Knowing that we are going to endure remote learning for the 2020-2021 school years, one of my challenges is continuing the mission of the STEAM:Coding class which was to provide our students an opportunity to design and develop games by learning to program with in a game engine. A number of dilemma came up as I approached this school year.

The Dilemma

There were a couple dilemma’s that I had to solve to set this class up for distance learning:

Farewell GameMaker

In the past, we’ve used GameMaker 8.0 to make quick prototypes of games. The reason why I used GameMaker 8.0 is because it was free and it was easy install without any trouble. Though GameMaker 8.0 was out of date (I’ve also used this app in 2010 teaching high school students how to program). Now they have GameMaker Studio 2.3 at a cost of $30 per user per year. Imagine a class of 30 student, I’d be paying $900 a year. That is not feasible.

Farewell Windows 10

Realize I have laptop that are about 8 years old. They’ve been with me since I was hired for the job and Window 10 has moments of lag to a point where our students complain about it especially while logging in. I was a little frustrated with that feature. My plan was to deliver out STEAM Laptops for our students to borrow for distance learning. When I brought the laptops home to configure them for DL, I’ve notice that I can’t even log on because I was outside of the school network. After submitting my help ticket to the the help desk, I’ve learned that I would have bring the ALL 34 laptop computer back to the school, plug them into the network, and reactivate the license. I’m not doing that.

A New Dawn to STEAM

There were a couple of ideas floating around even during the 2019-2020 school year.

  • All laptop would have 128 GB SSD to speed it up. This is feasible so I applied for a Donors Choose grant so that this happened. I also have a hard driver clone at home and this would definitely expedite my process of getting an operating system with the required programs cloned on all 34 computers in less than 3 hours.
  • Linux Mint would be our new operating system. I’ve been tinkering with Linux Mint for a couple years and boy does it feel like spiffy version of Windows 10 without the extra junk that Windows 10 comes with. Not only can my STEAM:Legends class use Blender but Linux has a nice repository of open source programs I can download. I don’t have to pay for applications.
  • I’ve been Waiting for Godot to be part of our STEAM:Coding learning arsenal. The beauty behind Godot is that it works on Windows, Macs, and Linux computers. So if students had a Mac or Windows PC at home, they can download it and install it on their computer for free. I’ve been tinkering around with this program and like Linux, it feels light and you can program 2D and 3D games for free due to it’s open source nature. Godot also is providing me an and my students an opportunity to learn a scripting language very similar to Python with a Game Engine Framework.

With all the stars lining up, I decided to do this. Long and behold, I got those laptops into the hands of about 25 students in both our STEAM:Coding and STEAM:Legends class.

The Real Work Begins

Now that I’ve delivered the laptops, I needed to adapt my GameMaker curriculum to the Godot Engine. Python is fairly new to me as I’ve only used it during the Computer Science Credentialing Program so I decided to review it again. Now the question is how is instruction going to be adapted and delivered so that learning this new game engine is effective and feasible for myself and my students. I’ve decided to make Google Slides with written instructions and graphics along with a video accompany them which were split up into phases so that chunks of the each part of the tutorial is made. It’s feasible on my part but converting GameMaker instructions into Godot Instructions takes a while. Below is a sample of MISSION 1- Getting Started with Godot Tutorial video to get our students exploring the process of using the game engine.

The Learning So Far

The learning has been rich and like learning anything new I am also motivated to learn the features myself along with my students. There is still some work to do to adapt the previous curriculum to this game engine but at least it is in progress. Below is a sample of one of our STEAM:Coding student work in progress store as we learn about reassigning values to variables, the press( ) event, conditional statements, incorporating sprites into our game scene, and cleaning up long scripts by calling functions.

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