yet I am actually interested in making connections on LinkedIn with people from Education, the IT industry and social enterprises.
Without understanding fully how this works yet, it appears that I am doing a pretty good job at connecting on LinkedIn. I do have questions about the Industry SSI Rank and I wonder if the industry that I’ve been put into could be tweaked/changed.
Data like this leaves me with so many questions. Many of the people I connect with are teachers. From my experience with presenting about the benefits of a PLN and Twitter to teachers, I have noted that many are not comfortable (privacy &/or limited digital confidence issues) to network, collaborate and share online. It would be interesting to find out if this is why the numbers are low or is it more about the common view/myth that LinkedIn is only for job seekers.
There is likely an algorithm that does similar on Instagram profiles, I haven’t stumbled on this yet so if it exists let me know. I did find this interesting paper though: http://www.cp.jku.at/research/papers/Ferwerda_Empire_2015.pdf
Imagine what it might mean if we are determining personality traits from reviewing the posted Instagram images and their filter settings. How might this impact employment hiring?
Next thing I’ll be trying: Data Selfie
Anyone used this yet? What did you think of it?
I am passionate about teaching digital technologies to my students, children, family and friends. Sometimes I also mentor colleagues or teachers I connect with online; these teachers tend to seek me out and ask for help with how to implement the Digital Technologies curriculum in their own teaching. I enjoy helping/mentoring teachers in this because I learn a lot about their different subjects (Art, French, Business, home schooling, etc.) and it’s fun to think of engaging ways to integrate Digital Technologies within their context.
I also enjoy teaching Business. I am particularly fond of learning about current digital marketing practices and the ethical considerations around using big data to market to prescribed (often stereotyped) audiences. Unfortunately, I do not currently have the opportunity to teach Business at school; however, the Tech Girls are Superheroes competition allows me to share my Business knowledge with the teams that I coach.
I love entrepreneurial + digital technology competitions. I am a Tech Girl & proud of it!
(The following sections have been written for an upcoming Somerset Times article)
This competition is NOT just about creating an app!
It always amazes me how often colleagues and students assume that the teams are only “coding”. NEWS FLASH: there is so much MORE to this competition than coding! I love computer programming (a much better term than the media-hyped term “coding”) but it is a small part of what my teams actually do in this competition. Each team is coached as if they are a startup business. Below is a list of some of the things each team does and much of this is also documented in their comprehensive Business Plan.
- identify & understand their target audience through surveys and interviews
- analyse target market surveys, interviews and research, and then consider the startup’s product viability in the current/future market. Conduct basic statistical analysis, identify data trends and develop effective graphs/charts to represent the data.
- consider whether the startup should be defined as For Profit or Social Enterprise. I teach students about social enterprises and how they are an increasing business model.
- identify, contact, negotiate and formalise potential partnerships with existing organisations
- conduct comparative market analysis. It is important to ensure that their app idea has a useful or interesting difference to similar apps on the market. Analysing the market may also help the teams think of more innovative ways to improve their app.
- wireframe the app. This is where the team designs the skeleton or blueprint of how their app will look like. This allows developers to organise elements on app screens, consider app element placement and the ease of functionality. The wireframe process is iterative; teams initially sketch out wireframes on a whiteboard, they don’t like how the screen looks or they realise that a certain design is difficult to setup in the development stage, then they tweak/edit the wireframe.
- learn to program. Most students use MIT App Inventor but the Blue Screen team learned to use xCode (Apple Mac). It’s pretty magical when 14-16 year old students decide on their own to learn a text-based programming language for the competition.
- prototype the app. Repeatedly test the functionality of the app, tweak the code, test the functionality of the app again, test for the effectiveness of the User Interface (UI) and the User Experience (UX), tweak/add code, change app screen layout etc., and repeat!
- prepare a pitch video. Take video of skits, presentations and ensure each team member is included. Mash-up the video, images, text and music, to create a professional pitch video that will highlight the purpose and function of the app.
Tech Girls are Superheroes 2018 Ambassadors and Tech Girls are Superheroes 2017 UN Education Award
This year I coached four teams in the Tech Girls are Superheroes 2017 competition. I am proud of all the girls in each team; this is not an easy competition and yet each team submitted an entry. The Blue Screen team were one of three QLD Finalists; woohoo! The team members were so excited to attend the QLD/National Showcase event recently at The Cube, QUT. The Blue Screen team didn’t win but they are already thinking about how they can do better in this competition next year. The team have now been named as Tech Girls are Superheroes 2018 Ambassadors, which is wonderful because I already see how younger girls at school view Tech Girls are Superheroes students as role models. My hope is that younger girls will see the positive impact an entrepreneurial competition and digital technologies can have on women.
Our team C Sharp, with their Go Fish app idea, have recently received the Tech Girls are Superheroes 2017 UN Education Award. The Go Fish app is a fun, interactive game-based idea; I want to play it! Team C Sharp focused their startup app on the UN Sustainable Development: Environment theme. Their app’s purpose was to build awareness about the deterioration of the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) and this was done through an augmented reality game where the player catches fish while also learning about the GBR. Their app development did not progress well and they did not attempt the augmented reality functionality, but the idea was brilliant!
(This post is based on an article written for the Somerset Times: 4 August, 2017)
This year I have been coaching 4 teams of girls (18 females in Years 7 to 11) in the Tech Girls are Superheroes 2017 competition. I submitted their work yesterday. The hard part is over! Now we can look forward to attending the Brisbane Showcase later this term. I attended the 2016 Showcase with my 8 year old daughter and I remember the overwhelmingly positive feeling of ‘Girl Power’ at this event. It was wonderful to see a variety of school entries from around Queensland. There were so many young innovative women in the audience and it was awesome to witness the excitement in the room when the winners were announced. The best part of this event was the acknowledgement that females CAN be entrepreneurial, they CAN DO tech! This is such an important message for our girls and young women to hear. Too often girls learn how they ‘should’ act from socially prescribed stereotypes and norms that simply are not true and not OK anymore.
Me at the Brisbane Tech Girl Superheroes Showcase 2016
There are many reasons why we need to increase female participation in digital technologies and startups. Governments, businesses, educational institutions and the media around the world are pushing to increase female participation in computer science. Some reasons for this is to improve gender equality, to increase diversity in the IT industry, to alleviate increasing IT skill shortages and to ensure that ALL citizens are prepared for an increasingly digital workplace. It makes sense that a diverse workforce will be better able to cater to the needs/wants of a diverse society! What might be the social potential if there were more women computer science graduates working in data science, software/app development, artificial intelligence, IT security and game design?
The advantages for females to participate in the Tech Girl Superhero competition
- Females learn that they CAN DO technology and they CAN think of & create solutions that can help their community.
- Teams meet every week and they ‘hang out’ in a positive group setting. They know that everyone is ‘new’ to this experience and it’s OK if they don’t know it all yet.
- Students learn to collaborate online using OneDrive, Slack, etc.
- Students learn how to research whether a solution might be feasible and they learn about the importance of competitive analysis.
- They learn about startups; they identify a need in their community, brainstorm app solutions, research competition, identify a target audience, consider costs and potential impact and revenue.
- They learn basic computer programming skills and apply them to develop an app solution. Some students may surprise you and start to learn to code in a different computer language all on their own! Team Blue Screen did this; one team member was very keen to create an iOS app using Swift code.
- Role-model coaches and mentors from industry tell these girls that they are awesome and eventually they believe it! This year the teams had lovely mentors; Ayla Soutar from TechnologyOne and Amy Byrne from Vodafone.
- Teams have fun!
- They make mistakes; they learn that it hurts when a team member lets them down but they also learn to forgive and to work harder as a team.
- Each team creates a Pitch Video and they learn best ways to pitch their product. They use previous team pitch videos as a guide.
Team Blue Screen’s App Demo Video:
You want a fun, hands-on and engaging lesson idea that includes learning about circuits? Try paper circuits! It’s relatively cheap (paper or cardboard, sticky-tape, conductive tape, LEDs and batteries) and it’s been a hit with all age levels in the classroom, at parties and at home. This is one of my old posts that I often refer to friends and educators (Primary & Secondary). I have helped friends design units of work that linked to the study of Urbanisation using this building with circuits idea. Here is a copy of my old post:
It’s school holidays and my 8 year old wanted to build a Gingerbread-style house. She carried all of her arts & crafts supplies to the kitchen and asked me to help her make it. We made the house out of cardboard. I helped her measure & cut-out the walls and then she added colour.
Structure of house was stabilised with support beams across the walls & roof
Since it was quite large the walls fell-in a bit and the roof line was not stable. We sat there talking about how we might stabilise the house and then with the help of Dad we added beams across the walls and the roof line. We also decided to not stick the roof on because we wanted easy access to the inside of the house. When you look through the door you can see my daughter’s drawing of Santa.
Santa is in the house; Xmas tree in the back right & girl sleeping on left
My daughter was very happy with her house but I encouraged her to add lights! 🙂 First we had to learn about simple circuits, parallel circuits and how to connect LEDs.
8 year old daughter created her first simple circuit using conductive tape, battery & LED
Once she understood how the circuits worked we added 2 parallel circuits to her house. The parallel circuit on the left-side seemed really weak after a few lights were added. But the parallel circuit we added on the right-side went up along the house and across the front of the house (on the inside). This allowed us to add some lights on the front of the house. My daughter loved testing the LEDs first and she found that the white & blue ones were the weakest, so we avoided using them.
Parallel circuit running over the wall & on the inside
Ta da! Looks great in the evening
Ah but that’s not all! My daughter also loves using LittleBits and so we decided to add a touch sensor on the side of the house. When you touch the touch sensor Santa vibrates and lights turn on around him. She LOVES her house! But after we were done she said it would be better if we made Santa’s legs vibrate out of the chimney on the roof; sounds like a job for her & Daddy!
(this post is based on an article I wrote to be published in an upcoming digital Somerset Times edition – some variations have been made here, including some personal reflections on this event)
Congratulations to the Somerset College students involved in the recent Startup Weekend Gold Coast event, hosted by Bond University. The Overall Favourite and the Crowd Favourite winning team was Waterways, a team of seven members which included four Year 10 and Year 12 Somerset students. The High School Favourite winning team was Yetti Wear, a team of six members which included one Year 11 Somerset student.
I was so thrilled for these young inspiring people. LOVE that four of my students participated! 🙂
This exciting event brought 70+ diverse participants together. Teams were formed on the Friday night and then they spent the whole weekend working on their innovative ideas. Each team had to consider the needs of their potential target audience, conduct comparative business analysis, research and forecast potential earnings, develop marketing strategies, and design digital app solutions. All 9 teams’ innovative startup ideas focused on digital technologies, including app solutions within digital marketplace environments catering for business-to-business and business-to-customer models.
Startup weekends, Hack events, and Entrepreneurial Pitch competitions are now a common feature in our society and it is no surprise that our young people are excelling at these events. Working on a startup idea and pushing through to a viable product solution is an invaluable experience for people interested in starting a business. It is especially important for our youth to experience this to help prepare them for their future lives in a digital, competitive and global economy.
It was lovely to see my students pitching their ideas and the enthusiastic responses from the judges was great. I especially enjoyed watching some of the parents proudly sitting in the audience. As a parent myself, I can imagine their feelings of pride, excitement and hope for their child’s future. It was really great to see the people that are involved in these types of events, including parents, academics, startup and tech enthusiasts, and supportive businesses and organisations. It is a type of event where you can visibly see the positive impact these events have on people and society resulting from grass-roots movements, teacher and parent support, and business and institutional sponsorship.