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I’ve been experimenting with Construct 2 from Scirra the last few days. Construct 2 is a program from creating HTML 5 games. What really got my interest was that there is the ability to create Windows 8 games using Construct 2 with Visual Studio 12. The Construct 2 development environment is pretty easy to use and I find that some similarities to Visual Studio (among other tools) is helpful in finding ones way around it. The image below shows the layout of graphical objects on the screen as well as the properties box, list of images and outline of the project. Very similar to what I am used to.
The coding involves what is called an event sheet. On an event sheet specific events (for example a mouse click) are specified and one or more actions are described to be the result of that event.
I really like that for a single event you can easily specify different actions for different objects in the game. And of course by the nature of the IDE syntax errors are avoided which is a plus for beginners.
Programs/games are created in the Construct 2 IDE and tested in a web browser. Once a game is completed it can be exported into several formats including the experimental Windows 8 app.
My next step is to outline the things you’ll want to include in a game that you make with Construct 2 in order to make it fit the guidelines for inclusion in the Windows Marketplace. But in the mean time Construct 2 looks like an interesting tool for starting with game development as a way to hook studnets on to software development. Anyone else using it? What do you think of it?
Getting started links:
Over on the left here is a picture of a group of young women who visited Microsoft in Cambridge MA recently as part of Boston University’s Artemis Project. This is one of several groups of young people that we have hosted this summer. It’s great to see kids getting excited about STEM in general and computer science in particular. I’m glad that universities are running programs like this and that companies (these students had field trips to several hi-tech companies during the program) are being supportive.
But it is interesting links day at my blog so here are some of the links I found over the last week to share with you.
How Do I (Channel 9) http://channel9.msdn.com/Blogs/How-Do-I Is a new Channel 9 series to help developers learn how to do things with Windows 8. Not unrelated are a bunch of hands on labs that I wrote about at Virtual Windows 8 Hands-on-Labs.
A pair of posts on the CSTA blog last week relate to policy and activism in support of K-12 computer science. Chris Stephenson writes about Interest in K-12 Policy Growing at the Snowbird Conference in Utah. Also Lissa Clayborn writes about : Five Advocacy Actions You Can Do in Ten Minutes or Less
Also in the news from CSTA is that downloadable versions of the speaker presentations from CS & IT 2012 are now available! SO if you missed the whole conference or just some sessions you wanted to see you can at least get the presentation slides and notes.
Looking at how to better keep you school’s labs and networks running? You may want to look at this program where students get hands-on, real-world experience in this "Lab Manager" program that seems to be working pretty darn well!
How in the world does CS Bits & Bytes newsletter have only 1100 subscribers? This bi-weekly newsletter from the National Science Foundation is a wonderful educational resource. Check it out!
Have you seen how the 23 acre AIDS Memorial Quilt goes digital with support from Microsoft Research? One very moving project that also highlights the way computers can help us with social issues as well as with “big data.”
I’ve been involved in a number of curriculum projects over the years. The big one has been the ACM/IEEE CS 2013 task force that is making recommendations on undergraduate computer science curriculum. (The CS2013 Strawman draft is now available here. ) I am so glad there are so many really smart and knowledgeable people on that committee! I’ve also been involved with some smaller efforts. Most recently I was invited to meet with a committee working on the Vocational Technical Education Frameworks for Programming and Web Development programs of study in Massachusetts career/technical schools. Once again some great educators working on that project and I try to stay out of the way as much as I try to help out. But as I was sitting in on this latest meeting it really struck me that developing details curriculum plans for a multi-year program is hard work. More that that I think it is just about impossible for one person to do well.
Oh one person can do it. But well? Well enough for broad adoption? Probably not.But even committees can be tough. In some ways this should have been brought home by some of the news stories out of Texas’ discussions of history curriculum but that struck me as politicians meddling (as politicians are want to do) and not educators working on something they actually know something about. But as I realize that some subjects are too large to include everything (by some definition of everything) in the time (usually not enough) that is allowed there are bound to be disagreements on priorities.
I’m sure this is true in all disciplines but boy do we have problems in computer science. First off our field is much too large. Arguably it needs to be split up into smaller pieces. I can’t see agreement on what those pieces should be and what should go where coming easily though. Given that state everyone has their biases about what is more important than what else. With the CS 2013 effort we are trying to fit everything into four years of college. With this VTE Framework we’re dealing with two years. Ouch! Fortunately Programming and Web Development programs in career/technical schools are not trying to do what four year universities are.
There is a lot of give and take in meetings like these. Lots of discussion of priorities (what is absolutely required) and how much time can/should/must be spent on different topics. These are efforts that really demand committees (which is not true about every task that is assigned to a committee) or at least working teams greater than one (or two or three). Individuals are more likely to forget things that are important even to themselves. The back and forth of discussion various topics can give a clarity that is missing in an individual effort. Yes there are often some tough discussions. A committee can spend a lot of time on a seemingly small topic. Ultimately that work pays off in clarity and in decisions that are well worked out. A lot of hard work and time and even stress. No matter what you decide someone is going to disagree with the results. It’s human nature.
Even with the work these committees are something educators should stand up and volunteer for these efforts. Why? I’ve learned a ton on these committees!
I’m sure that not every educator is thrilled when new frameworks/guidelines.recommendations come out. It often means change and change means more work and can be uncomfortable. It sometimes means that way someone has been doing things for a long time is challenged. But in the long run I think these efforts are necessary. This is especially true in a field like computer science that is constantly changing and at a rapid rate.
The next step for many educators is going to be “how do I cover the topics in the framework/guidelines/recommendations?” For computer science educators that can be tough because they are so often alone in their schools. On the plus side it means a chance to be creative!
OK, yeah, creativity is work too. But if teaching were easy everyone would do it.