Tag Archive: gaming

2013
04/24

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Computing
Teaching

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After-school MinecraftPi sitrep

So I’ve have a few weeks of running the RaspberryPi after-school programming club and I have to say it’s been an interesting ride. In a way I’m a little disappointed with the lack of programming we’ve managed to achieve. But, on the other hand, the amount of Linux experience they’ve gained (to say nothing of the un-spoken appreciation – there’s been little to no grumbling – they’ve developed for the smoothness of systems like Windows and OSX) has been incredible.

So far, then, we’ve managed to set up and boot a RasPi. We then added configuration to try and work through the school proxy (more on that, later) and then managed to grab MinecraftPi (the “hook” I’m using to get them thinking about coding). This last week we finally managed to get a sample program working (this sample, actually, which draws an analogue clock in the sky) against a couple of the pupil’s MCPi instances.

From here, then, I hope to draw out the programming aspects of the club (using Geany to code Python against their own Minecraft instance, initially, although I hope to work up to running mini-competitions, eg building races, in one world) starting from more simple coding challenges like building a cube of a given material, working up to pyramids (well, ziggurats I s’pose, which I’m thinking must be possible with recursive calls).

So, what have I learned?

Well, it’s mostly been about what I’d do differently next time

Like, having a proxy-configured system image and working from there, instead of having to think on the hoof and get them to change configurations as we go. I could still get them to startup, update and install packages, run X and then shutdown… but I could do it from a position of strength, knowing that the proxy side of things will simply work!

Or, about double-checking the amount of background knowledge required, in order to be able to follow instructions I carefully set out, on how to set up the environment to use the proxy.

Finally, there’s a lesson in terms of not testing, testing and then re-testing (just to test that the testing was working) ideas, configuration and systems before blithely assuming that they would “all work okay” when put in front of pupils; no matter how keen and self-motivated they are, they’re only KS3 and don’t have my 13+ years of programming experience to fall back on when it doesn’t quite work first time because they mis-spelt “Aquire” or didn’t match case in a function definition.

So, one final thing about the proxy. We’re in one of the ex-EMBC counties that stuck with the Capita solution, which means we’re now using the WebShield proxy solution (albeit with custom certificates so I can now actually access Twitter across the school network) – this has been a right royal pain to work around, but for those interested, the answer seems to have been to actually put the proxy login in the configuration, as well as the proxy address.

So, for example, environment variables need to be set like http_proxy=http://user:password@webshield.embc.uk.com:80/ or, for apt-get to function, settings like Acquire::http::proxy "http://user:password@webshield.embc.uk.com:80/"; in the apt.conf file.

Anyone needing fuller details on any of this, don’t hesitate to comment/tweet me – I’m happy to answer questions.

2011
09/11

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Teaching

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First week, looking back

Okay, so I survived. And more than survived, had fun. It was a busy week, in all the right places – lessons went well, a couple of new lunch time clubs were frenetic (in good ways, I felt) and my routine is now almost bedded in my head.

I’ve deliberately taken a new approach to lunch times, this year. Last year I was pretty much eating in there every day as children came in to “work” on odd bits of the stuff that had taken their fancy through the year – SketchUp, Kodu, Scratch – and, to be honest, nice tho’ it was to see them enthused, I needed the break.

So this year, I’m having two lunch time clubs – a weekly Minecraft club on an in-school server that I’ve talked the tech guys into installing, and a fortnightly race meeting on TrackMania Nations 🙂

Vive la difference!

2011
02/08

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Teaching

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The dust is settling

So, after a full day of playing around in Inform 7 with a bunch of middle-set pupils, what have we learned?

  1. we can have fun and achieve things in a day – which is really nice to know
  2. spend more time demonstrating how to best describe locations (including obvious exits)
  3. I need to make further explorations into the system to better keep up with the rate of ideas/enquiries on how to make 
  4. when it comes to estimating how quickly children will pick up game-related technology… I need to aim higher 🙂

A great day was had by (pretty much) all, I think – certainly if the groans and complaints that emerged when we pointed out it was getting towards home time so we would have to stop are anything to go by!

Edit: Ah yes, meant to put one of the produced games up, just to show how they did. This is one produced by a few year 9s, with only minimal assistance in terms of the grammar of Inform. The ideas were all their own.

2011
02/07

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Computing
Teaching

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ILID fun and games

So our school has a number of days (ILID – integrate learning in-depth) where in the past there have been themes, usually per-year, that run through the day. But this time, the SLT opened it up to teachers to see if there was an idea that they would like to run that wouldn’t normally work within the confines of an hour (or a series of hour) lessons.

I’ve tried, in the past, to run after school clubs building interactive fiction games (using Inform 7, for its natural language approach) having long enjoyed playing such games and seeing the myriad learning topics available in such ventures (ie problem solving, creative writing, logic, organisation and planning). But tomorrow, I’ve been let loose with 30 hand-picked children and a colleague (an English teacher) to try and introduce/teach the beginnings of building interactive fiction under the guise of “creative writing”!

Let the good times roll 🙂

2008
02/09

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Teaching

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Advice and stage fright

Been more than a little busy recently, but have to share a couple of incidents…

Firstly, I was stopped the other afternoon by one of the mums. “Excuse me, ” she said, “but do you have a minute?” Naturally, I did. “My daughter tells me that you’ve completed Zelda on the DS?” she continued, “and I’m stuck. I’m on the third trip into the Ocean King’s temple and I’m stuck on how to transfer the seal to the map.”

Thankfully, I could recall the answer to that one on short notice. So, today she was back asking about another section on the ghost ship. That one took a little thinking – she ended up bringing her DS in to class so I could see exactly which part it was.

Think I may have made a friend, there.

On a different note (pun intended) our school has been running a sort of “Britain’s Got Talent” competition over the last couple of weeks and today was the grand final. They needed a short “filler” spot, so my head decided (in her usual wisdom) that the staff could perform a short “Grease” medley. It fell to me to be Danny for “Summer Nights” and that all seemed to be going okay.

Then, today, in our dress rehearsal I not only came in too soon (which threw both myself and “Sandy” off for the first verse) but then, instead of singing “she was good, you know what I mean” I sadly omitted the initial “s” and loudly and clearly sang that “he was good…”.

Oh how we laughed. Asked by one of the TAs later whether there was anything I felt I needed to say by way of explanation, I merely replied that I felt that I had stated my position quite clearly the first time.

*sigh*