DHF Presents: Admin Make Night

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We are excited to announce our (almost) Spring Admin Make Night. Created for principals, assistant principals, and district administrators, the DHF Admin Make Night is designed to allow administrators to have fun and create with the STEM & Maker tools that are being made available to their students. Try your hand at 3D printing, program a simple device, and build an interactive computer game from Scratch. Get to be a student for an evening, and get ready to MAKE this semester great!

Bring Your Admin – Stay to Make!

We’ve had a couple of teachers ask if they could attend this administrator focused event, so we’ve decided that if you can bring along your Principal, AP, or county level administrator, you’re welcome to join! Be sure to RSVP for yourself and your admin guest at the link below.

DHF Admin Make Night: Tuesday, February 21st 6:30-8:30 pm

Digital Harbor Foundation Tech Center,
1045 Light Street, Baltimore, MD 21230
RSVP here: DHF Admin Make Night RSVP

If you have any questions, please email josh@digitalharbor.org

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Digital Harbor Foundation is dedicated to fostering learning, creativity, productivity, and community through education. In 2013 we transformed a closed-down rec center in Baltimore City into a vibrant Tech Center for youth. In 2014 we launched the Center of Excellence to train others how to incorporate making into their own learning environments. Check out DHF educator workshops and to stay up to date on DHF happenings, sign up for the monthly Maker Educator Newsletter at dhf.io/nws

How To PokeTour

For about a two weeks, Pokémon GO has been dominating the app store, the news cycle, and mobile devices of kids and adults alike. (In case you don’t know what Pokémon GO is, check out this quick summary.) The Augmented Reality (AR) scavenger hunt incorporates real-world elements like monuments, landmarks, and community centers, and encourages players to explore their surroundings while finding and collecting Pokémon. Since its release, we’ve seen the game bring people together, and bring people outside – key components of a successful summer program.

So how can you use Pokémon GO with your programs this summer?  Since the game requires walking and interacting with your environment, we feel it is a perfect vehicle to combine with educational walking tours. Parks and nature centers can discuss habitats and wildlife, museums and libraries can teach local history, and community groups can bring attention to hidden landmarks and features in their neighborhood all while incorporating Pokémon GO. In order to help you take advantage of this opportunity, we tasked our resident Pokémon Master, Michael Mosin, to design an educational Pokémon GO walking tour of our own Federal Hill neighborhood. His “lessons learned” on how to build a Pokémon GO tour for your community are listed below.

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Photo by Michael Mosin

Building the Tour

  • GO and Play: Download Pokémon GO, and get to know the game. To understand most of the basics, you’ll only need to play for about 15-30 minutes. Be sure you’re walking around – the game is really boring unless you’re exploring!
  • Take up Cartography: Grab a physical map and mark down Pokéstops (little blue pins where players can collect items) and other points of interest in order to create a local layout for your research and route-making.
  • Venture Out, Take Notes: Take notes on which Pokéstops are landmarks and monuments that could be potential talking stops on your tour, and which Pokéstops are thematically irrelevant (ie: a street corner or restaurant.) If there is a landmark or feature that you want to highlight that’s not a Pokéstop, go right ahead! You’re making the tour – the Pokémon aspect just adds a little fun!
  • Read Up: Some Pokéstops may be local artifacts that haven’t been used before as part of tours, so you may need to do a little digging to find out why they are there. For more well documented points, figure out the interesting facts that aren’t necessarily on the plaque that you’ll be able to share with your tour group. Talk to local historical societies, or community groups, or residents.
  • Maximize Discovery: Once you’ve mapped out potential points of interest, design a route to hit as many different Pokéstops and educational points before returning to the starting point or ending the trip.
  • Be Pragmatic: Some streets may have a bunch of stops in a row, and players would want to stop or pass through them. This may distract from the tour, especially if each stop is at an insignificant corner. You can design your route to avoid these stops.
  • Walk and Hatch: The game has a component called “Eggs” which hatch Pokémon once the player has “incubated” them by walking a particular distance. To guarantee players at least one newly caught Pokémon by the end of the trip, design a trip that is at least a little over 2 km (1.25 miles) long, since that is the shortest distance needed for some Eggs to hatch.
  • Pokémon Gyms: These are part of the competitive element of the game and are probably the least educational. Try and avoid them (or at least don’t stop at them) to maintain the continuity of the tour. Whereas catching Pokémon and collecting items from a Pokéstop will only take a few seconds, fighting at a gym can take up to a couple of minutes.

Prior to the Tour

  • Getting Started: You may want to encourage participants to download the game beforehand, or show up 15 min early to get started. They will need to either create a Pokemon account, or sign in with their Google account.
  • Become the Beacon: If you are starting the tour at a Pokéstop, you can activate a “Lure Module.” They are active for 30 minutes and lure Pokémon, and thus players, to a particular Pokéstop. You might be able to pick up a couple people who didn’t know that you were giving a tour and were just walking around playing the game. “Lure Modules” can be acquired through an in-app purchase.
  • Charge Up!: In all your marketing, encourage people to come with a full battery. Although you’ll make efforts to conserve energy, the game has to be constantly running in order to work, and it sucks up juice. You may want to bring an external battery pack or two in case you or someone runs out of power.

At the beginning of the tour, ask players to

  • Conserve Energy: Turn on the in-game Battery Saver Mode by tapping the red & white Pokéball at the bottom of the screen and then going to “Settings.” In Settings, also set the phone on “Vibration,” so that whenever there is a Pokémon nearby, the phone will vibrate. This way, participants don’t need to be constantly looking at their phones and instead can watch and listen to you. It will also turn off the screen when the phone is upside down so as not to waste battery while the game continues to run in the background.
  • Outline Expectations: Promise that you will let them know when you are passing a Pokéstop so they can grab some items, and that the phone will vibrate when they pass a Pokémon so they can catch it. Explain that they should be grabbing items and catching Pokémon, but when they are not, they can leave their phones in their pockets and enjoy the tour. If they do need to stop to catch a Pokémon, encourage them to step to the side so others can pass them.
  • Incubate: Begin incubating an egg before the tour leaves from the starting point.  Tap the Pokéball, swipe left, select and egg and incubate. (They will need to have collected at least one egg from a Pokéstop.)
  • Look and Listen: After giving some time for everyone to get ready, have everyone put their phones away and start the tour!

During the tour

  • Stay On and In Sync: The app has to be open to work, so make sure they don’t turn off their screen or lock the phone. Since they are using the Battery Saver Mode, they should be able to place the phone upside down in their pocket to save energy without locking the phone.
  • Incorporate the Monsters: Even though this is an education opportunity – you’re still catching  Pokémon! If you’re discussing the natural habitat and the species that live there, ask kids what type of Pokémon they might find in that habitat. If you’re walking around a neighborhood, see who can get the coolest picture of a Pokémon with a building or landmark.
  • Be Flexible: Notice and work with changes along your route, both in-game (active Lures, nearby rare Pokémon) and the real world (construction detours, traffic, building shadows if it’s hot out).
  • Roll with the Punches: The game is incredibly popular and still a little glitchy. If it freezes, or has any issues, encourage players to quit the app and then reopen. This fixes most problems, but on occasion, people will be locked out of the game. Encourage them to continue to quit and reopen; persistence usually pays off.
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Photo by Michael Mosin

After the tour

  • Catch ‘em all: Ask people what type of Pokémon they caught. You can keep a list and use this info for future tours and to discuss what is commonly found on the route.
  • Share it out: Have people share their pictures on social media and mention your organization. If they can get some Pokémon pictures – even better.
  • Point out a Gym: Now that you don’t have to keep people moving – you may want to point out a couple gyms within walking distance where they can test their Pokémon mettle on their own time.
  • Learn More: Have suggested reading materials where they can learn more about what you discussed on the tour. Recommended the books, websites, and museums you used to create the tour.
  • Gift Bag: If you want to send everyone home with something as a souvenir, Pokémon cards can be found online at fairly reasonable prices.

The Digital Harbor Foundation is dedicated to fostering learning, creativity, productivity, and community through education. In 2013 we transformed a closed-down rec center in Baltimore City into a vibrant Tech Center for youth. In 2014 we launched the Center of Excellence to train others how to incorporate making into their own learning environments.

Michael Mosin is Baltimore native studying Sociology and Economics in Washington State. He likes to dance and juggle (not at the same time necessarily) and is a child of the Pokémon generation. If you’re interested in attending Michael’s Pokémon Tour in Federal Hill, email michael@digitalharbor.org

If you want more information on how to combine technology and community, email josh@digitalharbor.org or sign up for our newsletter at dhf.io/poke

FabSLAM Goes on Tour: Pittsburgh

In March we had the opportunity to provide our 3D Printing for Educators workshop as a kickoff for the first ever FabSLAM in Pittsburgh! Given that the 2016 FabSLAM theme is cities, it’s fitting that Digital Harbor Foundation has expanded FabSLAM beyond Baltimore. We were thrilled to help build the capacity of the coaches who will be forming and leading teams through the FabSLAM design and fabrication challenge.


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From the first moment that the eleven educators began their training, the room was buzzing with excitement and an eagerness to begin their FabSLAM process. The theme of the challenge wasn’t unveiled until the third day, and the educators were on the edge of their seats until the moment of the big reveal.

The educators were welcoming and passionate about the training that they were receiving and absorbed every aspect of the workshop from the 3D design challenges to the calibration of the 3D printers. Since they are going to be responsible for leading their youth cohorts through the entirety of the FabSLAM process, each attendee wanted to make sure to design and print as much as possible throughout the three day event.


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The educators were highly engaged and motivated as they navigated the interface of the design software and asked several questions while practicing some of the more advanced design tools and features that we presented. Their passion was evident as they made use of every spare minute to develop and practice their skills in order to empower and train youth. This especially came to the forefront when several educators chose to work through the lunch break, asking us questions as they anticipated potential issues that their youth may have while working on the design challenges.


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One of the designs that stood out the most for me was in response to the design challenge where they were tasked with creating an object that would clip onto the workshop tables. We didn’t provide the educators with the table dimensions before the project started. Instead, we passed a digital caliper around the room and every educator took turns measuring the height of the table’s lip. This process of precision measurement was new to several in the room, but they knew that since they would be asking their youth to be willing to step outside of their comfort zones during FabSLAM, it would be good for them to also experience some slight discomfort at attempting a new skill.

I’m pleased to report that everyone successfully completed the design challenge and designed items that would clip onto the table. True to the spirit of FabSLAM and 3D design, there was lots of iteration that needed to happen. The most important part is that the educators were excited to learn from the mistakes and pass their insights onto the youth they’d be working with!


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It was an amazing experience to be able to take the FabSLAM program on the road and to work with such an inspiring group of educators who clearly demonstrated their energy and passion for youth development.

A huge thank you to Remake Learning who worked to bring FabSLAM to Pittsburgh, and to the Carnegie Science Center Fab Lab for graciously hosting the workshop. I look forward to seeing the projects that the Pittsburgh FabSLAM teams create!

Educators: Learn More about Digital Badges

This spring and summer we are very excited to be working with the Maryland Out of School Time Network (MOST) , the Baltimore Mayor’s Office of Employment Development (MOED)’s YouthWorks program, and Hire One Youth to offer technology skill digital badges to Baltimore youth. The goal of this collaboration is to provide informal, online learning opportunities for youth working within these summer job programs to become certified in tech skill areas.

Digital Badges are…

  • Micro-certifications that demonstrate specific skills to potential employers
  • Tokens that recognize achievements that go unrecognized by formal assessments
  • Issued by members of the Open Badge Community

 

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Available Badges

We have decided to focus on 4 different skill badges this summer in different technology areas. Each of these badges has its own requirements and can be worked on by individuals independently online through the accompanying resources. To learn more about the badge requirements and access resources for each badge, click on the name of each badge.

Earning Badges

Educators, the best way to learn more about these badges and how you can help youth earn them is to attend one of our informational meetings on Wednesday, April 20th at the Digital Harbor Foundation Tech Center:

  • Daytime: 12:30pm
  • Evening: 5:30pm

RSVP here to join us!

Alternatively, you can learn more on our Badges page on our website. Please feel free to email us at contact@digitalharbor.org with any questions.

FabSLAM Goes to Idaho

A few weeks ago, Shawn, Jen, and I traveled to Boise, Idaho to kickoff FabSLAM as part of our national expansion of the program this year. We traveled to Boise to deliver our 3D Printing for Educators workshop to train the Coaches who will be leading teams for FabSLAM in Idaho.

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We had the opportunity to work with 22 educators from 15 different schools and organizations from all over the state, and had a wonderful time! These were some of the most enthusiastic educators we have worked with and extremely warm and welcoming.

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Photo by Otto Kitsinger for Idaho STEM Action Center

Over the course of three days, participants learned all about how to use their 3D printers issued as part of the workshop, design their own objects to be printed, and search Thingiverse for inspiration and interest-generating prints to take back and share with their students. One of our favorite designs from the workshop was for one of the design challenges during the workshop – a mini documentation station for an iPhone made by C. Boothby.

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This was a great group of educators who really worked to bring their ideas to life and enjoyed themselves during the workshop. We were very excited to teach them all about FabSLAM and share everything we have learned to help them successfully bring this program to Idaho. We have never “taught” FabSLAM before to anyone, and it was very energizing and inspiring to work with such a receptive group of educators who are thrilled to launch this program with their youth.

A very special Thank You to Erica and Angela at the Idaho STEM Action Center who worked to bring FabSLAM to Idaho this year, and Jessica and Diana from Discovery Center Idaho for hosting our workshop all week! We fell in love with Boise and thoroughly enjoyed our time working with you and your educators!

Read more about this workshop in this article: Idaho’s STEM Helps 15 Schools Get 3D Printers

Interactive Game Insight: Football Physics

The best way to answer the question “What is an interactive gaming experience?” is to look at a project! This is a game created by one of our youth in our Interactive Game Design Member course, and his game is a perfect expression of the skills covered in the Interactive Games for Educators workshop.

We are offering this workshop because of the powerful impact that teaching game design can have in the classroom. Youth will develop the foundations of computer programming through a medium that is fun and accessible for them while creating a product that they’ll have complete ownership over. By integrating game design into the classroom, educators are able to engage youth to learn new skills through an exciting format: the video game. An added bonus is that through the creation process, youth will shift from being consumers of games to producers of exciting content!

The first aspect of the project we’re going to look at are the sprites. All of the characters, backgrounds, and objects were created by the youth for this project.

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He decided to make a sports game that tests his knowledge of physics, as he had to determine how to program the arcs and physics of passing a football from the player character to the non-player characters.

The “brain” of this project was created using Scratch, a free web-based visual game engine developed by the MIT Media Lab. These projects help build planning skills for youth, as they need to determine what behavior and mechanics they have to develop in order to bring their vision to life. Once this crucial phase is complete, youth then use Scratch for their coding. The visual nature of Scratch provides an accessible experience for youth and enables them to develop and explore the fundamentals of programming in a fun, engaging way. Here is a screenshot of some of the code used in this featured project:

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The blocks in Scratch are chunks of code that can be manipulated and combined logically into scripts which form the basis of the game’s function and programming. Scratch blocks are broken into categories that are representative of core programming concepts, such as Events, Control, and Operators. Scratchers can then manipulate these blocks to form chunks of code that build into their game mechanics. Scratch still requires an understanding of programmatic thinking, especially variable use and conditional logic (if->then statements).

The next step is to integrate physical interactivity into the project! Once the core of the game is created in Scratch, the Makey Makey (another invention from the MIT Media Lab) is added to act as a gateway between conductive objects and the computer. The integration of these components is typically done as a game controller, but youth have lots of freedom to build this however they envision. This is a step that can be built into the design process and planning phase of the project. For this particular project, the youth designer decided to create a physical controller that matched the theme of his game. As the game is a football game that tests his knowledge of physics, he decided that the controller should also fit this theme and made a throwable football controller!

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The controller’s main structure is crafted from aluminum foil, a conductive material. He also had to make a landing pad for the football so that it would complete the circuit once the “pass” is complete. This physical integration is a perfect opportunity for youth to creatively test their problem solving and design skills, as there are occasionally quirks and challenges that arise when working with physical components. However, since the youth have ownership over their projects there often is a higher degree of perseverance and determination to stick with their interactive game despite any difficulties.

One of the strengths of integrating an interactive gaming experience into the classroom is that it provides youth with a creative platform for designing unique products that combine problem solving, iteration, and critical thinking.

We wanted to develop a workshop for educators to build their capacity in the skills utilized in creating interactive gaming experiences with youth.

Educators that attend the Interactive Games for Educators workshop will leave with an Interactive Games Starter Kit as well as access to additional “Going Further” lessons and resources that build on the base skills covered in the workshop. Now is a fantastic time to integrate Game Design into the classroom as it is a industry that is rising in popularity with several possible career paths and deep educational potential.

Learn more or register for this workshop today!

 

 

New Workshop: Interactive Games for Educators

Digital Harbor Foundation is offering an exciting new workshop, Interactive Games for Educators. Interactive Game Design is a rapidly developing field that exists in the intersection of physical components and computer programming, where designers shape and construct new methods of gaming. In this workshop, educators will learn how to program basic game mechanics that integrate physical components.

We are offering this workshop because of the powerful impact that teaching game design can have in the classroom. Game design is an engaging multidisciplinary platform for youth and is a field with several possible career pathways. Youth will develop the foundations of computer programming in a medium that is fun and accessible for them.

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Educators attending the workshop will learn how to use Scratch, a free web-based visual game engine developed by the MIT Media Lab as well as the Makey Makey, another invention from the MIT Media Lab. The Makey Makey enables youth to bring physical interactivity to their games by acting as a gateway between conductive objects and the computer. Attending educators will develop the confidence to be able to help youth unleash their creative potential in a medium that actively incorporates problem solving, critical thinking, iteration, and the design process.

Learn more or register for this workshop

One of the strengths of Scratch is that it is a highly accessible platform for teaching youth the core concepts necessary to embark on a computer programming pathway. Additionally, since Game Design is a field that incorporates several skill sets such as business, art, programming, and storytelling, incorporating Game Design into the classroom exposes youth to fields that they may not even have considered exploring. For example, a youth who may not demonstrate interest in Language Arts may excel at storytelling in a game narrative.

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One of the ultimate reasons for integrating these elements into the classroom is to create more future coders. The programming principles and mechanics that this workshop covers can be the first step for educators interested in setting their youth for a future programming pathway.

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Educators will leave with an Interactive Games Starter Kit as well as access to additional “Going Further” lessons and resources that build on the base skills covered in the workshop. Now is a fantastic time to integrate Game Design into the classroom as it is a medium that is rising in popularity with several possible career paths and deep educational potential.

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Learn more or register for this workshop today!

New Workshop: IoT for Educators

We are very excited to announce our newest educator workshop offering: IoT for Educators! But wait, what is IoT? IoT stands for Internet of Things and the Internet of Things means connected sensors and actuators to the Internet so that you can collect data about the world around you and interact with it. This data can then be visualized or used in a multitude of ways to gather useful information.

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IoT has been hailed as the next frontier in emerging technology and we are beginning to see these devices everywhere – Nest thermostats that can be controlled via your phone are increasingly popular IoT devices, as well as Philips Hue light bulbs whose colors can be changed by your phone, and so much more.

We wanted to create a workshop for educators to teach them how to use electronic devices to collect data within their learning environment to collect real-world information that can be used by students. Instead of using fake data about some stranger’s shoe size in a math problem – now you will be able to collect data about classroom temperature and use that information for analysis.

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In this workshop, educators will learn how to program connected devices to monitor and interact with the world around them. The workshop will include training and materials to support step-by-step projects that allow youth to interact with and monitor their environment while collecting real-world data.

The workshop includes a kit of technology devices and coordinating materials as well as software tools and recommendations and educational support.

Learn more about the workshop and sign up

Over the next few weeks we will be sharing more ideas and inspiration for IoT projects, so be sure to check back!

Lessons Learned from a Minecraft Course

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Most people have probably heard of the pixilated sandbox game Minecraft by now. This game really took off worldwide, especially with the younger generation. A large group of youth can identify with this game and consider it to be a pastime, or even a hobby. This past fall we ran a Minecraft course at DHF for our Members, and I’m excited to share a bit more with you about the course.

When I was first asked to create this course, I needed to decide what to focus on. The whole concept of Minecraft is open ended, and going in with the idea of a ‘Minecraft Curriculum’ can be just as open ended. You can talk about building, being creative, redstone/electronics, art, or even math. These were all topics with plenty of lessons available online. I ended up settling on teamwork and communication as my focus. The core concept of our course, “Building Community with Minecraft,” is for youth to expand their teamwork and effective communication skills.

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Throughout the course, youth worked through all sorts of challenges that were meant to push the limits of their abilities. One such challenge required all of the youth to regroup and find a hidden temple after being randomly scattered across a portion of the map. The catch was that they could only use in-game chat to communicate – it ended up being a pretty quiet day! Another challenge split youth into teams to effectively run mazes. Each team could only have one member in the maze at a time and if they didn’t make it through they went back to the beginning and the next person had to try, the only way they could share information about the maze was by mapping their path through to show the next person. The course culminated in the final project which required all 17 youth to come together and build a colony using the requirements set forth by myself and other facilitators. It was truly amazing to see what happened, as after I introduced the project I had no hand in what was going on beyond clarification and ensuring they didn’t get too far off topic. All in all I had a great experience both writing this curriculum and implementing it.

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This course was created to address the need of building teamwork and communication skills among the youth in our program. I’d say most people have had a run in with a group project that turned out to be a nightmare. Maybe one person wanted to do all of the work and wasn’t comfortable with sharing it with anyone else, or the person who refuses to do any work, or the person who does work but doesn’t communicate at all what they have done well enough to the rest of the group. These are just a few examples of group work behavior that can really ruin a project, and certainly experiences our youth have all had. This course was designed to let youth explore these things in an environment where they would feel comfortable and familiar and allow them to reflect on it and consider methods to improve their skills/methods.

The whole experience of putting together and running this curriculum was quite the learning experience. Our facilitators gained a deeper understanding of the thought processes of our youth which was evident in how they tried to tackle challenges in a virtual world that many of them felt more confident in. They knew all the rules and limitations of what they could do because they were so familiar with the tool they were using. Not all of them had played Minecraft before, but it was not long before our beginners knew more than enough to complete the tasks. As many before me have learned, nothing seems to go to plan. Activities sometimes ran short, or ran over, or it rains on the first day when you had planned what you think is a highly-engaging outdoor activity to lead off the whole course. I had all sorts of sessions either go worse or better than I expected.

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If you plan on doing something like this with your youth, whether it be using Minecraft or some other game, I do have some suggestions.

  • Make sure the game serves the lesson, not the other way around.
    • It’s just a bad idea to try and make a game something that it’s not.
  • Make sure your youth are at least familiar with the game.
    • This is not too much of a problem for Minecraft due to its popularity, but I feel that the student should have at least an understanding of the game even before you start the lesson, in the same way you would tell someone what a book was about before you ask them to study from it.
  • Keep it engaging.
    • The primary motivation for using a game to teach communication and teamwork skills is to make learning fun. Learning through play can be extremely valuable and effective, if done well. If youth feel like they are just doing work, using a game as a vehicle loses it’s effectiveness.

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Overall, I am pleased with the way the course turned out and I’m even more happy that the youth had a good time doing it. I feel the use of a game really helped them engage and the introduction of communication restrictions really helped push them to think more into how they try to interact with the rest of their group. I would like to try and include more of these onto some of the other challenges that didn’t have them. I also plan to look at adding in more formal discussions on communication and teamwork strategies to hopefully better guide the youth on the thought processes during and after the challenges.

Become a Maker Educator

 

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February will mark the 1 year anniversary of the first offering of our Making for Educators workshop and to celebrate we will be offering an updated version of the workshop!

Our 2-day workshop will take place Friday February 19 – Saturday February 20 and we want you to join us! The Making for Educators workshop will prepare formal and informal educators to get started with making and hands-on projects in their learning space. In this workshop, we will cover all you need to jump-start your own maker program or makerspace for youth. This workshop also includes a Makerspace in a Box Kit of materials and supplies to use for projects during the workshop, but also to take with you back to your learning space and continue the fun and exploration!

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This workshop is intended for educators who work in many learning spaces. Previous participants have included librarians & media specialists, K-12 classroom teachers, and afterschool program providers.

To learn more about the workshop and get all of the details, visit our Making for Educators workshop page.

If you have any questions please feel free to contact us at contact@digitalharbor.org. We hope to see you at our next workshop!