Bloxels – Creating games for a learning journey

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I first heard of Bloxels last may, when it appeared on my KickStarter recommended projects feed. It comes from PixelPress, the brains behind PixelPress Floors, an app which I absolutely love and have used a few times with students. What I really like with Floors, is the connection between the iPad and the physical world (students first draw their video game, and then scan it with their iPads to create levels to explore).
Bloxels I thought, had even more potential, as they had introduced physical blocks with which to build. When using Floors, I must admit to a few problems scanning, and students found it easier to build ‘in-app’, and the idea of using bricks seemed more reliable.

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Pixel Press Floors

Fast forward 10 months and a group of my grade 4 students come to me with a challenge. “We want to build a computer game to show the connections between the systems of the human body”. After reading a blog post by @iPadEducatorsAE all about Bloxels. I realised that this would provide a perfect platform for the group to collaboratively create a game which not only did they have control over how it looked, but also the story behind the game. All of this in a free app with a low learning curve, fantastic!

Students downloaded the app on their iPads and set about watching the detailed tutorial videos which are linked to within the app. They now had to use the 13 bit (13 x 13 grid) design method to create animations, terrain, characters and backgrounds. What sets Bloxels apart, in my opinion, is the ability to add information posts which act as the storytelling method. As behind every good video game, there has to be a story.

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Unfortunately the Bloxels grids aren’t available in Europe but there is still the capability to design in-app but this didn’t hold the students back. They decided as a group who would be responsible for which parts of the game and saved their creations locally on their iPads. In order to combine their different elements, they had to make use of the ‘Infinity Wall’, an (infinitely) huge grid, where anything created in the app (including complete games) can be shared. One issue we did run into was that our robust school firewall blocked access to the Infinity Wall, meaning students had to agree upon what area of the wall to use to share game elements in school and upload/download whilst at home.

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The students managed to create a wonderful game which featured a miniature skeleton working his way through the different systems of the body, fighting off infection and germs as he went. They managed to include information about each of the systems of the body as well as showing their understanding of the interdependent nature of the different systems. Whilst doing this they developed…design thinking, debugging skills, collaboration, team work, communication, adaptability, persistence…and I could continue.

It took a lot longer than making a Keynote/Powerpoint presentation, but boy was it worth it!

Download Bloxels Builder at the AppStore also available on Android and Kindle.

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