I have read quite a bit about the benefits of using game making programs in education, and the higher-order thinking skills that they develop. Not being a gamer, I decided to take a look at what programs are available with a view to teaching. For a complete novice, here is my run-down of some of the tools:
Pivot stickfigure animation: Freeware, easy to use for the complete novice. Just by moving sections of the figure it is easy to create a chain of animated frames. Fun and easy to use.
Anim8or: For a complete novice, I couldn’t get anywhere with this 3D modelling and character animation tool. I read through the manual, but found it hard to apply to the interface. I tried watching tutorials on youtube (via the site link) but couldn’t see what was going on clearly enough to replicate it. I am sure there will be users who think it is great, and I’d love some direction on how to get going on this.
Google Sketchup: This 3D modelling software is superb. The tutorials are terrific and guide the user along introducing tools step by step. The only thing lacking is my artistic ability. Great for design work as well as other uses. All you need to do is have a google account to start using the software.
Stagecast: I’m working through the tutorials on Stagecast and so far have been extremely impressed with the guided learning experience. This software offers an evaluation and tutorial download for a generous 120 days and costs around $50 after that. The step-by-step lessons clearly explain each progression and of course it is possible to repeat until the steps are mastered. The ‘programming’ or making of the game stages is visual, so it is easy (for a novice) to understand. You can see how easy the learning menu is from this screencast.
Scratch: This was one of the first programs I looked at and although it has an excellent set of tutorials I found myself getting a little lost. Maybe I need to go back to this after Stagecast and give it another go.
Gamemaker: I completed a tutorial on this but ended up with an empty room at the end and after having spent an hour getting there, didn’t feel like going through all my steps to see what I had done wrong. However, it looks pretty comprehensive and maybe I need to revisit and be prepared to spend more time learning about game making.
I’d love other educators’ feedback and what they use in the classroom and any tips they may have to offer.