Designing students: Check out these contests (learning opps)!

By Anne Collier

These are projects that get young people and classrooms participating in the digital maker movement: Current or aspiring videogame designers and videographers have about a month to submit their creations to three different contests: The National STEM Videogame Challenge, Whyville’s game design contest, and Trend Micro’s What’s Your Story video producing contest.

Design a videogame

Videogame designers have till April 24 to design games “using a variety of apps, such as Gamestar Mechanic, Kodu, Scratch, Game Maker, or some other platform,” reports Jordan Shapiro at It’s a project of the Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop. According to the Challenge’s site, games will be judged based on three criteria: engaging gameplay (the extent to which the game keeps players fully engaged); innovative/creative vision (the uniqueness of the game concept); and well-balanced game play (clarity of the game’s goals, balance of challenges and rewards, and feedback to the player). Winners will receive laptops loaded with game design and educational software and $2,000 to give to their school or a nonprofit organization of their choice.

I so agree with Shapiro where he writes that he’s excited about the Challenge “for many of the same reasons I’m excited about kids learning game design skills. Not only does game design encourage interactive and social narrative self-expression, there’s also research suggesting that creating video games is a highly engaging pedagogical method for teaching the STEM skills that are necessary in today’s workplace–the same skills we celebrate in many of our most savvy business leaders.”

Whyville’s in-world design contest also just announced an in-class AND in-world videogame contest. What’s great about this is that it delivers on something I’ve learned – and have been writing and speaking about for several years now – that, just as you can’t learn cooking without a kitchen, you can’t learn digital citizenship, literacy, and design without a digital environment in which to practice them! In the process of collaborating on a project in a virtual world, game or other digital environment, we learn not only how to get to the project goal but how to collaborate and work function in cross-functional teams as well. That’s social literacy as well as digital and media literacy – digital citizenship in process.

For Whyville’s contest, teachers can sign their classes up (Whyville says tens of thousands of students participated last year). Winning classes will be able to choose a Lenovo IdeaPad, a 32 GB Nintendo Wii U console, or an Xbox 360 with Kinect for their classrooms. The deadline for submitting designs is April 30.

Produce a video

The challenge for videographers (who have till April 16) is to use video to answer the question, “What does the good side of the Internet look like?” Show us! Doesn’t matter if you use a cellphone or fancy videocam. “Whether it’s connecting in kind ways, staying safe, keeping good reputations, doing cool things, being smart about cell phone cameras, or making a difference – for just one person or many – tell us about the good stuff that you’re doing,” says Trend Micro, describing its 4th-annual “What’s Your Story?” video challenge. Funny or dramatic, just be creative. As a judge in this contest, I can’t wait to see what the entries show us because…

This is so needed. We hear so much about the downsides of the Internet. Of course we know there are downsides, but there is so much good going on in digital, and it doesn’t get reported because it’s reporters’ job, for example, to report airline crashes not safe landings.

Winners of this contest receive cash – $10,000 each for an individual videographer and a school that has a class or group submitting. There will be four runners-up, 2 individuals and 2 schools, each of whom will receive $1,000. Everybody can vote for their favorite entry, so the earlier videos get submitted the better their chances. All around, great opportunities for digital citizenship practice.

Related links

* “Learning life, communication & app development all at once”
* About the kinds of learning that happen in the Minecraft digital environmentin a New Jersey school
* “All kinds of learning all at once with BYOT”
* “Student and school videos on “the good side of the Internet” could win $10K each”

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