This summer I decided to hold a coding camp for my elementary students. The camp was filled with a variety of hands on and computer based activities. On the second day of the camp students made stories with Bloxels.
The goal of the Bloxels lesson was to integrate storytelling and game design. Students arrived early to camp so they had time to read through the Bloxels guide book. They concentrated on the purpose of each block and they read a little about how to create a game.
Students worked individually on storyboards. I asked them to create an adventure story, but I did not give them any more prompting. I wanted them to create a story that was their own. After completing the storyboards I introduced the Bloxels App and boards. I showed students some examples of games and I modeled how to create a simple game. On the back of their storyboards, students planned out their levels.
One of the biggest attractions of Bloxels was the physical boards. Technically, you don’t need the boards, everything can be done in the app. However, in my experience, students really enjoy this part of the building process, and if done correctly it can encourage a lot of communication between students. I will admit that I made the mistake of having students work individually on this task. I was worried that my students would have difficulty sharing the iPads. Also, I wanted everyone to have a lot of time with the boards and apps. Next time I would want to have more boards and blocks available (We had 5 boards and 6 students). With more boards and blocks, students could work in teams building levels and characters but use their own iPads. Another problem we faced was space. With the Bloxels boards you need a lot of room for kids to combine boards and build games. We didn’t have enough blocks so I was forced to squeeze six students around a table built for 4.
I am happy to say that it only took a little bit of modeling before students were on their own creating their games. I stayed close by to offer tips on building and animating but students caught on pretty quick and they helped each other figure out the different aspects of game development.
We spent 2 hours storyboarding, planning, and building. However, the next time I will schedule 2-3 days (2 hour blocks) instead of one 2 hour block. My students had a blast building and playing their very own video games. It was the highlight of the coding camp. Whenever, we would take a quick break everyone wanted to work on their Bloxels games. After discussing their games with them I realized that they didn’t make the connection between their storyboards and their Bloxels game. The characters they created were based on the characters from their stories but the setting and game play were random and unrelated. I believe this happened because we didn’t spend enough time discussing how they would transition from a story to a game. I don’t think that Bloxels was a good fit for coding camp. However, I do believe that Bloxels would fit in a digital storytelling camp! In a storytelling environment, students would have more time to develop their story elements. Also, we could commit more time understanding game development. In the end students would have the required knowledge and skills to bring their stories to life through a video game.