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With Bloxels, students are empowered to create their own games and stories. It has “low floors, high ceilings, and wide walls” — in other words, simple enough to be used by novices (low floors), in complex ways by experts (high ceilings), and in inventive ways (wide walls) by all.
So as a teacher, where do you start?
Where you and your students take Bloxels is up to you- and this can be a bit daunting. We’ve collected these top ways educators are using Bloxels as a way to inspire and help formulate your own approach.
Before we dive into examples, it’s good to start with an end in mind. What’s the outcome you’re looking for? Educators use Bloxels to:
Teach Traditional Literacies
When writing narrative into their games, students practice writing, reading, and analyzing different forms of narrative, including non-linear text.
Level up creative expression and digital literacy
Games are a unique, creative medium. Creating games integrates many other mediums: art, animation, storytelling, sound, and the anticipation of interaction with the audience.
Practice 21st Century skills:
Although an individual student can make a game on their own, Bloxels thrives on teamwork. Making a game as a team means practicing the 4Cs: communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and of course, creativity. These are great skills no matter the century!
Ignite interest in computer science
Bloxels is an empowering experience in which all kids can quickly make a digital game. This is a great first step in building the confidence and interest in exploring computer science at any age.
Expand student choices for creation and demonstration of knowledge
Bloxels EDU games, stories, and the related student artifacts (storyboards, sketches, workbooks) can be incorporated into any approach. This can be particularly effective in reaching students where traditional means fall short (writing a report, taking a test.)
Here are a few ways you can make Bloxels fit in with your lesson plans while still leaving room for self-expression in your student’s work.
Students use the white Story blocks to put text into their games. These messages can be facts, dialogue, or questions you can present to the player of your Bloxels games. These blocks are the simplest connection to traditional writing and language arts- check out some of the ways in the examples below.
SHOW WHAT YOU KNOW
Using story blocks, your students can enter in facts about whatever topic you’re teaching. This can apply to any class subject. Take a look at this game, for example:
Of course this game goes above just using story blocks - a few customized bits of art make this game more effective than if it did not feature Abraham Lincoln as the protagonist, his log cabin, or pennies. But this is not always necessary.
Students can make games to “show what they know” about a topic… or you can make one to teach them something in a memorable way using this approach.
Using the same approach, here is a game about a completely different subject:
This game takes the player through outer space, covering facts about Mercury, Venus, asteroids and more. This example, however, introduces challenges to the player, making it much more interesting to play. If the player touches the hot surface of Venus, they will take damage.
In this way, the game goes beyond just embedding facts, and starts to connect the concepts of space into the game itself. It’s also pretty fun to play!
A unique aspect of Bloxels compared to other tools is that it requires you to design a level in order to tell your story, but the design of the level alone can tell a story. As students build a world, they can apply what they have learned in interesting ways beyond words - think of the level itself like an interactive visual aid. Using the different block types and custom art in creative ways, students are able to create immersive and engaging games that are also educational. Take a look at this game about the respiratory system created by a student:
This student could have just told the player where an air molecule goes while simply having them move left to right, but instead the creator makes the player takes control of an air molecule and actually has to make its way through the trachea, lungs and eventually reach the blood all while avoiding tar and other harmful things. This is a great application of these concepts, and this game shows a great job showing this student’s understanding about a number of things related to the respiratory system.
Tar as enemies enforces the dangerous effects of smoking
“Healthy Foods” as healing items enforces the importance of eating well and how it helps the respiratory system
Branching path in the level design shows this student understands that there are two lungs
The end goal of the level is to reach the blood - once the oxygen molecule has finally reached the blood after going through the alveoli, the player has “won.”
Similar to telling a story through the layout of a level, you can build “true” and “false” options into your level. Many math classes have used this technique, such as in the example below created by a student:
The student has designed this game so that the correct path will allow the player to continue through until the end. The incorrect answer will lead them down a hazardous pit, forcing the player to start over and try again. This is a great way to test your player’s knowledge while introducing real risk/reward. After getting all answers correct, the player reaches the end. To top it all off, the student was able to have fun and express themselves by creating a silly backstory to this quiz that has nothing to do with math while still staying on topic.
This doesn’t apply to just math classes. Students have also used this method to test fellow classmates’ knowledge on book characters they have read about, or to test their memory about events that have happened in history.
INTERACTIVE BOOK REPORT
You can create a full-fledged book report or recreation of a classic story in game form. By building a game, you’re able to recreate not just the dialogue, but the setting and the characters. This allows students to analyze a character in a way that they may not have been possible through writing a paper. Pay attention to their design decisions. Does Captian Ahab throw fireballs just because they thought it looked cool, or did the student cleverly give Ahab this ability to symbolize his burning desire to get revenge on the white whale? Much like you would expect your students to analyze these stories, you can just as well open up a discussion with your students about their creative game design decisions.
Many students have created games based on books they have read, such as Hatchet, Captain Underpants, Lord of the Rings, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Percy Jackson and many, many more. There are also many books based on epic poems, fables, and mythology.
This one is the most common type of game in Bloxels. Many kids love creating their own characters and their own stories. Sometimes their stories are based on things that have happened to them, other times it will be about a superhero character they have imagined. There is no shortage of creativity in the Bloxels community. Some of the most impressive Bloxels games were created when kids were given self-directing freedom to create what they wanted.
HAVE A NEW IDEA? LET US KNOW!
We would love to hear more about how you and your students are extending these basic ways to use Bloxels. Let us know at email@example.com and we’d love to add your story to the list!